3-Day Vipassana Retreat in Canada
Sometimes, one needs a retreat to reset
Most Meaningful Experience: Getting back into the process
I just finished a 3-day vipassana retreat at a nursing home turned Vipassana center in Youngstown, Canada. My original vipassana post is here. This place is a very modern facility, unusual for a vipassana center, with a friendly group of Canadians and many Indian immigrants. I highly recommend this place as your first vipassana experience because of the great accommodations.
It took roughly half the first day to calm the mind and get back to understanding the practice. Each person has their own means and I’d forgotten my ‘mastery of the mind’. I spoke to my teacher, an older lady, and she offered a new piece of advice, “You can hold your concentration for a few seconds and succeed.u Even old students fail to hold for a minute. Some people struggle to maintain and recenter often. Others can sustain for longer, but then lapse and are unable to recalibrate. Just try to extend and if you struggle, be nice to yourself and bring it back. Don’t force, just acknowledge and bring it right back”.
The mind chatter was endless – it kept yapping and yapping. It indicated that there was a lot more bothering me than I had anticipated. I couldn’t stop it. I recalled focusing on the triangle of the nose and by doing this I was able to cut my brain. Cutting your brain in half allows you to put chatter and thoughts in different spaces. She then told me, “Be aware of the breath while being attentive to space. These are two different practices. Don’t do both together.” This was revolutionary for my ana panna. I was fundamentally teaching my mental thought with my bodily activity. This is when I started to make real progress and detach my ideas from my self.
Listening to Goenka is always soothing. He has a way of being supportive but firm. His sayings such as, “Keep a calm and quiet mind” and “Try again! Try again! Patiently and persistently. You will succeed,” are amazingly supportive words during the process.
That night I had the most vivid dreams I’d had in years. I can still remember them clearly I was in Hong Kong involved with some type of chase. I followed behind a chaser and we tracked down this other person at the top of this peak. He shot the guy in cold blood and I was like “what are you doing?” This is just a game. The cops were waiting and looking at us. The chaser turned to me and asked me for my contact details when we went on a wrestling match and he took my phone. The next morning I woke for meditation but delayed it an hour. As I was getting up the chaser popped up beside me and said “I got you now”. I awoke suddenly full of sweats. I better get to meditating, I thought.
We spent half the day in ana panna and half in vipassana. I felt I was finally getting somewhere in anapana and with stronger control. The chatter continued but I could control it a bit more. I was able to put my ideas on a ‘leash’ as suggested by my last teacher. “Put a leash on the bull and when he runs, pull him back.” Getting the mind under control is powerful. You start to recognize your thoughts are just thoughts – in some ways a different organism that isn’t your core.
The key to deep meditation is to reveal your core self. By pushing away senses and thoughts, one can concentrate on peacefulness, harmony and things that are important. To me, that is the most significant trait.
Eating is also a vital experience that requires reflection during retreats. Eating slower, tasting every bite of food, and eating less all is important. I am a fast eater which probably causes a lot of acidity accumulation. I noticed my acidity levels decrease – with lots of burping – during these retreats because of 1) posture sitting upright 2) breathing 3) slower eating and 4) less eating. I took my time, ate slower and tasted the food. and It’s so good to have a heightened attention to your senses and pleasant to dissect the tastes of what you are eating.
The healthy, vegetarian meals was also nice. I began thinking that there may exist a correlation to eating vegetarian and reducing anger in your life. That afternoon, I started Vipassana and quickly remembered the intense concentration that’s required to feel all the senses on every body part. It’s difficult and challenging to stay concentrated for an hour. Slowly I felt one of the effects which was my brain expanding into big brain. This feeling of expansion is rooted in increased oxygen flow and the clearing of the chatter from the limited space of the brain.. I bet that Vipassana literally enlarges the brain. Using more of your brain becomes readily apparent in controlling thoughts and concentrating as well.
Vipassana also brings a lot of eery sensations a visualizations. Though I didn’t have many this time, I did feel and see the deceased watching us at one point. The point of vipassana is to be aware and not to become attached to the amazing sensations or fear the scary or the hurtful ones like the pain in your legs. This one was hard not to react to.
Most of that afternoon I went between vipassana and ana panna. I was becoming mentally exhausted with the concentration and the inner chatter. The sankarnas started to arise. The sankarnas are buried thoughts or feelings that arise over and over. imperative to be aware and release them so they dissipate over time. Don’t like them, don’t hate them (which is usually the case), just let them be. Don’t supress, just acknowledge.
That night I felt the water in the shower drip down my back, it was soothing and refreshing. The awareness to sensations are so powerful during vipassana. I didn’t dream that night.
This day was super challenging.I caught a cold and was really being hard on myself. Day 3 and Day 6/7 are usually the hardest ones. This day was a complete struggle having only a few good sessions. I was trying to hold completely still for one complete hour – dismissing the leg and back pain – which is a challenge that I couldn’t overcome. During this process of remaining still many things will arise. It fascinates me what you can learn about yourself when this happens. How do you feel about yourself? How do you react to failure? How do you react to negative sankarna that arise, can you stay still and let them fly away?
On the third day, I was super kind to myself. Try again, try again persistently and patiently. The metta at the end was about being nice to yourself and loving the world around you.
Despite the three day retreat being a consolidation of the longer ten-day one, it was very effective and something I can confidently say I should do more often.