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January 28, 2016

Exploring Our Inner World: Insights from a Vipassana Meditation Retreat.

Ashley Batz/Unsplash

About a year ago, I discovered the art of meditation while under the influence of magic mushrooms.

Sounds crazy, I know, but I since began meditating on my own without the use of mushrooms. Eventually this path led me to a 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat.

A retreat where we weren’t allowed to talk, write, use any form of mind-altering chemical, eat meat, have any human interaction or do anything but meditate for 11 hours a day. It was wild—in a really quiet kind of way.

I know that I am not the first person who has had insights similar to what I am about to describe during meditation, but the cool thing about meditation is that it gives us a direct experience of what the great teachers and gurus have taught over the ages.

Apparently Vipassana is the meditation technique that Buddha taught. Here are a few of the insights that I experienced when I was on the retreat:

1) Our inner worlds are incredibly similar.

Like I said above, we were not allowed to talk or have any form of human interaction during the retreat. This meant that we had to stay in our own heads throughout the entire retreat. Every night, we would watch a discourse by S.N. Goenka, and he always seemed to know exactly what was on my mind—and really everyone’s minds—as we progressed through the course.

Perhaps it was just a mild form of Stockholm Syndrome, but on day two, he talked about not quitting—just as I was seriously wondering what the point of this retreat was. On day six, he reminded us how important it was not to cheat during the course as I was pondering sneaking out to my car to smoke a cigarette. On top of this, he made us laugh about the condition that we found ourselves in day in and day out.

It was like he knew exactly what we were going through. Either that, or 11 hours of meditation was making me trip as hard as mushrooms.

Oddly enough, I found myself getting horny during meditation at times. I could literally feel myself penetrating ghosts of girlfriends past. At the end of the course, when we were allowed to talk again, I asked the other guys if they had been getting horny as well, and everyone burst out laughing, but they shook their heads in agreement.

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen, our inner world. Weird stuff.

2) We only need to feel feelings, not react to them.

This realization sort of slapped me in the face. At one point during meditation, my leg had fallen asleep, and my brain was screaming at me to do something to fix it. A funny thing happened, though; I became aware of the screaming. I realized that our brains can trick us into thinking that we need to do something about pain, when we really don’t.

The brain creates the sensation of pain, but we are also simply aware of the pain. The awareness in our minds doesn’t need to react to pain. I realized that we never have to react to anything that seems like it’s painful, or the hurts that we all go through on a daily basis.

I’ve struggled with depression in my life, and usually my first reaction was to grab a substance to try and make myself better. I’d usually just self-medicate with weed or booze, but those things are only a temporary fix. And quite frankly, I think that my depression was there for me to shake myself out of the depressing way that I was living my life.

I was a pot dealer for about three years, and I kept thinking that eventually I’d be happy after I made enough money. But as I made more money, all I wanted to do was keep making more money. I was depressed because nothing was ever enough.

Realizing that feelings are temporary—even depression—made me realize that nothing is enough. Being content even in pain will help you infinitely more than trying to fix the pain.

Plus, with this realization, I was finally able to focus more on meditation. I stopped dreading the stiffness in my limbs that it was causing. I actually started looking forward to my legs falling asleep, because I was feeling something.

Good feelings or bad feelings, we are never those feelings. We are aware of the feelings that we feel, but we are never the feelings.

Bonus Insight: I breathe too loud.

The teacher told me to quit breathing so loud at one point during the course, and my fellow meditators made fun of me for breathing so loud when we were allowed to talk again at the end of the course. They told me that they thought I was trying to huff and puff and blow the walls of enlightenment down.

Farewell, fellow travelers; may you find the road you love, and may the road love you back. That sounds so cheesy, but it’s heartfelt. Peace!

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Relephant Read:

10 Reasons to Give Vipassana a Try.

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Author: Jake Runde

Editor: Toby Israel

Image: Ashley Batz/Unsplash

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