Moving house and cleaning out photos I found these newspaper articles: The story of Vipassana Meditation Retreat written by the Journalist and wordsmith Rachael Jansen…Timely.. as I’m travelling back for a three day refresher this weekend.
If you are interested in meditation have a read…
The Sound of Silence
Words: Rachel Jansen
“They don’t call it peace and quiet for nothing.. but could you go more than a week without uttering a word?”
While most of us leading busy lives often crave some quiet time, the thought of sitting in silence for a full 10 days sounds crazy.
Not only in silence, but not making eye contact with anyone, not reading, not writing, not watching anything, not being connected – doing nothing other than 10-hours of meditation each day.
It doesn’t sound like your typical Bali holiday but Dr Rachel Wyndham has just returned from exactly that – a 10-day vipassana mediation retreat in the mountains of the Island of the Gods.
Vipassana means insight in Buddhist texts, and is one of Indias most ancient meditation techniques, which is said to translate to ‘to see things as they really are’
The idea is the meditation student is free of all distractions so that the “reality of within can be observed”.
Not only does no one speak during the 10 days, but participants also dont make eye contact with each other, even during meals. They do nothing other than meditate – even yoga and exercise aren’t allowed.
“I spent three years thinking about doing it,” says Rachel, a GP and Naturopath based on the Gold Coast.
“There is a new one in an old ashram in north Bali and it just happened to be the time we were going to a family wedding. When I got there I thought ‘am I being naive?’, because I certainly didn’t know much about it. I was just drawn to it.”
On arrival, the 70 men and women taking part had a two-hour window to hand over their belongings, other than some clothing. They were shown to simple thatched roof bungalows and from the moment of their first meditation that evening, the cone of silence descended.
The daily routine from there was simple enough: a wake-up gong at 4am, meditate from 4.30-6.30am, eat, meditate again, throughout the morning, eat, meditate, eat, meditate, sleep.
Rachel says the idea is to focus on the practice of meditation without distraction.
“The resistance to meditation is distraction” she says.
“They try to put you in to a similar environment as a monastery, so you don’t speak, you don’t read, write, watch TV, you stay in silence and it’s simple food and you accept what you’re given. All decisions are taken away from you.
“In that time it allows you the purist experience of meditation”.
“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I wanted to run away on day three”.
“You realise how in society you do so many things to avoid being with your self with no distraction”
Rachel says, while the experience was profound, it was no walk in the park – or jungle as the case may be.
“You have all this time, so you play over your memories,” she says
“You eventually run out of that because you just have so much time. So then you start thinking of possibilities, endless possibilities for your life, and eventually they ran out By day three it was like, whoa this is a bit too much now. I was uncomfortable, it hurts sitting there, the pain in my back and legs became a focus.
“I started thinking: ‘why am I in this dump? I could be somewhere five-star enjoying myself’
Then I had the most incredible experience in the next morning meditation.
“All the chatter had stopped, all the thinking had stopped. All the pain went. I started to expand out. It was incredibly beautiful.
“The wind came up the mountain and it sort of came and took me. I felt like:
‘why have I never felt or seen this exquisite beauty and peace and delight before?’
At the end of the restrictions, Rachel Says everyone was feeling fragile but realised they had formed a bond despite not having once said a word to each other.
It was a surprise to find out her meditation neighbour – a young women who sat beside her 10 hours per day was in fact a spanish speaker from overseas.
Going back to real life and the onslaught of noise and busyness was easier than she expected and she has been able to retain a sense of grounding and calmness and to approach the chaos of daily life differently.
“It wasn’t as extreme as I thought. I was grounded and things could come and pass by without affecting me so much” she says of life after the retreat.
‘While I was there I was thinking that Id never do it again. Now I would. I understand that in 12 months time there would be a need for me to return. While Rachel knows such an experience isn’t for everybody, she believes everybody could benefit from it.
“I came away with an understanding that I didn’t need to be or do anything ever again. Its a very powerful thing to be silent. you realise that you can keep that feeling, in the midst of chaos.”
(This article was published in the Gold Coast Bulletin)
For more information about vipassana follow this link