Hello beautiful people,
Here comes the second part of the blog post about the silent Vipassana meditation retreat in Burma. In this session, I will summarize the 10 days I spent in the retreat; what we did, how we did it and how I felt during that time.
Watch my youtube video that I filmed before coming out from the center and even before calling family and friends.
I was managing two startups in Sweden, and I started my own little business on the side. I would work my 8 hours and then come home and work at least another 8 on my own company. It got to me after a few months and I almost got burned out. Every little thing felt like climbing a huge mountain.
That is when we decided that we needed a break and I really wanted to go to the silent meditation when in Bali. I asked people about it and there was a guy who said he had done it but when we looked it up, it was fully booked until april of the next year – I gave up after some more research.
A couple months later, I met this sweet girl at dojobali. We were at a party and she told me that she had signed up for Vipassana in Myanmar. I told her my story and she said that the place she is going to, still has some available spots. We grabbed my phone, went on www.dhamma.org and signed me up.
I got an email after 4 days, telling me that I got in. One of the happiest days of my life. I applied for a visa, bought my tickets and a couple weeks later I flew over to Yangon.
Short summary of these beautiful but very tough days:
You gather on day 0, as I call it, before 2 pm and leave the center the 11th day around 8 am. You do 9 days of silent meditation and get to speak the 10th day.
They wake you up, every day, at 4am by ringing a bell. You have to be down in the Dhamma hall and start meditating by 4:30am. See the picture below for the daily schedule. Yup, you are not seeing wrong, it is 11.5hr of meditation every day!
You eat 2 meals a day, one at 6am and then lunch, which is also the last meal of the day at 11am. They usually had some candy and juice at 5 pm but it was too sweet so I just saved my fruit from lunch and had that instead.
The Vipassana really starts the 4th day into the retreat, that’s when you start screening your whole body part by part. The first 3 days are more about training your mind to focus.
For each day, you get to take the meditation to the next level until you get to a point where you are fully aware of your whole body. That’s when the magic happens- You feel this awesome vibration in your whole body and the aches you felt the first days are long gone.
The process and progress are very individual- some people had hallucinations and some people didn’t really get there. I personally didn’t experience any hallucination but had at least two awesome experiences where it just felt like I was high hahahah.
More detailed description of the days and my thoughts through the days:
- Gathering at the center before 2 PM.
- You fill out a form where you write down your information where in the end, they ask if you are committed to do the ten days. I answered YES YES YES.
- You get a little informational brochure with a summary about the Vipassana technique, the noble silence and also the schedule for the days.
- You lock up the things you are not allowed to use: phones, books, notebooks, iPads, pens, computers… you get the idea.
- You get sheets, a mosquito net and you get your bed. It’s a hard bed with a thin mattress.
- 6 PM: Dinner.
- 8 PM: First meditation session – here we go!
The bell rang and it was time for the first session of meditation. They called us in one by one to the big hall, also called the Dhamma hall. In the hall, we each had our own designated cushions with our names on a little paper taped to the floor in front of it.
The hall had dark blue carpet and two seats in the front for the two supporting teachers. The guys shared the meditation room with us but they were sitting far away from us on the other side of the hall with a male teacher.
Suddenly, they started playing a tape and a man started singing through the speakers. He stopped singing after some minutes and started explaining how he wanted us to concentrate on our respiration, in and out from the nose.
This is something we continued doing for two whole days. It was pretty boring and at some point I thought that if this is how it is going to continue, I would probably leave. But every night at 8pm we would have a discourse where the singing man in a video would explain everything to us and make us understand the technique behind the meditation and motivate us for the upcoming day.
Concentration on your respiration in and out from the nostril.
This is the first day they wake you up at 4 am. You don’t know how this is going to work out. You keep falling asleep while meditating, you are so tired. Your legs and back kill you with pain from sitting and meditating 11.5 hours a day. But hold on, it will get better!
Concentration on your respiration in and out from the nostril. Focus on the sensation in and on your nose.
Your legs and back kill you. You get bored and you don’t see how focusing on your breath can make you a better person. But hold on, it will get better!
Concentration on the area above your upper lip, where your mustache would be and focus on the sensations you feel within that area; itching, tickling, warmth, cold, vibrations. Whatever it might be.
Your legs and back kill you. Some of us needed tiger balm and pain killers. But hold on!
