10 Days of Silence in a Buddhist Monastery

If you could do anything in the world for your birthday, what would you do? Celebrate with friends on a private island? Fly all your loved ones to the ski slopes? Have a quiet dinner at home with family?

For my 29th birthday, it was 10 days of solitude in silent meditation at a Buddhist Monastery.

Apparently, I’m not alone. Vipassana, which means to see things clearly, is an ancient meditation technique. Ten day Vipassana retreats are quickly becoming popular. Many are booked a year in advance with hundreds of people on waitlists.

If you’re curious, or considering doing one, I hope my story offers some insight.

TL;DR So, what’s it like? It’s like having a 10 day conversation with your mind. For me, it was ALL THE THINGS. I moved through every emotion — from feeling like I was going psycho to feeling so happy I could die.

The highlights were the moments of pure bliss where I was convinced I was in heaven (I’m still kinda convinced!), where I shed the need to be anyone or do anything, and where I was so at peace that I considered living in silence forever.

Here’s the full story.

Chapter 1: Getting Settled

At 6:30pm, I board the 12 hour night train from Bangkok to the Buddhist Monastery. My whole life, I’ve avoided taking the night train. But, the time has come — it’s my only option to arrive on time.

I’m on the bottom bunk of the 2nd Class Sleep train. The train is from the 80s and I imagine the thousands of people who have drooled on these sheets. I can’t sleep. I’m paranoid about missing my stop and avoiding the train toilet like the devil. It’s pitch black. The announcements are in Thai. I have no idea where I am.

Still, I can’t help but smile. I’m so fortunate to have this opportunity and to take time for myself. At least I’m safe and can practice my mediation skills.

When we arrive at dawn, I’m exhausted, excited, and desperately have to pee. I find a motorcycle taxi, hop on the back, and drive to Suan Mokkh.

The retreat is on acres of well groomed green grounds. Peace is in the air. Other than the birds chirping, it’s silent. A subtle breeze dances with the coconut leaves.

I check in at the main dining hall — a big open air cement building designed to seat 200 people. A dozen people have already arrived and are scattered around the hall. The men are on the right, the women are on the left. For the whole retreat, men and women are separate.

A volunteer hands me a photocopied booklet. She tells me to read the whole thing, and if I still want to participate, to fill out the form. Sounds serious. I join a couple of women diligently reading at a table. Twenty minutes later, I hand in my health and meditation history.

I get in line for my “interview.” The two women in front of me interview for 15 minutes. When it’s my turn, the woman looks over my form, asks me if I have any questions, and gives me a pass in less than 3 minutes. I can’t help but wonder what the others were talking about.

I walk to the office window at the end of the dining hall, pay the 2000 baht donation, and get my room key. It’s $60 USD for 10 days. Meals and accommodations are included. I hand over my computer, phone, drawing supplies, reading materials, and wallet. No distractions allowed. I’m relieved to turn in my technology.

On the way out of the hall, I sign up for my daily chore — sweeping and mopping the women’s dorms. As far as chores go, seems pretty zen. If I’d come later, I would have gotten stuck with a shittier task, like toilet duty.

The women’s dorm is a big brick rectangle with 140+ rooms around a grass courtyard.

I drop off my duffle in my room at the end of the hall. The room is a 6ft by 8ft cement box with a built in cement bed, wooden mat, and wooden pillow.

There’s a wooden door, window with metal bars, and a piece of white lace curtain. This is no 5 star retreat. For a second, that sounds pretty nice.

A few other women are slowly and silently getting settled. Most avoid eye contact. We’re in our finest “monastery fashion,” — covered to below our elbows and knees. We look like we’re wearing oversized pajamas or doing terrible hippie nun impersonations.

I walk 5 doors down to pick up a mosquito net and blanket. I tuck the net edges under the wooden matt so no bugs can get in and admire my cement sleep sanctuary.

