During the Yoga Teacher Training at Wise Living Yoga Academy, I felt more strongly than ever that I needed to immerse myself into a meditation program. I signed up for a 2 week stay at Doi Suthep International Meditation Center in Chaing Mai, Thailand.
During the program, we were instructed to not talk, read, write, or leave the premises. In order to keep the meditation practice pure we were discouraged to practice yoga, tai chi and the like. There was no wifi and no meals after 11:30am. The monk explained that the elimination of as much stimulus was so that we could improve as fast as possible before we left the center.
Here was the schedule:
- 5:00am: Wake-up
- 5:30am: Dharma Talk
- 7:00am: Breakfast
- 8:00am to 11:00am: Self-practice
- 11:00am: Lunch
- 12:00pm to 1:30pm: Self-practice
- 1:30pm: Meet with head monk for individual instructions
- 2:00pm to 6:00pm: Self-practice
- 6:00 to 7:00: Chanting
- 7:00pm to 9:00pm: Self-practice
I was excited about the strict schedule and the discipline it would require to not engage in other activities. I started out very hopeful, but I’m sorry to say, after the 5th day, I had broken almost all the rules except for the ‘no internet’ one since I just didn’t have wifi. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I often wanted to leave and regretted signing up for the 14 days since a lot of people where coming and going after 4,7 or 10 days. I saw how uncomfortable it was to really be with yourself without distractions and filler noise.
Regardless, it was still an unbelievably insightful experience and here’s why:
- It’s a window to what’s buried in your subconscious: It allowed me to feel the magnitude of my feelings. I think it’s important to fully feel your emotions, otherwise it’ll keep showing up over and over again. It’s hard to do this when you’re not present. There are way too many tempting distractions in this world… My biggest ones are food and electronics (my computer, mini ipod, phone, kindle).
- There were moments where I cried because I felt such overwhelming sadness. It was a refreshing release.
- There were moments where I felt overwhelmingly grateful for my breathe, this also made me cry.
- I had glimpses of what it felt like to know that my awareness and consciousness is my true self. It is constant and never-changing. I knew that I was whole and perfect as I am. I felt a sense of peace, happiness and invincibility from knowing that I am enough just as I am.
- I felt expansive
- It taught me that no thought was more important than my awareness of this moment. Being the observer of my breath and body was purifying and powerful
- It helped me sit back and be the observer of my thoughts and feelings that are so often muffled by the constant chatter of life. With continual practice it gave me the perspective I needed to see things clearly. In other words, instead of being immersed in a situation or emotion, I’m able to sit back and observe the entirety of the situation. It’s the kind of realization I get when some time has passed and the situation isn’t as emotionally gripping, which then helps me take a more objective point-of-view, as if I were an outsider looking in.
- Not looking at a mirror for 2 weeks was so refreshing and liberating. I judged myself and others less. I was more focused on the moment
- During the day I’m able to remind myself to slow down and be in the moment. Enjoy the wind on your skin and just breathe.
- I realized I could get used to a lot of seemingly uncomfortable things. I didn’t even need a hot shower (which I loooove), even though it was chilly being up in the mountains and it was miserable at first, I made do with what I had and appreciated it rather than constantly longing for something better.
- It’s a powerful reminder that consistent practice (of any good habit) can significantly improve the quality of my day. And an accumulation of great days is a great life.
I didn’t expect this, but by the end, my skin completely cleared. it was as clear as before I had acne and my scars seemed to be fading as well. It was probably a culmination of breathing more deeply and slowly, I was essentially fasting for 20hrs a day (your body works less when you eat less and there are less toxins), my mind had a break from the usual incessant chatter, I wasn’t consumed with worry, stress and anxiety, I was conserving energy (our thoughts take up a lot of energy), I had more beautiful thoughts (gratitude, joy, love).
By the end, I was instructed to alternate between 40 minutes of sitting meditation and 40 minutes of walking meditation. It was challenging but the insights I gained dramatically out-weighed any discomfort. I believe that it was probably the most powerful experience I’ve had so far.