Life as a Nun : 10 days of Silence Meditation Retreat
Vipassana Meditation in a few words…
Maybe you asked yourself what the hell is that ? No talking for 10 days, no eyes contact, no internet, no books, nothing but you and the 10 hours meditation per day… you have to be crazy to do it… yes a little bit, i have to say… but you will understand better the goods of meditation in a few minutes…
Today, meditation, yoga, and all thoses “spiritual techniques” became famous, and if you pratice it the right way and with a specific goal then there are really powerful.
Vipassana is way more than just a meditation technique : it is a way of life, a way of mind. It was already taught in India more than 2500 years ago as a universal cure to universal woes. Vipasssa means to see things the way they reallly are.
The first goal of this method is to calm and clear the mind. We educate our Body, doing sport, our Brain, studying but what about our mind ? We’ve never learn how to educate it… the mind just does what it want when it want. We are thinking all the time and even when we want to stop, it’s impossible without a minimum of practice.
For all the people that keep saying “I don’t have Willpower, not enought determination“, no worries, it is normal… how to develop it without training the mind ? Are you going to run a 30 km marathon from one day to the next, without any training before ? No, you can’t, it’s impossible… you’re going to start with 1 km and the next day 2 km… and step by step you will get more fit and you will have more endurance and… after a few weeks or months you’ll be able to run the 30km marthon easily. Same for the Mind ! If you train your Mind a few minutes everyday, you’ll be able to control it and grow your willpower and determination.
Before to tell you more about the Vipassana and my 10 days experience, it’s important to make a parenthesis about Bouddha’s teaching (Bouddha means : “enlightened being”). This meditation is a part of the bouddhist philosophy. It can be resumed in 4 points : the 4 Noble Truths.
1.The truth of suffering (Dukkha)
In life, nobody escape the suffering. The moment we are born, we experiment suffering, suffering of separation, of hunger, of seakness, pain from an injury, of old-age etc. till the day we die…
2.The truth of the origin of suffering (Samudāya)
The suffering always comes for a reason. This reason is mental impurities : greed, desire, hatred, anger etc. And all of this impurities come because we have cravings (we want something), aversion (we want to run away from something) or ignorance (we don’t see things as they are).
3.The truth of the cessation of suffering (Nirodha)
To erase suffering from our life, we have to get rid of anger, desire and ignorance. And to do so, it is necesary to pratice Vipassana meditation on a daily basis.
4.The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering (Magga)
To achieve the point where we don’t suffer anymore, we have to follow the Eightfold Path or Middle Way : the Dhamma. The one that leads to a better understanding of the reality. To follow the Path, we have to establish a set of principles into our life :
- Right Understanding – Sammā ditthi
- Accepting Buddhist teachings. (The Buddha never intended his followers to believe his teachings blindly, but to practise them and judge for themselves whether they were true.)
- Right Intention – Sammā san̄kappa
- A commitment to cultivate the right attitudes.
- Right Speech – Sammā vācā
- Speaking truthfully, avoiding slander, gossip and abusive speech.
- Right Action – Sammā kammanta
- Behaving peacefully and harmoniously; refraining from stealing, killing and overindulgence in sensual pleasure.
- Right Livelihood – Sammā ājīva
- Avoiding making a living in ways that cause harm, such as exploiting people or killing animals, or trading in intoxicants or weapons.
- Right Effort – Sammā vāyāma
- Cultivating positive states of mind; freeing oneself from evil and unwholesome states and preventing them arising in future.
- Right Mindfulness – Sammā sati
- Developing awareness of the body, sensations, feelings and states of mind.
- Right Concentration – Sammā samādhi
- Developing the mental focus necessary for this awareness.
The eight stages can be grouped into Wisdom, Ethical Conduct and Meditation.
How Vipassana enable us to stay on the Eightfold Path ?
Meditation enable our Mind to stay Calm and Clear, Determined and Strong :
What can disturbed our Mind ? Cravings, aversion and ignorance… Concretly how does that work ?
It is really easy, when we are getting in contact with an object, a person or a situation that we desire or that get us angry, our Mind will experiment a strong anger or strong desire and the Mind will become agitated. Practicing meditation, we will learn to observe the desire or the aversion or the anger and not to react to those sensations… just to observe it to liberate it.