I finally head to the restroom at the end of the hall and realize there is no running or hot water. The western toilets (yes!) don’t flush. They’re “manual flush” toilets. You scoop water from a bucket into the toilet to flush it. They also recommend Indian style wiping — rinsing yourself with a hose and using your hand to wipe excess residue. Luckily, there’s a bucket for women who insist on bringing their own toilet paper. Because many people use the hoses, the toilet seats are wet.

Sweaty and without my nightly shower, I eagerly check out the baths. They’re two cement basins, 4ft by 6ft, filled with two feet of standing water, dead bugs, and soap suds.

A piece of printer paper on the wall reads “No showering naked or with a swimsuit. No soap allowed in the water.” What the heck? Confused, amused, and laughing at myself, I walk back to registration.

I whisper to the most friendly looking Thai volunteer, “Excuse me, how do you shower?” She giggles and says, “It’s not easy. You can borrow a sarong.” She proceeds to act out showering. “First hold open your sarong. Then take a scoop of water from the basin. Pour it down your front. Soap under the sarong. Finally, rinse with a fresh scoop of water.” She smiles with her eyes, “You must stay covered the whole time.”

I pick up an oversized flowery pink cloth that’s been sewn together. It could easily fit two people and would make a great cheap picnic blanket. This is going to be hilarious.

Thankfully, I’m figuring this stuff out on Day 0, before the hard core silence. Back at the washbasin, I attempt my first shower. I fill one of the 10 colored plastic Tupperware containers with water, and dump it over my shoulders. It’s freezing. The wet fabric sticks to my body. Holy shit, I can’t believe I’m doing this for 10 days…

Reminding myself that we get to choose how we react to things, and there’s no point in negative reactions, I take it as a meditation. I pretend I’m a goddess bathing in the temple. After all, who says I’m not? It’s not so bad. I open the top of my sarong with my left hand and use my right hand to soap down. Next comes shampoo. I dump a scoop of freezing water on my head.

A stunning bi-racial woman, in her early 20s, with long curly black hair, walks up looking mortified. Not sure if we’re allowed to talk, she timidly asks how to shower. From her accent, I gather she’s American. I share what the volunteer told me and emphasize that we must stay covered the whole time. She nervously scoops water on her shoulder and lets out a quiet “holy shit.” She’s not having it. Trying to set a good example, I bathe extra blissfully.

At 8:30am, back at the dining hall, breakfast is served. It’s silent other than the volunteers checking people in. There’s a long knee high wooden table with a metal soup pot, metal bowls, metal spoons, and bananas. The soup is cooked down rice with Thai seasonings, like ginger and shallots. Simple, but delicious. Unbeknownst to me, this is all we’ll eat for breakfast for the next 11 days.

I’m exhausted from the night train and head to my room to nap. I lie down on my bed — aka the slab of concrete. No matter how I lay, I can feel my hip and shoulder bones dig into the hard surface. I try my right side, then my left, then my back. The wooden pillow doesn’t help. After a few minutes, I fall asleep. Since there are no clocks, and I turned in my phone, I have no idea how long I slept. I wake up feeling surprisingly alert.

At 3pm, registration closes and we gather for orientation. They’re about 90 of us, two thirds men, one third women. The women skew younger, ranging from 18 to late 30s, and the men from 20s to 50s+. People start whispering and from people’s accents, I gather that people have traveled from all over the world to participate. Everyone is wearing flowy clothes. At least 10 of the men are wearing white linens — the color of purity, modesty, and worship, in many spiritual practices.

We go over the basic schedule for the first 8 days and a few modifications for Day 10. Notably, there’s no mention of day 9, my birthday.

The day is broken into four main meditation sessions. We sit for 7 hours a day, with walking meditation, chores, hot springs, and meals in between.

The basic schedule is as follows:

4 — Wake up bell

4:30 — Morning reading & sitting meditation

5:30 — Yoga (yes!!!)

