I am zen as fuck. Well, at least I am trying to be. Let me be clear, I will not be running away to a Buddhist monastery tomorrow to become a nun. I am working on being zen as fuck so I can live to my life as happy as humanly possible.
The past two years have been an active mission in finding my inner peace. I have been working to create a new reality for myself after realizing my previous habits were not serving my greater purpose. I have drastically shifted my life from waiting for things to happen to me, to putting everything I have ever wanted into action. I have harnessed my inner strength, and followed my intuition to get me to where I am today.
The event that really sparked this change for me was opening up my world to new experiences while traveling abroad.
On my first solo international travel adventure I stumbled across something that took my personal shift to the next level-I visited a Vipassana mediation retreat in Koh Phangan, Thailand.
Vipassana is an ancient meditation technique, and it means “to see things as they are.” It is the practice of mindfulness, being completely in the moment.I spent ten days at a Buddish monestary, seven of those days in complete silence.
Before attending the retreat I had been dabbling in mediation. I was reading some books here, and there.
See Wherever You Go, There You Are for one of my favorite books
I had been attempting to practice my sitting mediation on my own without much instruction, thinking I was mediating, but not realizing just how deep I could really go.
I was so green going in. After spending ten days focusing on nothing but meditation at the retreat, I finally reached new peaks I doubt I would have ever reached on my own.
I arrived at the retreat blissfully ignorant, and I truly left feeling more awakened after a very powerful ten days.
Since then, I have lived my life so differently after being consciously aware of my unhealthy attachments. Realizing I don’t need a lot of things to be happy.
I learned how to take back full control over my mind, rather than letting my mind control me. I now know I can train my mind to be blissfully happy, not letting silly things affect me like they used to. I am in complete control of my own happiness. Nothing from the outside world can bother me unless I allow it.The silence part of the retreat was key in learning that I needed to consciously try to choose my words more carefully, not giving into the habit of talking just to talk. Knowing that beautiful things happen in silence, and there is nothing awkward or scary about it.
Words should be two things- true and useful. I didn’t realize how much bullshit we all really do spew on a daily basis until I spent time in silence.
Because this place affected me so greatly the first time, I decided to try it again this month. Although I was at the same setting, I had a completely different experience, in every way possible. This was a blessing and I am so grateful for the lessons I learned this time around.
I want to give a glimpse into what the ten days actually looked like, because I want everyone to be zen AF! I highly recommend anyone who has the chance to try out a mediation retreat.
I attended a reatreat that stripped us down to the basics. True Vipassana centers run on a donation basis, so you are not required to pay anything outrageous. The idea is-you donate so that others can continue to experience Vipassana too. With that being said, it is key to realize that you are sacrifing any luxuries you may receive at a hotel on the beach, like an actual matress or air con, for example.
In our group about fifteen attendees out of forty five ending up leaving early because they were not prepared for the condition of the facilities, or the difficulty of the intense structure. So this is a real look into what it was like so you can decide if you are up for the challenge!
It looks intense. It was intense. It is not glamorous. It is not for the faint of heart (hello giant spider roommates). But it works. It is powerful. And it can get you zen AF.
4:00 – 4:30 am Wake-up bell
4:30 – 5:15 am Sitting meditation
5:15 – 6:15 am Chanting / Mindful Yoga
6:15 – 7:00 am Sitting meditation
07:00 – 08:30 am Breakfast / Chores / Bathing
8:30 – 9:30 am Meditation instructions
9:30 – 10:15 am Walking meditation
10:15 – 11:00 am Sitting meditation
11:00 – 1:00 pm Lunch / Rest / Open Awareness
1:00 – 1:45 pm Sitting meditation
1:45 – 02:30 pm Walking meditation
2:30 – 3:30 pm Dhamma teaching
3:30 – 4:15 pm Walking meditation
4:15 – 5:00 pm Sitting meditation
5:00 – 6:30 pm Drinks / Interviews / Bathing
6:30 – 7:30 pm Chanting / Metta
7:30 – 8:15 pm Walking meditation
8:15 – 9:00 pm Sitting meditation
09:00 – 09:30 pm Q&A (optional) / Sleep
If you read that and noticed “dinner” doesn’t exist, it is not a mistake. We ate a simple vegetarian breakfast and lunch, and fasted the rest of the day and night. This was a little difficult for me both times around. I would often find my meditations turning into food wet dreams, it was definitely a distraction at times.
The first few days are difficult, but you realize food is such a habit, or social event as opposed to eating when we actually need to. This style of diet made me feel so amazing and clear, I wish I had enough willpower to implement it in my daily life.
I also accepted the challenge of fasting for a whole day and it helped me recognize how much food really does have a hold on my mind. I was never actually starving, my mind was just telling me I was because I couldn’t go eat spring rolls and noodles whenever I wanted. I praise the few students that fasted for a full five days, I am thouroughly impressed!
Here is what the accomodation was like:I started out in a two person dorm, which is basically a small concrete box. A few days in I was blessed with the luxury of moving into my own wooden cabin since an older woman decided to leave early because the set up was not for her. The plus side was more space. The downside was a half open roof and many holes in the structure leading to unwanted houseguests-HUGE spiders, even larger geckos, and lovely cockroaches.I had my own space for about two days until I had my favorite houseguest: Thaila. She spent a few nights sleeping on my floor, and a few nights sharing that twin sized foam mattress with me. We had some hilarious adventures together. Although, we spent most of our time plopped in front of the fan trying to keep from dying of heat stroke. Last time, I spent the entire retreat in silence. This time, my silence was broken day three when Thalia came to me for advice, and we bonded so NOT in silence the rest of the retreat. There were a few others, who will not be named, that I chatted with too. We always had deep conversations about our learnings and our struggles, and it was amazing to connect on a deep level in such an intense setting.
I discovered that creating meaningful relationships is more important to me than my own inner silence, and I loved learning that one. This was great, because it gave me a realistic setting for mediation. In the real world it’s rare we get even two seconds of silence, let alone seven days.
Now let’s talk about the bucket showers. Ah, the bucket showers. I have touched on this before in my previous post “Princess” Life, but there is no way I could skip over the bucket showers here. There is a need for multiple showers a day with the crazy, humid, heat in Thailand. Not to mention the dress code is strict and you must cover shoulders and knees in loose fitting clothing at all times, so you’re not in ideal clothing for the climate. There is no shower head, no running water….see for yourself. Despite the lack of award worthy amenities, when you are zen AF it doesn’t matter. The point is, nothing can phase you when you’re actively in control of your mind. True bliss is possible separate from all the fancy frills of material attachments.
This time around we had the great privilege of joining the monk down the hill to the village for his morning food offerings. It is a monks’ duty to go down to the villagers every morning at 6am and collect food offerings and in return he offers blessings. We trailed silently behind and just observed. The food the monk collects will be the only food he consumes for the day. Usually he had so much food he would share with us or the other monks. It was cool to see the beauties in the Thai culture, and how generous all the villagers were. I could go on, and on about the facilities of the retreat. I can talk even longer about the insight I gained in those ten days. The moral of the story is-I highly recommend attending a mediation retreat. I also recommend researching and understanding the intensity of the program and going when you feel you are ready. If you have any questions please feel free to comment and I’ll answer!
So much love and gratitude to the amazing group of beautiful souls I had the pleasure of meeting! Want to know more? Stay tuned for a podcast where I read from my journal about some of the insights that came to me during my mediation and lectures at the retreat.