If you have ever heard of or been intrigued about the idea of a silent meditation retreat then it might be time for you to register for a Vipassana course!
It was something I always wanted to do but then fell pregnant and had a baby to nurse. 6 years later I felt that opportunity had appeared. Not only did I feel my kids were old enough to happily spend 10 days without any contact with me, but a course was scheduled to start on the school holidays. Their father had reappeared in their lives and wanted to spend time with them, so it was really a win-win.
I have to admit I was extremely nervous and was tossing around ideas that I could fly over to LA or Thailand and spend 10 days kid free doing whatever the hec I wanted! 6 years of raising kids alone will do that to you! I would think, 10 days freedom….and I want to spend it in a concentration camp? What the hec?
Since I felt all clogged up with pain from the past and a lingering lack of clarity in life, I thought it was the best investment of my time to commit to 10 days, follow the technique and see what happens.
Why Every Single Mother Should Go on a Silent Retreat
Peace and Quiet
This may seem obvious, but honestly it’s worth it’s weight in GOLD. If you have been raising kids on your own, giving yourself 10 days peace and quiet will help you balance and reset.
Ok, technically it’s not very restful if you were to fiercely stick to the schedule that starts with 4am meditation. However, if you choose to meditate in your room as much as possible. You’re able to sit on your bed which is much more comfortable and allows you to feel rested.
Time out for You
As a mother you’ve spent probobly most of your time thinking about your kids and putting them first. You haven’t had much time to think about yourself or to prioritise your goals, dreams, desires and own mental health. Commiting to a 10 day Vipassana Silent Mediation Retreat gives you the space to dig deep into your inner pysche and release some internal blocks and issues that may have been holding you back. It also just gives you time to clear out your busy mind and give your brain a rest!
You didn’t go into a relationship wanting to end up single. Suddenly reality hits and you go into survival mode trying to figure out how to keep your lifestyle and house or assets together and also agree upon fair child care arrangements. It can be a jumbled mess at the best of times. Once things have settled down, you are probably at a stage where you’re seeking some clarity. Giving yourself a 10 day block is one of the best things you could do. If you can arrange it with child care, great! Perhaps parents or other trusted family members could help. Do your best, but if you need to wait until your kids are a bit older, just put it on your bucket list to do!
What is Vipassana Meditation?
The official website describes it abstractly as a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It explains that it focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind.
Vipassana meditation is a state in which the mind is brought to rest, focused only on one thing and not allowed to wander.
When you bring your mind to rest, you can observe your sensations which is either a pain (for example your back aches from sitting on your bum, or you get itching sensations and random weird stuff happening because your mind is going nuts sitting still for once) or pleasurable sensations of tingling vibrations kinda like when you just hop out of cold spa after a hot sauna (but of course it’s difference for everyone). Anyway, it’s a feeling that feels good. Imagine almost like a subtle sustained orgasm (if you took away the fact that your having sex and just isolated that feeling of euphoria).
What does it really do? SPOILER ALERT!
Don’t read if you don’t want to know ANYTHING about Vipassana (recommended).
As explained by Mr. S.N. Goenka, it works deep in your subconscious by slowly, layer by layer bringing up and releasing your core (unhealthy) beliefs. He says it’s not a quick fix and 10 days it only the beginning to learn the technique. He says that if you surrender to the technique then you will experience results after 10 days which will only continue to help you if you continue with the technique which is (cough, cough, a minimum of 2 hours meditation a day). I could be one of most sceptical people on Earth so you can imagine this would not have went down well if revealed to me on Day 1 or 2. This is only what we hear on the final day. I went into it not knowing very much and not really having any expectations.
Skip to the end if you want to know my final outcome.
We arrive between 3-5pm and have a delicious vegetarian dinner at 6pm. We can TALK! I spend this time getting to know as many people as possible before we are silenced and unable to communicate as in gestures, notes, smiles etc for the next 10 days.
We hand in all our electronics and contact with the outside world plus all of our reading and writing material. The first meditation starts at 8pm in which I’m absolutely terrible at and can’t seem to get my mind to be quiet for any period of 3 seconds.
The schedule for the next ten days is given to us which is basically.
