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Stress Management strategies - a new one for me

Challenging AND Rewarding - a 10 day Vipassana Retreat

If I had known I would be sitting in the lotus position for 13.5hours per day for 10 days, I think I would have stayed at home!

My recent Vipassana meditation retreat, suggested by a friend when I was exploring options to cope with a major life event, was one of the most challenging AND rewarding experiences I have ever undertaken.

Held every 2 weeks in a bush clad valley, a quiet and purpose built facility north of Auckland, the Dhamma Medini has space for as many as 40 women & men.

I purposely didn’t explore what to expect so my experience wasn’t clouded.

My patience, diligence, consistency, tolerance were all pushed to the limit.

The premise I understood from my experiential 10days of Noble silence, vegetarian meals and blocks of 1-2hr meditation in the lotus position was:

· It takes discipline to sharpen/focus the agitated mind, that is reacting to body sensations.

· Nothing beats experience to “get it”. This is not something you can read about or hear about to get the real gist of what happens on an inward journey.

· To become aware that sensations no matter how subtle on the body are constantly changing. Sensations are equal in their meaning.

· I can tolerate a lot more than my mind tells me when I have to.

· The mind reacts to body sensations and makes up a story about them that then becomes your experience, no matter how subtle or solidified

· Being the observer of body sensations and their changing nature allows space to respond differently or not at all.

· Being in the present moment, out of thinking, highlights the changing nature of our moment-to-moment mind body experience. We are nature.

On day 7 early in an evening meditation I had an insight. I wave of grateful thinking appeared and I noticed the sensations that came with it included a lump in the throat, pulsation in the top of my nasal passages, a wave of heat through my core and uncontrollable tears. The moment of insight came because I had spent 7days tuned into body sensations. What I noticed was, the sensations for gratitude for me were exactly the same as the sensations I had experienced earlier in the day for grief over my Dad. This experience highlighted the understanding we had been told of, that sensations are equanimous - not good or bad, neutral. I saw then that the sensations were in fact neutral and that it was my mind giving the meaning to them that developed a belief of what those sensations ordinarily meant. What a light bulb moment.

As a consequence of this experience, I see ANY sensation in my body as neutral and give it no meaning. What I now notice that without a meaning, the sensations pass quicker and dont develop into what my mind would have normally expected them to escalate into as a symptom. Wow!!

I came away feeling like I had spent 10day with a tribe of beautiful humans that also had unbelievable discipline and grit, despite their individual experience.

The major challenges for me were the physical pain of sitting in the lotus position for long periods of time. My body rebelled in the first few days to the change in diet from low carb to high carb, swelling with great alarm to me. The surprising pain for me, came in the inability to communicate with my fellow human – even with a smile. I felt incredibly isolated. Tears flowed, resistance and pain intensified, and I arrived from the inner journey with an acute awareness of my experience coming from the meaning that my mind makes about the external world.

My mind made up a lot of stories about the experience I was having and about the other participants. On the last day of connecting and sharing with them it was clear that these stories were completely untrue!

Such a valuable experience that continues to enlighten me every day. I clearly see this as a key tool to add to my stress reduction strategies

I will be back for more!

For more information

Jenny Malcolm Mind & Body Wellbeing Coach

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