In January 2019 I attended my first vipassana meditation retreat in the South of Thailand. It was a really insightful time for me. The place where I attended the 10 days meditation retreat was called Suan Mokkh International Dharma Hermitage. The name “Suan Mokkh” is translated from Thai language as “The garden of liberation”. I can corroborate that the name really makes justice to the place. It was really interesting to take a dip into Buddhism wisdom, which has a lot of parallelisms with yoga philosophy.
Meditation and yoga are, at its core, the very same thing.
We often think about meditation and yoga as two different things. However, meditation and yoga are, at its core, the very same thing. The purpose (if we can say there is a purpose, which I doubt) of this practices is the same. Basically, the aim of any spiritual practice is to bring us to the ultimate reality. Therefore, that place which is consider to be the only thing that exists in this universe. This ultimate reality is called HERE AND NOW. Because of the way we are conditioned by our modern society, we tend to keep our minds always busy, thinking about the past or the future. This tendency unfortunately, leads us to miss out the most important and precious time of our life: The present moment.
Coming to the present moment with vipassana meditation.
Of course, it is vital to remember the past and to know where we are coming from. Furthermore, at a practical level, it is crucial to plan in advance what is coming ahead. The problem comes when we over-indulge and specially, when thinking about past or future is taking us away from the present moment. Vipassana meditation (as taught in Suan Mokkh) , pranayama and other contemplative and mindfulness practices are usually simple in their technique. Firstly, they can assist us understanding this idea of being rooted in the present moment. Secondly, they help counteracting the speed to which we are victims of in today’s world.
In your first vipassana meditation, you will face your darkness.
Any of the practices mentioned above, can be challenging too and this is especially true for beginners. They require perseverance, compassion and patience for ourselves, tenacity and even courage. Vipassana meditation require us to observe our thoughts and mind patterns. Often, they lead us to face our own darkness. There is nothing as annoying as facing our own thoughts and mind patterns ceaselessly. Furthermore, there is nothing as scary as facing your own demons. Those demons are your fears, your neurosis, and your long time denied anger and your judgmental self.
Your commitment during the mediation retreat is to not speak for ten days and to sit/walk in meditation for several hours a day. You really can’t escape from the dark side of your personality. No verbal chatter or interactions are allowed. For that reason, doing what you would normally do -talking- is not possible. Similarly, sharing your own melodramas with others is not an option. That makes you realize the following:
Telling your own crafted version of any given story to others and believing it, really helps you constructing a false sense of ego.
However, during vipassana meditation, that is taken out of the equation. Therefore, you don’t have any excuses to keep gravitating –without touching- around something. That something is a kind of ‘force’, almost like a scary ‘black hole’. Sometimes the pull of that ‘black hole’ is so great, that your life is unconsciously influenced and governed by that pull: That black hole and the force that pulls you in is your own pain. We all have deep-buried pains and unresolved traumas. And yes, during your vipassana retreat, you will sit face to face with your physical, mental and emotional pain…and this is not fun, fancy or magical.
Would I return to do a vipassana mediation retreat?: YES
However, to finalize, I would like to say that despite all of the above, my experience during my first vipassana meditation was good totally worth it. Even though I did feel pain, tiredness, frustration, fear, etc. I would do it again. If you would like to learn more about my experience and the place that I did my first vipassana meditation retreat, you can check out the video below. I recorded it a few days after I finished my first vipassana meditation retreat.
I hope this is helpful for you and that you enjoy it!