My journey with Vipassana meditation is a an ongoing adventure into the subconscious and spiritual self which continues to shape my life whether in a consistent practice or a meditative dry spell. My first experience in March 2015 is something that I regard as the moment my existence, place in the world, relationship with emotion, my love for self, and how I relate to others shifted. While writing this post, I realized this is a long story which is best broken up into multiple parts starting with where I was before stepping foot into the center. I also am very conscious of how a post regarding a spiritual experience can come off as a preachy missionary spreading the word of fill in the blank. With that said, one of the main draws of Vipassana is their instruction to accept things based solely on one’s own experience so “I’ll tell you what I believe and you’re free to handle that reality however you like”
For those unfamiliar, a Vipassana meditation retreat is 10 days of silence (no talking, eye contact, gesturing) with zero outside contact, no phones, no music, no reading, no organized religious practice, no exercise apart from walking, etc. while following a “Code of Discipline.” Morning meditations begin at 4:30 am with a discourse ending the day at 9 pm. With nothing to distract your mind and 10+ hours of meditation per day, you use the breath and physical sensation to dive into the subconscious ocean inside. The breath is used to cross the border of the conscious mind into the subconscious because it is the only function we are able to mindfully control or normally allow to become a unconscious action throughout the majority of our lives. Another aspect that brought me to Vipassana is it’s non-religious nature. The technique itself is investigating one’s own being only through sensation and experience without judgement. Participants are also encouraged to think for themselves and to never blindly subscribe to or accept something based on someone else’s views or experience.
An important part of this spiritual journey has been the headspace and darker life events I was coming from which is where this story begins.
I had graduated Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 2013, a time where I achieved goals I set for myself from the start of fashion school culminating in my own brand’s show at a CFDA recognized fashion week immediately upon graduation. Looking back, while I was hitting the milestones I labeled as “success” for a young designer and ticking the boxes I thought would bring happiness, this was one of my lowest times on the mental health front. To distract from the toxic, emotionally abusive, disaster of my first relationship, I had buried myself in my work for 3 years ; something that life in America applauded as ambition. When I couldn’t ignore my complete loss of self any longer, that relationship ended while simultaneously my drive for fashion flickered out. Since the contract for fashion week had already been signed, five months and an inhumane amount of meltdowns later, I walked straight off the runway after my finale, a shell of a human being, and symbolically out of the fashion world for the next eight months.
I first heard of Vipassana from a stranger in the salon & spa I was managing in Portland, ME. While pitching skincare products the conversation turned to meditation and other forms of wellness. Ultimately they wrote ‘Vipassana’ on the back of my business card which I immediately misplaced before having the chance to research. One year and another failed relationship later, I was cleaning my room of any evidence of my second love when, in a serendipitous moment, I found that card. A couple hours later I was signed up for a course in six months, ironically ending on my 24th birthday.
The week before leaving I had the conversation I’d been avoiding for years : if I eventually am to get married, would my Dad attend and support that marriage? Unsurprisingly, the answer was no based on his religious ideology around the semantics of marriage to which I reacted by cutting him completely out of my life. By the end of the ten days and countless healing breakthroughs (meltdowns) later he was the first person I made contact with as I spoke for the first time on the final morning of the retreat.
If you are interested in a Vipassana meditation retreat, I suggest you visit their website and not read the next couple posts about my journey. This way you can “sit your own course” without any expectations or ideas of what ‘might’ or ‘should’ happen. Trust me, once you have an experience with Nirvana, it’s difficult not to crave which in turn, defeats the entire purpose of the practice. Check out the global Vipassana site HERE for center locations.