“I just want to see what’s going on up there.” – Adam
Compared to our adventures in the US National Parks over the summer, I have been surprised to find that backpacking around SE Asia just doesn’t give me the same sense of accomplishment. City sightseeing, beach sitting, and guided hikes just aren’t as challenging or as interesting to plan, do, or write about afterwards.
However, I am hoping for big things from our next adventure: a ten day meditation retreat. Did I mention it’s silent, vegetarian, and Adam and I will be completely separated for 10 days? For two people who have rarely been more than an arms length from each other in the past six months, this is going to be a huge change.
The retreat we chose is a Dhamma retreat in the vipassana style of meditation. The ten day length is the minimum amount of time the organization recommends to give the practice a chance. During the ten days, I will take a vow of noble silence, and not talk or make eye contact with anyone except the instructor. I will spend about 10 hours every day meditating. I won’t get any coffee. All my electronics will be stored safely away so I can focus on understanding my consciousness.
To answer some of your immediate questions:
- Yes, I am aware my head could very well explode if I don’t talk for 10 days
- No, I’ve never remained silent for more than about 12 hours at a stretch and that was probably an accident
- No, I’ve never meditated or crunched my legs into lotus position for an extended period of time
- Yes, this is a class for beginners, and no prior experience is necessary
Now that I’ve also blown YOUR mind, let me back up a step. I will assume you’ve heard of the amazing and scientifically proven benefits of meditation. Maybe you have a friend like I do with a great success story of major life improvement through meditation. Perhaps you’ve read recent books like 10% Happier and Waking Up. You may even have tried meditation apps like Headspace or Insight Timer. That level of detail is about where I started a few months ago.
After a bit of further research and reading, especially posts and links from Sam Harris’ blog, I learned that there are many different schools of meditation. Some come with religious or dogmatic aspects, others, like Vipassana, do not. This is why we chose to start with Vipassana. In what I hope is a massive oversimplification, you just sit there and concentrate on your breathing, with the goal of detachedly examining the contents of your consciousness.
To learn this style of meditation, the Dhamma organization teaches seminars at centers around the world. It started in India but we figured Cambodia was a good close place to start. We will never have a better chance to commit ten days.
While I don’t fully know what to expect from the session, I hope to learn how to achieve more mental quietness and get a better sense for how my brain really works. While I am not typically an emotional person, I do occasionally have flashes of “hangry” temper that my emotional black hole of a husband suggests could be more moderate. I don’t expect the process to be life changing, but I am trying to remain open to the idea.
We start today, November 2, and emerge on November 13, if we make it the full ten days. Please send us your support telepathically. If you have any questions or want to wager on how long we make it, please put that in the comments section. I expect to write a follow up post afterwards.
Here are the links to those two books on meditation that I mentioned and have recently enjoyed. I do all my reading through the public library, but if that’s not your style and I’ve inspired you to check these out, using these amazon links will send a little something back to the blog.
Any proceeds will be used to inspire future blog posts in the form of beer money.