10 Things I Learned while Meditating Naked.

Via Aminda R. Courtwright
on May 30, 2012
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Sometimes heat really is the best catalyst.

I recently returned from a Vipassana retreat (10 days of silence with approximately 11 hours of daily meditation). To say it was intense is a bit of an understatement, so I will be doing a few different posts about my experience. This first one is just to break the ice, so to speak.

This month, I attended my retreat in the small town of Kaufmann, Texas. I am so very grateful I didn’t wait until the session in July because southern Texas is hot. It’s soupy, muggy, sticky hot. I felt overdressed in my modest garb, and each walk from the meditation hall to the dorm room left me feeling like a greased pig. (Okay, perhaps the metaphor only occurred to me because it sounded like something they might say in Texas.)

So in my private quarters, in the hours of solitary mediation, I often stripped down and sat naked, feeling the relief of the small fan as I drifted in and out of awareness.

In those hours I learned, relearned and unlearned many things.

1. I am not a Buddhist!

I’m probably not going to be a nun in this lifetime even though as a child, I thought I would be, (although then, it was of the catholic persuasion.) I just can’t get behind the life is suffering philosophy. I get it, seriously, I really do and you don’t need to argue or prove it, or set me straight. I understand it, I just don’t experience it.

Over and over Goenke said to believe only what you experience. So my experience is not suffering or misery (even when I’m in pain). My resolve it to continue to identify as a yogi.

2. There are plenty of hours in every day.

Don’t believe me? Try meditating for half of them, and experience the subjective nature of time. Upon returning home, within days I was feeling the crunch of time and I had to remind myself that the amount of time is always the same—it’s only how we perceive, use and react to it. I meditate more.

3. The benefits of eating slowly are often underestimated.

When you have hours and hours of time, when your day is focused on meditating, and eating is outside the scope of formal meditation, you may find you eat a bit slower. I did. And although I often extol the virtues of mindful eating, I have not been the best practitioner I was during these 10 days. It will change your relationship to food. To how much you eat, to what you eat, to why you eat…just try it. Slow down, breathe, taste, chew and appreciate. Everything will be different.

4.  You really don’t need much.

When you live simply, you realize how little you really need.

It was so nice to only have a few clothing options, a few food options, and a schedule. I have read in various places that too many choices can actually be a source of unhappiness. We question and crave and lust and doubt when we have too much. The acquiring of more stuff to find happiness is actually the exact opposite of what we need.

Sure, some of it was just not being stressed with less to do, but it’s amazing how good a simple meal is when that is all there is and you are grateful for it. In our pursuit of freedom sometimes I think we forget to be grateful and there is so much happiness in that place.

5.  I am stronger than I realized.

Crap, all this means is I don’t have any excuses for not living up to my potential.

Isn’t it so much easier, in a way, to claim we have something wrong with us and that’s why we don’t, or can’t, do certain things?

I didn’t really believe I could be quiet for that long, let alone enjoy it. I had moments of sheer terror and others of boredom, and one moment of thinking I might actually have a meltdown. However, that’s when I found strength and it was welcome.

6. I am not growing old as gracefully as I thought I would.

I am critical of my wrinkles, lines, sags and greys. I don’t do much about it admittedly. I put on a brave face and pretend I’m all good with it, but the truth is, if I suddenly had a ton of money I don’t know if I could resist the urge to fix some things.

This was good to know, it means I have more work to do and now I know what it is.

7. I am pretty freakin’ spoiled.

I like to think of myself as the hippy—down to earth, go with the flow kind of gal. The truth is, I am pretty picky and not okay with substandard things. I’m a bit of a snob. I think it’s okay because what I am snobby about is organic food and eco-friendly products, but the truth is, I’m still a snob.

8. Writing is a huge part of my life experience.

When you attend a retreat, you are not supposed to bring any reading or writing material. I was good for the first few days, and then it was too much to hold in and I had to get something down and out…

I cheated:

Aminda Courtwright

Sub lesson? You can write on paper-towels, but don’t believe the movies that show people writing on toilet paper…it doesn’t work.

