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5 Powerful Insights From 100 Hours of Meditation

Spending 10 days on a Vipassana retreat in 2010 changed my life.

It’s the best thing I’ve ever done and I gained 5 powerful insights from my journey inward.

Because when you spend 15,000 minutes in your own head and a 100 hours meditating, you get to know yourself pretty damn well.

The key insights I gained:

  1. Be present
  2. Slow down
  3. Be kind to yourself
  4. Unpack your grief
  5. Love yourself

#1: Be Present

Being present is like going from SD to HD.

Everything becomes brighter and more vivid because you’re able to focus intently on the moment you’re in.

Whether it was eating breakfast, brushing my teeth or walking in nature I was able to be 100% present, not off in my head recalling memories and stories from my past.

Or lost in a world of daydreams about the future.

I was fully connected.

I was present.

And that feeling was pure happiness.

When sitting in silence for 10 days meditating it’s a lot easier to stay present.

The challenge is when you’re back in the real world, being bombarded with multiple things at once that are calling for your attention.

Your mind very quickly becomes distracted by the busyness of modern life.

It’s busy thinking about the never-ending to-do list to get done.

It’s distracted by your phone’s notifications or the world whizzing by.

It’s thinking about conversations with friends and colleagues.

It’s planning your next holiday, next party or next project.

It’s constantly planning, thinking and doing.

Instead of being in the moment.

Instead of being present.

So having a mediation practice can be extremely useful because meditation helps you stay focused and present with whatever you’re doing.

What you’ll often find when you become more aware of your mind and what it’s up to, is that when you’re doing an activity or task a lot of the time you won’t be focusing on what you’re actually doing.

You’re off thinking about random sh*t, other tasks you have to do or you’re busy making plans.

As Zen Master Thich Nhat Hahn says,

Are you washing the dishes? Or are you washing the dishes’?

– Thich Nhat Hahn

#2: Slow Down

The ferocious pace of modern life was causing me to feel anxious and stressed and I wasn’t enjoying that feeling.

Rushing was generating anxiety.

Tight deadlines led to stress.

When all you have to do for 10 days is stroll a few hundred metres from your room to the meditation hall, the shower block or get some food from the dining hall there really no need to rush.

At the beginning of the retreat I saw someone eating their porridge with a teaspoon and I thought, ‘What a weirdo’! Who eats porridge with a teaspoon?’

But then it clicked.

No need to rush.

Just slow down.

So I did.

So I started eating my porridge with a teaspoon.

Savouring every mouthful.

And that porridge was bloody DELICIOUS.

Seriously, when I went back for my next retreat it’s something I was very excited about!

There’s a real pleasure in slowing down (and eating porridge obviously).

When you slow down it feels like you’re gliding through life.

Everything feels effortless.

Sadly this feeling dissipated once I was back in the real world.

It’s challenging to not get caught up in the pace of modern life.

Especially in a big city like London where I was living at the time.

But that feeling you cultivate on retreat stays with you.

And every now and again I remind myself to come back to it.

To take my time.

To slow down.

#3: Be Kind to Yourself

When you have nothing to do but observe your thoughts you become acutely aware of the conversations in your head.

Aware of your inner critic.

What you might realize like I did, is that the language you use to talk to yourself is often pretty sh*tty, which was something I wasn’t conscious of until I did Vipassana.

Have you noticed your inner critic?

The Inner Critic

Negative self-talk was a common theme throughout my 10 days.

And it became evident to me that it had been a theme throughout my life up to that point.

I’d punish myself when I was lazy or slacked off.

I’d get frustrated when I didn’t finishing things I’d started…or didn’t start the things I wanted to do.

I’d beat myself up for not sticking to my exercise regime or diet.

Ruminating when things didn’t go well at work, made a mistake or got drunk and said something I wish I hadn’t

Criticising myself for not being further ahead in my career.

Further ahead In my life.

What I noticed is that the inner critic packs a punch.

Tough-Love and Self-Compassion

We’re often our harshest critic, but most of the time it’s for sh*t we wouldn’t give anyone else a hard time for, so why do we do it to ourselves?

There are times when you need to show yourself some tough love.

But where I was struggling, and where I feel many of us struggle, is in showing ourselves more self-compassion.

I needed to be kinder to myself.

I feel we ALL need to be kinder to ourselves.

It wasn’t until I sat and listened to myself for 10 days that I figured that out.

#4: Unpack Your Grief

My Dad died when I was 6 years old and memories of him came bubbling up and so too did the grief I hadn’t processed.

As I sat there meditating on Day 8 a waterfall of tears began streaming down my face.

I surrendered, allowing the tears to flow until there were no more tears to shed.

The release was powerful and cathartic.

It felt f*cking great to let it out.

30 minutes later I left the hall to watch the sunrise.

My heart was heavy, but I felt lighter.

Happier.

Freer.

The Affect of Grief

When you carry unresolved grief it can affect so many areas of your life.

The way you think about things.

The way you approach your life.

One of the key benefits of doing a Vipassana retreat is that you have time and space to get to the root of your pain and suffering.

You might think you’re unhappy, angry or sad about one thing, but when you really dig down into it it’s usually due to something far more deeply buried from your past.

When you uncover what that is you gain clarity as to how it has shaped your life.

And for me, the root of many of my issues stemmed from my unresolved grief from my dad dying.

The unprocessed grief played out in many different ways in my life.

I suffocated my emotions.

Burying them with food.

Escaping them through partying.

I developed negative self-talk.

Experienced depression and anxiety.

And later on it developed into an obsession with my health and lifestyle choices.

Breaking Down Bad Habits Created by Trauma

By becoming aware of these issues on my Vipassana retreat the unconscious mind became conscious.

I became aware of the habits, patterns and behaviours created by my past trauma.

Habits, patterns and behaviours that were dictating my life.

Facing pain of this magnitude is one of the hardest things you can do because it feels like you’re reliving the same painful experience again and again.

But each time you face it, the load gets lighter.

You experience more inner peace and joy.

Facing my grief (for what felt like the first time in my life) during those 10 days was just the beginning.

I came to realise that by ignoring it and stuffing it away was holding me back from how i wanted to live my life and who I wanted to become.

The more time I’ve spent allowing myself to feel the pain of the past, the more I’ve been able to release myself from the negative thoughts, patterns and behaviours this trauma had created in my life.

Through doing consistent work to unpack my grief and heal, I’ve been able to let go of an experience that had been holding me back from creating the life I wanted to live.

I’ve been able to let go of the negative lens that had been shaping my view on life and begin to enjoy it through a more positive mindset.

#5: Love Yourself

Sometimes meditation can deliver a big bag of sh*t.

Sometimes it can deliver pure LOVE.

LOVE for your friends.

LOVE for your family.

LOVE for your partner.

LOVE for the person who makes you coffee.

LOVE for your next-door neighbour whether you know them or not.

LOVE for your colleagues… whether you like them or not.

By reconnecting with yourself through meditation, you connect with the feeling of love… and most importantly, the feeling of LOVE FOR YOURSELF.

Because you’ve healed some wounds from the past.

Because you’ve learnt to be kinder to yourself.

Because you’ve come to realise that we all f*©k up.

That we all make mistakes and get things wrong sometimes.

That we’re all trying our best to navigate our way through life.

All doing our best to figure it out and do the best we can.

And be the best we can.

Joe : )


Interested in learning how to meditate?