A couple of things to clear up right away.
First, I AM NOT CRAZY. Honestly I’m not!
Second, I AM NOT A HIPPIE. I may have dressed like one when I was traveling in India and Southeast Asia (come on, everyone does) but I’m really not.
|Baggy linen pants? Ethnic garb? Looks like a hippie to me!|
I did however, attend a 10-day no-talking Vipassana meditation retreat. TWICE.
Does that make me crazy? Or a hippie? I don’t think so, but I know what stereotypes pop into people’s heads when they hear about meditation ashrams, vegetarian diets and vows of “noble silence.”
|Leaving my first 10-day meditation retreat feeling GREAT|
My first attempt into Vipassana meditation, or any type of meditation for that matter, was in Igatpuri, India in early 2010. I was initially drawn to meditation as a way to help relax and calm my frantic thought patterns. My experience in Igatpuri was a powerful one and impacted me in many positive ways. Unfortunately, as I continued to travel, I found it hard to continue with my meditation.
Fast forward a year and I find myself living in Hong Kong. The stress of living among the crowds in yet another big. over-populated city started taking its toll. I found myself often flustered, frustrated, depressed and apathetic, with energy levels dangerously low.
Thus I spent another grueling, yes, GRUELING 10 days forcing myself to sit still and focus on my breathing in a Vipassana meditation center in the outskirts of Hong Kong. At first, I struggled with the rigorous schedule of waking up at 4:30 AM and meditating for 10 hours each day. Within two days, 9:00 PM couldn’t come soon enough for me to fall asleep and rest my weary body from the day’s strenuous meditations. By the end of the week, the schedule of waking up before the sun and sleeping before most people in Hong Kong get home from work became second nature.
As I was returning to Vipassana mediation as an “old” student, I had the added difficulty of eating nothing (nothing!) after 12 noon. Let me tell you, for someone who loves to eat as much as I do, this requirement was the most difficult. Or so I thought. The first couple of nights I watched with jealous envy as the “new” students enjoyed their evening fruit while I grumpily sipped at my tea. By the third evening though, I was no longer feeling hunger pains and I think my meditation benefited from the lack of food.
|See how food makes me so happy?|
Not speaking to anyone, in word or in deed, for the full 10 days was probably my favorite aspect of the meditation retreat. It’s just such a nice change from everyday life and really allowed me to focus on myself. In fact, on the 10th day when we were allowed to start speaking again, I found it difficult to find my voice. Hearing myself talk seemed surreal and the act of speaking itself was exhausting.
On the day of departure, I was extremely emotional. After leaving the retreat premises and returning to my Hong Kong apartment, all the sounds, lights and crowds of Hong Kong was so intimidating that I had to lock myself indoors for the rest of the day!
All in all, the meditation retreat with its vegetarian diet, strict schedule and vows of silence, was another beneficial 10 days. It gave me time to focus on myself, sort out my thoughts and brought a little bit of peace to me. Although I’ve since struggled with maintaining my meditation (life has such a way as to take over all other things, doesn’t it?), I still do my best to meditate a little each day and I feel all the better because of it.
And everyone could use a little help in feeling better, right? Even us non-crazy hippie types.
Have YOU had a spiritual experience while traveling abroad? Please SHARE!
© Connie Hum 2011