Starts today: 10 days of silent Vipassana meditation

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Wat Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Wat Doi Suthep, highest temple in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Starting this afternoon, I’ll be at a 10 day Vipassana meditation course.

This will be 10 days of no talking or communicating with the outside world. No internet, no Macbook or iPhone, no books and no writing materials. The only person I’l can speak to will be the Vipassana course teacher during two half-hour periods of the day.

The only items I’ll have with me at the meditation centre in the small town of Gambang, Malaysia (5 hours east of Kuala Lumpur) will be basic clothing and unscented toiletries.

Why I wanted to meditate

I first heard about this Vipassana course in Toronto from a Thai friend before I started my trip four months ago. I felt connected to the idea of being with myself and only myself for 10 days.

After all, if I couldn’t handle being alone with my thoughts for 10 days, how could I live with myself for the rest of my life?

Timing synchronicities

Interestingly, this meditation course was the only thing I planned ahead for during this trip. All my other plans have been made 2-3 days (or a week, max) at a time. This timing of this meditation class has turned out to be appropriate. Since entering Malaysia over two weeks ago, I’ve noticed that I haven’t been feeling myself.

Running out of/losing zen

For the first time in four months of travel, I’ve felt cranky. I’m not as radiant, calm or laid-back as I’ve have been in the months before. My resilience and joy has dropped. In instances where I normally would laughed, smiled or just accepted the situation, I’ve felt annoyed. I’ve been annoyed at everything from the weather, the guesthouse losing my favourite blue towel, to being scowled at a few times by Chinese locals when I tell them I don’t speak much Chinese.

Even my downtime of taking a ‘vacation from travel’ last week in Kuala Lumpur, followed by more downtime in Singapore, wasn’t enough to resuscitate my best-self.

Dealing with uncertainty

It would be easy to blame my strange state on the daily rain, or leaving beautiful Koh Tao, Thailand which I was in love with. Both these reasons could superficially sound sensible, but deep down inside I know these are not true reasons for my ill-at-ease.

In reality, the experience in Malaysia and Singapore probably wasn’t much different from the other places I’ve gone to on this trip like India, Thailand, Vietnam or Cambodia.

It’s my perception that’s changed, and if my perception of external settings hasn’t been positive, it also means the perception of myself hasn’t been as well as it could be either.

It could be the quiet anxiety that’s been growing inside me as the one-year anniversary since I left my corporate day job is creeping up on April 1 and the strangeness of not having something certain planned for after that one year I initially gave myself.

I have a gut feeling the one year mark coming up in a week won’t be the end of my ‘time-off’, but a milestone marking the start of the ‘next’ part of my journey, a part which requires a leap of thought, creativity and ingenuity.

I still haven’t defined what I’ll do next in terms of work/career/income. While I’m excited to see what happens next, I’m also secretly scared of the uncertainty. The anxiety, worry, anticipation of pain feel similar to what I experienced over a year ago when I knew I had to summon the courage to make a big change.

I don’t know what insights I will have during, or after, I meditate, but I’m looking forward to watching my thoughts and feelings unfold in the next 10 days of silence.

See you on the other side on April 4th. In the meantime, please subscribe for email updates or RSS updates to stay in touch. I appreciate your support :)

>> Have you had experience with Vipassana meditation before? How did you feel during and afterwards?

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  • tomosaigon

    Hi Lily. One year on, do you still have a regular daily meditation practice and has it developed since then? Do you plan to do another retreat?

    • I was travelling after my meditation course ended, so I didn’t practice as much or as regularly as I would have liked. For the first few weeks I meditated daily either in the morning or being going to sleep, but it was hard to maintain a regular schedule because I was often in a different place or my routine was different day to day. I am interested in doing another course and since I’m in one city right now it would be easier for me to establish the practice as a habit. It’s definitely do-able, especially if you’re in one place. Let me know if you have more questions.

      – Lily

  • Nancie McKinnon

    This is on my list of “want to do” and maybe I’ll do it this summer. I can relate to your 1 year anniversary. I was there myself 11 years ago. Planned on leaving the corporate rat race for a year… and now I’m into year 12. The only thing I know for sure is that the decision not to go back was the right one for me. 

  • This sounds amazing. I saw this on Twitter, and while it was a year ago, I’m so impressed! I would love to do something like this as well one day. You’re inspirational! 

    • Hi Anita, it’s incredible how quickly the year flew by while I was traveling but this meditation course were one of the most memorable experiences I had. If you think you might be interested one day, here’s the listing of all the centres around the world (there’s also one in Ontario): http://www.dhamma.org/en/bycountry/. Thanks for stopping by!

