Archive for the ‘vipassana meditation’ Category

I am back from 12 days away from the world. No Internet, no phone, no contact with outside life. For 10 days I was in silence learning Vipassana meditation.

I was so, so scared to go and do this.

And I am so, so happy that I did.

Oh, there is so much I’d like to share about this! From the challenges of sitting (meditating), to the beautiful moments in between, to the amazing and supportive center, to the details of this technique, to the joys of silence for a week, to the ups and downs I felt all week long, I don’t know where to begin.

I went in expecting extreme suffering, with an extreme breakthrough of bliss at the end. Thankfully, neither of these were true. For me. One of the keystones of this practice is that it is based on your own personal experience. It is not connected to any religion—it is a universal technique which can be used by everyone to purify the mind. So, after reading up and hearing others’ experiences, I had certain expectations. So what I describe is purely my experience, as it is different for everyone.

From Day 1, I was challenged. I did not know how I would make it through the week. The days are so long, beginning at 4:30 am, and filled only with meditation. No books, no writing, no conversations are allowed. As the days passed, I understood why all this is so. All other distractions have been removed to give you the full opportunity to learn this practice, and live like a nun or monk for 10 days. Being in silence amongst a group of other women (men and women are separated) proved to be a huge blessing as we all undertook this journey. We were not alone in what we were doing, but we were granted our own special space to go through this learning on our own. The week became a very special time for me and myself. I can’t say enough good things about the center I went to—Dhamma Dhara, in Shelbourne, MA. It is run with such love and mindfulness. Down to the tiniest detail, they have your best interests in mind. The food is all prepared by volunteers who have taken the course, and it is delicious and healthy. When the bell rings for mealtime, we enter the dining hall, and it as if little elves have come in and let us the gift of food. And, being in silence, mealtime for me became time to sit there and really enjoy my food. Breakfast is at 6:30, lunch is at 11am, and 5pm is teatime. No dinner. (But you do get fruit.) My body adjusted fast, and this also was supportive of the practice. You can’t meditate on a full stomach. I learned this fast and was not tempted to overeat at either of the meals.

This technique really resonates with me. The mind, I learned, is actually full of love and compassion. But through life, we pick up all of these negativities and stuggles and pains which get lodged into our minds. This work of focusing purely on your body’s sensations purifies the mind and pulls out those negativies by the root! It is work of training the mind, of sharpening the mind, of clearing out all that is in the way of the overflow of love and compassion that exists beneath everything else.

The course is taught by S.N. Goenke, all via audio and video, with assistant teachers in the room to answer questions and guide the day. And this is a wonderful man. Each evening we watched discourses, and it felt like movie time. We could stop working and enjoy his teachings.

The hardest day for me was Day 9. Someone else mentioned that this was the best day for them. Some days I felt like I was getting it, and I couldn’t wait to go home and share my experience. Other days I was doubtful and frustrated and could only think about pizza and wine and my friends back home. Day 9, I had expected to feel so clear-headed. I expected to have some huge blissful out-of-body experience. And there I was, still just trying to bring my mind back to my body. I had to let go of my own expectations and cravings for a certain experience and accept where I was and what it was. This turns out to be a large part of the practice, and what I am taking from it.

He says a lot how people are smiling on Day 10. How the whole week will be worth it because on Day 10 you will feel so happy. When the silence was broken in the morning and we began transitioning back, I felt disappointed. I’m not smiling! Am I supposed to feel happier? Did this not work on me? Did I do it right? I’m still playing some worries in my head!

I wasn’t ready to be out of silence. I took a long walk through the trees in the back, still content only conversing with nature. A woman passed me who had her phone. My first words: “They gave us our phones back?” The woman replied back with an accent. I never would have guessed. I slowly ventured into the main area, and saw a group of women on the ground talking and laughing. Oh no! People have already made friends! It’s too late for me! Then one of the girls looked up and smiled at me. I relaxed. It’s okay. This isn’t junior high.

As I began to speaking with the other women there, that’s when I discovered the quiet joy that had been unveiled this week.

And the smile.

I did find myself smiling. Smiling from a place of joy. Laughing like I laughed in high school as a few of us were making jokes about the symphony of farts that took place in the meditation hall all week. Another thing i did not foresee: the bodily functions I’d be hearing all week! When we had our next “sit,” as each meditation is called, and one of the men on the other side of the room farted (for the millionth time), I could hold it in no longer. I started giggling. The rest of the women began giggling too. We were able to compose ourselves but then again I burst out giggles. Which set off the rest of the women again. The assistant teacher calmly asked us to please compose ourselves. I spent the next 20 minutes trying not to laugh. It was a beautiful moment to share with the other women in the room. We’d worked so hard all week, and could finally enjoy a laugh together. To laugh like that, to have to hold my nose and work harder than I’d worked all week to not laugh was the most gratifying experience of the entire week.

Now, my real work begins: keeping up this practice on a daily basis.

Jamie is on Day 5 today! She is almost halfway done. Keep it up Jamie! Sending you lots of love and light!


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Watch out for a guest post from Jamie, too… matthewbrownjackson. She’s also preparing for a 10-day vipassana course!

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Tomorrow I leave for Massachusetts for the 10-day Vipassana course. I remember about 3 years ago a manager at the restaurant I worked at told me he was leaving for a 10-day silent retreat. Now I know what he was talking about. He actually did that right after he quit, so I never heard how it went for him. I’m curious!

I have had a lot of different feelings arise since I first signed up for this course. I don’t want to do it… I don’t want to need it… What if this makes me more in my head? What if I go crazy? I probably do need this… I’m going to be so busy this summer! I definitely should not do this.

