Greetings from Thailand!
I'm just a few hours into reintegration with the rest of the world after spending 7 days at a Vipassana silent meditation retreat in Koh Samui, and I feel refreshed and with new perspective having had the experience.
Without question, it was pretty hard. Dormitory-style accommodation, 4:30 AM wake ups, 5-6 hours of meditation, all in complete silence. Day 2 & 3 were the peak of the discomfort of adjusting to the routine and the quiet, but once past that it was a beautiful experience.
I experienced some of the deepest and most calming meditative states of my life, and there were some fascinating talks by monks and those putting together the retreat on mindfulness and Buddhism.
I actually didn't miss my phone at all, and it was almost with reluctance that I turned it on again to get up to speed on all the ways the world continued to revolve while I was gone.
In fact this was among the chief insights I gained from the experience - the myriad of little distractions of a busy life have led me to spend too much time in a reactive, un-conscious, un-present state. This insight isn't an indictment of myself, but rather an invitation for me to reconsider what it means to be present.
There are just so many notifications, emails, messages, news headlines etc that grab our attention and distract us from the present moment...and when you step away from them all, it really becomes apparent just how unimportant most of it really is.
Most of us tend to just accept it all as part of the demands of modern, 'busy' life, but the reality is all the incessant pulls of attention toward the trivial is keeps us our attention from the things that actually do matter.
The very fact that many people can't even imagine going a week without their phones or emails suggests just how much outsized importance they've accumulated in people's lives.
And yet that's it - it's an outsized, inappropriate importance. Now out and slowly reintegrating, I am quite determined to be more present to the vital few things that matter, less to the trivial ones that don't, and more present both in my own company and in the company of friends.
I also intend to bring a renewed mindfulness to travel. Far too often it's very easy to become aggravated and upset at this delay and that airport protocol, and this precisely pulls us out of a state of being presence in the journey.
Once our attention is directed to all our perceived dissatisfactions and victimizing circumstances we lose all joy and excitement...and yet in the bigger picture, such events are truly just not that important. They say where your attention goes, your energy flows, and there are so many wonderful parts of travel to focus on instead.
Would I recommend it to others? Absolutely! The resulting spaciousness of mind can't be achieved without the rigour of the process...and thus it's a treasure hard to come by. Plus I think these kinds of challenges are good for personal evolution.
That said, I will also admit it's not for everyone. Several people left during the retreat, as is common for these things; I salute them still for giving it a shot. Also, you don't need to do a retreat to get the benefits of meditating, A regular practice is enough to have noticeable effects on your peace of mind.
Overall though - it was incredibly freeing to be part of it, and I look forward to bringing a new awareness to life and travel going forward.
Founder, Wheel & Anchor
P.S. We're back with webinars in the next two weeks for Peru and Morocco...please join us should you be interested! You can find registration links here.