I am a meditator. Devout. Self taught. It is just in me. I was born with the interest.
For me, meditation is simply a labor of love. Something that I do for myself because it makes me a better person. It helps me understand myself. It helps me be present for myself. It is often sweet and blissful but more often painful and brutal.
I have been meditating for 20 years. I still have a monkey mind. And something similar with my emotions. They won’t stop. I meditate to be able to be present for the thoughts and feelings. Not to make them go away.
In November 2017 I arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand and went straight to a meditation sitting at the yoga studio nearby. Two girls there had just finished a 10 day silent Vipassana meditation retreat in Myanmar.They told me that this is the most authentic, rigorous course and highly recommended it. Life changing they said. I am all about life changing. So I went back to my hotel room and immediately applied for the next open retreat and was accepted.
In the meantime, I worked on a mindfulness project based on mediation, yoga, and natural building in northeast Thailand. My teacher there was also offering a 10-day silent Vipassana retreat over New Years that ended the day before the other one started. I asked him if he thought it was too much to do two 10-day retreats literally back to back. He said you can never meditate too much.
I knew it would be hard. Meditation began each morning at 4:30 am and ended at 9pm each evening. Breakfast was served at 6:30am, lunch at 11am, juice at 5:30 and no dinner. To sit in silence for 10 hours a day not including breaks is simply not an easy task.
Each individual has different struggles that pull them out of meditation. Distractors. For some it is physical pain—the knee, the hip, the back. For others it is emotion—anger, fear, loneliness. This can change minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day, year to year.
For me, these 20 days were about psychic pain. It was indescribable. It was a combination of incredible emotional, spiritual, and physical pain in my chest that persisted the entire time.
I spent a lot of those 20 days second guessing myself. “This is a waste of time,” “I am bad at this,” “I should have gone to India.” At the moment it did feel like a waste of time. I walked around angry all the time. Frustrated. In a lot of emotional pain.
Four months later I can say that those 20 days made me a much stronger person. Much more confident and self aware. They laid a foundation for me to stand on. They created a new pain scale. I learned how much pain I could tolerate. It made me realize how much pain I have been carrying around. It made me much more sensitive to others' pain.