The Journey Begins
Our latest retreat took place in a lovely off-grid home 25 minutes from the nearest highway, facing the red rocks of Sedona off in the distance. Quite secluded, the only connection we had with the outside world was the occasional drop-off of meals by my loving wife and watching a few dhamma videos online from time-to-time. Otherwise, it was an intimate gathering of 4 brave students, me, and 3 cats.
- One student had completed a 10-day before with the SN Goenka Organization.
- One student had completed a 3-day and a 5-day with Vipassana New World.
- One student was currently experiencing her spiritual awakening and had recently watched "The Dhamma Brothers" movie.
- And one student was quite adept at shamanic and American Indian forms of personal development.
And so the journey begins
A 10-day retreat is a journey; like getting on a boat and drifting into life’s seas for 1.5 weeks. And Vipassana New World 10-day retreats are true journeys in the sense that the Instructors always meditates and takes part in the retreat just as deeply as the students. This allows for an equal ‘current’ of energy, flow of information, and repore to be developed between teacher and student. Though the Instructor is the teacher, he/ she is moreso the ‘guide’ as we all enter the student role during these retreats. The Instructor takes the added roles of administrative responsibilities, safety and welfare of the students, guiding each meditation based on the student’s needs, and evening instructor for the Buddha’s teachings shared in a way that Westerners of today can understand.
This retreat took place during the 3rd largest full moon of this year, Guru Purnima, July 22, 2013, followed by a week-long astrological pattern of energy that was said to “fully expose all issues with addiction.” And so I knew we were in for a ride.
Many days I sounded very female, raspy, filled with mucus, and doubting my Truths ( those things I share during guided group meditations to help students stay on task learning the technique properly). Retreats are silent, so I could not go outside and begin singing the blockage out (a technique I enjoy in day-to-day life), so I observed it as best I could and continued calling in my power and authority over my body. The blockages persisted for a few days, then cleared, then returned for a day, before finally clearing up on the final day.
Being very empathic, I knew much of what I was experiencing was releases or judgments from the students passing through me or towards me, yet this retreat I experienced an added dark force attempting to keep me quiet.
The full moon brought with it many vivid dreams for our students. This retreat had more issues with sleepless nights than any other. It was a very positive opportunity to practice Vipassana and observe as much as possible, yet new students typically have more challenges in this area.
There are 3 stages a 10-day retreat moves through. The first stage is Days 1 thru 4, the second being Days 4 through 7 and the third being Days 7 through 10.
Days 1 through 3 we call “the induction period” as we all begin our decent into our minds and becoming influenced by ‘Vipassana Energy”, Dhamma-dhatu. It is similar to the first 45minutes to 1hour of a shamanic journey. It often brings challenges with ‘the sleep being’. Any area in our lives we’ve been lazy, slow to respond, avoiding, making excuses, falling asleep, or experiencing that conscious or unconscious “I Don’t Want to Be Here” program, it arises strongly with the practice of Anapana (respiration awareness). These are the days I often share additional guidance during meditations to help students stay awake, to choose their Light, to remain conscious, and to prosper in their times of sleepiness. As this “sloth and torpor” arises from the depths of our minds, it is being replaced with more of our consciousness, our Light, and our choice to Be Here Now through the Law of Displacement. If laziness comes up, Consciousness is returning.
Vipassana opens up strong spiritual channels in our minds and lives. These channels ‘clog up’, like arteries, when we indulge in daily practices that are not conducive to harmonious, conscious living. So during a first-time retreat, these channels begin opening up and purifying. This is one cause of the challenges with laziness, sloth, and sleepiness. Over time, our capacity increases, and we align with our higher states of consciousness; our abilities to flow more.
Originally this retreat was to be an experience for 2 students who personally requested this retreat. The theme was one of “Empowerment”. These two students both had other obligations arise in final days before the retreat and ultimately could not attend. So we opened the retreat to all participants. For the new students who signed up, I still maintained this intention of ‘empowerment and rooting our purest desires into our lives’.
“The biggest insight I received is the experience of realizing that all that happens, the events of my life, are not being done to me. It is not personal and is not a reflection of my worth and value. Priceless.”
-10-day meditation female student
Days 4 through 7 focus on learning Vipassana; each day adding a small addition to the technique to help us progress. We spend a full day practicing the new addition so our minds fully integrate the addition. It is common that in these days students and teacher experience deeper emotional and mental ‘storms’ (releases, passages, etc.) as all the unnatural stuff that Anapana in Days 1 through 4 brought to the surface begin clearing quickly and replacing with our Light.
By Day 5 I realized this ‘Empowerment’ intention had to be revised. I had to start back over from square one and guide this retreat for new students from a simpler, more grounded perspective. Vipassana is about observing, feeling what is, and accepting. With what I was intuitively feeling happen in our retreat, it was evident this was not a time for intentions, it was our time for enthusiasm and overcoming darkness.
