10 things I learnt from a silent retreat

I’ve adapted a blog post I wrote last year about the insight I gained from attending a meditation retreat and living like a monk for 10 days. The recap is so I can go into my second retreat with a firm understanding of what it is I already know and have experienced, but I figured that it wouldn’t hurt to share it out again. I wonder what I’ll soak up this time? Could it be beneficial to you, even?

In a nutshell, meditation  is the observation of the breath and the sensations in the body with proper understanding. The insight gained from quietening the mind is directly transferable to life. And so, here are 10 things I learnt from sitting my first silent retreat:

  1. It is as it is. Not as you would like it to be. Not one single person on this planet ever gets things exactly as she wants. Don’t get depressed, distressed, disappointed or defeated when things don’t go your way, stay equanimous or this will lead to aversion. Alternatively, be sure to remain equally equanimous when you do get what you want, if not this leads to craving. All craving and aversion lead to unhappiness.
  1. Defilements of the mind like anger, fear and frustration arise only when in a state of craving, aversion or ignorance. It’s the minds way of telling the world we are not happy, we do not accept, only, when we react in this way we multiply our misery.
  1. Work ardently, diligently, continuously, equanimously and with patience and persistence. If you do, you are sure to succeed.
  1. Work with a strong determination and with proper understanding. In Vipassana you have to sit for one hour without opening your eyes, hands or legs. This results in intense, unbearable agitation and tension in the mind and body as you itch and burn to break free of this rigid posture. And when you don’t, you become the master of your mind, not enslaved by your cravings or aversions.
  1. You are the master of your future, and the mastery begins in the present moment. Stop running and escaping from reality. The past is gone; the future is not here yet. This moment, this reality you are experiencing right now is the only one you ever have to face – observe it fully.
  1. A wise person always makes the best use of the time they have left. Too many people don’t know how precious time is. When you know the value of time, you hate wasting it on pointless, mind numbing bullshit.
  1. Observe your respiration and sensations in a non-judgmental way as much of the time as your awareness physically permits. This is your key to liberation rather than fuelling a perpetual cycle misery.
  1. The world is so very ephemeral. Everything is arising to pass away. So why attach to it?
  1. Blind optimism won’t help you. Blind pessimism won’t help you. But optimism, with realism and workism, is the Vipassana way. There is no secret here, just hard work. Get on with the practice morning and evening and remember it is all arising and passing.
  1. Permanence is an illusion. Like a candle that flickers or a bulb that emits light the illusion or delusion of permanence fools us into thinking that things last forever – they don’t. It’s all growing and decaying, growing and decaying.



Picture: Moyan Brenn

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