Life is a journey, not a destination.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
When the universe speaks, I listen. She has inspired and coerced me to do things most people would not. For example, I gave up my career of seventeen years. I left my home province. I went to the mountains (which had been luring me for some time) only to feel claustrophobic and return to the flat lands of the prairies once again. Now she beckons me in a new direction, guiding me to sit in Vipassana Meditation.
The term Vipassanā (Pāli) or Vipaśyanā (Sanskrit) means to see things as they truly are. It is one of India’s oldest forms of meditation and was both practiced and taught by Gautama Buddha himself. At present, it is Buddha’s discourse on self-observation and self-realization that has me pondering my existence (yet again).
Know Thyself. Spending ten days in your own head is certainly one way to get to know yourself. 2018 is a Master 11 Universal Year in numerology, the Master Number 11 representing enlightenment, spiritual development, and transformation. It is also a Master Number 11 for me personally. In my estimation there is no time like the present to master my self.
Many people (mistakenly) think that because I have been gifted with certain abilities that my life must be wonderful all the time. The truth is my abilities have made me think of life (and death) in a very different way. As someone who is extremely sensitive to energy, I often find it hard to live in this world. I find it more difficult to find things in common with others, and relate to people in a way that used to be so natural for me. I recently realized that I have shed a part of myself while discovering my abilities as a Medium. I need and want to find myself again.
I am at the mercy of the universe. She speaks and I listen. If her Mercury goes retrograde I have a life review. If her sun shoots forth a powerful flare I get an inexplicable rash, migraine, or uproot my life. If her moon is full - go outside and listen - you may find me there howling. This is how it has been for me for the last ten years. The universe and its energies have made me hyper-aware of everything that is awry in this world, with humanity, and especially within myself.
So you see, deciding to go to a ten day silent retreat was not entirely my decision; the universe decided it was time. She did this with subtle and not-so-subtle signs. First, I had to leave my part-time employment because I had a rash all over my face. (I knew deep down that this was a sign of psychic /empathic exhaustion.) I was fed up with B.C. and this new development solidified my decision to move back to Saskatchewan.
Next, a Vipassana course advertisement showed up in the corner of a webpage I was on. I had never even heard of this technique before, intrigued I clicked on the link and was redirected. Once I read the homepage I knew this was something I needed to do. And I needed to do it now.
While reading about Vipassana on Wikipedia, I came upon the following:
“While the Abhidhamma and the commentaries present Samatha and Vipassana as separate paths, in the sutras Vipassana and Samatha, combined with Sati (mindfulness), are used together to explore ‘the fundamental nature of mind and body.’ In the later Theravada tradition, Samatha is regarded as a preparation for Vipassanā, pacifying the mind and strengthening concentration in order for insight to arise, which leads to liberation. "
What? WHAT? Samatha?! Well if that's not a sign I don't know what is. Hadn’t I - Samantha - been preparing my mind all these years in the hope of liberation as well?!
Without further hesitation or contemplation I signed up for the New Student 10-Day Vispassana Course in Youngstown, Alberta.
POST MEDITATION: 3 MONTHS & 6 MONTHS LATER
Not all who wander are lost.
Taking a vow of noble silence was easy for me as I enjoy quiet and knew I needed the respite from society. Sitting in meditation for ten hours a day took a bit of a toll on me physically, but the discomfort always faded, giving rise to new insight (so the discomfort was meaningful). Ironically it was the first seven to ten days following my sit that were the most emotionally and mentally charged.
Know Thyself. This phrase should be the mantra that humanity aspires to understand. There is no getting away from yourself in a 10-day Vipassana course (if you're doing the work and following the course instructions). While there were a couple of days during the course where I felt I was being picked apart flaw by flaw, memory by memory. But after a few more hours of meditation and I felt more whole and intact than I've ever been.
But the course opens you up and sets you free back into a world that hasn't changed or grown the way you have in the last ten days. I realized I had the same problems I had when I left, and now a few more (like how to deal with this new knowledge and weave it into my daily existence). I felt angry, alone, and hopeless. I soon learned I was still experiencing residual gunk from the past that was lasting beyond the course. Vipasssana does that. Within two weeks the major gunk had been purged and my toils had subsided. Life was beginning to improve once again.
Weeks and months passed and there were countless times when the effects of Vipassana have had me in awe. I've noticed that I no longer react the same way to good news, or bad. I feel more peaceful, and it seems the peace sits somewhere deep inside untouchable by day-to-day trials. I observe and perceive differently. Instead of being at the mercy of the universe, I co-create and accept what the universe is offering.
It has now been six months since I sat my first Vipassana course (though I did return as a server for 3 days). I still have trials and tribulations and I still ponder my existence; now I am ever more compassionate with myself and my responses. I always knew but now understand that life has its ebbs and flows and this is the nature of all existence and creation. Change is creation, and accepting change is one of the keys to deep and lasting inner peace. Equanimity in all things is one of the teachings of Vipassana; its like yin and yang, true or false, black and white. It is all about balance and acceptance without judgment. This is a real benefit and byproduct of the practice.
Know thyself and remember -life is a journey through self-knowledge, life is not a destination. Not all who wander are lost; some of us wanderers are just free spirits and co-creators for a better world. We have a deep desire to understand and help ourselves and others, and follow our unique journeys. With all of the heartache and violence in the world today, I cannot think of a more fitting time than now for true mastery over our selves.
Namaste, and thank you for reading.
For more information of Vipassana Meditation or retreats, visit: https://www.dhamma.org/en-US/about/vipassana
For more information on the Master Number 11, check out: