Here are some pictures of where I am right now. I'm at the California Vipassana Center in North Fork near Yosemite. I was here in 2012 in the summer, so it was SUNNY and hot. It is most likely colder now. Who knows? We may even get a little snow? Anyway, I wrote this post after I had finished my 10-day course and I wrote about how I felt. I want to share that with you here. This is a repost and it has been prescheduled. Going on retreat is a great way to rejuvenate and gain insight into yourself. Please click here about a yoga/writing retreat Yoon and I will be offering at The Yoga Lodge in the New Year and share it with others if you can. Here's my repost:
I was at the Fresno/Yosemite airport on Sunday. After 10 days out in the "bush" in silence with very little stimulus, the airport was a rude awakening. There were people with backpacks, roller duffles and suitcases, whining children, fast food and kiosks full of things I really don't need. After a long period of no stimulus, suddenly the magazine display seemed to come alive with stars faces, colors, and words. The jewelry case which displayed mostly bling was overwhelming. Gum, newspapers, bottle openers, tacky fridge magnets and t-shirts seemed to enclose me. I found my way towards the exit next to the display of bestselling books. I thumbed through a few of them. "Nothing looks interesting," I said under my breath.
Nothing looks interesting.
"Nothing" looks "interesting".
Somehow nothing had become interesting. Because nothing, besides meditation, responding to calls of nature, walking, sleeping and eating was all I did for an entire 10 days. This might sound boring to those looking for an exotic vacation at say...a beach cottage in Thailand or a mountain chalet in Switzerland. But for me, this was how I chose to spend my precious time off. And not a minute of it was wasted time. From 4:00am, when the first gong sounded to 9pm lights out, we were working. Hard to imagine how meditation could be work. Let me tell you, it's the hardest yet most rewarding work I've ever done.
Maybe you've traveled all over the world. Maybe you've spent time on that exotic beach or at that mountain chalet. And I know, I have fond memories of those places too. But have you ever thought about taking a trip inside? Do you know what's going on in there?
Give yourself 10 days in silent meditation and I guarantee you you'll find out more than you can imagine. And if you are working properly, you'll uncover quite a bit..and not all of what you see you'll want to face, but when you do decide to face what's in there, things start happening. Good things...positive things...
Nothing looked interesting because I was full. Not full in the sense of "I ate too much" but full in the sense of "I have all I need." I felt light and clear and happy. This happiness wasn't about who I was with or where I was or what I was doing. It was a happiness or a very deep contentment with what was. It came from the inside out. Even the kiosk screaming with "things to buy" had its place. I felt like a scientist observing my new surroundings. Like every moment called for my undivided attention and thorough examination.
During the course, it was hot and dry. As not to make contact with my fellow meditators, my gaze was usually downward. While at the meditation center, we are meant to keep to ourselves. The point is to go inward. We are meant to be working alone, in silence.
Still, I couldn't help but notice the beauty around me. The California wild flowers became my friends. They greeted me every morning on my walk around the pond.
On the last day, we had an opportunity to view a new pagoda building.
This building housed dozens of tiny meditation cells. During the course, we meditated in the hall, but these cells would provide further privacy for the meditator. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to sit in the pagoda when it is finished.
On the last day, we come out of silence and have an opportunity to speak to one another. This is always an interesting experience. After having spent most of our time in silence with our gaze cast downward, we were now communicating and getting to know one another on the very last day.
The course had produced "shiny, happy people"...people full of gratitude and full of gentleness. The smiles were contagious.
Svetlana, didn't even hesitate when I asked for a ride to the airport. She said, "Certainly!" She also planned to volunteer and clean the kitchen before our departure. Everyone who works at the center is a volunteer. There are no fees for these courses, they run on donations and the hard work of volunteers who have all completed at least one course.
I cleaned my cabin and had a chat with my cabin mates, and then Svetlana and I went out for a little brunch before my flight. It was our reintegration into the world. We had a nice chat.
It was a very productive course for me and I received a lot of clarity. As I type this I feel so much gratitude that I have had this practice of meditation in my life for almost 15 years. But most of all, I was grateful for the opportunity to do "nothing" and to realize that stepping away from "doing something" all the time was what I needed. It's easy to get caught up in what we are doing as if the world revolves around what we "do." Sometimes more productivity and clarity can come from stepping away and stopping. What I found is that the world is not going to stop if you decide to and when you come back you'll realize you haven't missed much.
Have you ever gone on a personal retreat? How did you feel when you returned home?