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vipassana meditation: what it teaches me & 3-months-after review

I had been in a constant battle with low energy, not having any desire or hope to continue living, and feeling I am not enough and won’t be capable to do anything. These feelings were always contradicting with the picture I portray to people. Some sensitive and with high awareness might could sense that I do not have a high self-esteem, or feeling secure in myself; however most people are quite careless and they only see what is being displayed in light, that me being a reliable and can-do-anything-on-my-own kind of person, that’s why they think I am far from how I describe myself. But truth to be told, I felt sick of myself that is constantly having a mood swing, sometimes full of confidence, sometimes low of it, sometimes feeling proud and good with myself, sometimes feeling like I am not good enough and I don’t deserve any of the good things in life.

I was in a constant battle inside my mind, and I knew that I was not okay. Something was off in me, and if I wanted to keep living my life to the most, then I needed to do something about it.

When the end of last year was approaching and I had quite a lot of days left from my annual leave at work, I found myself a meditation retreat. Meditation was not something new for me, and I always liked the idea of having myself sit in quiet for minutes or hours, making peace with myself. However I did not open myself enough to the practice of it. In other words, I rarely -even never, practice meditation in my daily life. My life since years ago had been always about rushing from one thing to another, trying my best to keep running and make sure that everything works out (career, study, family, personal development, literally everything). So when I remembered about silent-meditation retreat after knowing it for almost one or two years, I decided to give myself a try. I looked for the suitable time (even when I had to let some people down because I could not join some events in those days), signed myself up, and let myself on the course.

Everyone around me was freaked out when I told them I would go to a 10 days silent meditation retreat. All different opinions and ideas, good or bad, relieving or scaring, were coming like a wave to me. Funny enough, even when I never looked for information about the retreat, I never felt scared or anything when I was about to join it. It seems like deep inside myself, I had the intuition, the calling, the determination, to come out of these never ending problems and come step in to light.

what did i learn?

When I first started, the retreat was more like a discovery. I could not wait to discover about myself, the problems I had in me, the solution and answer to my suffer. However, when I went through couple of days of not talking, looking inward more than I ever done before, and remembering all problems and traumas in life, the retreat suddenly felt like overwhelming me. I felt like running away in the second day (obviously no one can run away unless it is a dead-or-life situation), but I stayed and continued fighting myself. The overwhelming feeling came back again in the seventh day, and I felt like crying out loud (ofc can’t since we were supposed to stay silent), frustrated.

Of course when I felt all the overwhelming feeling, I really could not wait to go home, but filling my head with such thoughts only left me attending the retreat in vain, which means that I didn’t get anything even after I spent 10 days there. So I tried to shift my mind from the feeling, and completed the whole course.

Throughout the retreat, there are couples of things I learned from the teacher and from my own experiences, and they are:

  1. to understand that nothing is permanent in this world, that everything keeps changing, including our thoughts, feelings, chemical experience inside our body, literally everything changes every second or minute or hours, and this is called Anica;
  2. to accept and keep the truth in us, in our life, one of them is that everything is impermanent, and another of them is that we only live now in the present time, not in the past or in the future;
  3. to know that the source of my sufferings are craving to get/have/experience something good, and aversion or hatred to get rid of/hating something bad, both the so-called attachment;
  4. to be determined and have strong willed towards good things, meaning that showing up everyday and be disciplined to end my sufferings and get out from these problems is the real winner compared to only achieving some goals;
  5. to learn how to maintaining equanimity and to remain equanimous -peaceful and joyful, to remain calm and have balanced emotion in all kind of situations.

3-months-after review

The course was in November 2023 and here I am now living in the first day of March 2024. So, what is my honest and personal review to vipassana meditation course that I took after more or less three months?

First of all, I believe that in order to get the best result, one has to give the best effort as well. Did I give my best effort after leaving the retreat? Unfortunately, no. The best effort here is to meditate 1 hour every morning and night, 2 times a day, and to join group sitting meditation once a week. I didn’t do any of those. Group sitting once a week, I really want to, but so much things happen on weekend and I just couldn’t spare a day to join it (hopefully soon I could join). Meditating for 1 hour, 2 times every day, it was so hard for me to committed doing it with so much disturbance around me.

So, what did I try to at least maintain and practice what I learn? I try to meditate at least once a day (though I haven’t managed to do it everyday), for at least 10-60 minutes depending on the time and situation. If I meditate in the morning, maybe I could only do 15-20 minutes. If I meditate in the evening, maybe I could meditate 30 to 60 minutes. Other than that, I tried to remind myself all the lessons above, that everything is impermanent, that I live in this moment, that I need to detach myself from everything, to not overly crave or hate as those only lead to suffers, that I need to try my best to be determined and be disciplined to practice every day, and that I need to remain calm, peaceful, joyful, equanimous all the time.

Did these things work in me? Yes, they did. They work wonders to me. I stopped my addictions to things, I have more focus and strength on day to day basis, I remain mostly calm through anything. However, I’m still human and I am not immune to feeling blue or sadness or happiness. I do still get sad or low mood sometimes, frustrated, worried, anxious. Those feelings are still there and sometimes they show themselves in me, but I no longer dwell in them for too long. I used to be in a negative state for days or even weeks. Now, even when I have my breakdown, I maybe only feel down for hours, and once my mind gets back together, it subconsciously reminds me that everything changes, this too shall pass, therefore I shall remain calm, peaceful, equanimous. It also reminds me that whatever I am worried about in the future, it is not yet happening. My life is in the present, not in the past or future. So with those reminders, I collect myself again, and slowly but sure I go back to my positive state.

Final Thoughts

I am happy that I decided to join the retreat. It was a life saver to me. I might not be a hundred percent free from all suffers in this world. I still have low energy or be anxious or have frustration sometimes, but this meditation helped me lower the intensity and frequency of it all. Slowly, I am transforming myself and my life to a better life.

I know that my journey to reach a peaceful and joyful life is still far, not to mention the spiritual journey to reach enlightenment, but I realize that I am making small steps everyday and it is taking me closer to being better.

I hope my sharing could trigger you to join the course also. Please go to https://www.dhamma.org/en/about/vipassana to know more about the retreat and how you can sign yourself to the course. This course is technically free because you are free to make payment based on donations without any fixed amount. Give yourself some worthy break from the world and give yourself a gift, to learn a method to come out from world’s sufferings.

May all beings be happy.

Photo by Matteo Di Iorio on Unsplash

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