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).
Accommodation – Vipassana Meditation Centre Sunshine Coast
The accommodation is comfortable although please not that you’ll most likely be sharing and use a shared bathroom.
What to Pack for a Vipassana Meditation Course
You’ll be told to what to bring which is basically:
- pillowslip, sheets and blankets or doona. From May to September Pomona can be very cold at night (occasionally below freezing).
- for meditation, a blanket or shawl.
- an adequate supply of modest, loose and comfortable clothing, which covers the body from the shoulders to below the knees, even when sitting (facilities for hand washing of clothes are provided).
- towels and toiletries for the duration of the course.
- torch with spare batteries.
- umbrella or raincoat.
- small clock or watch (not mobile phones).
- insect repellent (optional).
- small water bottle or cup (optional).
What NOT to bring:
- media players (eg iPods/MP3`s),computers, cameras.
- books, writing materials.
- musical instruments.
- revealing or brief clothing: you will not be able to wear shorts or skirts which stop above the knee, including when sitting, sleeveless or low cut tops, vests or singlets, form-fitting pants or tights (unless covered by a loose garment down to the knees).
- food (a wide variety is provided).
- unprescribed sleeping pills, tranquillisers, stimulants.
- tobacco, alcohol or illegal drugs.
- furs or animal skins, crystals, rosaries or other religious objects
- jewellery or valuables (facilities are provided for safekeeping of money, mobile phones, etc.).
- scented toiletries, perfumes, essential oils or incense.
What to Bring [Winter]
Thermos for tea
Ugg boots, sneakers for walking, slip on shoes
Comfy long pants
Watch / alarm clock
Candle electric light
Getting to The Vipassana Centre (‘Dhamma Rasmi‘)
The Vipassana Centre (‘Dhamma Rasmi‘) is in Rules Rd, Pomona. If driving to the Centre, please use Google maps, as some vehicle satnavs will not direct you correctly.
For travel directions and transport options from Brisbane, Brisbane airport and Sunshine Coast airport go to www.rasmi.dhamma.org/location.
If you are intending to drive to the Centre please note that, although off-street parking is provided, all those parking there do so at their own risk.
If you would like to offer a ride or are looking for a ride then go to http://rides.server.dhamma.
How Much Does a Vipassana Meditation Course Cost?
What if I’m Sick?
If there is any significant change in your physical or mental health, or use of medication, please notify us as soon as possible. If you are taking medication, please remember to bring enough for the entire course.
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.
4:00am wake up bell
4:30 – 6:30am meditation in hall or own room
6:30am breakfast and rest
9 – 11am 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)
5 – 6pm dinner
6 – 7pm GROUP MEDITATION IN HALL [COMPULSARY]
7 – 8:30pm Discourse
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
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 a 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 1 when I was filled with a feeling of universal love and that feeling hadn’t returned again.
Now we moved onto the Vipassana technique. It’s basically scanning the body for sensations. I could feel lots of popping, prickling sensations on this day. I also had a lot of thoughts come up around my weight and also my goals in life.
This day was very interesting. The technique is to remain completely still and pay no attention to physical pain, like when your legs start aching. You also can’t pay any attention to the good euphoric feelings. What happens is that all the old pain and attachment will bubble up and vanish, therefore purifying the mind.
I had my objections. Number one being that we’re all genetically made to avoid pain. If you put your hand in a fire, you’ll pull away. We’re also genetically engineered for craving or wanting something better for ourselves which leads to evolution. I was battling this part of the process because I was thinking “why would one not want to have these traits?”
On the intellectual level I understand the argument how ‘craving’ leading to misery and understand the value of accepting ‘what is’, but I still argue that wanting to improve ourselves and craving to better ourselves is a good thing.
On this day I also kept have dreams of futuristic wars , like in a sci-fi movie where I was separated from my kids. It must be coming from a strong attachment to them because I raised them alone since pregnancy. Although I come across as an unattached and fairly free-spirited parent – this was showing me the deeper bonds are super strong. In one dream a super-war-like drone ship took my kids from my arms and I turned into some type of roaring fusion of E.T and Godzilla on a rampage…hmmmm. Don’t mess with my kids.
By this time I was aware there were only 3 more days left before the final day where we’re allowed to talk to each other. To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to it. I wasn’t looking forward to going back to a busy life of cooking, cleaning, driving, working, school run.
