Can you remember the last time you didn’t say anything at all for one day? Or the last time you didn’t use your phone, laptop or TV for at least one day? You can’t? I couldn’t either, until I went to a free meditation retreat in Malaysia. Let me tell you about a lifechanging experience.
A good friend of mine told me about her trip to Malaysia and how she participated on a Vipassana Meditation Retreat. She told me about sitting long hours and meditate for days. Eleven days to be exact. I couldn’t believe she made it, but I noticed a change in her behavior and also in the way she spoke. She seemed to be so calm and relaxed.
I wanted to experience the same. So I went to Malaysia and signed up for a Vipassana meditation class. All the instructions where i have to go and when I have to arrive were sent in an email. I didn’t think about it that much as I really wanted to be unbiased and without any expectations. But still, I felt a bit anxious because I didn’t know what to expect.
The days passed by so quickly – Departure day! I left the condo of my friends house in Kuala Lumpur and went straight to the Bus Terminal where I catched the bus to Gambang. From there i had to catch a cab to the Center. Thoughts like „OMG my last few minutes in freedom – you have to enjoy them as much as possible!!!“ came to my head and I felt even more anxious. But hey, it was my decision and it will be beneficial for me! The taxi driver who took me to the Meditation Center knew where I was going and told me that this will be a good decision.
Puh! Doesn’t feel like it to be honest! He took me twenty minutes (by car!!) in the middle of a forest, until I saw something like a temple. I got my backpack off the trunk and started to walk towards the massive gate. The next step was registration/paperwork and storage of all your valuables. This includes also smartphone/camera/books etc. You don’t need anything, just some comfy clothes and toiletries. After the registration the meditation teacher told us everything about the rules, which apply for the next ten days:
1. Don’t speak, unless you’ve got a question you can talk to the teacher. It is at his discretion to answer or not.
2. Don’t look eachother in the eyes. Don’t communicate!
3. Don’t read, don’t kill, no music
4. No sexual activity
5. Don’t distract others
(… there are a few more rules)
Why those rules? You should only focus on meditation. Nothing else. You spend time with yourself. I didn’t know how to meditate, but that’s alright. They teach you how to do it – focus on your breath. Breathe in and out and see how it feels – you have to watch out for „sensations“, responds from your body. Also you should not deny or crave for those feelings. It is what it is.
The schedule is very tough, you start meditating at around 5am in the morning, for around 6h a day (with breaks of course). You will meet in a big hall, roughly about 100 people – gender separated. I found it quite hard to sit still and just observe what my body is doing. Also your brain will constantly give you new things to think about. But that’s not your job. Your job is to observe your body’s sensations!!
Damn! It took me sooo long to ignore all the things happening around me – especially all the people burping/sneezing/farting etc. It was gross and sometimes I got a bit angry. But as the meditation teaches you, everything comes and goes (so does smell and sound!). The first three nights were super challenging. My mind was full of thoughts and I didn’t know what to do. You can’t talk to anyone. You can’t write down your thoughts. You are by yourself. My thoughts were so fast and this made things popping up in my mind. Things, I thought I am over. Things, i forgot. And also thoughts I suppressed.
There’s no escape now. Observe, don’t judge. After the third night i considered to leave the Meditation Center. Damn, it was so painful. I felt really bad the whole day and couldn’t focus on anything. „Hey, you can do this! You’re already here, this is an important part of the experience and you knew this will happen. Do it. Continue!!“ I said to myself and already felt stronger.
What do you do when everyone leaves you? You’re by yourself. You’re your best friend, and a best friend will do everything for you to succeed. Stand strong and do it.
Suddenly I was very confident – I can do it! And I will do it! This is the experience I wanted. Positive self-talk and confidence in myself helped me. The days passed by and I felt more and more relaxed. Still, it was very hard to sit on the floor without moving for at least one hour. Closed eyes. Breathing. Observing.
After ten days the teacher told us we are allowed to speak again. WOW! It was an amazing feeling. On the last day we cleaned the whole mediation center and arranged transportation back to Kuala Lumpur. Also we donated money to the Meditation Center, since it was free – and you want other people to experience the same. As we hopped on the bus i switched on my mobile phone. For the first time after eleven days. What a weird feeling. The display was so bright, my eyes started to hurt.
But the most intense experience was waiting at our final destination… Two hours after we left the Center we arrived in KL. In front of this massive Shopping Center. Can you imagine how that feels? More than a week without any distractions. And suddenly you find yourself next to a shopping center with all those flashing lights, smells, loud music and hundreds of people!
It was too much. Honestly, I was so close to cry. The next train brought me straight to Pasar Seni, a precinct in Kuala Lumpur. I already booked a room for myself and just wanted to unwind for a bit. It took me a couple of hours to start talking to people again. What an experience. I will do it again.
But what happened now after this experience? I feel more confident in myself, I am more calm, I feel happy and grateful. You can’t change the world, but you can chance your point of view.
Have you ever heard about Vipassana meditation? Did you try it yet or do you want to try it? Tell me about your experience!