“I had just finished 10 days silence. 11-14 hours meditation per day, in relative darkness. Exploring the inner self, it’s thought patterns, it’s habits. And making conscious effort to observe and non-react. On the other side, I came out feeling like all my senses had sharpened, my eyes saw a new colour, smell and zest for life in all it’s textures. The good and the bad, the living and the dying. Our beauty: light and darkness is part of this ever changing phenomena. The first sight of these flowers reminded me of that. ”October 2017, Indonesia
The above is the rosy painted picture extract of my first days out from sitting a 10 day silent meditation. It is all true. It matches the flowers I saw and the way I felt in that moment.
But a recent encounter with one of my yoga students reminded me that perhaps it wasn’t all rosy. There we were, making pre-class chit chat, mats rolled whilst the room was warming up our 35 degree flow and others were just beginning to arrive. We were sharing our vipassana experiences to fill the space between our mats, when she came out with the following comparison.
She said “Vipassana is kind of like childbirth, you never remember how painful it really was.”
In that moment,we switched roles, she became the teacher and planted the seed for these words. Was I only remembering and sharing the good? I had written an article that same week stating ‘everything you need to know about vipassana’ but maybe I had left out a few things about the experience which people might really want to know.
So here we go, with some unusual outcomes from my own time in silence, apart from the dead legs, pins and needles which would be stating the obvious. Please note we all have our own experiences with Vipassana, your experience is likely to be different from mine and the person’s sitting next to you!
1. I had dropped sensation patterns I might not have wanted to
This is probably the most personal sharing from my vipassana experience which teaches a method to recondition us from particular patterns we hold in the body which might manifest in our behaviours. For example, realising you tense muscles in your abdomen every time ‘x’ happens. But perhaps not all patterns are ones we necessarily want to let go of?
There was a particular pattern or sensation of mine around the lower chakras which I felt were a part of my own vitality. At first, when I came out of meditation and realised I was no longer feeling this sensation, I thought it was a good thing. Until a few months later, I realised it was a sensation that made me, me. It was a wild part about myself that I loved, that made me feel alive and like a woman and it took a good while to retrain and get this back, along with my mojo!
2. Everything was VERY bright
10 days with your eyes shut for the most part meant is a pretty dark place. Speaking in literal light terms, that is. Being reexposed to brightness throughout the day after the meditation, especially unnatural light from technology required a certain amount of adaptation. I found myself with a bit of an eye infection just after my sitting and getting back to city life! Perhaps connected to the experience, perhaps not! Anyhow, I recommend slow reexposure to technology and light if you can help it to ease the stress on the eyes after your sitting! (Or regular eyebaths and eyedrops!)
3. I had forgotten how to type
You don’t have access to any forms of communication or any link to the outside world for that matter. No phones, no emails, no texting. So, upon getting out I wanted to let my family know that I was indeed alive and to make sure they were too. It was strange finding that not only was I squinting, holding the phone away from my face from the light… but where my fingers normally knew how and where to tap in perfect synchronicity, they were lost. Hovering around the screen like lost tourists waiting for an instruction of where to go.
I could feel the neurons in my brain firing up again, but I really had to THINK. The instinct was gone. Another part of the conditioning and reconditioning process which shows us, this stuff really works. Many people walk out of vipassana losing addictions, smoking, eating patterns, I lost the ability to type. I’ll take that.
4. I had lost a lot of muscle
Vipassana is kind of like therapy in that they recommend that you don’t practice more than one Method at the same time. That means whatever you do to regulate within your day, meditations, yoga, writing, art, whatever it is, you need to put it aside to let the full effects of this practice come into fruition.
You can walk around the grounds of the vipassana centre during break times, but as an active person who is normally cycling, climbing stairs, doing yoga and flowing through my day this was a big adaptation to sitting. Now, I’m no Arnold Schwarzenegger, but I noticed that I had lost a significant amount of muscle mass through the 10 days. On the other hand, my body and mind were receiving a deep rest I might never otherwise give myself and I was nourished in this way.
5. My coordination needed retraining
I still have the scar to prove this one but my eye to space visual coordination took bit of a hit. As the meditation sittings are done on the floor, it takes a good few dead legs a day to finally get to an optimum meditation stance. You will most definitely achieved a way to sit consistently for long periods of time, with the help of cushions and bolsters! It’s quite impressive to see some of the formulations we ourselves and other meditators come up with (Don’t worry if sitting on the floor is not an option for you, you can always request a chair!)
I had definitely deepened the connection I have to myself and my own inner awareness, but walking into things and wobbling for a few days after re-entering the ‘real’ world, with all its obstructions came as a bit of an unexpected outcome to the process. Thanks to a collision with a big wooden bed leg I found in Bali, I’ve got a vipassana souvenir to last me a lifetime!
Did some of these come as a surprise? Do you have any more unusual effects from your sitting? Comment below and let me know…
Read about some practical sides of vipassana meditation including how to book, how much it costs, what to take and what to expect with ‘10 Day Silent Meditation Retreat: Everything You Need to Know’