Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Thoughts Before 10-Day Silent Meditation Retreat

Tomorrow I begin a 10-day vipassana silent meditation retreat outside of Cordoba, Argentina. I heard about this opportunity from a fellow traveler who I met in Chile. He told me about dhamma.org.

The Experience

  • Days begin at 4:30 am with a couple hours of meditation before breakfast
  • Each day has 11 or 12 hours of silent meditation that are broken into 60- and 90-minute sessions.
  • I will attempt to sit cross-legged meditation style on a pillow all this time. Chairs are available, if needed.
  • There are 2 simple vegetarian meals each day and tea
  • Each day, around mid-day, I will have the opportunity to speak privately to the teacher to ask questions
  • I can bring nothing except for comfortable clothes and a toothbrush, basically. No books, no writing utensils for journaling, no electronics. Nothing.
  • This is not a luxury spa retreat. Accomodations are spartan.
  • We are not even supposed to make eye contact with the other participants, though it sounds like this rule is regularly broken
  • Men and women are separated into different parts of the compound, I think
  • Each evening there is an educational lecture for 30 or 60 minutes
  • Volunteers who have previously attended one of these sessions will be preparing the food
  • There is no cost for the 10-day experience. However, they do accept donations.
  • There are dhamma.org retreat sites all over the world.

My Thoughts

Fear. My overwhelming feeling is fear. I'm afraid that I won't be able to stick out the full 10 days. I'm afraid that I'll quit. I don't want to fail at this. I don't want to quit. Mostly I'm afraid of how difficult it is for me to simply sit cross-legged for long periods of time. I've never really meditated in that position for more than 20 minutes. And when I do that my foot falls asleep around the 15-minute mark. 60 minutes? 90 minutes? I also don't want to use a chair because that feels like cheating. Sure, if I was much older or had a serious back condition or something, then I could use a chair. But I want to do this the right way which means overcoming the challenges. That's what it's all about.

Ignorance. Do I really need to bring an alarm clock? Won't there be bells or something that wake us up in the morning? Is it okay if I bring my full big backpack and just put it in a locker for ten days? I don't want to have to leave my backpack at a hostel in Cordoba for the duration. And pillow case? I'm really supposed to bring my own pillow case? How about I just button one of my shirts around the pillow instead. I'm a traveler, dammit, and don't want to have to go buy all this extra crap for this one experience.

Excitement. I'm actually excited for the food. Full-on vegetarian with no alcohol for ten days. My body could certainly use that and maybe I'll be introduced to some new foods that I will appreciate.

Hope. I hope that my body will get used to it. I hope that my mind will be able to overcome these physical obstacles. I've read enough reviews by people who say that the first few days can be absolutely grueling, but then you overcome those difficulties and get used to it. 

I'm also hopeful because I have such a different appreciation of time at this stage of my life. A year is nothing, so what's ten days? Last year when we had that red lunar eclipse I just sat and watched the moon for two hours. And I wasn't even stoned like everyone else in the Denver park where I was. I can look at spending 3 years (estimated) traveling around the world as just a blip. Perhaps one day I'll look back at ages 45-48 as just those 3 years when I was traveling around the world. Old memories. In the scheme of a lifetime it is hardly anything, but can be immensely valuable for personal growth.

So here goes nothin'... see ya on the other side...

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