I cannot believe it’s been 55 days since I left Vipassana. I am a totally different person, yet the same. I typed up my experience shortly after I returned to “reality”, but I haven’t shared my experience with the world until just now. You get the first look!
In this share you’ll learn what Vipassana is, what I gained from it, then in-depth walkthrough of my experience (I’m not holding back here!), and how you can attend Vipassana yourself.
if you're interested , I am happy to share any tips on how to apply to and prepare for Vipassana, especially for the Jesup, Georgia location.
I have always considered myself an open book, but I didn’t realize how private I actually was. I don’t share much about myself, so I’m very candid in this [blog post]. I hope my journey provides something for you, even if it’s just a phrase that resonates, a relatable experience, or inspiration in one way or another. I love and thank you for being here!
Let’s dive right in!
First, What is Vipassana?
In short, Vipassana is a 10 day silent meditation retreat that isolates you from everything so you can go on a deep journey of internal transformation. Directly from dhamma.org, “Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India's most ancient techniques of meditation. This non-sectarian technique aims for the total eradication of mental impurities and the resultant highest happiness of full liberation.”
What exactly does that entail?
When you show up at the Vipassana center, you have just your basic needs, leaving any form of communication with the outside world locked away in a closet.
We started every day at 4am and began meditating at 4:30am. The day ended around 9pm after experiencing four, one-hour group meditations and plenty of time to meditate independently and walk along nature trails. Nine of the ten days are in complete silence, meditating for about 10 hours, practicing the art of feeling and freeing yourself from your mind's constant chatter.
The first three days are spent practicing Anapana, a specific breathing technique to sharpen the mind to find inertia - stillness. The fourth day is when we actually begin Vipassana - a meditation practice that encourages us to feel every little sensation without attachment. The volunteers were very kind and supportive, the food was absolutely delicious, and any downtime was very much needed!
Even though a complete and total break from our daily routines for 10 days may seem like a luxury or a relaxing retreat, it was quite physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing but with massive rewards.
Throughout the course, you have many opportunities to talk with the course assistant teacher; however, you remain silent and avoid interacting with others the rest of the time so that you are solely focused internally. On the final day, we can begin speaking with others at the course so you can slowly integrate the experience and even form relationships with incredible light beings you shared a healing space with.
To read more in-depth about what to expect without from Vipassana, visit: https://www.patapa.dhamma.org/what-to-expect-on-a-course/
Key things I gained from this experience:
I happily live in the present moment more consistently → Anxiety used to control my entire existence… This topic has enough to go into its own blog post, but in short, I don’t feel anxious unless there’s a reasonable cause for it. I don’t stress about what I cannot control because there is no reason to exert massive amount of energy towards something that doesn’t require or need my attention or time. It’s much more peaceful living in the present. I’ve been actively working on this for the past 3+ years with a variety of helpful techniques and teachings, but Vipassana cleared the way where I finally feel more detached, yet one with the world; That is the shortest way to express the feeling of being present: detached, yet one. Detached from the outcome and grateful for the presence of just being.
I no longer take things personally or over-explain myself → Okay, so this one I’m still working on, but I’m going to continue to work on all of these things until they no longer are a habit. I am grateful for the awareness and ability to shift my mindset to no longer hold on to these habits… I used to worry that I’d say or do something to offend someone. I felt as though I had to walk on eggshells my entire life trying to avoid triggering or setting off unstable personalities, which often resulted in unkind words or actions towards me. I used to think things were always my fault when they actually had nothing to do with me. I no longer take what people say or do personally because I now understand that their actions are just projections of their reality, not mine. Why should I take that personally or try to explain myself? It’s not worth anyone’s precious time or energy! There’s a difference between taking ownership of your own actions and taking ownership of others. I finally gained access to fully understand the difference while remaining empathetic. Now I get the exciting opportunity to practice these new habits until this more liberating way of thinking is ingrained in my being.
I am comfortable being myself without holding back → I feel so freakin’ free now that I no longer care if someone doesn’t like my bubbly personality, my beauty, or doesn’t understand my genuine intentions. Again, there's still more to work on with us, but I am more evolved than ever before. I used to fear that people thought I was trying to be something I wasn’t. I have a lot of unfortunate experiences to support that fear, but I haven’t tried to be someone/something other than trying to figure out myself since I left high school.
