6 Things I learned as a Vipassana Server

I recently became ill (and am still recovering) while working abroad, and needed to center and heal ASAP. My brain automatically brought Vipassana to mind, because as a student, I experienced sheer peace and happiness from the practice. 🧘🏻‍♀️However, I wanted to be on the other side, I wanted to serve at a course this time. I happened to be en route to Dallas, TX, and was able to locate a center just 45 minutes outside of the city. I contacted them and applied to serve between the courses, as well as partly during a course.

I was so humbled when I was accepted to serve. 🙏🏽As a student, I didn’t realize how much work the servers had on their shoulders, and how happy they were to be serving (the courses are donation-based after all). I also didn’t understand how the center functioned behind boundary lines. As a server, you are there to offer your services, your time, energy and to send Metta (loving kindness) to all of the students sitting at the course, without expecting anything in return. You are there to ensure the students’ needs come first, and that they feel as comfortable as possible to have a successful sitting. I learned that everything in a Vipassana course is set up for a reason, and it made me appreciate the practice even more.

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21 Things I am Glad I Brought or Wish I Brought With Me On My Vipassana 10-day Silent Meditation Retreat

When preparing for a Vipassana retreat, you will definitely want to check out the list each center provides. For example, here is the list for the center in Joshua Tree (29 Palms), where I sat. After completing my sitting, I realized there are some items not listed, that I either wish I brought or am glad I thought of ahead of time. Keep in mind, if you forget to bring essentials, such as sheets, shampoo, etc., the center will provide you with those necessities. The center I sat in even had a clothing closet.

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9 Things I Learned From My Vipassana 10-Day Silent Meditation Retreat

“I was forever changed after my own Vipassana Retreat. In silently turning inward for over 10 days, I was able to learn more about myself, life, and the world than I ever previously imagined. I went ahead and asked others who also sat about their own experiences, and what profound information they received that aided in their own transformation during the retreat, and in life. Here is what we all learned during and from the retreat.”

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4 Ways to Acclimate Back to Normal Life After a 10-Day Silent Vipassana Retreat

I had a challenging time reacclimating back to normal life after my Vipassana meditation retreat. I transitioned from complete silence, without anything to worry about except sitting, back to my hectic work days and long hours. I went from 0-100 MPH/KM, so to speak. I wish someone had warned me of this challenge in advance, but after speaking with the teacher, she explained that everyone reacts differently, and so it is difficult to forewarn anyone. I decided to consult with my fellow Vipassana meditators to see what helped them during this transitional process from silence to the noise of life. Through their recommendations, as well as my own success and challenges, I came up with this list to help someone successfully acclimate back to the real world after a Vipassana sitting.

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Day 12: Sensory Overload! (a 12-day Journal of my Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat Experience)

I woke up thinking it was all a dream. Being able to talk again, and leaving today. We had to be up at 4AM for our 4:45 final chanting. While getting ready in the bathroom, we kept celebrating that this was our last sitting together. When we got to the hall, it was pure silence for about 15-20 minutes before the chanting even began, which was another 15-20 minutes After that, we had our final video discourse. Goenka spoke of the importance of continuing and nurturing our practice. One hour in the morning and evening. Yeahhhno, sorry Goenka. He spoke of protecting the tree we’ve just begun to sprout, by putting a fence around it. Protect the mastery and purification of the mind, and nurture it with compassion. No one can harm your tree, because none of these beliefs can offend any person, religion or practice. When we were free to go, we spent time cleaning our rooms and I finally texted my parents and partner that I was excited to see them. Apparently, my partner woke up at 3:30 AM to take the train from San Diego to Orange County to drive my parents, since my car was at their place. Both my hallmate and I were late to get to breakfast, because we shared the same sentiments on the taste. When we finally showed up, I expressed my gratitude to the kitchen server, since she did so much and always with a smile on her face. I spoke with some of the students before it was time for us to clean the communal areas. I got to clean the meditation hall, which was maybe one of the easier jobs? I enjoyed it. After that, we took pictures of the center and of each other.

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Vipassana Day 11: She speaks! (a 12-day Journal of my Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat Experience)

I woke up nervous about today being the day we would all finally get to speak to each other. I woke up at 4 AM, and ate a few bites at breakfast. Morning meditation was good and then we spent a second hour learning the art of Metta meditation. This is something you practice for about five or so minutes after meditation. It’s compassionate meditation, as you send love, guidance and compassion to all living beings. I absolutely love it.

