This afternoon I am on my way to Pecotonica, IL for my first extended meditation retreat. The retreat is a 10 day experience where you commit to observing noble silence with your fellow students for the first 9 days, and meditate for a total of 10 hours per day interspersed with breaks, meals, and a daily lecture. The type of meditation that is taught is called Vipassana meditation where your mind and body are used as tools to develop insight into the nature of experience. Some of the things people frequently notice with Vipassana meditation is that all experiences are temporary, and that we tend to cling to experiences we prefer, and push away experiences we find unpleasant. In my experiences so far with meditation, I have already observed my thoughts coming and going – some random, some very familiar – as I find I am often telling myself the same story or the same type of story yet again, and just these observations about my mental habits have already been extremely helpful to me in my daily life. However, this length of time and what can be observed and experienced over 10 days really ups the ante! I am excited and a little nervous to see what the next several days will bring!
Many people have asked me over the last month, “why are you doing this?” It’s a really great question! I am essentially going to to an unfamiliar place to sit in silence with strangers for the next 2 weeks. On the surface, it certainly doesn’t sound like such a hot idea. I am guessing my answer to this question will evolve, and may be very different when I am back from the retreat. Right now, though, my reasons for doing this are to cultivate the ability to be more open to things and not so quick to shut down – to be more free from my automatic reactions and have more choice in how I respond. One of my clients expressed a fear that I will come back from the retreat and “be weird”. I totally understand this client’s fear – I think we’ve all known someone into meditation or yoga who is just a little to calm and maybe a little too “fine” with everything to really connect with – which brings to me my other reason for doing this retreat. I want to come back and be more authentic – more able to see what’s going on, and respond to things the way they really are vs. mellow out and dampen down my experiences or my personality.
So, off I go! I’ll write about my experience on the retreat when I get back! In the meantime, if you are interested in the teachings of Vipassana this is a great lecture from the teacher S.N. Goenka about the philosophy and purpose of this form of meditation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Hz6VwkSJVY
If you want to see how Vipassana meditation can impact people, check out this TED Talk about a documentary where this form of meditation is brought to American prisons: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixu4Kd5R1DI
Last but not least, if you are interested in learning more about the retreat itself, click here: http://www.pakasa.dhamma.org/
Thanks for reading!