Meditation - My path to peace & balance

Updated: Jul 12, 2021

There is a lot to say about meditation and people do say a lot about meditation. That it is an ancient tradition, that it can lead us to discover a sense of calmness and inner harmony, that it can help us cope with the pressures of every day life, that it cuts across different religions and cultures. One finds it bullshit, way to spiritual and doesn't want to know a thing about it. I was just like that too, till 4 years back in time.

Namaste in front of Bali Temple, after Vipassana Meditation
Namaste after our 10 day Vipassana Retreat

Before I started traveling in 2015 I found all these yoga-meditating-vegan people just boring who didn't know how to have fun, just gave themselves to many restrictions. What did I know about it? Nothing, nada! But now I do and I would like to share my knowledge and experience with you ♥

I didn't become a meditation/yoga lover from one day to the other, just like most things it went naturally. Kind of naturally, because I started cold turkey: from never -ever- have done any kind meditation in my life before, I went to a Buddhistic temple in the mountains of the north of Bali for a Vipassana course. This teached meditation involving concentration on the body and its sensations, and the insights which it provides. The meditation does not go on for just for a few hours, a few days or a week. No, I started doing it for 10 days long, 10 hours of meditation a day.

Why? Because I needed it. Since I graduated a year before that (2014), I felt more and for longer periods this annoying nervous feeling. The feeling I has to do something, had to move, do something useful. And when I started traveling, got my ass all the way to Bali to relax the hell out of it and I STILL felt this nervous feeling, I was sick of it. Then, again and again, I heard about the Vipassana. Afterward, I realize, it was probably the universe that wanted to put it on my path. It seemed like the only way to get rid of the tense feeling inside so... There I went! ✈

Meditation Table in Vipassana Center North Bali
Meditation Table in Vipassana Center North Bali

"I didn't read anything about the experience of others because I was afraid it would scare me off"

The first bell (gong) woke me up at 03:45. You were expected to start your walking meditation at 04:00. It was really good I was so motivated otherwise I was definitely not coming out of bed at this time of the day. Well, let's say, night...

The rest of the day was pretty much an alternation of one hour of walking meditation and one hour of sitting meditation. At least, it was scheduled like that. I think in the end the longest I meditated straight was about 45 minutes. And I thought that was damn long. The Sayadaw Vipassana is pretty relaxed, even more if you compare it with the one of Goenka. You can decide yourself where on the campus you meditate, there were only like 3 meditations a day you were really expected at the temple, for the rest I could meditate in the garden, your room, temple, or even in bed with your eyes closed. This last one was not recommended.

All of this was not only about meditating for about 10 hours a day. It was also 10 days without using a mobile phone, reading, do exercise, talking or having eye contact. It was 10 days of you, just you. Day by day they explained more about the Vipassana technique. This was one day by our teaches, a sweet Indonesian lady. The other day by the monk. These were the only times you were talking.

There was something between the monk and me. Me and him weren't really good a match. Or let's say, I didn't like the fact that he was bragging a lot, like about he finds it important to always have the newest Samsung phone, bought from money people offered to him. And he didn't like me not liking that. Nothing with that many words, but we both felt it. Further than that he seemed like a cool monk though.

But let's go back to the meditation. I like new things, new adventures. This whole-day-of-meditating-thing was definitely something new and day by day we did everything more mindful. The first days it was being mindful about walking, then about what leg you use (left - right - left - right) and after that about the movement of your feet while walking. Also eating became a thing. It was not just like "okay let's get this food in me asap". Every step was thoughtful. My hand goes to the spoon - I grab the spoon - I get food on my spoon - I put it towards my mouth - I open my mouth - and so on. Your mind slowed down day by day. In the last two days I remember thinking "how will it feel if I can do everything at normal speed again"? I also became to wonder how it was to just talk at again.

I don't want to tell you to much more, because the experience will be so different to every one of us. If I tell you my highlights, you will be going to hope for it. If I tell you my downsides, you'll be afraid for it. For some the Vipassana is hard. Like for me, doing for 10 days pretty much the same was very difficult. I sort of started to be bored after 6 days and I hated to do pretty much the same every day, but was SO proud when I made it to all these days and I wanted to feel the benefit of it. For some people it's VERY hard. I think especially when someone has psychological issues, because you have a lot of time to think about while meditating and around that. And it will be very hard for people who have gravings to things like drugs or alcohol. But don't forget to believe in yourself. There are MANY people who did it before you and also made it. And I will promise you: you will feel great after and would recommend everyone to do it!

Many people ask me why someone would ever do a Vipassana. And IF, why 10 days? Not just 3, 4, 5? I started explaining it like this:

Lets pretend you've been living in your house for a long time. A lot of things you have saved for all this time. Little notes, shells from beaches, maybe an empty bottle of wine here and there and besides that all the normal stuff you store in houses (HAH what can I know about it, I don't even have a house and if I could say I have one, it's a converted van!). Now you want to start cleaning your whole house. At day one, you're going to mentally prepare yourself. You will buy some cleaning things at the shop. Day two and three you're going to organize the big things. Put everything in one room so it's easier to organize the smaller things. Day four to six you throw a lot away - no, recycle please - and organize things and slowly you will find more space in your house. Days are passing and more things you will find from years back. Love letters, old pictures, memories. At my Vipassana experience, I had memories I had not been having for ten years or more. They came back because I cleaned all the things in my mind. And that is why the Vipassana is so good. People that do detox foodwise do so to clean their body, Vipassana is the detox for your mind.

I kept meditation like taught during this Vipassana for about 4 months and I also started doing yoga. The restless and nervous feeling disappeared and I was happy it was gone. Then a friend from home came over to travel together and day by day I start stopping my routine of doing meditation and yoga. The nervous feeling came back and I saw no other way out to... Join another Vipassana course!

Vipassana as taught by Goenka @ Dhamma Sacca (September 2017)

This time I wanted to follow one by Goenka. To me this teaching is the most popular, at least the one I kept hearing about. Of course, Noukie got curious and wanted to do it. Noukie drove with 90km/h with that concerted van from the south of Portugal to the middle of the west from Spain and it took her 8 hours. Without air conditioning and someone to talk with. I did some phone calls to a friend and my sister but obviously, that wasn't really legal. It was a long day. Anyway, I made it! It was a beautiful new center with a nice view and some beautiful rooms. There are quite some rooms with all bunk beds and just like at the other centra, man and woman are separated. I shared my room with 4 other ladies. Don't worry too much about the sleeping, you won't sleep much anyway. At least that was my experience. I just didn't get tired enough from sitting down all day. Because at this kind of Vipassana it was all about sitting meditation. My neighbor had about 12 pillows under and around her so don't worry, it is allowed to make it yourself comfortable while sitting and meditating.

Goenka has a special story to tell. He is a Myanmar-born Indian, was a multi-millionaire who had severe migraines before discovering Vipassana through his teacher, Sayagy U Ba Khin. You hear about his story in the -to me- very inspiring evening classes where Goenka tells you his story and what got me closer to the belief in love and yourself every day. I also loved that his teaching is so recent. He passed away in 2013 and everything he tells in his evening stories you could just google. It's not God or Jezus with all these great big stories where is no proof for. Sorry, I just like and want proof before I believe in things.