I almost cancelled my course reservation, and then I had a conversation with my friend Jamie. (Or, as she’s known around this blog, matthewbrownjackson.) She pointed out that this could be an opportunity to get grounded as I began my wild summer (which includes performing 13 solo shows in Canadian festivals). My friend Olia pointed out that I could look at this as another exploration, another experiment. And, that I could simply enjoy getting away from my day-to-day life for 10 days. And when I spoke to Nisha Moodley, she also gave me great advice: To go into this openly, knowing I might like it, and I might not, and either is okay.

So I am taking all of these thoughts with me as I begin the course tomorrow. I am mostly excited to step away from all my to-do lists, all of my facebook & Internet addictions, away from all my mailing lists and emails to tend to, away from the trains of NYC, the worries over money and everything else. I’m going at this openly, knowing I am fine with it and fine without it.

What I am really hoping is that once I “see things as they really are,” which is one of the main ideas behind Vipassana, I’ll be able to come back to my life right here and enjoy it even more, laugh at the ridiculousness of worry, and be even more present with all the great people & experiences in my life.


Okay, and guess what!! The ultra-awesome, empowering & joyful Stephanie St.Clair (of BLISSBOMED) is going to be writing a guest post right here! I’ve written about Stephanie before. She’s an ongoing source of inspiration and empowerment to love yourself, love your life, and bring all of that juicy love into your relationships. “Like” her on Facebook and get all of her juicy & uplifting thoughts to bring some light into that status feed.

So be sure to check in and see what she has to say. I can’t wait to get back and read it. Or—-go ahead and SUBSCRIBE (to the right of the screen) and you’ll get an email when the post is up! Go ahead… subscribe! 🙂

See you guys mid-May!

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Yesterday I spoke to a friend of mine for nearly 2 hours. She has just returned from 60 days of silent vipassana meditation in India. Victoria has been practicing Vipassana for many years, and she is who originally told me about the practice. That’s got to be the most interesting about all service jobs, like catering, or waiting tables—the people you meet.

I had emailed her because I am a little scared that I’ll go out of my mind at Vipassana. I have always been told I think too much. The first time, my cousin told me that, and I remember thinking, Huh. So it doesn’t have to be this hard? And just about every helper or guide or healer I have spoken to has suggested meditation: a life coach, 3 years ago; a shaman, one year ago; another shaman, less than a year ago.  (Actually she didn’t mention meditation. She did mention my head, and the many stories I get caught up in.) Another healer gave me this advice: You have a very powerful mind. It is up to you to use this for good, not evil. 🙂 (That evil is primarily directed towards myself.)

Well, as Kerry the healer said, it’s just her job to dust me off a little. Really, the journey, the healing, is up to me. Victoria really pointed this out, that this meditation practice empowers you to heal yourself.

I think with all the work I’ve done, I’ve expected to no longer need to do anything. Something will fix my up and down emotions, my worries, my fears, and everything that feels out of control. What I’ve really gotten, slowly, is some grounding. Some reality. Awareness that a lot of this stuff is simply in my head. Slowly, day by day, one pattern or habit will become clear, and then I can begin choosing to not go that way, but to go another way.

From what I understand, this meditation is boot camp in that awareness. Victoria talked about sitting there on the cushion in the meditation room for hours, and how much would go on inside her. But in reality, everything is okay. She is just sitting on a cushion in a room.

I think the fact that I am scared this time is good. I’m not so blind-sighted to think that I’ll have this groovy, hippie, spiritually cozy experience, seeing all my angels fly by. Oh, they will be there. I’m definitely requesting their presence. But, on that cushion, the work will be up to me.

I can try to prepare myself, but I don’t know what to expect. And afterwards, I still won’t be fixed. That would make the whole journey done, right? I’ll just have one more, very powerful tool in my toolbelt, so that I can be out there and do life, without getting caught up in the same old stories… or to at least be able to laugh at myself when I do.

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Well, I did something, dammit. I confirmed my reservation for the 10-day Vipassana meditation course. I was squirming. I’m scared! I’m scared of this intensive mediation bootcamp. I’m scared that I will do it and come back crazy.er. crazier! I’m scared I will come back tighter, more rigid, harder on myself, and slightly insane from very clearly hearing the stuff in my head for 10 days straight. I’m scared that my friends will be in NYC laughing and having fun, just enjoying life, and I will be attempting to scrape down one more layer of non-self, to get to self.

Why am I doing it then? Well, in the hopes that it could get me grounded. Just really grounded in… Well, if I knew exactly what, I probably wouldn’t need to go! My hopes are that I can get a little more conscious of my choice in each moment. My choice to be happy. My choice to be confident. My choice to pursue my desires. My choice to be loving. My choice to think thoughts that make my life better.

My choice to be one of those people that simply enjoy life. Maybe first I go through an intensive meditation bootcamp to get to that place. But I am going because I hope I will come out of it with a new sense of ease, a new sense of peace. Or maybe, to just connect with the ease and peace that is there living and breathing each moment.

What I’m really looking forward is having these 10 days to just get into my inner world. Not my head, my heart…. and who knows. Maybe I will connect with some sort of universal consciousness!?

But yeah. 8 to 10 hours of meditation a day. Well, the menu looks yummy.

P.S. I got my official nickname in the band I play flute in, The BTK Band ,(where I get to enjoy my inner rock and roller). Once you are officially in the band, you get a nickname.


“Eat Pray Blue”

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It’s Monday, so that means I have a new song from Rodney to share today.

From Rodney:

inspired by what i was feeling.  and that was that my philadelphia eagles are absolutely terrible.  awful.  make too many mistakes.  and yet, life can be joyous if they somehow shock me and win a game.

Listen to it: why do i watch the eagles

And did I mention I applied to take the 10-day vipassana meditation course this spring? I did!

And here’s an email I got today:

It’s going to kick my booty. I can’t wait. I’m going!


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