      – Lily 

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  • Ann

    hi Lily, came across this through facebook, I’m so happy for you and admire what you’re doing so much! I hope it’s okay to add this blog link to my blog as I would love to read more about your upcoming adventures (http://annyanli.wordpress.com/)… if not please let me know and I’ll remove it. :)

    • Hi Ann,

      I’m so happy to hear from you, hope things are well, it’s been a while! Thanks for your kind words, they mean a lot and of course you can add me to your blogroll :)

      Keep in touch,
      – Lily

  • Tara Montague

    Oh Lily I so admire you and the adventure that you are on. I am certain
    the 10 days of silence will give you much insight, clarity and peace of mind. I can’t wait to hear all about your experience there, as well, the rest of your journey. t

    • Hi Tara,

      Thanks for your beautiful wishes, it was nice to see these nice thoughts from friends after I came back from the course.

      It took a few days for me to digest and find the words to articulate the meditation experience. It was much more than I expected, but in a good way. I’d highly recommend it if you have the opportunity to attend, there’s a centre near Toronto and courses are free (by donation at course end).

      – Lily
      P.S. I just wrote a blog post describing the experience, if you’re interested. In a nutshell, it went from torture, to new body sensations, to thinking I was hallucinating, to feeling more focused/clearer after.

  • Lois

    I’ve only read about this through Sarah Macdonald’s Holy Cow. But I have to admit, I could use something like this. Good luck with it and please let us know how it goes.

    • Hi Lois,

      Thanks for the good luck, it went well – I completed it and it was an incredible, complex experience. I’d highly recommend it, if you get the chance to attend a course. Here’s a list of Vipassana centre’s around the world if you’re interested.

      – Lily

  • SPHigg

    jumped from moneyville.. am so excited!

    I am headed to thailand (for only 2.5 weeks :( ) in a month and this is something I really wanted to do.. unfortunately.. the timing is not right..

    I’m so excited to hear about your experience… I am certain it will be amazing. Such a way to learn more about your inner self.

    • Hi SPHigg,

      The meditation was really insightful and very different from other meditation I’ve done. I’d highly recommend it, and there are Vipassana centres in Canada as well (I’m assuming you’re Canadian since you mentioned Moneyvilla :))

      Hope you have a wonderful trip to Thailand. I’m back in Thailand for the 3rd time in the last 4 months of my trip, it’s that wonderful here :) Let me know if you need any info for Thailand as well.

      – Lily

  • Lily, I hope you gain more clarity and insight after the 10 days. I am curious to know all about it since I have been looking at a 30 day meditation course in Tibet.

    • Hi Graciel,

      Thanks for your kind thoughts. I managed to make it through the 10 days. Started off pretty torturous but then some really amazing things happened, like sharper concentration and feeling new sensations on my body, among other things. A 30 day course in Tibet sounds beautiful… and challenging! I thought I was brave for doing 10 days, but 30 days is really, really courageous, good for you for considering it!

      I just wrote a blog update on my experience, if you’re interested in more details.

      See you on Twitter :)
      – Lily

  • I admire your devotion! Really looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the experience when you are finished. Namaste!

    • Namaste! I made it through the 10 days and just summarized how it went, if you’re interested.

      Just followed you on Twitter as well :)
      – Lily

  • my brother did a 10 day silent meditation this summer and unfortunately was not a fan. however, he thinks this may have to do with the people running it and feeling a weird vibe about their intentions. he said it was mind and body altering and with a better setting could be life changing. here’s to an amazing experience!

  • Kim

    Beautiful post. “Leap of thought,” I love it. It is completely normal to feel anxiety and worry about the next step. Just trust that things will work out, as they always have. You are brave and life is beautiful!

    Can’t wait to hear about the experience. A 10-day silent retreat is on my must-do RTW list.

    • Hi Kim,

      “Just trust that things will work out, as they always have. You are brave and life is beautiful!” <– What beautiful and encouraging words, thank you! It's been great sharing this journey with you.

      Here's a list of Vipassana centres around the world, if you’re interested. One of these countries should hopefully fit in your RTW itinerary :)

      – Lily

  • 10 days of no communicating… wow… it must be an interesting experience, and hopefully one that will help you a lot and clear your mind.

  • I think after ten days of not talking that will help clear your mind and ease your anxiety. It sounds like a great way to spend ten days.

  • Wow, sounds awesome. Will you be in Chiang Mai for Songkran (Thai New Year)?

  • I can understand your anxiety and I wish that the 10 days ahead will lighten your way.

  • Wow, this is something we could never do!

    Good luck Lily, hope it helps you find what you’re looking for! :)