For example, I feared befriending men because I was afraid that the men or their partners would misinterpret my naturally friendly personality, as it has happened many times. I’d often remove or distance myself to prevent a potential misunderstanding before it possibly happened unless I felt secure knowing they knew my true intentions. (I’m laughing at myself about this now, but understand the why.)
I also used to fear my ability to point out the positive being considered by-passing. I have always had the ability to see many possibilities and viewpoints so I don’t mind taking the time to explore them all. – This was easy for me to recognize and understand because I know my intentions are and always have been in the purest form, but the fear of what others thought hindered my free expression.
I now understand and appreciate that if someone chooses not to see my intention and truth, that’s for them to discover why they are unable to see beyond their own perception of another individual or reality. I finally feel like I don’t have to explain myself to someone who cannot see beyond their Maya (illusion). I always feared making others uncomfortable by just existing so I would try to justify myself when I never needed to. Now I’m not holding back because IDGAF, but in the most empowering and beautiful way. I can kindly express my truth without feeling like I can only do that by being blunt to get my point across - I’d just avoid the potential conflict instead.
I feel more empowered knowing I can be spiritual and still curse like a sailor. [update: I no longer/rarely curse haha!] I am comfortable being a channel of ancient, divine wisdom while still very much feel all sides of being human. I can just be me and it’s such a beautiful feeling! (I hope you find this too!!)
My psychic gifts have grown exponentially! → Holy shit balls! (lol) During and after Vipassana, I received so many loud, intuitive downloads and confirmations. Since leaving, I channeled an Intuition Embodiment course (with two levels!!) and have activated the depths of my soul and gifts that I didn’t realize I still had suppressed. This has been so fun for me to explore and to now confidently admit my psychic gifts, a word I used to fear. (psychic)
I feel free to do what I want and don’t want to do without worry → If I don’t want to do something, I won’t. No more people pleasing from this empowered woman. This is still something I’m navigating, but I have never stood up for myself more than I have in the past 55 days. I’ve been practicing saying “Yes” and “No” when they feel aligned for years, but now… WOW!!! Who knew how amazing it feels to communicate more openly by expressing your truth without tiptoeing around their reaction that you are assuming or projecting yourself.
It is safe for me to cry and express myself → One of the things I love about being a yoga teacher, sacred sound healer, and spiritual life coach is providing a safe space and opportunity for others to cry and release what has been stuck within. Ironically, crying was foreign to me. In my teenage years, I was constantly told my emotions were too much and that I was selfish and needy for having such powerful feelings. Never wanting to take away from someone else, I stopped expressing emotions around others, especially crying. I became a robot and the multiple medications I took daily from age 14 - 28 didn’t help.
I’ve done a lot of healing around this for the past six years, but I noticed during Vipassana, I was still afraid to cry in the group meditations - where I experienced the most intense transformation. This was out of fear of taking away from others' experiences or being the “needy” or “selfish” student. This dissolved on the 10th day of Vipassana after I apologized to the other students who were there. Side note: No one cared or even really noticed enough to remember when I cried or had an emotional moment. They were in their own little world, which showed me that it is okay to “take up space”.
These insights may seem so simple and often have the energy of “Well duh” but my upbringing and life experience did not support this freedom of existing so this was liberating enough. This is just a small list of some highlights of what I gained from this experience. DON'T GET ME WRONG… I have been consistently “doing the work” for the past six years for my own personal reasons - I don’t expect to be a completely enlightened, spiritual being having a human experience. Honestly, neither has any other person on this planet. We can become liberated, but it’s still important to appreciate the human experience because that is part of why we are here. That’s for another conversation. haha In short, since Vipassana, I have become more consciously competent in many areas of my life and that alone is so liberating!!
Now how exactly did I come to these realizations?
That’s all in the juicy bits of my experience. (Keep reading.) I have only scratched the surface and have a breakdown of each day’s personal insight below. But first, to answer what most people ask me… Would I do this again? My answer: Abso-freakin-lutely!!! I’m already looking at applying to go again in the near future. Do I need it? Not necessarily, but felt so good to do that it would be amazing to experience it again as the person I have become from my first time. I would only do it again if I felt the call though. I wouldn't push myself to do this if it didn't resonate within.
