Phangan, en Thaïlande. This is the brief story of the fabulous experience I had during my first Vipassana meditation retreat at the Indriya Center, Koh Phangan, Thailand.
I arrived at 9:30 am, and there are a lot of people. They proceed with my registration.
The donation fee is 3500 Baht (130 CAD dollars).
They served a delicious lunch. A tasty salad filled with vegetables: Carrots, celery, lettuce, cucumbers, spinach, brown rice, tofu. This same salad will be served every day at 11am. We are asked to take only what we need, and the rest of our belongings and valuables will be locked up for the duration of our stay.
After lunch, we have until 2:30 pm to choose and settle into a tent. Mine suits me, at the back of the room, I already feel in my little cocoon, it’s perfect.
I fall asleep.
I wake up to the sound of the gong. I listen to the first instructions.
The meditation sessions will be 45 minutes in a seated position, followed by a walking meditation for the same duration, then we will return to sitting meditation for another 45 minutes. In total, it’s 7 sessions of seated meditation, 4 sessions of walking meditation, 1 morning yoga session at 5 am, and 3 hours of Buddhist teachings per day. For a daily total of 11 hours of meditation.
We start. The seated meditation goes quite well, I have experience.
For the walking meditation, I laugh a little, we look like zombies.
I go over my recent chaotic days, trying to come back to the present moment.
During the seated meditation, I doze off.
During the walking meditation, I stay inside the hall.
At 5 pm, we are served fruits.
We continue. At 10 pm, the lights go out, I sleep like a baby but not enough for my taste.
Day 2 Gong
4 am. Ouch.
Seated meditation, I am tired.
Yoga ! Finally, I am happy, we will move a little! The session is very relaxing, but it’s okay.
It will be exactly the same every morning.
I am tired, I return to my tent and fall asleep.
Oops! I miss the next meditation and morning instructions.
Especially Breakfast! I am angry with myself! Then, I meditate, sitting, watching everyone fall asleep, I join them for the zombie walk.
I learn that life is only suffering and that each of our actions serves only to alleviate this suffering. Scratching, washing, going to the bathroom, eating.
I am angry, reflective, I laugh, several emotions pass.
Meditation is for observing the emotions that come and letting them go.
At dinner, everyone is drinking a brown liquid that smells good. Je ne sais pas ce que c’est. I realize it’s a kind of diluted hot chocolate.
Cocoa! I have never tasted anything so good.
I eat my 3 pieces of clementines.
It’s true that everything tastes better.
I see people taking notes during the teachings. I dare to go see the two guys who work here. I ask Sergei for a pen and paper, only to take notes.
He says yes.
The other says no.
They argue and ask me how vital it really is. I say I have no memory and that to understand the instructions well, I would like to take notes. They tell me that all the documents are available on the internet when I leave here. Finally, Sergei decides in my favor. I receive a beautiful notebook and a pen.
The pen has no ink left. Great!
I drop the project.
Anthony, our monk Guru lectures us.
“ Don’t think that because you do yoga, or because you listen to spiritual music and eat vegan, that you are better than those who go dancing all night. Don’t judge them! You simply found a different way to numb your suffering. ”Anthony Markwell
He is probably right.
That night, I sleep a little less well.
Day 3. Gong
it’s 4 AM.
I think about my departure, I will have to find a place to go.
I come back to the present moment.
The monk says I resist walking. Lift the foot, move the foot forward, place the foot on the ground.
Does walking faster make us less conscious?
There are 42 people at the center. I counted. Only 14 girls, which surprises me a bit. Girls move less during meditation, but boys are more serious. We are separated, the boys are on the left side of the room, the girls stay on the right.
I observe, judge, come back to the present moment.
One of the boys bursts into tears. Yesterday, it was another one.
It’s time for yoga class, I forgot to wear pants, I’m in a dress. Not very practical.
Yesterday, I fell asleep during Savasana. Today, I fell asleep in child’s pose.
I caught the tall blonde doing his weightlifting exercises outside!
I think in 3 days I lost 10% of my muscle mass!
It’s depressing when your body never moves.
I’m sure 80% of people here are on antidepressants, I’m coming back to the present moment.
I have my period and a constant migraine. We don’t have hot water in the showers. We don’t have toilet paper either. My back hurts, I sleep on my tatami and I’m hungry.
It is too hot! I can’t stand being dressed from head to toe to hide the fact that I’m a woman. Anthony’s response: “ What are you going to do with climate change, haha! ” He always has the right words, at the right time, to make us understand that we are just spoiled babies. You’re lucky! So, appreciate what you have instead of complaining.
I lost count of the days
Strangely, I remember all my dreams very well. As if day and night were one. I like seated meditations, however I walk less and less. Well, yes, but not like a zombie. I’m in the matrix, where they’re all in slow motion.
A girl does the same as me. One of the boys lies down in his tent instead of walking. Another looks at his phone in the parking lot. A girl eats nuts in secret. I notice that 2-3 people hide the morning bananas to eat them at night. Also, no one ever really takes just one piece of bread.
I come back to the present moment.
Today is the revolution of leggings. Since one girl dared, now there are 5 of us proudly wearing them under our 14 layers of sarongs, but still, it’s something!
I’m in an episode of The Handmaid’s Tale.
“ Learn that your body is not your body and your mind is not your mind. You are a big ignorant piece of meat, controlled by the universe. You are nothing, so it is better not to desire anything, because the source of suffering is desire. The desire to have and the desire to be. ”
Tonight, everything makes me laugh. I made a special portion of chocolate dishwater. Extra cinnamon, extra sugar. I put it in my water bottle and I’m going to enjoy it tonight with my hidden banana from breakfast!
I’m proud of myself!
I had insomnia all night!
Maybe hot chocolate wasn’t the best idea before going to bed after all.
I understand better the effects of the food I consume on my body.
I’m happy to have chosen to sweep in front of the toilets. When I see the person who has to wash the big pots or worse, the person who has to clean the toilets, I think my daily task is very pleasant.
It’s already tomorrow, the end of my week of silence and introspection. After all my resistance, I no longer want to leave. I am comfortable in my cocoon. I am well out of the chaos.
My inner chaos is now very peaceful.
After the last meditation, we gather for breakfast.
The 8:30 am gong indicates that the law of silence is lifted.
People laugh and start talking to each other.
I turn towards the forest, I don’t want to meet the eyes of those I had to avoid all week.
I remain silent.
Anthony invites people to calm down. Some of us will need time to return to our human role. It’s better to take our time.
What I remember from my Vipassana retreat with so many restrictions: Everything tastes better!
I find that all the food is fabulous. I want to smile at everyone. I want to shout to them how lucky I am to be here, how much I appreciate the sun in Thailand like never before.
I am aware that I created this opportunity for myself and I am proud of myself.
I believe that the Vipassana retreat teaches us to better appreciate what we have and to be more aware of it.
Absolutely worth doing again!