April 29-May 10 ~ Vipassana Retreat

I have mentioned before about the meditation retreat I would be going to the beginning of May. I realize that I didn’t really know much about meditation before. I just thought you go take 5 minutes to clear your mind and that would help you sort out life’s issues. However, whenever I tried this, my mind would wander in fifty directions and I couldn’t figure out how to make it stop. So when a friend told me he went to a meditation retreat that really helped him and changed his life, I figured it was worth a shot.

I had originally wanted to take the course in California at the beginning of my trip, but courses fill up quickly and I was wait-listed. Instead of waiting until the last minute to find out if I’d get in, I decided to just choose a different location somewhere along my route: Onalaska, Washington. I made sure to choose a date that was far enough away that I would be likely to be there by then and that was that.

The plan of course was to bike there, but something came up. The Friday before I was to leave, I had biked out to a dance in Portland and locked my bike outside the venue. When I came back to it at the end of the night, my water bottle, handlebar bag, and saddle bag were gone. Contents included my gloves, lights, tubes, multitool, tire levers, patch kit, headlamp, some personal items, etc. I was frustrated, but I had been warned not to leave stuff on my bike… A man (probably homeless) walked by and noticed my frustration; when I told him my plight he gave me a light and said, “you need this more than I do.” I was so grateful, and not very angry anymore. How could I be upset when someone who has next to nothing has given me something I really need? I got back to my friend’s house safely that night, but would need more time to replace the things I’d lost so I couldn’t leave in time to ride to the retreat.

Fortunately, there is a rideshare board for the retreat and I rode up with two guys who were both excited and nervous about what we were getting ourselves into. Over the last few months I had heard a little more here and there about the retreat, and it occurred to me that I hadn’t asked many questions about it. All I really knew was that it would be challenging, that I would really learn meditation, and that it would change my life for the better (assuming I made it through). Oh boy.

The hardest part was not the noble silence (no talking, no writing, no reading, no communication of any kind). Many people have assumed it would be, but it was actually very helpful. When you’re learning how to objectively observe your own mind and sensations, I imagine it would complicate things to have the input of others. Every evening we would sit and listen to the teacher explain the technique to focus on the next day, and then we would practice. I hadn’t realized just how challenging it would be to sit still for so long. I had periods of frustration, and periods of elation, and overall I am so glad I did it.

At the end of the course we were also taught how to practice in our daily lives to continue to work on ourselves. I have to admit I haven’t been good about it, but I know that I can handle my day better when I’ve practiced. I would recommend this course to anyone and everyone who has an open mind. If you want to learn more, you can read about it here:

http://www.dhamma.org/en-US/index

They have locations all over the world, and they run by donations and volunteers. I’m excited to serve a course at some point to allow others the opportunity to learn and practice like I did.

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