7 — Dhamma talk & sitting meditation

8 — Breakfast & Chores

10 — Dhamma talk (seated)

11 — Walking or standing meditation

11:45 — Sitting meditation

12:30 — Lunch & chores

14:30 — Sitting meditation

15:30 — Walking or standing meditation

16:15 — Sitting meditation

17 — Chanting and love and kindness meditation

18 — Tea and hot springs

19:30 — Sitting meditation

20 — Group walking meditation

20:30 — Sitting meditation

21 — Bedtime

At 9pm, it’s lights out and the beginning of formal silence. I pass out. At 2am, the inevitable happens, I desperately have to pee. Crap! It’s pitch black and I don’t have a light. There’s no way I’m attempting the bathroom situation in the dark. I spend the rest of the night meditating and contemplating the impermanence of the situation. Like all things, this will pass.

Chapter 2: Day 1

At the 4am morning bell, I jump out of bed. It’s go time. I’ve never been so excited to squat over a wet toilet in my life.

After brushing my teeth and washing my face, I walk barefoot to the meditation hall in moonlight. We’ll sit in the same spot for all 10 days. I’m three rows back in the center of the women’s side. The hall floor is sand and we each have a small blue rectangular tarp, a burlap sack, and a 1/4 inch square sitting cushion.

The first talk starts beautifully.

Today is Day 1, November 1st. Today’s a very special day, because it will only happen once. These breaths will only happen once. It’s a very special day.

Wow — I should say this every morning.

We transition into silent meditation and I’m reminded of the pain of sitting cross legged with a straight back. The mosquitos are in full force.

Thankfully, after an hour, it’s yoga time. In the dark shala, we setup our “yoga mats,” thin hand cut pieces of foam. The class is led by a tiny Japanese woman, Khun Tai, who is in her 60s. She has the most perfect form I’ve ever seen. Her downward dog is a 90 degree effortless masterpiece. In a soft voice she instructs us to lay on our backs. Most of class is slow stretching — rolling to one side, then the other, breathing deeply, with a few slow Surya Namaskars. It’s so relaxing that I almost fall asleep.

The sun rises and we head to the hall for an hour of Dhamma talk and meditation. Then, it’s breakfast. At breakfast, we serve ourselves the same rice soup as yesterday. After 20 minutes, everyone’s seated. I chuckle at the strangeness of 30 women sitting face to face in silence.

We haven’t eaten in nearly 20 hours and stare longingly at our bowls. A few minutes pass, then a Thai woman emerges to give a 5 minute mindful eating talk and recite a food blessing. I can see the pains of hunger and impatience on people’s faces. We recite the food blessing together, something like this -

With wise reflection, I eat this food. Not for fun, not for pleasure, not for fattening, not for beautification. Only to maintain this body, to keep it healthy and pursue the spiritual way of life. Thinking thus, I will allay hunger without overeating. So that I may continue to live blamelessly and at ease.

We finally taste it and it’s the most amazing soup on the planet. I set the spoon down between each bite and chew 20 times before swallowing. I never thought I’d take an hour to savor a bowl of rice soup.

After breakfast, I head to the dorm to sweep and mop the cement floors. A tall blonde European in her late teens is also on floor duty. As we sweep, women come back from the hot spring and drag dirty sand across the newly cleaned floors.

I can’t help but wonder: why am I doing this? I’m sweeping floors covered in gecko poop, ants, and dirt, in a Buddhist monastery instead of going to surf camp? Huh? For my birthday?

The bell rings at 10 and we head to the hall for a Dhamma talk. The monk’s voice makes me sleepy. I fight to sit upright and push past the growing back pain.

At 11, the head monk, Ajun Po, introduces walking meditation. Each step takes at least 10 seconds as we mindfully pick up our back heel and place it in front of the other. We practice in place. After a few minutes, he invites us to walk outside.

The men gracefully exit the hall from the left and women from the right. In the morning glow, it looks like gods and goddesses, exploring heaven for the first time. It’s a marvelous sight. Everyone’s standing tall, looking lovingly at the earth, and stepping delicately. I can’t help but wonder, am I in heaven?