On one evening after bedtime, a being of darkness visited one of my students and had a long conversation with them whilst asleep. The roommate of this student woke up from hearing the conversation and began listening and observing. This student is highly adept in spirituality and was able to see this being and hear its suggestions. It was a dark shadow sitting bedside attempting to seduce my student. It was also advising her to not come get me to help, as it knew I would expel it from the area, and it didn’t want this. The student who was observing invoked ArchAngel Michael among other Beings of Light (not commonly done in Vipassana courses) and had the being expelled within a few minutes. The student involved in the incident was awakened and did not recall much as they were half asleep.
Some reasons I know this took place are for the student’s clearing and for my lack of firmness in this retreat. As we go through our 10-day retreats, old karmic contracts begin loosening up and releasing. Similar to an ayahuasca ceremony, old beings, old beliefs, old emotions, all based in unconsciousness begin coming up to the surface and resolving and releasing as they’re replaced by our Light, our Consciousness. Darkness is simply the absence of Light, and Anapana/ Vipassana shines our Light on our minds and bodies for days on end exposing some fascinating things that “are not who we truly are” and not in our highest or best interest.
From a positive perspective, this being came through to help the student resolve some issues with respect to boundaries and what is/ what isn’t allowed in their life. It did not want the student to come get me, because it knew I had already resolved these issues and I would evacuate it from the course premises immediately. Yet this being also held a lesson for me. It told me about my lack of trust in the process of a 10-day retreat. For a few days in the retreat I had been asking myself many questions about “what am I doing in life?”, and “How to improve…. (various issues) in my life.” These are good questions to ask, yet during a retreat as the retreat instructor, it is more important to place the needs of the students first. These questions obviously allowed for an opening of fear to come in an influence our retreat.
Outside of our retreat, I found out through my wife that a few close friends of ours had experienced a very dark challenge in their lives back home related to addiction energies; some news that was far beyond the normal day-to-day dramas. This news was shared with me when food was dropped off, and there is a possibility that some of its ‘evil’ found an entranceway into our retreat.
So on Day 7 something interesting happened, which was a first for our retreats. Vipassana typically places us in a deep state of clearing, so nothing can ‘stick’ to us, as so much is releasing from us. Yet on Day 7 of this retreat, we would all experience something unique.
During our 1:10pm sitting I sat looking at all the students with this feeling of, “Oh well, it’s Day 7, and we’ve learned all we will learn about how to do Vipassana, and from here on out it’ll be more of the same.” The feeling was depressed as if the inspiration of my life was sucking out of me.
Following this meditation, one student said, “Jan, I need to speak with you.”
We walked outside and they shared, “Have you noticed something change in this retreat? Something’s really changed. It doesn't feel right. I’m scared.”
Tears of fear came gushing down. I was happy to hear this because it confirmed what I was feeling, and I knew we could change it. This was the opportunity to 'fix' this retreat.
We marched back into the Dhamma Hall and I immediately began spraying our meditation area with Vipassana Essence Spray as a student saged the room. I stood at the front and called in our Light support, “Highest Healing Angels, Beings of Light who are here for our Highest Potential, Fully Enlightened Buddhas, SN Goenka, we ask you to join us immediately to release and expel any and all darkness which has arisen in our retreat that is not here for our Highest Potential in Life. Darkness, we call you out immediately and ask you never to return to us or to this dimension.”
A student saw a blur of 4 to 8 Angels come down and suck a dark energy from our room. I had a moment of doubting my prayer was working and speaking with less authority, so yet again the spiritual realm rekindled my belief in its power. (According to the Buddha, ‘Doubt’ is said to be the last fetter our minds hold onto while on our Paths to Awakening, and Lord knows I observe it often in my life.)
We then rearranged the furniture to bring us all closer to one another to strengthen cohesiveness. And just before the next meditation began, I turned around to look at the Divine Male and Divine Female chairs at the front of the room (see picture above) and a ‘large’ spirit form of SN Goenka came in and sat on the Male chair with a large Female form (possibly his wife, Mataji) sitting in the female chair and held space for the first half of the next meditation. They had body parts 3 to 4 times the thickness and size of normal body parts, sizes so large they helped hold the love strongly for us. This was the 2nd time Mr. Goenka had spiritually arrived to one of our retreats to provide healing, and so my metta continues to go to him for his assistance.
On Day 1 of our retreat we open with ‘taking our 5 precepts’ (5 moral codes which bind each retreat); to respect life and not harm/ kill any being or not sexually harm any being (in mind or in body), we take only what is given (not stealing), we speak uplifting, uniting, truthful words (we do not lie), and we do not take part in intoxicants leading to an increase in craving or a reduction in our consciousness.