I do highly recommend this for every single person on the planet, but it’s important to only go if you feel called to or are at least curious. You don’t have to have any meditation experience. (It’s true!) If you are deep into your own religion or spiritual practice, that’s okay too! This doesn’t have a religious affiliation, but it does have a Buddhist background as it was a tool discovered by Buddha. I encourage everyone to at least flirt with the idea. I promise it’s worth the exploration.
NOTE: In case you’re unaware, during Vipassana, you are not supposed to journal, have technology, or do anything to document your experience so you can be fully immersed in yourself and the experience of the practice. I followed that, however, after my wild "Kundalini" experience on Day 3, I desperately took the sharp corner of my lipgloss, dipped it into my facial oil, and spent 20+ minutes writing a few words to document my experience on a pamphlet I was given upon arrival. (You’ll see a picture of that below.) Eventually, I found my swiss army knife and used the point of the Phillips head screwdriver to “emboss” the words. This helped me feel more at ease because I was going in circles with my thoughts trying to memorize the experience for fear that I’d forget it. I did write a couple of words per day with the intention of triggering memories after course completion. I am grateful to remember so many details on my own without writing them down though. (My mind became so clear from this experience - I am still in awe!)
VIPASSANA - My Daily Experience & Insights
In the 4:30 AM meditation, I had a deeper realization that goes beyond the external knowing and became a more permanent internal understanding about how our reality is not as we perceive it. I already knew this, but I didn’t genuinely FEEL this knowing until that first group meditation… Our reality is created out of our beliefs and conditioning. Based on our life experience and understanding of the world creates our own Maya/illusion that projects a false reality of the world that the majority of us are stuck believing in. We are actually meant to be at peace and one with God/the Universe, nature, and our soul's radiant light. This goes even deeper but that summarizes that though.
I felt more seen and heard by myself.
While practicing Anapana, the breathing technique to sharpen the mind to prepare for Vipassana, we focused on a small area of our body. I could feel all sorts of sensations, including what felt like every cell in that area tingling and feel like little particles separating and coming back together.
The word “Sankalpa” was stuck in my head for the first three days but popped up throughout the 10 days… I knew the word, but for the life of me, I couldn’t remember what it meant. I did some research after emerging from Vipassana and was reminded that Sankalpa is a Sanskrit term in yogic philosophy (specifically in Yoga Nidra) that refers to a heartfelt desire, a solemn vow, an intention, or a resolve to do something to bring positive change. I felt my soul being called to experience Vipassana for a few years. I can confirm that this practice was definitely a Sankalpa my soul arranged for me to experience in the flesh.
During Anapana, I had a kundalini activation - at least the best way I can describe it…
My brain and body were so relaxed in the breath that I saw a whiteboard in my mind's eye with words in Gibberish. I wanted to clear my mind (as we were supposed to do) so I “wiped” the board clean and pushed the board to side.
Once I did that, I saw nothing but greenery with clover flooring in a forest with tall thin trees filled with greenery, and bright sunlight shining through the trees going directly to my face. I immediately felt myself drop into a deeper state of relaxation because I had no thoughts whatsoever. (I didn’t think that was physically possible!)
My physical body felt lighter as though all of the particles in my body were vibrating and separating. It legitimately felt like I was starting to levitate because my entire body was tingling. A bright light from the base of my spine shot straight up through my spine and out of the top of my head like a rush of energy, but surprisingly without physical feeling. My body then started convulsing throughout, but my spine was stiff and my hands were glued to my knees for 40 minutes!
I had a battle between my mind and my soul. My mind was trying to stop myself from having this experience to avoid being too much and fear of distracting others. I was taking slow, deep breaths to come back to my physical state, but my body continued convulsing. I heard the assistant teacher say my name to the course manager, which slowly started to “wake me up”. I was trying to open my eyes but they were glued shut.
