Wednesday, February 17, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 48: Meditate

People have been asking me about meditation, so I dug up this old post about when I came out of 45 days of silent Vipassana meditation. I am reposting it here so that all those who are interested can have the same opportunity and reap the same benefits that I am. While these 45 days were truly remarkable days of my life, every day is important and daily practice is the most important. Participating in a meditation course can help you establish your practice of meditation, so I recommend that too.

I'm emerging. I feel like this lotus. My petals are unfolding one by one. If there were an appropriate pop song for this occasion, I think it would be I'm Coming Out by Diana Ross. It's going a bit slow for me my friends. I'm talking again, just fine. I've met three people since I've been home-my husband, my mother and my friend Lena. I find myself wanting to be part of all that I have missed and then wanting to retreat again. I think it's just where I am. For those of you who have just happened upon this blog, you may want to read earlier posts. To catch you up to speed (and the speed is quite slow at the moment), on March 14th, 2009, I returned from a 45-day meditation course at the Vipassana Massachusetts Centre in Shelburne Falls, MA. People have asked, "Did you have a good course?" Well, it's a bit hard to summarize the experience actually, but I feel so much gratitude, peace, happiness, and clarity. It was harder than anything I've ever done, but it was the most rewarding thing I have ever done.

A 45-day course is not something you just jump into. I've been practicing this form of meditation since 1996 when I took my first 10-day course in Nepal with my husband Seong Yoon, who was a Buddhist monk at that time. The 10-day course in Nepal was so hard. I felt so much anger coming out and I wanted to run far away. The moment the course was over, I was on the first bus out of there. I vowed to never take a course again. Later, when I was wandering the streets of Kathmandu with Seong Yoon that day, I realized that something had changed. I felt light and free. There was a deep happiness inside. As soon as I was away from the meditation center, I could clearly see that I had gotten something very positive from the experience. At the Vipassana center in Nepal, I was surprised to learn that there is a center in Washington State. By December, 1996, I was sitting a course in Washington. This is still shocking to me given my state after my first course. What's more surprising is that I've continued taking courses for 13 years and I just completed 45-days of meditation.

The benefits I have received from sitting and serving courses are really indescribable. If you have never tried a course, all I can say is, "try it!" It's very easy to make all kinds of generalizations or have judgments if you've never done it. If you've tried it, you know that it's not easy. Right away you know when you arrive for orientation that this is going to be work. Hard work. For me, it is the most rewarding, beneficial work I've ever done. Already people have asked me, "What did you do for 45-days?" Well, I meditated. Another question was, "How did you spend your days?" I spent approximately 10 hours per day meditating in a 2 by 6 foot meditation cell and two hours meditating in a hall with other meditators. The cells are only for people who have completed at least one 10-day course. If you are attending a course for the first time, you will sit in a meditation hall with other meditators.

Other than talking to the teacher a few times, I was in silence for 43 days. We had two days of speaking at the end to reintegrate. The other times I was either sleeping, eating, walking or taking care of personal matters. The Vipassana Massachusetts Center provided me with a private room and bathroom, a meditation cell, meals and walking trails. Every center is different and what you are offered depends on what is available and how many people attend the course. People came for 45-days to cook. They volunteered to do this because they have received so many benefits from this practice. Forty-five days is a long time to cook and work. There is no charge for the course either. The courses run on donations. People get so much from these courses, that they feel they want to give. If you serve at the center, they call it "selfless service" . Those who have completed at least one 10-day course can serve. You serve, just to serve. You don't expect anything in return.

In the past, I have had an opportunity to serve on courses and live for a year at the center in Washington and serve as the center manager with my husband. It was so wonderful to live and work in an environment where people are meditating. Most people go into a course a little heavy with whatever emotional and physical pain they've been carrying around with them and come out light, happy and shiny! The transformation that I have seen is truly amazing.

If you look at a picture or see someone meditating, it appears that nothing is happening. We live in such an extroverted society. People, especially in Western society, aren't taught to go inside or to experience what is happening inside of us, yet that is where everything originates. Every emotion or action on the physical level starts inside. I don't want to go into details here on the practice of Vipassana. If you are interested, I suggest you go to the website ( where you can learn all about it. All I can say is that through this practice, I do not feel as much anger, pain, worry, or irritation as I used to. As I continue to practice Vipassana meditation, I feel more and more content, peaceful, happy, at ease, and free. I am not perfect, so of course negative emotions creep in, but they are not as strong as they used to be. They don't stay for very long.

Right away I am able to notice the people who received positive benefits from this practice. They are shiny! Their eyes are so bright after a course. They make people feel at ease and comfortable. There actions are positive. They really seem to glow like this woman from Serbia!

In my 45-day course, I sat with people from New Zealand, Chile, Japan, Vietnam, India, Israel, Canada, Burma. People from so many different walks of life and religious backgrounds are sitting together. It's amazing. They listen to instructions in their own languages. I've sat with an army general and a rock star (you'll have to ask me personally, if you'd like to know who...^_^). People come and keep coming because they get something. They feel different. This technique of meditation is very practical. Anyone who is not seriously debilitated mentally or physically can practice this. You don't need to change your country, name, religion or background. You will remain as you are, but you will have a technique or tool that can help you in all of life's ups and downs.

You can start with a 10-day course. Look at the website, I am sure there is one near you!

I write this with the sincere wish that everyone can share what I have experienced. May all of you feel peace and happiness. May all of you be free....


  1. Rock star? The Weezer guy? Rivers Cuomo?

    The fact that such a great diversity of people practice Vipassana shows that the fundamentals of the Buddha's teachings are really universal; and that Buddhism is not a religion, but a philosophy and a way by which to live your life. The true path towards lasting peace.

    Great post. And it's good to be hearing from you again!

  2. right on kathy! i'm sure that lotus in you is blooming right now!

  3. This sounds like a unique presence experience, which was much needed at that step of your journey. I have been on a similiar retreat, but was only for a weekend and I can feel the kind of kindness and light you speak of. It was my first time being open to a wider group before, and my first time feeling accepted in such a warm kindred spirited group. I have always been a shiny being, but only recently changed when started working full time. Didn't accept the natural flow of energy in this environment, and i feel like i need to be somewhere else, somewhere where my growth as a human is elevated, and I know now this current environment isn't that route to transcend my energy into. Namaste my friend. I am happy you experienced such beauty and kindness with other people from various backgrounds.

  4. Hi Trulyana...thanks for reading. I have been so inspired by other peoples stories. I realize that my own story is bits and pieces of other people's stories as well. If we can share the inspiration in our own lives, I believe people will be inspired to find it and share it in their own lives. We are a part of everything and the people who come into our lives are important. May you find peace and happiness wherever you go and may you find the perfect working environment!!

  5. I really know this is for me - I have located a centre near me (2 hours drive tops) from the url you sent me a few weeks back.

    But I have two hang-ups:
    as a mother, 10 days away is long

    i am scared sh**tless

  6. Wow, what a life changing experience that must have been. A person would have to be ready for something like that. Going inside yourself can be a scary thing. I really like your blog, although I'm a little behind in my favorite blog reading. I wanted to share this little award with you if you want it. No pressure, accepting is optional :-)

  7. Marcella-Yes, 10 days away is long for anyone. Lots of people with kids somehow go...I guess they work it out with their significant other? I threw myself into the fire so I didn't have time to be scared. It is work, just like anything, but it is lasting work...vipassana meditation changed my life, that's all I can say. I am a much better person because of it and I have a deep understanding of myself from inside now.

  8. Thanks for the award Lori! I'll check it out!