The morning breeze is gentle enough to keep us cool in the 85 degree heat, but subtle enough that the trees don’t move.

We walk around the 3 ponds — the uneven pond, rectangular pond, and circular pond. The rectangular pond is the largest, about half a football field with a coconut tree island in the middle. Huge 4ft Monitor lizards occasionally grace us with an appearance — slithering out of one pond, walking 5 ft across the grass, and tip toeing into the next.

Treating each step like it’s my last, it takes me the full 45 minutes to walk 200ft around the circular pond. I’m the slowest walker by far and so thankful for walking meditation. I love to walk, but haven’t done it as an explicit spiritual practice. Apparently, some people reach enlightenment while walking. Who knew?

The bell rings and we head back for seated meditation. Man, my back really hurts. I can’t wait to move my legs.

Questions start racing again — How can sitting be this hard? Is it possible to have a spiritual overdose?

I decide to admire nature and focus on the positive. I don’t know if it counts as meditation, but it’s definitely more enjoyable than sitting eyes closed in pain. Thankfully, lunch is in 45 minutes.

Lunch looks divine — rice, with clear vegetable soup, and some grilled Thai veggies. People start sitting on the bench lining the hall, looking up at the jungle mountains. Nervous about not having enough food to hold me over until breakfast, I serve myself a huge bowl, and head to the bench. After another food philosophy talk and lunch blessing, we dig in.

Oh my god, it’s so good. I savor each bite and admire the butterflies while chewing. Again, I take over an hour to mindfully eat my bowl. At this rate, I won’t have time to go to the Monastery store to get bug spray and toilet paper. I can’t be bothered to move faster. If food meditation is a thing, this is it.

As I leave the hall, I admire the leaves on Croton plant outside for 15 minutes. I can’t get over how the pinks, purples, and greens blend together. Or how the leaves are half bright yellow with dark red speckles, and half bright green with dark green speckles. Nature is the finest art. We have nothing on nature. I’d never put these colors together. If a designer showed me these hex codes on a screen, I’d think they were crazy. I’m in awe.

The rest of the day moves slowly, filled with ups and downs. My mind races in the meditation hall — mostly dreaming of new businesses — retreats, vegan restaurants, tech marketplaces, venture capital, cryptocurrency, real estate, biotech. The mosquitos are in full force. I have at least 20 bites already. Business, bites, business, bites….

I try to bring my mind back to the breath. This could be 10 days of mental torture.

At tea time, I finally check out the natural hot spring. It’s set in the palm trees, with coconuts overhead, illumined in the nearly full moonlight. Like the baths, we must wear our sarongs at all times.

As I approach the spring, it looks like a painting of Greek goddesses. Six women sit tall on the concrete steps, dressed in colorful fabrics, soaking their legs in steam. Candle lanterns line the entrance. Someone is floating with their sarong trailing their body. The feminine form is gorgeous — definitely something to be worshiped.

I carefully step into the 100 degree spring. The sand dirt floor is soft beneath my toes. As I walk, I treasure each step. Back at the dorms, women surround the wash basins slowly scooping water on themselves. This must have been what it was like in Roman castles.

At night, we have our first group walking meditation. We maintain two arms lengths between people. The leader speeds up, slows down, and stops. As he said, “It only takes one unmindful idiot to crash the whole thing.” After walking around the rectangular pond 3 times in 20 minutes, we stop, face the water, and admire the reflections of the trees and clouds in the moonlight. I breathe deeply.

This is pure bliss. My mind is silent. I’m so lucky I get to do this.

We head back for the last evening seated meditation. I’m exhausted and accidentally take a 15 minutes snooze. Luckily, I wake up with the bell, and head to the dorm for lights out. Again, I wake up around 2 am and have to pee. I vow to stop drinking water after 4pm for the rest of the retreat.

Chapter 3: The rest of the days

Day 2

I’d heard from friends that the first few days are the hardest. Boy, were they right. The next couple days are filled with monkey mind — the mind thinking the same thoughts on repeat. My back and knees hurt from sitting cross legged. I can’t understand half the things that the world renowned monk says… Despite desperately trying to pay attention, I drift in lectures.

