Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Road to Enlightenment: Are We There Yet?

When I signed up for my 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat, I don’t know what I was expecting. Ideally, I just wanted to learn a way to relax and slow down my mind when it starts running away from me and getting a little too overwhelming. I would have been happy to walk away from the retreat with that knowledge and nothing else.

My heart just about stopped on the first night when Guru-ji started talking about taking our first steps toward enlightenment and liberation. Enlightenment? Liberation? WHOA! I’m completely in over my head! I just came to learn how to sit still for an hour and relax but I’m going to be taught how to be enlightened? Okay, COOL! Very quickly I started having images of me leaving the ashram in a state of pure bliss, with rays of light literally beaming out of my pores as I showered every person and every thing in my path with happiness, love and compassion.

Clearly, the road to enlightenment is not an easy one and certainly not one that can be reached at the end of 10 days. But it’s hard to not think that maybe, just maybe, you’d be the exception.

I will be honest in saying that the 10 days were not easy and there were a few moments where I thought that either I couldn’t go on or that I didn’t belong in such an intense course. Sitting still in one position with my eyes closed for an hour at a time proved to be very difficult for me, but by the end, I managed to maintain aditthana, strong determination, during my meditation sessions and I lasted through the hour-long sessions without moving.

One thing that caused me frequent frustration was that I would quite literally spend half of my meditation sessions thinking about the most random things and not focus on my actual meditation. I grew to learn to accept my mind was where it was but in the beginning, it really bothered me that I very obviously wasn’t going to be on the “fast track” to enlightenment.

Observing “noble silence” for 10 days was surprisingly easy, which was a bit of a surprise. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to NOT communicate with anyone (both verbally and bodily) but after the initial day, it was FANTASTIC be able to really focus on myself and my meditation. In fact, when we were able to talk again at the end of the course, it was nerve-racking just thinking about what I would say to people and how I was going to interact with them!

As soon as we were talking, my “Dhamma Sisters” and I immediately felt a close bond and connection to one another. We had survived such an intense experience together and although we hadn’t spoken to one another, much less acknowledged each other’s presence for the last 10 days, it was as if we had known each other for years. It was an incredible bonus in an already rewarding experience to share, bond and connect with these women over our experiences together at the retreat.

I don’t know how much of the actual theory and technique I believe in but I know that I gained a lot from the experience and I’m really glad that I did it. I’m interested in continuing my meditation practices and have been doing my best to meditate for at least one hour a day. I see some benefits and think that as I progress on the “road to enlightenment,” I will slowly get closer and closer to a better understanding of myself at the very least.

That’s not too bad for someone who went in just wanting to sit still for an hour.

Bhavatu sabba mangalam!

© Connie Hum 2010


  1. meditation is one of the most difficult things to do, but that's good you were able to try it for 10 days. i have a hard time meditating even for 10 mins! so would love to do that + yoga together.
    om nama shivaya. and safe travels to nepal. :)

  2. Sounds sooo amazing girl, wish we could have talked more about this in person...

  3. This is like the moment in the Eat Pray Love book by Elizabeth Gilbert. She also struggled to stay focus, though her stay at the Ashram was longer than yours. She even went as far as sitting out under the open sky and has mosquitoes bit her.

    You reminded me of her . :D

  4. I really wanna go to a yoga retreat like this in India. Alas I dont know if I could meditate to be honest. I can't sit still that long to even watch a movie. It would be so hard, alas I do enjoy a challenge!

  5. Hi Connie,

    It is hard to sit still and concentrate for an hour or more at a time. The first three days were really challenging for me, I don't know how I lasted! But what I experienced after the 4th day (head-to-toe tingling sensations and more) and what I learned were incredible.

    - Lily

  6. Great piece Connie! I LOLd at the "rays of light literally beaming out of my pores as I showered every person and every thing in my path with happiness, love and compassion" part haha!

    Sitting still for an hour a day AND not talking sounds like one heck of a challenge! I wonder, were there any naughty meditators who were scribbling down notes and passing them around? ㅋㅋ


  7. YIKES! I can't believe I hadn't responded to any of these comments before! Bad blogger! So sorry guys!

    @mi-an Meditation definitely is hard! And I'm really glad I did it too!

    @Andi I know! We just didn't have enough time in one afternoon to talk about everything. Maybe next time we'll be able to catch up for longer!

    @My-Tien I'm laughing at your comment because I remember when the movie came out there was a hot debate with travelers about how people keep getting compared to Liz Gilbert. I don't mind the comparison, too bad I don't get her income for traveling though! =)

    @lindsay @_thetraveller_ Oh my gosh, I honestly didn't think I could sit still for an hour either but somehow, you just manage and honestly, this was so rewarding! I definitely recommend it if you're even the slightest interested.

    @Lily (Explore for a Year) Just the FIRST three days??? Geez, I struggled all 10 days! But yes, completely an incredible experience. Are you still meditating?

    @Tom Actually, I've seen people straying from a few rules at these retreats. One woman scribbled some notes down one afternoon, another had unknowingly been sneaking food after meal times, and who knows what else. Luckily, most rule breakers are nice enough to leave other meditators out of their naughtiness. =)

  8. Hi Connie,

    I'm still meditating - not as much as I would like, about 30 min in the morning and 30 min in the evening. I found it's cut down the sleep I need by more than an hour and has sharpened my concentration.


  9. I hear you, "...spend half of my meditation sessions thinking about the most random things and not focus on my actual meditation." Glad to hear you over came it to focus on you - love the excitement I read in this post.


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