‘vipassana meditation retreat – mindfulness and silence’

It took me just a second to decide to go on this retreat, because I knew it was the right thing to do. I felt excited and at the same time I realized it was not going to be easy.

Every day had exactly the same schedule, starting at 5 am in the morning until 10 pm at night. The whole retreat was in silence: no talking, no phones, no books, no entertainment.

The practice was to meditate for many hours and to stay mindful throughout the day. I am happy to share with you some of my experiences:

Day 1:
Saying goodbye to Boris this afternoon just before the retreat starts, I realize what I’m getting myself into: two weeks of being completely silent and many hours of meditation. I feel excited and a little bit nervous as I sit down in the meditation hall for the introduction.

Day 2:
Every other day I have an interview with the teacher to report how my practice is going. This is the only time I can speak and receive advice from the teacher. He asks me: ‘Are you happy?’ ‘Yes!’ I answer with a big smile. ‘I’m very happy.’

Day 3:
Today I am so tired. As soon as I sit down for meditation I almost fall asleep and spend most of the time in a dream like state. As soon as I go outside for walking meditation in the beautiful forest, I feel joyful and energized. I feel like singing and dancing. But of course I am not supposed to do that here and so I just sing silently and walk peacefully.

Day 4:
It is early afternoon as I walk into the dining hall to get some tea and I notice some leftover deserts from today’s lunch. The discussion in my mind goes back and forth as I drink my tea. ‘Can I take one?’ ‘No, you cannot.’ Just as I decide not to take one, a fellow yogi walks in, takes a desert, sits down and eats. It could be that simple!

Day 5:
‘Just ten more days to go’ is what slips into my mind as the sitting meditation seems to take forever. We do sitting meditation for one hour, eight times a day, every day. Today that hour feels so long. Sometimes I secretly open my eyes to take a look at the big clock in the meditation hall. Later something beautiful happened: after helping with the dishes (working meditation) the cook offers me one of the left over desserts. ‘What a joyful moment! Does she know about my struggles yesterday?’

Day 6:
Feeling so happy, feeling so calm and peaceful, truly enjoying each moment, being fully present and mindful. Enjoying the amazing vipassana bliss state of mind for as long as it lasts, because everything comes and goes. If they would not write the date on the information board, then by now I would have no idea for how long I am already here.

Day 7:
Today I experience a very balanced state of mind. Being mindful of sitting and walking, drinking my tea and eating my lunch. Enjoying the moment just until the person next to me at the table eats so fast and loudly that I start to feel some irritation. But before my mind gets all tangled up in that feeling I allow it to pass, I relax again and pay attention my breath and continue to enjoy my lunch.

Day 8:
Every evening there is a dharma talk, the teacher give a lecture on the practice of vipassana meditation. And sometimes those talks can be quite entertaining, especially because this is the only time that we actually hear someone speak. Tonight the teacher tells us a bit about his life in Birma and Malaysia. How he lived as monk on top of a mountain, funny anecdotes from the monasteries and stories about dragons and ghosts.

Day 9:
The sunshine is so beautiful today that I allow myself to skip one sitting meditation and instead I go outside for a walk in the woods. What a treat, a lazy moment just by myself. I feel happy and a little naughty, like when you skip a class at school. Late in the evening after the last meditation I walk through the forest again from the meditation hall to the building where we have our rooms. It’s a clear night and the forest is very dark. I feel so grateful for being here and at the same time I miss Boris so much right now, I wish he would be here too.

Day 10:
Tonight for the first time it feels difficult. In the morning I experienced wonderful meditations but now I feel like I had enough. I miss Boris, I don’t want to be here anymore, its hard work to meditate and I feel exhausted. But I also I know that I will stay and continue the retreat. It’s okay when it feels hard and difficult, I can do difficult things.

Day 11:
The meditations this morning are amazing again. I feel so awake, aware, tranquil and at peace. I don’t even know how to describe this feeling. Everything feels easy and light. And the one hour of sitting meditation goes so fast now!

Day 12:
Everything comes and goes. And this morning I’m sitting with a feeling of fear and worries.  My mind makes up scenarios of what could possibly go wrong in the future. As I feel my body become more tense I remember that this too will pass, so I just sit here and observe my feelings. And then there is the sound of the bell and it is time for lunch. And after lunch I will sit again watching what goes on inside of me. Never a dull moment here at the retreat.

Day 13:
Holding a cup of tea, warm in my hands, enjoying this moment.
Walking in the woods, mindful of the path in front of me.
Sitting down, gently close my eyes, look inside to truly see.
Doing the dishes, slowly and wholeheartedly.
Being in the present moment, my mind at peace, my heart full of love.

Day 14:
It’s the last full day of practice and during one of the meditations tears come up. Why? I don’t know. I just let them flow. I feel free and at peace.

Day 15:
All of a sudden it is the last morning that I walk to the meditation hall, looking at the stars and the moon in the sky, it’s a cold morning and I feel immensely grateful for the past 14 days of silence. After lunch it is time to go home, but where is home when you don’t have a house? I realize that home can mean different things, because it feels like coming home when I finally see Boris again that afternoon.

Love & Light,

The Netherlands, September 2019