That said, I constantly remind myself that we get to choose. We’re in control of our experience — we can choose to focus on the positives, the learnings, the nature. There’s no point in getting frustrated, upset with myself, or focusing on the pain. I try my best to maintain a strong self love practice in each moment.

I start to really enjoy the mornings and early afternoons. Along with many others, I extend my walking meditations for an extra hour instead of returning for sitting meditations. With each step, I focus on gratitude. Whether it’s appreciation for my body for carrying me, the flowers that bloom every day, or the heart shaped leaves — I’m grateful to live on this planet.

Buddhism starts to resonate on Day 2. I always thought it was about living in suffering, but actually it’s about living beyond suffering. During one of the Dhamma talks, Ajun Po says,

We’d never drink poison, so why do we poison our minds with poisonous thoughts.

It reminds me of when Rory, my yoga teacher, said,

If your mind was a book, who would read it?

We get to choose the book we write in our heads, so why do we stress ourselves out or think negative thoughts? It’s unnecessary and destructive. Suffering is a disease of the mind.

That same day, I skip tea (it’s too close to bedtime), and head straight to the hot spring. I have it to myself — what a treat. After rinsing off, I have no idea what to do with the time and want to create. Since I turned in all my drawing and writing supplies at registration, I look for inspiration. I light a tall yellow candle from my lantern and crouch in the back of my cement cell. I carve triangular designs in the warm wax with my finger nails. I’m pleased with myself.

After impromptu candle doodling, I head to the meditation hall for our last stretch of meditations. During the final 30 minutes, exhausted and in so much pain, I seek Child’s Pose. Earlier, we learned the 3 options for sitting — on our heels, in star pose, or preferably in some version of lotus pose. Child’s pose definitely was not an option. Oh well.

I don’t know how much time passes, but I wake up with my face in the sand. I’m alone in the hall. Shit! The dorm gates close and it’s lights out at 9:15pm. I can’t help but laugh out loud at myself — I’m clearly crushing this meditation thing. I run back in the moonlight. Luckily, the metal gates are closed, but not locked. I tuck myself in, aka lie down on my cement platform, and sleep through the night.

Day 3

I’m starting to acclimate to monastic life, be more present, and dive into my meditation practice. It’s raining on and off, keeping the universe in balance — freshening the organic farm, replenishing the water supply, and providing for nature’s floor. We’re lucky it’s not scorching hot or too humid, especially in our long shirts and pants. In the morning meditation, the air is the same temperature as my skin. I go deep into my practice — concentrating on my heart radiating out to my body, family, friends, people everywhere, the universe.

The edge of my body flows into the air, my shape is gone. I can’t tell where my body ends and the air begins. I’m one with the universe. Then, the wind comes and gently kisses my skin and strokes my hair — picking up speed, it feels like a fresh shower.

I’d heard from friends that the back pain disappears around Day 3. They said it’s like your brain can’t comprehend the pain anymore and stops processing it. I’ve read enough neuroscience to know that pain is a mental construct, but I can’t transcend the stabbing pain. By the end of the day, after 7 hours of sitting, it’s excruciating.

Then, during our first evening meditation, the pain disappears. I’m sitting in half lotus when I feel something gently punch my upper back and lightly hammer down my lower back. There’s a pop 4 inches above my tailbone. Where the pain was, is replaced by the feeling of a gentle hand holding me up. I feel like I have a new body and can sit for hours. This is crazy.

Day 4

My senses are deepening. We’re graced with the natural soundtrack of birds chirping, frogs croaking, insects humming, and leaves rustling. I indulge in the changing soundscape. The Bulbuls in the morning and the Cicada at night.

Everything looks like a painting. When it rains in the hot spring, the droplets look like diamonds — a beautiful pattern of water rings and strands of diamonds.

On the occasions when the wind picks up, I take wind showers. I stand with my arms in a T, breathe deeply, and feel the breeze in my long linen shirt.

I’m at peace and present. I walk so slowly that I cover less than 20 meters in 1 hour. It’s a luxury to feel the earth beneath my toes. It takes me all of lunch to consciously chew my curry and rice. Even that feels like rushing. It’s hard to imagine eating like this at home. Heck, I mindlessly snack every time I talk to my mom on the phone.

I’m so free. Free of everything that comes with the modern, Western life. There’s no judgement, fear, doubt, uncertainty, or attachments.

The ego is a little fucker — feeling like I need to accomplish something, do something, create something. For who? For me? For someone else? Is it worth compromising peace and wellbeing? I don’t think so. I can’t possibly go back to the startup rat race and standard Western path.

Why is the first question we ask people, “What do you do?” As if that’s what defines us. I get it, because my ego gets wrapped up in my job, career, projects and “identity.” But it’s not, it’s in our heads. We chose to let that define us. Over the the past year, it’s become more important to me to focus on Being versus Doing. Who I am, is more important than what I do.

I want to share this inner-peace, health, and love. It’s funny to look back on the first day where I thought I’d spiritually overdosed. It just took me a few days to get back to this innerplace.

During the women’s morning guided meditation, Khun Tao speaks about love and perfectly summarizes my thoughts. I’ve always struggled to articulate why I don’t seriously date. She says,

Our first love is ourselves. We must feel complete on our own. When we love ourselves we can love others. On my own, I can love everyone. Not romantic love, but platonic love. Why restrict our love? With a husband and kids, 80% of my love goes to a few people. I love you all.

In the afternoon, my mind starts wandering again, thinking circular thoughts. It’s so unnecessary, these thoughts don’t serve me. I’m in a silent retreat — why torture myself? It’s so much more pleasant and joyful to be here and now. We get to choose. Choose now.

It’s nuts how easy it is to fall out of peace. I used to think meditation was a daily practice, but it’s a second by second practice.

Day 5

After lunch, the Dhamma talk makes me laugh out loud for the first time in 5 days.

You’re like a business and need to manage yourself. Are you running into Dukkha — stress, suffering, and anxiety — everywhere?

I imagine a video game with Mario running into poisonous mushrooms.

Or are you profitable — cool and calm? Are you a stupid or wise manager? If you’re a stupid manager, fire him or train him.

It all rings true and it feels good to laugh. Notably, the rest of the hall is dead silent.

Back in my room, the cement sanctuary, my mind wanders again. It’s nuts how I can feel so happy I could die, and simultaneously, countdown the days until this ends. It’s like I can watch the consciousness bumping into the ego.

Day 6

Day 6 flies by.

I feel like I know the women so well, despite never speaking, making eye contact, or knowing where they’re from. Body language says so much. People start doing sweet things for each other — like pouring tea during meal time, washing everyone’s dishes, and placing flowers around the grounds. After lunch, while meditating at the big Banyan tree, I spot a fallen coconut. I walk closer and notice that someone carved a smiley face into it. Hilarious. I give it a flower headpiece.

At lunch, the mindfulness talk is more interesting than usual.

The Buddha said that a day would come where we’d eat poison. We’d eat things that harm us. That time has come. We’re a slave to our food. The sugars, fats, chemicals, and processed food. We overeat and we’re addicted to food.

While harsh, I can’t help but acknowledge the truth. Despite building a nutrition coaching startup, I still eat when I’m not hungry and eat things that aren’t good for me. Objectively, it makes no sense. I know I feel my best when I eat light and healthy, but for some reason I still mindlessly snack, eat dessert, and eat seconds. I guess Buddha had a point.

I feel great only eating 2 meals and intermittent fasting for 20 hours. The rare times when I get hungry, it passes within 30 minutes. It’s a beautiful lesson in impermanence. Who came up with the food pyramid and decided everyone should eat 3 meals a day anyway?

