It all began a few months before, when I started reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle – a total life-changing read.
The idea of presence and mindfulness was revolutionary for me, but I was having difficulty bringing more presence into my daily life.
Then I read Tara’s incredible post about her Vipassana experience.
Honestly I was bedazzled that anyone would willingly subject themselves to 100 hours of meditation in 10 days.
However, contradictorily every atom in my body told me that I was going to go to a Vipassana meditation retreat.
So this time last year I found myself at a retreat, sitting in the meditation hall wondering how I got there.
Those 10 days were the most challenging and intense of my life, but they were also very rewarding and transformative.
I went to the retreat hoping that by immersing myself in 10 days of silence and stillness would help me bring more presence and mindfulness into my every day life, but honestly I left learning so much more, that still influences me in my life today.
1. A really beautiful meditation technique.
One that I still incorporate into my meditation practice today.
2. I wasn’t ‘bad’ at meditating.
Even though I meditated regularly before the retreat, it used to be a huge struggle for me. I used to get so frustrated that I couldn’t stop my thoughts. At this retreat I learnt that meditating wasn’t about stopping your thoughts, it is about becoming the silent observer of your thoughts and detaching from them. This was revolutionary for me.
I don’t think you can ‘learn’ to be present, however I do believe that practice does help. Immersing myself in this retreat allowed me to come home and be more present in my everyday life.
4. To be more mindful.
I used to multi-task a lot and often I wasn’t consciously aware of things I was doing as I was too busy focusing on something else. I couldn’t even watch a movie without scrolling through my Instagram feed at least a few times. This retreat helped me start being more mindful in my daily life.
5. How to just be.
Before this retreat, I could never just be. However, with no form of entertainment for 10 days I learnt how to just do nothing, and I found that it was incredibly enjoyable.
6. Nature is peaceful and calming.
I realised how much I loved just being outside in nature at this retreat. The centre I went to was in the middle of the bush so the grounds were full of trees and wildlife. One day I watched a single lady bug crawling over the grass for 45 minutes, and it was in that moment that I realised how content I was just being in nature.
7. Everything is impermanent.
Impermanence refers to that everything always changing and nothing ever stays the same. Reminding myself “this will change” helps me to surrender and just go with whatever it is I’m experiencing, even if I don’t want to be experiencing it. This has also been revolutionary for my anxiety.
8. To respond rather than react.
We often go through our day reacting to everything that is going on around us. By responding instead of reacting life flows way better, is calmer and has a sense of ease. I also have found that communication is better when I respond to someone, rather than reacting.
9. Be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.
This whole experience was very outside my comfort zone and meditating for 10 hours a day is mentally difficult and honestly physically painful as well. This is something that still helps me in my daily life today.
10. To let go of the things that weren’t serving me.
I came home and really simplified my life and questioned how I spend my time and who I spend it with. I now watch less tv, multi-task less (and mono-task more), buy less stuff, declutter frequently and fill my days with simple things that bring me joy.
Embracing and accepting whatever I am experiencing has had a profound influence on my life. I now go with the ebb and flow more now and find it to be much more satisfying and less stressful than trying to resist, avoid or control what I’m experiencing.
12. How to embrace being alone.
As an introvert I am aware that I need a lot of alone time but I used to resist it a lot. Ever since this retreat I have been really conscious of the fact that spending time by myself is how I recharge and rejuvenate. So now, I completely embrace, appreciate and revel in alone time
13. How to hold space for other people.
To be present and listen deeply and intently to someone else. And not worry about what I need to (or should) say next and instead just hold space for someone else. I now try to listen more than I talk and have realised how much more my connections with others have deepened by using this approach.
14. I’m a lot stronger than I think I am.
By day 2 I did not know how I was going to make it to the end of the retreat. I even planned how I would escape (dramatic I know), but I did get through it, which made me realise that I’m so stronger than I think I am and that we all are.
15. Always be patient and persistent.
I carry this with me everyday. And I can still here Goneka’s voice saying “be patient and persistent”. I remind myself of this often when I’m working towards something, trying to make a change or doing something challenging.
16. Happiness comes from within.
I thought I already knew this, but I came to truly and deeply believe this at the retreat. I realised that despite what was going on at anytime, I could choose to be happy if I wanted to.
17. Question it all.
One of the most profound influences this experience had on me and my life was that it made me question everything about myself and my life such as… Who I am. Who I want to be in this life. What I believe to be true. What I don’t believe. What I want more of. What I don’t want more of.
And I still continue to question it all to this day.
As you can gather from my lessons above, this truly was a life-changing experience for me.
If you are interested in finding out more about Vipassana meditation retreats you can do that here.
Now I would love to hear from you: Have you ever been to a meditation retreat? If you haven’t would you ever go to one? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments.
Love & Gratitude,
PS. You might also like: 33 of the best things I ever did.
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