With the recent hype surrounding Mindfulness, and Mindfulness workshops popping everywhere, there is nothing better than learning Mindfulness straight from the source. Vipassana will give you everything you need for a fuller life spent in awareness.
My Vipassana journey started when Antonio invited me to a meditation retreat in Greece. Antonio and his girlfriend, Daphnie, are macrobiotic chefs and the best source of information about Western Greece. On the top of that, they make their villa in Neochori available to people who want to practice Mindfulness.
Located on the island of Lefkada, the villa is hidden in the mountains granting beautiful views of the surrounding area. This proves to be very helpful as, when days go by and we become more mindful, it’s good to have something beautiful and timeless to appreciate.
Experienced in running yoga and nutrition retreats, Antonio organised the first Vipassana retreat in 2015 to see if people were interested. People were interested indeed, and this years‘ retreat required more space to accommodate all the participants.
We were located in a few old-style Greek villas and the settings were magical and atmospheric.
Since this was a 14-day silent retreat for 12 people, a lot of planning had taken place beforehand. Getting the centre ready, preparing the menus, getting the food supplies to the mountains. Gathering enough pillows, blankets and beds, all the utensils and whatever else. A serious mission when only two people set out to prepare the whole thing.
The 2015 retreat went exceptionally well. Antonio and Daphnie’s dedication carved out a place on Earth where, for a moment, we could live together in silence. Now, a year later, I was back for more.
What is Vipassana?
When I saw the invitation to the retreat, one thing caught my attention: „the ability to see things for what they really are.“
In other words, when you walk in the street, someone bumps into you and leaves without apologising, you might feel angry, or irritated at least. Vipassana teaches you to observe the event and your reaction to it, instead of entertaining your anger.
What stops you and how to move forward
In the human condition, there are Five Hindrances that we can observe:
- Craving senses, such as hunger, desire for entertainment, desire for sex, etc.
- Anger, which often wraps around our head clouding everything else.
- Sloth-Torpor is the lack of energy and motivation.
- Worry-Restless, when fear regarding our actions, our future or our relationships comes to hunt us.
- Doubt, when we distruss ourselves and everyone around us.
The beauty of Vipassana is that it can help you take these blockages out of your way. With this meditation technique, you will learn how not to let the Five Hindrances rule you because your Mindfulness stays on top of them, keeping them in check.
Practicing Vipassana will let you bring to the surface Confidence, Wisdom, Concentration and Energy & Effort.
These four faculties are ruled by a fifth one that is on top of them all: Mindfulness. Keeping them in balance is important because, for example, too much Energy & Effort and not enough Concentration will bring worry and restlessness, or too much Confidence and not enough Wisdom will bring doubt.
In order to train our Mindfulness, we have to become aware of the technique’s four foundations:
- Body – There are 4 states in which our bodies can be in: sitting, lying, walking and standing.
- Feelings – Happy, unhappy and neutral feelings.
- Mind – The mental action of thinking and planning.
- Mind-objects – It’s the Five Hindrances from above.
Regular acknowledgement of these Four Foundations trains Mindfulness, eventually teaching you about the reality of things.
Who is leading the training?
The icing on the cake of the Vipassana retreats organised by Antonio, is the teacher – Martin. Originally from the UK, Martin has trained in the Chiang Mai temple in Thailand for over a decade, eventually getting teacher’s qualifications himself. Since then, he’s been leading retreats in various countries around the world.
Martin’s wisdom, patience and good humour makes him accessible and he’s very appreciated by his students. Learning under his guidance makes the training much more bearable.
What can I expect during a Vipassana retreat?
Around the world, there are many techniques that help us to understand life and ourselves. Considering how abundant the choices are, everyone can find the tool that will prove most beneficial to them, be it yoga, family constellations, psychological workshops, motivational speakers, astrology readers, ancient healing ceremonies, and more.
For me, it was Vipassana. During the first retreat, I got a chance to see the real me come out with all the strengths and weaknesses. And you know what? I survived. And then I went for more. It was a pleasure to see all these dimensions of me come and go. The practice is strong. “Vipassana digs deep,” as Martin would say.
“Vipassana digs deep,” as Martin would say.
The practice goes deep into what we repressed, what we managed to ignore. Once it’s on the surface, there’s a lot of cleansing going on, giving you the chance to come to terms with a subject, event or your personal trait.
While the purification continues, you are constantly developing yourself and benefiting from the practice, learning things such as how to let go of things that are unhealthy for you or how to detach yourself from destructive emotions and thoughts.
What about the silent part of the retreat?
When I talk to people about a 2-week meditation retreat that is spent in silence, I sometimes hear: “I could never do that!” or “Too boring for me.”
I can assure you, there’s nothing boring about Vipassana. Yes, the practice is tiresome but it is a journey, so it’s a sweet treat for any traveler.
The silence offers us a unique opportunity to spend time with ourselves and ourselves only. Distracted by everyday life, we’re continuously looking for outside stimulation, be it our relationship, our children, work, or that book that you’ve been reading for a while now.
What about if you’re the only source of your stimulation?
And it’s not about your internal dialogue (so tiring!). It’s not even about clearing your mind (who can actually do that?). It’s about observing, with full awareness, the world around you as well as your own self.
Do you know how you go on holidays to spend time away from work and come back energized? What about if you could take holidays from daily life and come back a brand new, reinforced and wiser person?
Wouldn’t you like that?