During the afternoon Dhamma talk, the monk explains that “cravings” lead to suffering. He categorizes cravings into 3 buckets:

to get (money, power, things)
to be (businessman, successful, monk, nun)
to not be

Ultimate freedom is life without cravings. I think of my yoga practice, good trips, and moments during this Vipassana, when I had no desire to get anything or be anyone. Total freedom.

The evening is a treat. Usually, the mountains in the West block the sunset, but tonight we can see the tinted light pink sky. It’s our first clear night. Dozens of stars light up the sky.

Day 7

It rains during morning walking meditation and everyone else heads for cover. I stand facing the circular pond, drenched, meditating on the drops hitting the surface. A yin and yang form in the pond. Then the clouds shift, and in the water, a peace sign appears. I can’t believe it — this is too much. I look around — no one else is seeing this. I laugh out loud. At the end of meditation, the sun comes out. How do we know this isn’t heaven? Who is to say it isn’t? I’m pretty sure I’m in heaven.

I take my time walking to lunch and am the last one seated. After tasting the curry and mango sticky rice, it’s confirmed. We’re in heaven.

The night meditation is tough. I run through 20 business ideas, 20 relationships, 3 or 4 life paths, and then play it on repeat. All the while, watching myself from above, trying to let each thought pass. It’s like my mind is forcing me to watch a terrible movie.

Sometimes, I think my practice is really strong. Then, I have moments like tonight where I think I’ve lost it. It’s humbling.

Day 8

Each day passes faster. I’m starting to feel like I could live like this forever. I’m so thankful for each moment and breath.

At tea time, I make a rare appearance at the hall to checkout the mysterious Day 9, birthday schedule. Turns out, Day 9 is monk day. It’s our opportunity to live like the monks, in total silence. There are no Dhamma talks, chanting, or sounds of any kind. Just sitting and walking meditation. We only eat one meal, at 8:30am.

Day 9

It’s my birthday! I get up with the 4:00am bell. I assume in Buddhism since there is no “my” and the goal is equanimity, that they don’t celebrate birthdays. Oh well, I do a birthday dance anyway.

The universe throws a splendid party. Rain in the morning, sun in the afternoon, defined clouds at sundown, and a blanket of stars at night.

I find it easier to stay present with no one talking. It’s like when I’m on someone else’s train, I start to daydream. But, when I’m the conductor, I’m focused on the road.

My mind does wander, but I’ve gotten better at bringing it back. When it wants to talk business or some “future idea,” I say,

Julia, I love you. But, be here and now.

It’s a beautiful practice to say I love you to ourselves. In a weird way, I do feel older. I didn’t have this much self compassion a year ago.

I reflect on aging. During Vipassana, many people seem to be reverse aging. The stress and lines are melting off their faces. I’ve now stumbled into a few spiritual communities and I’m constantly surprised when people who look my age, tell me that they’re 40 or 50. It’s proven that age doesn’t have to be a physical or mental burden. This year, I’ve gone through my own reverse aging process. I feel healthier than ever, and have a renewed sense of childlike wonder, fearlessness, and joy.

Today is the perfect birthday.

Day 10

The day flies by. It’s funny, I don’t miss talking. I don’t have anything to say, other than to tell people how much I love them. I do miss music, dancing, and art, but I think I could learn to live without them. After all, we have nature, the most magical art of all. I hate to admit it, but it’s nicer showers and toilets that I miss most.

The last Dhamma talk is about life outside the Monastery. It talks about how we have more things than ever to fulfill our desires, yet we have the highest depression rates in history. People used to kill each other, now they kill themselves. The more we have, the more we worry, the busier we are, and the more stuff we have to do. It becomes difficult to know when enough is enough. We’re always wanting more which leads to stress and anxiety. He recites one of my favorite sayings,

With truth comes power and wisdom.

I can only hope to stay in my truth, wisdom, and power back in the Western world — to stay in balance, peace, and bliss.

This retreat is just a training ground and I’m grateful for the practice.

❤ ❤ ❤

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❤ ❤ ❤