9. I really do love meditation.

The longer I do yoga, the more I settle into the meditation, and the longer I study meditation, the more it reveals to me. I want to try every kind of meditation anyone has ever promoted ever—except possibly TM (Transcendental meditation) because, holy crap, $1500? Well, if I get a windfall, I’ll add it to my list!

10. There is nothing new under the sun.

This is what it is. For now, I think it’s important to realize that when we sit, when we experience whatever it is we experience, we are not alone.


Editor: Brianna Bemel

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About Aminda R. Courtwright

Aminda is a wellness facilitator and founder of ARCreated Wellness, LLC. A yoga teacher, transpersonal hypnotherapist, and Reiki Master, she shares her own healing journey with others in hopes of inspiring and uplifting those she meets. Her yoga classes are gentle and workshop style to invoke a real sense of learning and designed to be truly accessible for all levels. Her biggest hope is to help others take their yoga practice off the mat and into everyday life where it is truly meant to be experienced. (and can be most useful) Refusing to settle into the middle path just yet she prefers to dally on both edges and can be seen swinging right and leaning left. A devoted animal lover and activist and a humanist she is prone to rants and believes strongly that life is to be savored and that “we are all in this together, shouldn’t we enjoy it that way? “ When she isn’t teaching yoga, hypnotizing people, adoring her husband or doting on her grandson she is out riding her motorcycle—promoting the image that yogis are rebels and are a force to be reckoned with! You can also find her on Facebook. To join her for free classes online follow her here.


47 Responses to “10 Things I Learned while Meditating Naked.”

  1. what has mediation taught you?

  2. fabiofina says:

    wonderful post, inspired to experience a vipassana at some point

  3. yogijulian says:

    i agree that life certainly is not reducible to suffering – but do you really think identifying as a "yogi" is more life positive? in essence both systems are dualist ascetic anti-life philosophies seeking to transcend that material plane.

    my suggestion: identify as a human being using certain practice-oriented tools in an updated fashion!

    and oy – goenka! sorry to hear his approach to buddhist meditation has been primary for you…. try a jack kornfield retreat, i would love to hear how that more contemporary integrated approach feels to you!

  4. Snuffles says:

    These are great. I like the list (of attendees?) too 🙂

  5. steve says:

    I can relate with the texas heat. I too went to the kaufman (dhamma siri) retreat center here in Texas….. in July… there was a bit of suffering there.. lol. just curious…. why did you do the Texas retreat when your from colorado?

  6. we don't have an actual center in colorado and they didn't have one scheduled until sept. and that just didn't fit the schedule..that was one reason. The other was it gave me a chance to also take a long motorcycle ride which I like to do at least once a year AND my husband has family in Texas and we are thinking of relocating there and it gave me a chance to check it out a bit. 🙂 You did it in July? my heart goes out to you 🙂

  7. I seriously recommend it to just about everyone!! I am already trying to schedule in my next one! it was very empowering!

  8. if you really really knew me you would know that I don't subscribe to any one philosophy ever, the fact that as a "yogi" i attend buddhist retreats should be some indication that I am open to everything (I consider myself a buffet attendee when it comes to practices and ideas and I take what suites me 🙂 )
    I do find it interesting that you responded this way with the name yogi in your title 😛 I do identify as a human being and as I stated I want to experience ALL forms of mediation and practice…labeling myself yogi does not mean I can't be open to all!
    My experience with the more tantric philosophies does not speak to dualism or anti life — as a matter of fact I consider myself a non-dualist and promote the idea that life is awesome and that yoga is something that exists within life not as a cure to life.
    I didn't say his was primary …just the most recent and it appeared he only reiterate what my previous exposure to buddhist philosophy has been and he did say believe only what you experience..which is what I did, nothing negative about that?
    I also believe to fully appreciate the modern approaches it is beneficial to understand a classic approach *I believe that about yoga as well, to fully engage in the practice I find it most helpful to know it's roots and watch it's progresson partly because I like learning I suppose! — and I will gladly try a jack kornfield retreat – although I am guessing his aren't donation only like a vipassana retreat which was definitely part of the allure!
    In the end even though I didn't fully agree with the philosophy the methodology is nothing short of brilliant and I recommend the experience to everyone who will listen and plan on attending again as soon as I can…I am even considering going to one of the 20 day retreats… I have no problem at all adopting a practice if not the whole kit and caboodble…much like I love to pray but don't identify with christianity or other organized religion!