4:00am wake up bell
4:30 – 6:30am mediation in hall or own room
6:30am breakfast and rest
8-9am GROUP MEDITATION IN HALL [COMPULSARY]
9-11M await instruction (might be meditation in hall or you might be allowed to go back to your room)
11am Lunch and Rest
1-2:30pm meditation in hall or own room
2:30-3:30 GROUP MEDITATION IN HALL [COMPULSARY]
3:30-5pm await instruction (might be meditation in hall or you might be allowed to go back to your room)
6-7pm GROUP MEDITATION IN HALL [COMPULSARY]
8:30-9pm GROUP MEDITATION IN HALL [COMPULSARY]
I was getting better at holding my concentration and my body pain wasn’t as bad
Desire after day 2:
To sharpen my mind
Control focus during stressful times
Think clearly and sharply
Things I Wish I’d Brought
Thermos for tea
Ugg boots, sneakers for walking, slip on shoes
Comfy long pants
Watch / alarm clock
Candle electric light
Focus on sensations under nostrils and above the upper lip to focus attention and sharpen the mind on a small area.
Crazy mind – this is when I would sit in the hall with 50 people all zened out and imagine myself running around screeching topless. It was my inner rebel trying to break free! I’m sure many people go home on day 3!
The croaky mantra from Goeneka were really heightened and I think anyone who hasn’t been to Hari Krisha or some other form of mantras/chanting before would pretty much start freaking out.
Here I was getting so many thoughts going on that I was desperate to document things. But I had handed in all my writing material. I found a pen at the bottom on my suitcase and honestly felt like a pen or pencil would be the biggest gift in the world to someone in prison. You can’t imagine how overjoyed with gratitude I was to find a pen! But of course I had nothing to write on and I had no idea if it would even work since it had most likely been sitting 6 years in my suitcase! In the bathroom I discovered 2 possible solutions 1) the paper bags for ladies to wrap their menstral items in or paper hand towels. I broke the rules and started writing with my contraband pen (yes it worked) on paper towels from the ladies toilets!
I’m not one for journaling or writing so it was very special for me to actually FEEL like writing. This gave me a little recluse when all the yogis would go to the hall to meditate. I could sit happy as larry in my room alternating between writing, sleeping and meditating.
Still feeling completely in love with silence.
For any mother who has raised two kids alone for 8 years, having quiet time without being interrupted on the toilet, in the shower, no cleaning, no shopping, no TV, voices, no rushing to make breakfast, lunches and do the school run, exercise wasn’t even allowed. It was a total zone out. A blissful refuge to be in complete silence! Food was made for me, I didn’t have to talk to anyone, I could be a snob without anyone judging me, enjoy my food in peace and savour my scheduled tea break! Seriously loving it still on Day 4.
I made a deal that I would only meditate in the hall if required and at all other times I was to relax in the comfort of my quiet room to work on my mind.
For dinner, something that I wasn’t aware of, you only get fruit and for old students just lemon tea. I really don’t like fruit except strawberrier, blueberries and all the fancy fruits. Apples, oranges, pears, I’ll pass thanks…except!
I was hungry.
I found out on the tea table there was psyllium husk in a jar and managed to mix up 3 teaspoons, half a cup of hot water and half a cup of milk, making a kind of cereal drink. I couldn’t believe later on it would be a drink that I really looked forward to given the options. After returning home I tried to drink it and almost vomited it down the sink. It’s amazing what joy restrictions can bring.
On Day 4, I couldn’t imagine having any breakthroughs as for me it was feeling like any other meditation. I was feeling pretty cosy and honestly not sure I would get anything much out of it except for an awesome time out from the world. I was feeling that every mum should do this. Totally amazing.
Now I was getting bored with the technique but little did I know it was working. Subconscious complexes were starting to come up like feeling fat. I remembered on Day one when I was filled with a feeling of universal love and that feeling hadn’t returned again.
Welcome! I decided freedom and flexibily were my top values and set out to create that life…
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Katie Joy is passionate about helping other mothers Bounce Back Big! She ran a successful business while single parenting with babies. Then she followed her dream to work in Asia with her kids. She believes in the Law of Attraction, World Schooling & pushing past your comfort zone to become UNSTOPPABLE!