We are taught that if we break one of these knowingly, we simply “recommit” to our precepts by stating them again to receive the protection they provide. So during the next meditation I recommitted to my students, to the 10-day retreat process, to being my highest potential, to not reading any material that is not Buddha-related or appropriate to our retreat, and to turn off my phone and internet service except for every 3 days when coordinating meals. (Turning off our phones even in day-to-day life is a very positive activity, as cell phones reduce or close our energy centers and they allow for doorways of energy to open, like portals, so we may be accessed, whether positively or negatively.)
“I felt safe and cared for during my stay. My teacher was intuitively aware and attentive to my emotional needs, for answers to practical questions, such as the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of it all… I would recommend this to anyone. I think it should be mandatory.”
-student, Nurse, Florida
The days that followed were the most enjoyable, albeit challenging, days we had experienced in the retreat. Major emotional breakthroughs, releases of grief, releases of doubt, releases of old karmic contracts, balance and equanimity returning to us, and a strong belief in the retreat process itself.
Day 10, Metta Day, was the most powerful and positive day experienced to date for all our retreats. Immediately I received spiritual guidance to schedule our next 10-day retreats for October 11th,2013 and January 5th, 2014.
It has now been week since this retreat, and I continue to meditate 2 to 3 hours per day and listen to Buddha discourses in the evening times. In fact, Vipassana New World will be joining in Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s 21-day Meditation Challenge, offering 21 days of Vipassana guided meditations and daily lessons, beginning this August 5th, 2013. Had it not been for these challenges and the subsequent victories, I personally would not have received such resounding spiritual support to strengthen my practice and become more faithful to the Buddha’s powerful system of Vipassana meditation.
I will again share the value of Noble Silence. This retreat was the first in which our students observed Noble Silence so diligently and respectfully. They chose to write down their comments and questions throughout all 10 days and share them to me peacefully with limiting their speech.
As the Instructor of a course, we wear many hats; course manager, server, administrator, instructor, etc. Some courses we receive assistance when it is necessary, ie: more than 8 students participating or an experienced student desires meditating and assisting a 10-day camp, as necessary). Managing these duties stretches the capacity of an instructor to their limits. It is extremely challenging energetically. Yet, following a retreat, the instructor always understands spiritually the benefits of teaching a course, as we feel ourselves expanded to new places of purity and compassion unexperienced beforehand.
(I state "the Instructor" in 3rd person, because we are open to training students who enjoy Vipassana to become teachers themselves.)
Yet if students choose to speak, this is an energy-leak that begins to create a more shallow experience for all students involved. It also means one more area in which an instructor has to stretch their energy to guide the course towards its highest Light.
Noble Silence keeps the experience personal and gives us all the permission to go deeper without needing to acknowledge anyone else or their comments and glances, as many of these forms of communication are simply our undisciplined minds needing an outlet for their uncontrolled desires.
Noble Silence allows the Instructor to truly Instruct and not babysit. It means we are all self-aware, self-responsible, and self-reliant. Certainly there are times when speaking is necessary, yet it allows for us to be more diligent as to when that moment is as opposed to leaking out unnecessary comments at inopportune moments.
It’s a Law of Nature.
What do you desire?
Speaking oftentimes leads to frivolous talk or gossip. So Spirit is asking, “What would you like? Frivolous talk and low energy or Your Light, Your Truth, Your Blessing, what it feels like, how to live it, and how to Be it at all times?”
It takes practice to feel these subtle energies and to truly tune in to our minds and understand ‘how’ the process is that our minds wobble us out of our states of peace and prosperity. Observe and respect Noble Silence for this sake, and in time we become better judges for what is of value to share out loud and what is not.
A 10-day retreat is a wonderful opportunity- and possibly the only one in life- where you will have the chance to practice this.
May you all be blessed with peace,
Vipassana New World
Final Comment from Sedona Retreat Participators:
“I enjoyed my retreat very much, although the word “enjoy” is not really applicable to my experience. This was a great challenge to me and my mind. It was difficult and exhausting, and I think that speaks to just how jumbled up my mind was and the depth to which I was trapped in it. What I enjoy is this newfound feeling that I can be the one in control of what I think and when I want to think it. This is the single greatest gift I could have received. I now have the tools I need to be set free from the bondage of anger, sorrow, and brokenheartedness that I had been living under.”
-10-day meditation female student
“…gigantic gift you have given me. You have taught me how to take back my life and no words can speak to the impact that will have on me and my children and all those in my circle of influence…”
-10-day Sedona meditation retreat student
The Church of the Santo Daime, for example, please contact VNW.
Vipassana New World teaches in a similar style to Worldwide Centers, such as the SN Goenka Organization.
We are not affiliated with other organizations; we are in full support of the worldwide Vipassana Community.}