  9. Uma Simon says:

    Loved your article and your writing. thank you.

  10. yogijulian says:

    hi aminda,

    first let me say i am sorry if my comment came across as antagonistic – it is not meant to be!

    so let me try and be more specific and thoughtful about what i am saying:

    1) yes i am a yoga teacher for almost 20 years now – and i have had the email address yogijulian for most of that time and use it as my avatar name on blog commentaries.

    but i see yoga as a living tradition that has always been in cross pollinating hybrid evolution. mark singleton's book yoga body is a wonderful illustration of this history.

    2) so when i said i was not sure that being a yogi was more open than being a buddhist, i was specifically referring to your contrasting of the idea that life is suffering from theravada buddhism with yoga, and pointing out that the classical yoga position is as ascetic and world-denying if not more so than traditional buddhism.

    in this context i was confused about what you meant about identifying as a yogi rather than a buddhist, because in their essence both classical positions are basically the same with regard to their attitudes toward the world, body, desire etc and the purpose of practice.

    3) yes i agree that tantra (both buddhist and hindu) is nondualist, that's the whole point! classical yoga and many forms of buddhism are thoroughly dualist though….right?

    4) yes the kornfield retreats cost money, but a) my experience of both led me to think that you kinda get what you pay for and b) the money covers only the cost of the retreat center, food etc and the teachers are not paid.

    what's more they have 4 or 5 live, well-educated, compassionate teachers present the whole time giving amazing and wise east-west teachings.

    my experience of goenka was a kind of buddhist fundamentalism and a very narrow version of vipassana, focused mainly on apana meditation with no space for emotional awareness and a very harsh attitude toward being human. (the assertion that the brain was being cut open to drain the pus stands out, as does the claim that one is doing the hard work of ten days in silent vipassana so as to "cut the chain" not have to ever come back to this realm of suffering..)

  11. I have read much of your work on ej and I would guess we have a similar philosophy 🙂 thanks for the clarification!

    and yes that harsh attitude towards being human definitely turned me off the philosophy but not the practice itself…honestly I thought I got much out of this "free" retreat (I of course donated) I am excited and intrigued to now compare and contrast!

  12. ps. sally kempton and pema are my biggest influences in the realm of meditation and I suppose buddhism… at the end of the day I rather just see buddha as a yogi that had his own experience of it…and from there are things are left to the subjective understanding of those that study the any of it !

  13. my absolutely pleasure…:)

  14. yogijulian says:

    yea – check out kornfield's book "a path with heart" – his approach to vipassana is way more psychologically open and compassionate. goenka is basically a religious fundamentalist buddhist and the retreats are free because the have benefactors that make HUGE donations.

    i love pema too.

    as far as the goenka retreat – you know, being in silence for 10 days and meditating is always going to be profound and meaningful….. the thing is that i think with better tools and a more inclusive non-dualist philosophy the intense altered states and powerful opportunities for inner work can be much more effectively utilized for deep healing and integration.

    i think you will find a kornfiled retreat fills in lots of gaps that one may not even know were there in the goenka hardcore transcendence/discipline/apana model.

  15. yogijulian says:

    my point above to clarify even further is that classical yoga is as harsh if not more so!

    so again i was curious what you meant in saying you were not a buddhist due to the first noble truth, but identified more as a yogi?

  16. if I had said I identify as a tantric yogi would that have made more sense?

  17. 🙂 Already on line looking at books! Thanks for the suggestion. and I just downloaded a sept retreat application!! ;P

    Well there is that!!! and like I said I like to get all sides so I am glad to have the experience either way…much like when reading reviews I tend to look at the lowest scores to compare with the raving reviews…and much like I credit my catholic upbringing for making me who I am…without that contrast I don't know if I would feel/think/act as I do and for that I am grateful.

    and at the end of the day at this particular point in my journey money is a huge factor…so I am grateful for the free whatever it's reason and intent!

