It is dawn's first light greeting my tear-filled eyes, as I stand upon the desert sand and recognize my life's purpose.
It is a glimpse of the hole the hammer made on the outside of my locked bedroom door, as I clamored for safety in my bedroom of my childhood home.
It is the wheezing of the 86 year old, his lungs chasing life-giving oxygen, each noisy breath evolving into a fellow meditator's richest teachings.
It is the palpitations in the chest as one connects with another human being on a level so deep that you hear not only your story in theirs, not only their story in yours, but the story of their lineage, your lineage and the echo of the story of each human throughout time.
It is the dissolution of tensions in the body so profound that I feel my skeleton shift. It is the calm of my nervous system in a way that feels like lifetimes have been sifted through and healed. It is the stilling of my mind in a way where it feels like I have absorbed with ease the most sacred of knowings and yet let go of everything I've ever known in the very same breath and it is all perfect. It is the softening of my face, my belly and my heart in a way that nothing else - nothing else - has ever been able to evoke.
This is Vipassana.
As it is.
Arising and passing away. Arising and passing away. Arising and passing away.
This is a practice over 2500 years old that transcends religion, transcends the realm of the body, transcends the realm of experience and yet parses everything else in the universe out to allow the practitioner to settle into nothing but their own experience. This is a practice that expands the mind and heart.
Vipassana retreats in Goenka's tradition take place worldwide and are an incredible way to strengthen your mind, reset your entire life and simply let go. Based on the three tenets of sila (moral conduct), samadhi (concentration of one's mind) and panna (wisdom), Vipassana complements any (or no) spiritual tradition. Regardless of belief systems, we all want to be good people. So in this, Vipassana meets everyone where they are and teaches how to embody presence, compassion and love.
I am blessed to have just completed another Vipassana retreat.
I spent 12 days in Joshua Tree at the idyllic Southern California Vipassana Center, meditating about 108 hours with over 50 other meditators. We spent 9 days in silence and adhered to a strict schedule, waking at 4am and working arduously on our Vipassana practice until about 9pm each night.
About 11 hours each day was spent meditating. A beautiful, winding walking trail welcomed movement and facilitated the release of energy in both the body and mind. We refrained from reading, writing, eye contact and gestures. After the first night, we did not consume dinner, only breakfast and lunch, giving our bodies time to rest and truly digest on all levels.
Living the lives of Buddhist Monks and Nuns, we relied on the generosity of others, paying nothing for the retreat. Dana, a selfless love-based offering, could be made in the form of service or monetary compensation post-retreat.
My life has changed in incredible ways a mere day after completing my third Vipassana retreat. The clarity with which I see the world, the past, the future, the present is astounding. This was the toughest retreat I've endured to date. Psychologically, emotionally, physically and spiritually, I was put through the ringer.
However, I wouldn't change a thing. It was a necessary process, a direct experience, that was essential for my growth.
I had moments where I faced the very darkest nights of my soul, where I was literally in the midst of my deepest traumas, feeling them, healing them and releasing them. I had inexplicable moments of incredible sensory perception like hearing the flapping wings of a bird 30 feet away or feeling the atoms, yes, the very atoms, in my arm rearrange in response to someone coughing as they passed by me. Miracles, synchronicities and insights from the mundane to the profound abounded. Vivid previews of the next meal surfaced in my mind's eye. A rainbow appeared in the rainless sky. Soul-knowings about the person on the cushion next to me emerged. In silence and stillness, illusions dissolved.
I am incredibly grateful for each and every moment I had in the desert.
Right now, I am enjoying a gentle re-entry back into everyday life. I will likely share more learnings and epiphanies as I assimilate the insights I discovered during this incredibly precious retreat in the desert. ♥