Starting 2019 with ten days Vipassana

  As some of you might know, I’ve started this year attending my first vipassana retreat in the South of Thailand. It has been a really insightful time for me and I feel like, Life willing, this will be the first but not the last. The place where I attended the vipassana was called Suan Mokkh International Dharma Hermitage. The name “Suan Mokkh” is translated from Thai language as “The garden of liberation” and I can corroborate that the name really makes justice to the place…Why? Well, check my story down this post (“When Silence is the Best Answer”) or check my video above and judge for yourself. It was really interesting to take a dip into Buddhism wisdom, which has a lot of parallelisms with yoga philosophy.

 We often think about meditation and yoga as two different things but actually, 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 and basically, the aim of any spiritual practice is to bring us to the ultimate reality, 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 and this, unfortunately, leads us to miss out the most important and precious time of our life: the present moment.

    Of course, it is vital to remember the past and to know where we are coming from. Also, 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. Meditation, pranayama and other contemplative and mindfulness practices are usually simple in their technique and they can assist us understanding this idea of being rooted in the present moment and they help counteracting the speed to which we are victims of in today’s world.

In any case, 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. These practices require us to observe our thoughts and mind patterns and often, they lead us to face our own darkness. There is nothing as annoying as facing our own thoughts and mind patterns ceaselessly and there is nothing as scary as facing your own demons such as your fears, your neurosis, your long time denied anger and your judgmental self. 

Because of your commitment during the retreat to not speak for ten days and to sit in meditation for several hours a day, you really can’t escape from the dark side of your personality. No verbal chatter is allow and so, doing what you would normally do -which is using your speech ability in conversations with others sharing, amongst so many other wonderful things, your own melodramas- is not an option. That makes you see that telling your own crafted version of any given story to others and believing it, really helps you constructing a false sense of ego. When that is taken out of the equation, you don’t have any excuses to keep gravitating –without touching- around that, that you fear the most in your life: your own pain. Yes, you will sit face to face with your physical, mental and emotional pain…and this is not fun or magical.


When Silence is the Best Answer


This personal story that I am sharing with you here is one of the highlights of the vipassana that I attended. Thanks to the silence, the nature that surrounds Suan Mokkh, the practice of anapanasati and the beautiful lectures and recordings on Buddhism philosophy, I got to experience a series of insights that made me understand the burden of a monkey mind (my own!):

            Day nine of the retreat was a completely silence day. Don’t get me wrong, the truth is we were supposed to not speak during the whole time anyway (unless you would like to have an interview with the teachers during the first few days). However, apart from a lot of hours per day practicing sitting and walking meditation, we would also have lectures, optional taichi-yoga classes, voice recordings and Pali chanting on a daily basis with the exception of –as mentioned above-, day nine. We were informed of this since day one and on day eight, reminders were posted in the information boards in the dining hall stating: “Please, on day nine do not speak to the teachers unless it is strictly necessary”.

            On the morning of day nine, when the bell ringed after a few hours of sitting and walking meditation, one of the monks called Ajan Medhi, said something about what was coming afterwards. For some mysterious reason, his microphone didn’t work and I (and I thought most of the students), couldn’t understand what he said. At that moment, I thought it was actually important to know what he said, not just for me, but also for the rest of the group, as it seemed to me that he didn’t realized the technical problem.  So I decided to come close to him, on the stage in the front of the room and ask/inform him about what just happened.

            As I was standing right in front of him, I could see he was totally still and his eyes were closed. I came closer to him and I whispered his name ….”-Ajan Medhi”. No answer. No reaction. I tried a second time –whispering slightly louder- and nothing changed. No answer or reaction whatsoever. At least, that was my perception…so I decided to give up and do some walking meditation as some of the folks in the room were starting to do. During my walking, I had all kind of questions in my mind like: What did he said that I could not understand?, Was I the only one who did not hear?, Did he listen to my voice? If so, why didn’t he even answer? Should I have remained in silence or perhaps call his name a little louder? Etc…

I walked for about 10/15 min when I experienced the first insight. I realized that I was feeling physically tired and for the first time in a long time, I realized how my physical tiredness was directly connected to my mind spinning around the whole story! This was totally clear to me and I though at once…I just want to let go of this shitty story right now! …and I did so. It took me just one breath with intention. Deep breath in, deep breath out and LET-THIS-STORY-GO! And guess what? It worked! I was feeling free and liberated. Instantly my body was feeling so light and energized. I understood in my own body, that it takes only one breath with intention to change your whole life…isn’t this powerful? And this wasn’t all my friend.

The second insight came a few seconds after. Feeling so free and light, the next thing I did was just looking ahead and what I saw, was the dining hall. I realized that all the information I needed about what was coming next (what Ajan Medhi said), was in there! So I understood that when facing problems, if we empty our minds, it will be easier for us to see the solution, as it will present itself in front of us. I’m sure that if I had continued thinking about that story, I wouldn’t have looked forward in that very moment and I would have probably kept walking and “ruminating” my story for a longer time. The third insight was to realize that Ajan Medhi did actually give me an answer. His answer was the best answer of all for this particular situation. His answer was pure and simple SILENCE. The following day, I also had a “confirmation” of what happened, when one of the teachers said for the first time that: “The practice of anapanasati has such a power that sometimes, it takes just one breath to accomplish incredible things”. That truly resonated with my whole story!