  18. yogijulian says:

    it would mean something completely different! so, yes. 🙂

    basically i think you are saying you are neither a classical yogi OR a classical buddhist (BOTH of which are world-denying dualist philosophies that focus on transcending attachment to the realm of suffering/illusion in order to not come back when we die) but a tantra-influenced non-dual contemporary spiritual practitioner who utilizes aspects of both practices.

  19. yogijulian says:

    yes i was glad to have been on goenka's retreat too – it removed any illusions i had about buddhism not being a dualist religion! 🙂

    can't wait to hear how the contrast plays out for you if you do a kornfield retreat. reads his book first to get a real flavor of his beautiful approach to vipassana. btw he co-founded the first vipassana center in america…

  20. EXACTLY!!! that's so dead on I may add it to my bio!! :O

  21. downloading NOW "P

    Thank you so much for taking the time to have a dialogue!

  22. yogijulian says:

    awesome – yea for sure. glad we could hear each-other 🙂

  23. yogijulian says:


    the only reason i get into this with people is that i feel it is important that more of us start recognizing this and intentionally expressing it in the world…..

    what we are doing in the yoga community is a brand new, contemporary integration of east and west, ancient and modern and as such the philosophy that underlies it should be a reflection of this and not just a naive idealizing of ancient dualistic wisdom that we then pretend means what we want it to mean! 🙂

  24. mauricio says:


  25. oz_ says:

    Aminda, I could not agree more with Julian that doing a Kornfield-style retreat as 'antidote' to Goenka would be wise. Spirit Rock – Jack's 'home base' so to speak – offers a sliding scale for retreats, AND there are scholarships available, as well as some opportunities to do work exchange in lieu of payment. I volunteered there for quite some time (so perhaps I'm biased) and will tell you they are very motivated to not let money stand in the way.

  26. Dee says:

    I absolutely loved this! Thanks! <3
    It was very encouraging as well as down to
    something I could really relate to!

  27. Virginia says:

    Thanks, nice post! But I don't think you understand what Buddhism really is about. It's not about underlining suffering but rather to connect with our basic goodness, our humor, spark and good hear no matter what happens… suffering or delight.

  28. oz_ says:

    Aminda, I wanted to explore these comments with you just a bit:

    "I just can’t get behind the life is suffering philosophy. I get it, seriously, I really do and you don’t need to argue or prove it, or set me straight. I understand it, I just don’t experience it."

    There has been a lot of misunderstanding based on the use of the word 'suffering' as translated from the Pali 'dukkha.' Perhaps a better translation would be 'unsatisfactoriness' and in Buddhist thought, at least as I understand it, the idea is that the root of dukkha is the wish for things to be different than they actually are. So when I read your statements. they basically seem to be saying 'I am perfectly at peace with everything in my life as it arises just as it is – and never feel a desire for things to be different than they are.' I find it hard to credit this, as I believe every human is afflicted with the wish for things to be different, which is in essence the 'suffering' referred to in the 1st noble truth. So I do think there is a disjunction here of some sort.

    I guess I wonder, when you say you 'get it' – do you really? Or has the Goenka (I love Julian's description of him as fundamentalist, as I think this is precisely right) approach given you a mistaken impression about the meaning of this statement? As listening to a fundamentalist Christian speak might lead to similar misapprehensions.

    I might translate the 1st noble truth, and extend it, thusly:

    For psychological reasons, humans find life inherently unsatisfactory, and this gives rise to an absence of inner peace.

    The other 3 noble truths then point to the causes for that lack, how the lack can be remedied, and that peace achieved. From this perspective, this all seems sort of self-evident, and not a matter of 'belief' per se.