This is when Vipassana actually starts. Go through your whole body, part by part and observe the sensations you feel in each spot; From the top of your head, down to your toes and then up the same way.
Finally some progress other than just breathing. This is getting interesting, I wonder where this will take us.
Go through your whole body and see if you can feel bigger body parts at once. For example, your whole right arm, then your whole left arm and then your whole right leg, etc…
Wait a minute…this feels good. Wait, why don’t my legs and back hurt anymore?! ! No wait, I am not supposed to like it. Be quiet brain!
Go through your whole body and see if you can feel symmetrical parts at the same time. For example, both hands, both arms and both legs.
This is fun! No, wait! Don’t like this too much. Quiet monkey mind!
Go through your whole body and see if you can feel as many parts as possible at the same time. You get a note on your cushion that from 1 pm today, you will be meditating in the “cell” for 1.5 hours or as much as you’d like.
Cell?! That sounds weird and different.
This feels so good, I can’t stop liking it.
Omg this is actually a cell. And why is there a red light bulb in here and not a regular color one. And I don’t dare go in. Wait, but there are so many people around me, its going to be ok.
This is when the magic happened for me. I think I let go of everything and I just felt this huge vibrating flow alternating back and forth in my body. I even cried tears of joy a couple of times. I know it sounds different, but you have to be there to experience it!
Feel the flow from head to toe and back again. And for 3 hours a day, 3 separate sessions, you are supposed to sit completely still and with your eyes closed. Plus, go to the cell when you feel like it instead of sitting in the Dhamma hall.
Ok let’s do this. You can sit still for an hour.
Wohoo I can sit still for an entire hour without moving or opening my eyes. And there is so much going on in my body. All this good vibration.
You feel this awesome vibration that flows up and down, and here is when some of the magic happens. Some people hallucinated, some just had a really good sensation through their entire body and some were just very aware of everything that happened. Each individuals experience was different. But we all had one thing in common, we felt good.
Feel the flow. Also learn about Metta, loving-kindness meditation, which is the simple practice of directing well-wishes towards other people.
This is what I would’ve called “hippie” before doing this course, but wow, I really love this! I am so happy I came here.
Dhamma is such a pure path in life, it teaches you how to be a good person towards yourself and others.
Feel the flow + Metta. You also get to talk, today.
I felt sad and lonely and I did not want to break my silence, but the other students were talking and they asked me things. Once I started talking, I felt this massive flow of vibration and energy in my throat which was almost uncomfortable. It almost felt like hearing someone else talking when I spoke.
You wake up at 4 am to watch a long discourse. Then you have half an hour of meditation. Then Check out!
A group of people went to the big Pagoda to meditate. This is the sacred temple where they have hair from 4 different Buddhas. Some students went to malls, while others jumped on a bus to go see different parts of Myanmar.
I did not want to stress, and just packed my stuff, filmed and when I was ready, I went with the girl I met in Bali to the Pagoda.
I also called Zack, which was wonderful. Texted my siblings that I was OK and wrote to my mom and dad that I love them.
Stepping out into the real world was not easy, though. Since you have been locked up and a lot of things have happened in your world, you kind of expect the same from the outer world. But when you come out and everything is the same, it is like a shock. I started crying of sadness but reminded myself quickly about what I had learned which is basically not to like or dislike anything too much, because everything changes anyways.
My reflections and thoughts
Dhamma and Vipassana are beautiful forms of art and ways of living that I wish everybody get to know. The technique helps you become one with yourself and be aware of your own feelings and actions. It teaches you how to be a good person to yourself and your surroundings.
Being silent these 10 days were the toughest and happiest days of my life. It was so great to put down the phone and not feel obligated to talk or answer to everybody that wants to get a hold of you. Don’t get me wrong, I love the people around me but it is sometimes tiring to always be connected and reachable.
You should go and try this out no matter your purpose or goal. These 10 days are like a very intense and awesome therapy session and mental exercise which gives you the time and tools to take care of all your thoughts and feelings. It makes you much more focused, determined and clear-minded. I figured so many things out. I felt less angry at people that had done me wrong before and I knew what I should and wanted to do in life.
Everyone that came out from the course was feeling blessed and clear. We all came from different corners of the world and had different purposes with the course, and we all came out as a little better version of ourselves.
Let me know if you have any other questions or comments about this topic, I will gladly answer!
Watch my youtube video that I filmed before coming out from the center and even before calling family and friends: