I am a passionate meditator. I do not meditate because I am good at it or because it is easy. If I am truthful, then it is torturous. It is brutally hard. Way harder than biking or climbing the hardest hill.
But, like climbing the hardest hill, you know it will end. And like climbing the hardest hill, there is a reward—a beautiful view, the feeling that you accomplished something, knowing that you are working and training your body.
The reward for meditating comes in many different ways. A new view of yourself—a broader, more accepting, and compassionate view.
Meditation is about training the mind—the longer and harder that you do it, the greater the reward. This is why I spend time on longer retreats—sometimes up to 10-20 days in silent meditation.
This time, I wanted to do the entire retreat alone; without others, without a teacher (except my inner one)
I have been listening to a podcast about extremely adventurous women (Tough Girl’s Podcast). Women who are kayaking, bicycling, walking, running great distance in unusual circumstance. Many of them make up their own adventures.
In many ways, meditation is very similar to the challenges these women take on—it is just an inner journey—with all of the unexpected road blocks and challenges along the way.
I thought to myself, I can create my own meditation adventure. All I needed was a place to stay and food. I would try it out for three days. I did not know if I had the will power to do this all by myself. I might fail, but I had already decided that this is the possibility when one challenges themselves.
I knew that I needed a place to stay that was relatively quiet, access to food, and an alarm. So I chose the dates and booked a hotel for four nights. Luckily, I was staying in Chiang Mai, Thailand where I was able to find a relatively nice hotel room for $7.50/night.
Four nights and three days was perfect. The first night was just to get settled and ready to wake up for the 4:30 am start the next morning. And the last night was to be able to have a full final day and be able to meditate at 4:30 the final morning before checking out and returning back by 7:30 am. I created a schedule based on 11 hours of meditation daily:
4:15 am Wake up
4:30-6:30 am Meditate
6:30-8 am Break
8-11 am Meditate
11-1 pm Lunch and Break
1-5 pm Meditate
5–6:30 pm Dinner and Break
6:30-8:30 pm Meditate
8:30-9:00 pm Break
Traditionally, on retreat Vipassana retreat, there are two meals; breakfast and lunch. For this retreat, there were also two meals; lunch and an early dinner.
I use three Vipassana techniques--
The first day, I used the first method in the morning and the second method in the afternoon. I used the third method for days two and three. When I completely lost focus (which happens!), I went back to method one until I could regain focus.
My mind, emotions, and pain kept pulling me out of focus. When I realized focus had been lost, I went right back to the meditation. Sometimes the pain was so bad (whether it was physical or emotional did not matter) that I had to just sit with it. Be with it. Witness it. Hold it.
I look forward to my next retreat. Maybe I will try 5 days next time. Or simply a one day retreat. Now that I know it can be done, I will definitely incorporate it into my life.
MY FAVORITE MEDITATION RESOURCES:
Insight Timer, App
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche