Entering a New Year In Silence
The only fireworks going off for me will be those of inner revelations and epiphanies of enlightenment - well, hopefully ;)
From 27th of December to the 7th of January, I will be doing a Vipassana 10-Day meditation retreat at a Goenka center in Hereford, UK (dhamma.org - they have centers all over the world).
What is Vipassana, I hear you say?
As one of India's oldest meditation techniques, Vipassana uses a non-sectarian approach where, at the retreat, we follow a prescribed Code Of Discipline and observe Noble Silence from the beginning - that is, "silence of body, speech and mind". It is aimed to address what they view as the "3 causes of all unhappiness": craving, aversion and ignorance.
I've seen a few different translations of the Sanskrit word, but essentially it means to "see things as they really are", and to grasp the true nature of reality by dismantling the stories and narratives we tell ourselves are true.
Although it comes from Buddhist roots, it is meant to be completely free of any bias religious undertone or doctrine, and instead embraces the universal fundamentals and commonalities that link all human beings together.
Other techniques like asana (yoga poses) and pranayama (breath control) focus on the body, and Vipassana in its pure sense is aimed to be completely a mental affair. In fact, we are prohibited to undertake any physical activity (except walking during our breaks), including no yoga, as well as no reading or writing. Any other spiritual/self-development techniques like mantra incantation and prayer beads - not to demonise these forms in the slightest, put to just put them aside for the time we are dedicated to exploring the Vipassana technique.
My mum just calls it "self-therapy" :=D
I have heard of Viapssana for a good few years - 6 years ago (already 6 years!?!?!?! Oh my, I'm getting old!;), I travelled to India as a 16-year old raw foodist, to travel and work at a yoga retreat with a yogi friend David. I would call him my older brother from another mother, and he has always been a kind of mentor of sorts to me. He immersed me more fully in Ancient Indian philosophies and practices, meditation, and he had also done this crazy thing called a Vipassana retreat ;) I was intrigued, but didn't fully grasp as something I could take on just then.
Then a Danish friend recently did a 10 day retreat in Sweden, and it re-ignited my interest and just really resonated. I'm at a junction where I really crave SPACE, and a space to create space in my mind (space, space, space! :). Silence and strict routine actually just sounds like heaven for me at this time haha! And well, the amazing thing is the financial accessibility to anyone - they are completely free of charge and donation-based. The only thing that could get in the way was how quick the retreats fill up! For the retreat in Hereford, I had to hover over the page ready to pounce on the time-bound link for the application page to open... and it was booked out within the hour! It was strikingly like the booking of an Ironman triathlon! :=)
The silence and no talking I can do. My natural disposition being quite introverted, I could happily go months without talking (doesn't exclude hugging, after all!) :=)
No training. No writing. No reading. This is where it will be interesting!
Over the past 2 years especially, I've been pretty consistent with my training - and I don't think I've ever gone more than a week without weight training! It will be a mental block to get over just this ;)
I'll admit that I have been doing heavy deadlift and shoulder presses this week hehe :D
I've also got this crazy mind that never switches off, which drives me to write, write, write! When I open up my Passion Planner at uni, it is a crowd-attracting affair... apparently people are fascinated at my filled-to-the-brim pages :=)
But for me, not only is writing (on paper or in my iNotes - I've got thoaaasands!) a way of clearing my mind, but also a way to make space so that I can evolve my thoughts. It's having an external hard drive to store the stuff in my head, and free up energy to channel into higher thinking. I also constantly have streams of ideas on how to optimise, change, and observations and reflections. It's a bit mad ;)
I'm going to have to trust myself during the Vipassana - trust that any important things that will come up, I will remember, even if I can't write them down. But also trust myself to let go and not hold on and just be able to move on - and bring myself back to the breath (and to not judge if I'm not perfect at this, of course hehe ;).
In a way, I'll be "forced" to sit with myself, in comfort and discomfort. I know it will be hard, but that's where the opportunity for growth and transformation exist. Outside of my comfort zone - and surprisingly, maybe, in silence.
I would like to go into the 10 days with minimal expectations, open and receptive to whatever occurs - even if that's a dull and boring, nothing. I think meditation is often seen as a passive thing, where you just sit and do nothing. For me, it can be a very engaging activity. It can require periods of very active and focused participation - to bring myself back to my breath each time I wonder, to sit up straight with integrity and actively work towards getting to know myself on a deeper level.
In short, I'll be taking it with a big open heart, and as a challenge - but also as a chance to surrender :=)
I hope everyone has been having a beautiful festive period, and a beautiful time with their family and friends!
Here's to the chance to step into silence - whether it be for a seconds, or 10 days :=) Happy New Years in advance!