The course manager came up to me and whispered “The teacher says to relax.“ The thing was, every time I relaxed, I would twitch more and go completely blank in my mind. I was getting frustrated and tried doing more hard breathing and then allowed myself to relax back into the meditation but start convulsing again. That’s when I knew that I had become so relaxed, it triggered this experience.
My mind eventually won because my fear of taking away from other people’s experiences was amplified by being told to relax. I recognized what was happening and was finally able to open my eyes wide and stared up at the ceiling trying to shake myself out of it. Everything I was feeling got stuck in the middle of my back and my heart center. It became overwhelming so I ran outside to have an explosion of hysterical crying.
I allowed myself to release what was built up and slowly tried to come back and ground myself.
I connected with my higher self and knew that this was preparation for the Vipassana practice starting tomorrow. What didn’t come up and out just then was going to be released during Vipassana but in a more gentle way. I trusted and allowed that to be true.
I came here for some deep, transformative healing, that I knew, but I didn’t realize it was going to be like this!
[IMAGE: My notes about my kundalini activation where I used my lipgloss & screwdriver as a utensil… “blank → particles → light spine & lower body float & tingles → convulsions → 40 mins glued → ‘relax’ → stuck → cry → not Vip yet”]
The assistant teachers were very helpful and understanding. Their analogy best explained what I experienced:
I fully opened a door to a storm-like hurricane of emotions and unconscious conditionings from the past. Vipassana’s goal is to help us feel safe to slowly open the door to release these things little by little rather than all at once. Vipassana provides the opportunity to somatically release these conditions through meditation and feeling the sensations as they are released.
Just letting it explode through and out of me through the "kundalini way" is kind of like a “shortcut” but shortcuts don’t always provide the full healing or release because the energies rush through, don’t get acknowledged in the body, and can even get stuck. The goal is to slowly open the door to let the different conditionings, beliefs, traumas, etc emerge as physical, somatic releases and sensations called Sankaras.
I recognized this day I didn’t feel like I needed to eat and I felt much lighter. I had a HUGE bruise on my butt from all the sitting so I was able to sit against the wall. I could even feel the vibrations from a train that wasn’t in close proximity to where we were located. It was very gronding for me to be against the wall.
During this first official day of Vipassana, I realized I spent my whole life holding myself back to make others feel comfortable. In my youth, I pretended to be a ditzy blonde and even made up ridiculous things to say to fit the image that I thought people wanted me to be. I avoided excelling in school to avoid getting more negative attention from my peers. I even held myself back during Vipassana to avoid distracting others. Even in “real life”, I thought I was finally allowing my light to shine, but I wasn’t. I was still trying to not stand out to make others feel more comfortable. (This is still ongoing but I’m feeling better and better about it!)
I had very vivid dreams every night since the first night. They mostly included many different people from different times of this life. Lots of forgiveness and healing came from that alone.
A thought came through about perceptions of beauty during one of the meditations… All perceptions of beauty are true if it is a true thought for you. What society or a person views as beautiful might not be beautiful in another's eye and that’s okay!!!!! I’ve always felt this way, but it just felt more solidified this day.
I was extremely exhausted and cried the hardest in the afternoon at this point in the course.
The morning was a breeze but in the afternoon, I felt so much anger and sadness towards specific people in my family as well as the people from middle & high school who made my life a living hell.
One of the participants wore perfume (which you’re not supposed to and it’s one of my strongest allergies.) I had to wear a mask because it made me extremely nauseous. I had a thought though…. Are allergies sankaras? [Note Post Vipassana Rachel - My allergies are not as strong or overwhelming as they used to be so to me. Yes, I think Allergies can show up as sankaras and can be unconsciously released through this and possibly other healing practices.]
I woke up realizing my deepest sankara is that I feel guilty and shame for existing.
Recognizing this actually brought more peace because I finally understood that this was a conditioning of feeling too much, not good enough, unworthy, and unable to be loved. These haven’t been things I consciously believed for a while now, but they resided deep within. It was hard to remove myself from those beliefs created from my youth of receiving consistent death threats, rumors made about me, broken relationships where I gave my all, hearing repeated negative comments from my family and “friends”, etc. I no longer claim these false truths and this is where I think the biggest shift started that made for a more permanent change of perspective.
During one of the Vipassana meditations, I saw our family dog we just put down a month earlier. She was waiting on the other side of a glass window and glass door. She looked so healthy and happy! Her curled tail swirled around because we were both so happy to see each other. I was able to open the door and was greeted me with so many kisses. I asked her if she was going to come back (reincarnate) for my brother and she said yes. She mostly wanted to tell me she loves me and our family and that she is waiting for Dante (our senior cat) so she can greet him when he passes over soon.
In the afternoon I finally experienced equanimity - being comfortable and accepting of the present moment. The assistant teacher pointed this out to me during one of our conversations. At this point, I spoke with the teacher daily. I initially wanted to go all in being 100% silent, but if I had done that, I truly don’t think I would have gained as much as I did from this course. I felt needy meeting with the assistant teacher so often, but I became more comfortable with doing what feels aligned. It helped me break through the fear of being needy as well. She expressed how courageous I was for allowing myself to not only go through this experience but to also be so open to receiving guidance. - NOTE TO SELF: You don’t have to go through it alone!
This day was extremely challenging to remain IN the practice - I think I was getting “burned out” but I didn’t need to process with the assistant teacher any more at this point because I felt so much more neutral and at ease with whatever it was I was feeling. I was becoming more comfortable with the uncomfortable.
After our morning group meditation, we were free to talk. It was so incredible to connect with people with so many backgrounds. I’m very grateful to have experienced this with these beautiful souls! It was so incredible to hear about each other's experiences and how we didn’t actually disrupt one another - we found equanimity instead.
We were free to leave after our final group meditation and cleaning up of the space. On my drive home, I didn’t play music at all during my drive. I felt more at peace and more present than I ever had in my entire life. I enjoyed all the little things on my drive, noticing the beauty in everything. I’m not the type to have road rage or strong emotions while driving, but I can get annoyed by dangerous or rude situations. On my drive home, I didn’t get the slightest bit upset or annoyed with traffic or bad drivers. Instead, I thought “This is where you’re at in your life and that’s okay. This is where I’m at and that’s okay too. Let’s all practice being more mindful though” and sent my love to them and let it all go.
I was just accepting reality as it was in the moment. [And I still do today, 55 days later!]
What should’ve taken me 4 1/2 hours to get home took me 7 1/2 hours because I was really enjoying taking my time and just being. I’m very grateful!
Even though the goal is to not be in the mind, I still had a full life review of all the good and not-so-pleasant times of my life. I learned that a lot of what happened in this life was just my own perception of my reality and how I chose to let those experiences influence and affect me. That’s how people raised by the same people are so different or remember things differently - because of our own perception filter. The most liberating perception is one of equanimity. Dedicating 10 whole days to becoming equanimous/present/at peace, I experienced a lot of forgiveness, clearing, healing, and crying that lead to clarity, insight, and a deeper sense of peace within myself. I am so, deeply grateful.
Since leaving Vipassana, I feel more deeply and am not afraid to express my feelings. I had never cried so much in my life during that ten-day span - I really don’t think I’m exaggerating. I now cry more freely and sit in my emotions more deeply than ever before. (Which I didn’t think I could go any deeper!) My dear soul sister, Ambrosia, made a beautiful comment to me that hit home… Vipassana is where I “discovered my tears”. I discovered my tears and my truth without external influences because I gave myself permission to really be present with myself. My love and gratitude for this time and experience goes deeper than any Sankara that has ever resided within me. ::big sigh of gratitude::
If you read this entire thing, wow. I am so honored and grateful for your time. I hope you received something from this share. I’d love to answer any questions you may have or hear your thoughts and comments below. I pray that you also find this peace, love, and gratitude through your own experience, whatever that may be.
If you would like to read the other updates regarding Vipassana, I invite you to read the next two blog posts. You can witness the rawness and slow shifts throuout a 6-9 month period.
Tea Time with Jesus If you’d like to learn more about this donation-based 10-day silent meditation Vipassana course, please visit www.dhamma.org With immense love and gratitude, Rachel Learn more about Intuition Embodiment classes here. —> A blog post about how exactly this course developed is in the creation phase now. Stay tuned by signing up for my newsletter.