Every time we react, we anchor a little bit more the impurity in our body and it gets every time stronger and we become more and more miserable. But, if we observe the sensation, we liberate ourseilf and become more and more stable in our Mind and more and more happy.
Meditation enable us to be free from physical and emotionals suffering
How the meditation can break us free ? How to stop generating negativities ?
Negativities arise when we desire something and we can’t get it or, all the way around, we don’t want something to happen and it happens anyway… Since we’re born and even before, every single situation, every single moment or emotion comes with a sensation in the body, this sensation is written in our body and our body keeps all the memories : everything pleasant ans unpleasant.
When we stop desiring or dejecting the sensations and we start observing it without any craving or aversion… JUST OBSERVING IT with equanimity then we stop the process of negativities and we liberate our body and our Mind.
Other explorers of inner truth went still further in their search and, by experiencing the reality of mind and matter within themselves, recognized that diverting the attention is only running away from the problem. Escape is no solution; you have to face the problem. Whenever negativity arises in the mind, just observe it, face it. As soon as you start to observe a mental impurity, it begins to lose its strength and slowly withers away.
A good solution; it avoids both extremes—suppression and expression. Burying the negativity in the unconscious will not eradicate it, and allowing it to manifest as unwholesome physical or vocal actions will only create more problems. But if you just observe, then the defilement passes away and you are free of it.M.S.N. Goenka
After a 5 hours bus ride, here I am in Tiruvanamalai, sacred city, paired with Macchu Picchu. It is here I chose to do the 10 days mediation. Reaching the Meditaiton Center, I met the people I’m going to spend the 10 days with… a beautiful mix of cultures : as many white people as Indians… we are all here for different reasons but the same goal : a new experience to break the boundaries of our Mind.
They assign me the room I’m going to share with a german and holland girl. They breifly explain us the rules of the Center : the set of principles of the Dhamma (that you can read above)… that’s also one of the reason we cant talk, not to break one of the principles.
The Noble Silence begins tonight. Timetable for the next days :
4h30 – 6h30 : Group Meditation
6h30 : Breakfast
8h00 : Meditation (one hour without moving at all)
9h00 – 11h00 : Group Meditation
11h00 : Lunch
13h00 – 17h00 : Meditation (one hour without moving at all)
17h00 : Tea Break
18h00 – 19h00 : Meditation
19h00 – 21h00 : Teaching
21h00 : Rest
First day : “Observing reality as it is by observing the truth inside—this is knowing oneself directly and experientially”
Wake-up bell at 4h30 for two hours meditation. Aim : observe consciously your breath, breath in, breath out, observe the air coming in and out the nostrils. Observe without trying to regulate the breath. Easy in theory, but in practice : to be concentrated more then 15 seconds on my breath is not easy, but I’m motivated and I come back to the aim easily. First day is going good… I realise that my Mind is really not educated at all and it is more difficult then I thought… This week is going to be really good !
Second day : “one observes natural respiration as it is, as it comes in, as it goes out”
Easy wake-up at 4h30… We keep going, observing… I’m already bored… Patience ! Coïncidence, the girl in front of me wears a shirt where it is written something like : “Patience is the best key to success”. So, concentration : Everybody look calm and seem to medidate without any troubles… of course we can’t talk or share our experience so I’m just guessing. At the end, the day goes by quite quickely…
Third day : “one is concentrating the mind, making it sharp and penetrating, capable of the work of insight.”
Concentrating on the nose part, observing sensations inside the nostrils, the superior lip. Observing without reacting. Observe if there is any pain, itching, etc… My thoughts fly without stopping, to keep the concentration is easier than the first day but millions of thoughts keep going throught my mind… memories that I didn’t even remembered… pleasant and unpleasant… the teacher explains that it is good, our body and mind are getting free… only if we just observe them without any reactions. I’m surprised by all the things I have in my Mind ! It’s just crazy !
Fourth day : “Anicca” Impermanence.
We are starting the real Vipassana technique now. We start by observing the top of the head, and every single part of our body to the bottom of the foot. Observing sensations throughout the body, understanding their nature, and developing equanimity by learning not to react to them. Without desire or aversion for the sensations… All day long we heard the magic world Anicca, everything is impermanent.