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Vipassana Day 10: Master of None (a 12-day Journal of my Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat Experience)

I woke up at 4:30 AM today from another strange dream, where my mom told me Prince Charles was planning to propose to me. I guess we were all super close with the royals? IDK. I said there is no way because he is dating sexy hot Meghan Markle, and he is really not my type and plus I am in a relationship. It didn’t seem to matter. Finally Prince Charles proposed to me with a crazy set of rings, made of Princess Diana’s diamonds. He said he’s always been in love with me. I mention his hot GF… He says the family will never approve, if I know what he means. I then mention my partner, and he just walks away, as though I don’t have a choice. I tell my partner, and his friend gets involved and said he knew I would ultimately disappoint my partner. I have to start attending these nightly formal dinners like in Downton Abbey with itchy clothes and we have to be secretive about everything. Meanwhile, it’s clear neither of us are attracted to one another. I show up for dinner a couple weeks later, and he said that he has decided to get back together with Meghan. I am so confused and feel like crap because I now have to beg for my partner back. Strange (GUYS, HE GOT ENGAGED LIKE A WEEK AFTER THIS).

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Vipassana Day 9: How to Decline Gifts (a 12-day Journal of my Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat Experience)

I woke up around 5:30 AM from a very strange dream. I somehow escaped for the night with my partner, and all of the sudden we were making out in our apartment, but then it wasn’t our apartment. I explained that we shouldn’t be doing this, because it’s one of the rules. As I am trying to explain, he transformed into a previous partner, who wasn’t as compassionate or understanding.  I began freaking out because I was at least two hours from the course, and I would need to get back before anyone sees me (so, like 2 AM). Meanwhile, there is a cat in the apartment, who isn’t Banana, and who keeps hissing and posturing at me. I grab a nearby violin bow and point at it to exert myself as alpha, and end up poking it. It stops moving and when I take a look, I realize that I have badly punctured the poor creature, and it’s really hurt. I freak out even more, and think what kind of monster I am. I feel like complete crap and wake up. Luckily this was followed by a BM (toxins, am I right?).

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Vipassana Day 8: Feliz Dia de Los Muertos aka Realizations (a 12-day Journal of my Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat Experience)

I woke up at 4 AM this morning - woo! I then fell back asleep. Oops. It’s getting colder and colder outside. So glad I found this weird bleached jacked in the Extra Clothes closet. At breakfast, I ate my light snack and as I stared outside, I thought, has anyone studied Vipassana as a detox or rehab method for addiction? I know I am already feeling the benefits, and know it could surely work miracles on others. I walk my four rounds while admiring the fiery sunrise before morning meditation. Meditation is smooth for the most part, but some drama seems to happen when I hear one of the ladies in the back walking about. After about ten minutes, I hear the teacher telling the manager to check on her, and about another ten minutes later she brings her back in. The teachers are always taking notes as we meditate, and I can hear them whispering things to the managers. This makes me nervous, because I keep thinking it’s me that’s the problem. For example, I use peppermint essential oils to help my neck pain as I meditate and to keep me awake. I just assume they are going to call me out for being too strong smelling. Or perhaps, I am rocking again or being too loud. But so far, except for on Sunday (Day 4) they haven’t called me out for doing anything wrong.

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Vipassana Day 7: Happy Halloween aka Glamorous (a 12-day Journal of my Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat Experience)

I woke up at 1:30 AM this morning, despite taking Benadryl. Bumps and itchiness still present. Those pills have been in my purse for a while, and I can’t find an expiration date. This is the fourth morning I’ve had Fergie’s Glamorous stuck in my head. Great song, but not an appropriate setting. Where is impermanence when you need it? I force myself back to sleep.

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Vipassana Day 6: Objectivity (a 12-day Journal of my Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat Experience)

I yet again woke up at 2 AM. I suppose my body doesn’t need as much sleep, since I am sitting all day. I force myself back to sleep and awoke with everyone else at 4 AM. My appetite is getting worse and worse. I barely had more than a few bites of my cereal. Note to self. I do not like rice milk. I figured I would make up for the missed calories at lunch. I make a few rounds at the trail today. I notice one of my hallmates wearing a Pilgrimage of the Heart shirt, and realize, holy shit, I’ve taken her class before. Small world.  I only brought sandals with me (grrrreat idea), and there were no shoes in my size to borrow from the communal closet. So I’m just being salty, because I can only go so fast before the sand buries my feet underneath like quicksand. Forced mindful walking, I guess. The sunrise never gets old. There is a woman here who looks super unhappy, and I sometimes see her talking to herself. I know we aren’t supposed to smile at each other, but I tried when we both went for the sunflower seeds at the same time, and she wasn’t having it.

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Vipassana Day 5: You Reap what you Sow (a 12-day Journal of my Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat Experience)

Whoever said Day 3 is the hardest, didn’t quite make it to Day 4. I woke up at 2 AM, needing to use the restroom. The restroom window is always open, and I’m constantly paranoid someone or something is watching me when I am in there. The paranoia continued when I returned to my room. I barely slept and finally woke up around 5:45 AM. Yeah yeah..I am supposed to be up at 4 AM for morning meditation. Whatever. Tell my body about it.