    As long as you are looking at books, allow me to suggest one that is on point. The author, one of the most compelling teachers I saw at Spirit Rock, argues that the four noble truths do NOT constitute a 'belief system' (or philosophy) at all – but rather are a set of tasks to accomplish. The book is 'Buddhism without Beliefs' by a rather erudite fellow, and former Buddhist monk in both the Tibetan and Zen traditions, named Stephen Batchelor, who I think is arguably the most important personage in Western Buddhist thought because of his push for a wholly secular Buddhism (his 'Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist is also well worth reading'. In fact, if you wish, you can listen to his discussion of the 'four noble tasks' here:

    I suspect that if you listen to this talk, it will overturn completely your present conceptualization of the four noble truths, including that first one, which proves so troublesome to so many, for (I would argue) semantic reasons. As such, I think it will give you the framework for understanding Buddhism in a completely different light.

  29. Andy says:

    If this article doesn't sum up what Elephant Journal is in a nut shell, I don't know what else would.

  30. derek says:

    I teach yoga and art life model for a living. So in a very long pose, where I am naked in front of sometimes thirty artists. You have to go into yourself and think I am just this shell of energy, electrons, neurons and chemicals of H2O etc. Plus, usually you have your eyes open, so its very inner reflective. Everything you wrote is again, something I have thought of, while posing for a long pose. Thanks for posting your experience. 🙂

  31. […] 10 Things I Learned while Meditating Naked. […]

  32. I've always wanted to do a Vipassana retreat and LOVED this post! Thank you!

  33. whatcanisay says:

    i wish there were more pics of her meditating naked. hot body shes got going on.

  34. Padma Kadag says:

    Julian…based on your generalizations about Buddhism you have not delved beyond the renunciation aspect. I would really like to see you write a comprehensive article on all schools of Buddhism and discuss their dualist and nondualist, as you say, aspects and also how they are "world-denying". Your attention to detail is worthy of an article about this and would allow you to go beyond these generalizations about Buddhism as a whole

  35. I appreciate your concern…perhaps I should have said I don't subscribe to a dualistic philosophy. !! In the end it isn't anything against buddhism at all — it's just no matter who I study with or who I have read buddhism doesn't resonate with me… to each their own right?

  36. hmmmmm I sense dissent 🙂

  37. the more I listen to Stephen what I hear is no one should be a "buddhist"…as that it was not meant to be dogma — so there you have it! I'm not a buddhist – and that's OK 😉

  38. Padma Kadag says:

    To each his own is correct….how is buddhism dualistic and give me an example of your brand of non dualism which you practice or study.?

  39. dualism – life is not the end goal
    non dualistic – life is awesome

    that's it 😉

  40. […] 01 – It’s the best way to meditate (for me anyway): 10 Things I Learned While Meditating Naked […]

  41. […] Although Tsoknyi Rinpoche has written two books for advanced meditators—Fearless Simplicity and Carefree Dignity—his latest book addresses what he calls the well-being of the subtle body relevant to all meditators. […]

  42. Barry says:

    "I am not a Buddhist! I just can’t get behind the life is suffering philosophy. "

    Actually, Buddha never said that. It's not surprising that people think he did. In his book "The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching", Thich Nhat Hanh addresses this misconception:

    "For more than two thousand years," he writes, "students of Buddhism have been declaring that the Buddha taught that all objects of perception … are suffering. One hundred years after the Buddha passed away, practitioners were already repeating the formula, 'This is suffering. Life is suffering. Everything is suffering… By the time the Buddha's teachings were written down, seeing all things as suffering must have been widely practiced."

    "But Buddha says that he only wants us to recognize suffering when it is present and to recognize joy when suffering is absent."

    'It is true that Buddha taught the truth of suffering, but he also taught the truth of 'dwelling happily in things as they are'. To succeed in the practice, we must stop trying to prove that everything is suffering. In fact, we must stop trying to prove anything. If we touch the truth of suffering with our mindfulness, we will be able to recognize and identify our specific suffering, its specific causes, and the way to remove those causes and end our suffering."

    In fact, at the core of Buddha's teaching are the Four Noble Truths: that suffering exists; that there are causes to suffering; that our suffering can cease; and that there is a path we can follow to the cessation of suffering, namely the Noble Eightfold Path…

  43. Thai-English says:

    Dear Barry.
    Your Comment are very nice, absolutely agree.
    I'm Buddhist , And the one that you say is true.

    Suferring just a Fact , we should not worry about it.
    the thing is more complicate it is "how to understand Empty"

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