I’m happy to evolve in the technique, the days are long now, the concentration during the afternoon is hard. At the end of the day, we just have a snack and I can feel the hunger… actually it is not really hunger but more the need of eating vegetables and fruits….
Fifth day : “No Cravings, no Aversions – Anicca”
No words, no eyes contact, I’m in a bubble, the thoughts became calmer, I start to feel nice sensations, but I don’t have to react to it, just observe it.. Lot of pain in my body too, it’s been 5 days sitting, my back and legs are painful but I try just to observe it… And for the first time today, I actually experienc the observing and not reacting thing. You don’t realise how hard it is not to want the pain go away till you have to experience it. It took me 5 days but I’ve made it. I can see my Mind getting better, I can now concentrate almost one minute without thinking…
Sixth day: Dreaming of healthy food, freedom and noise, of people talking and COFFEE oh yes Coffee ! But It’s going to be okay… 4 more days and I’m done ! Every evening we have a teaching and every evening it answers my questions of the day…
One thought in particular… about Love : during the day I had all those thoughts about love and how does that work… at the end of the day I finally thought that when we actually love someone, it is not the person that we love, but the way he makes us feel, and when we are with this person, we want this feeling to arise again… It disturbed me all day, because I thought that it was really selfish… but then during the evening teaching, Goenka, the master teacher (founder of Vipassana centers) explained on the video that when every single human-beings will understand that everything is inside us, we will be ready to experience real love… It means that when we will realise that when we love someone we’re in love with the sensation that this particular person makes us feel and just observe it… we will be ready to experience real love, because we will give without any expectation at all…
Seventh day : Hard to wake up… my days can be summed up in two words : meditating and sleeping… Nights are shorts… I start to feel the need to walk, run, spend my energy exercise, my body is asking me ! I’m boiling from inside, for 7 days It’s been just me myself and I, no escaping possible. I’m tired of thinking so much and I can’t stop it ! My mind is getting crazy ! I decide to stop trying to concentrate on my body and just leave my mind do whatever it wants to do… and I went throught a big introspection, a lot of sensations with the memories and the futur projects… fascinating experience… Maybe this is a part of Vipassana at the end.
Eighth and nineth day : The three last days were the most difficult… one of the girls put her shoes on and started to run around… it made everybody feel better… we’re are not the only one getting crazy. We are all feeling the same things… The no-sharing part is the easiest… the hardest is not to have any entertainment, just you with yourself. So many reflections arise and it’s nice to see the evolution… thoughts are so different now than at the beginning… meditation is more and more difficult, concentration is hard but you understand the how and why of your past beliefs and actions… it’s like seeing your past situations with exterior eyes, objectively. Everytinig is getting clearer… the heart opens and we feel lighter.
Tenth day : 10h the Noble Silence comes to an end, we can suddently hear people talking, laughing, screaming, singing etc… Finally we can talk… people start to share their feelings… we tell our roomate that she locked us in the room the first day and we couldn’t meditate the 1st hour… she laughted for 20 minutes, she couldn’t stop… she didn’t realised that… Everyone tell their story, faces change, we all have shared this experience together, shared the same room, same kitchen and same meditation room, shared the suffering and the difficulties…
We realised that it has been difficult for everybody, some of the girls have stopped the meditation on the 4th day, some have been really serious till the very end… Some had answers about important questions in their lives, some other have no clue but know that things are not going the right way… some have decided to write a book, some not to go to college but to keep living their dream… some just don’t know what’s going to happen and are a little bit disturbed but they have faith in the future… For everybody it has been powerful. Somehow we didn’t realise it was so powerful at first, it took us a few days after that .A lot of gratitude to enable us to experience that…
Personally, I found what I came for, I understood a lot better my past patterns… It’s like seeing you from someone else eyes, everything become clearer and you know why some events happened and why you met the people you met… a few days after the meditation, I could feel my body liberating itself… ups and downs… I also understood that I was really sensitive, more than I thought and have to try to protect myself better from the places I visit and the people I meet…
Beautiful people, beautiful place, beautiful sensations and always remember : ANNICA : everything is impermanent !
Write to you soon,
Light & Love from Joy…