This mediation was heaven! So quiet and peaceful. BLISS!
AMAZING! Today I was loving it! Nothing to do except concentrate on myself and see what else comes up. Only one purpose. Focus on the technique of meditation! What a great retreat! I was still feeling energetically blocked in unravelling what I wanted to do and focus on in life. But I was in full trust with the process. I was getting the most sleep and rest I’ve ever had in my life, so my wrinkles started to vanish (not really, but my I was feeling lighter and fresher!).
Birds are chirping, trees and whispering in the wind and leaves are fluttering around in slow-mo. Until….they weren’t.
Every day it’s your choice whether or not you want to schedule a meeting with your teacher to talk about the technique. On this day I spoke with my teacher. Afterwards I bolted to the nearest place of solitude, which in this instance was a fountain, and bawled my eyes out.
Weirdly, it was for no reason at all!
I had spoken to my teacher about all the physical pain I had in my body from sitting up straight for hours and how it all vanished. Sitting there like a graceful Yoda exuding a sustained serene smile, she said ‘it’s imagined pain’.
Maybe I cried my beady little eyes out because I realized that all the pain I had in my life was imagined pain. I created it myself. My misery is self-inflicted.
It all came back to a deep-rooted belief of ‘I’m not enough’
I was married to a serial cheater, and I could never get my head around ‘open relationships’ where couples were allowed to see other people. This gave me a whole new perspective and respect for people who succeed at this. Both partners would need great strength and bother partners would need to feel ‘enough’. They respect themselves enough to not want to engage in that sexual activity and have no attachment (as in a feeling of ownership) to their partner to allow them that pleasure.
Can you see how crazy this experience is….? The things that your mind will bring? For me, it’s been a deep pain to be cheated on while pregnant and left with a small baby (twice). This meditation brought up this pain and had me bawl my eyes out to get rid of it.
I won’t say it’s completely gone, but I’m a hell of a lot lighter from it.
Nothing is permanent. Everything is constantly changing.
Day 9 –
Finally on day 10 I can find out what all the drama was about and why some of the people left? Talking only is permitted after 10am and I was looking forward to it. After all this time, although lapping up all the peace and relaxation, I was ready to move on. As a go-getter I found the course speed of delivering new information was quite slow and repetitive (and deliberating so). I could barely stand to hear the same mantras again. My brain would be saying, “yep I get it….equanimity of the mind, awareness, don’t generate craving or adversion or it will multiple and generate more sankaras (more deeply etched lines of misery).
All my moaning and groaning on the technique being delivered slowly was rapid fired on this day. In one audio sitting we were told of a new technique to penetrate the body as if you had already achieved it! Focus in on one spot the size of a fingernail to see if you have sensations, then feel this all over your body in waves. It was like ‘dude, no chance to even penetrate and you’re already jumping to full body waves?”. This was so different that the previous 3 days of just breathing!
Day 10 – Day of Talking
Although very exciting, we are only permitted to speak for 3 hours because the day’s jam packed. I found out some people left because they had a lot of trouble with the silence. There was group who made a pack if one leaves, they all leave. One being a new mum with an infant really struggled and 2 out of the group of 3 left.
What did I get out of it?
I felt more balanced and clear about where I was in life and why I didn’t have the success I wanted. I knew the lack of achieving my goals didn’t define me and that I’m able to redfine myself each new day.
At 40 years, I have another 20 years to carve out my working life. I felt more peace at where I’m at. I definitely felt more relaxed, rested and at peace. I had dissolved the feelings of resentment and loss at how my life turned out. I never wanted to a single mum and raise 2 boys alone and had felt a loss of never experiencing a nice pregnancy or having a loving partner. I also resented having all the financial pressure as well as having to be a full-time mother and carer, something that was very important to me because my mother was always there for me.
I felt like I have a special gift to shine and share with the world. I know I bring good energy and brightness to those around me. When I look back over the 10 days it started with me wanted to be skinny, fit, travelled, wealthy and successful and transitioned into a sense of contentment. A feeling of being OK with where I am and skill focused on where I want to go but with a greater sense of servitude, purpose to help others, to share love and make an impact. I have no doubt I’ll continue to follow my body, sensations, heart and path in life with grace and compassion.
Welcome! I decided freedom and flexibily were my top values and set out to create that life…
Free Gratitude Journal
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!