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Vipassana Day 4: Impermanence (a 12-day Journal of my Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat Experience)

Today I woke up at 4:15 AM to wash out the conditioning mask from my hair. I tried to fall back asleep, but failed. Today’s breakfast was better than yesterday's because they had my favorite fall fruit, persimmons! Honestly, I wish they would just serve us lunch leftovers, because there is nothing savory for breakfast. Or at least offering eggs (everything is vegetarian at the center). I don’t think I have mentioned that I ran out of my oxygenated magnesium (my magic poop pills), which means I’ve barely gone to the bathroom. Even with eating vegan mush, and the copious amounts of water I’ve been drinking… Nada. My morning walk was beautiful, but there is this one woman who gives me the strangest look each time she walks by. This is the third day I’ve noticed. Maybe I stare strangely at the other gals? I think we are all losing it. Speaking of communal spaces, sometimes we will hold the door for each other, and we will use our eyes to say thank you or bow, or accidently mouth it or even say it. We aren’t supposed to gesture at each other, let alone break noble silence, but it happens. Habits are hard to break.

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Vipassana Day 3: The Wild vs Tame Elephant (a 12-day Journal of my Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat Experience)

I woke up at 6 AM, to my own alarm. I clearly didn’t hear this morning’s gong. Oh well. I am extremely tired and dry, inside and out. I am hoping to manifest some rain, or at least humidity. Breakfast was breakfast, and I got a prime seat in front of the window, where I watched  the sunrise over the mountains. The manager asked for the tea bags she gave me back, because they apparently belonged to one of the servers. I happily returned them, unsteeped. I accidently put Tahiti sauce on my rice cakes, which was disgusting. FYI, S.N. Goenka says the reason why we do not eat a lot at night is because you apparently meditate better on an empty stomach. Interesting. After breakfast I did my usual walk, four rounds total, or one mile. This takes me around 20 minutes, depending on how slow I walk and also includes my stretching.

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Vipassana Day 2: Know Thyself (a 12-day Journal of my Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat Experience)

Well, I woke up multiple times throughout the night, and was officially wide awake at 3 AM. I never thought I would look forward to a 4 AM bell, but I really did. It was barely audible when it finally went off. If you didn’t read yesterday’s entry, this twin bed is anything but luxurious, and I would recommend bringing a mattress pad, if you ever attempt your own meditation retreat. The pillow I brought from parent’s home was shaped weird, totally wrong for me, and killed my neck. Since I was up super early, and wasn’t planning on going to the hall to meditate, I decided to use this Korean foot softener concoction that I would have to leave on for two hours while I ‘meditated’ before breakfast. While ‘meditating’, I fantasized about having to clean the communal bathrooms/showers on Day 6. At least I will have something to do, I thought. When I was finished meditating, I decided to re-organize everything I brought with me, because why not? As far as clothing is concerned, I definitely didn’t bring enough for the occasion. Typical me. I guess I will HAVE to hand wash my clothing at some point then. Bummer. As for spa products, I was excited to finally have time to use a deep conditioner in my hair, and take advantage of using face masks. I was also excited to find time to do my stretches and physical therapy exercises. Everyday, I plan to use all of the above, in addition to use a deep conditioner for my feet, oil pull (coconut oil? oops), cleanse and exfoliate my face, brush and floss my teeth multiple times a day, etc. Self care meets boredom FTW.

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Vipassana Day 1: Registration Day aka Welcome to Dhammaland (a 12-day Journal of my Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat Experience)

For some strange reason, they don’t count Registration Day as Day 1. My mom was so kind as to drive me all of the way to Joshua Tree for the retreat, and used every minute to convince me everything was going to be ok… It was a lot of “I can’t do this” and a whole lot of “Well, I’m not turning around” from my mom. En route, I was experiencing symptoms of a UTI. I didn’t know if it was psychosomatic or whether is was the real real, so we stopped by a sketchy gas station to purchase some cranberry juice. I kept thinking it probably wouldn’t do anything with the amount of sugar in it. Do you like cranberry juice in your sugar? We decided to have my Last Supper, or Last Lunch in this case at Sister’s Natural Café in Joshua Tree, which is a favorite of mine in the area. They have vegan/gluten free options galore.

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Intro to Dhammaland - The Happiest Place on Earth: A 12-day Journal of my Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat Experience

For many years, I wanted to complete a 10-day Vipassana retreat. Why? Because I wanted to know myself in the truest sense. I spend so much time avoiding myself, and trying to fill up my time with every activity in the book so that I do not have to hang out alone. Despite this proclivity for self-avoidance, I truly wanted to find out the root of my anxiety, my chronic guilt, and to finally understand my impulsiveness, my indecisiveness, and my need to keep busy with a million things to feel happy, to feel ‘satisfied.’ I know I am literally the grandmaster at avoiding myself, which is why I thought a retreat, where just me, my ego, and potentially the dark night of my soul could get together for an overdue intervention. The thought of being alone for 10 days in silence simultaneously excited and scared the shit out of me. Hence I chickened out twice before, and gave up my spot to someone I thought would be a more worthy goer. Plus, I was not ready! I had to take the time off work, financially prepare myself, etc etc etc. Finally, I convinced myself that there was no more avoiding. I had to do it.

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