I sat my first Vipassana meditation retreat last winter and got so much out of it that I decided I wanted to give something back. So two weeks ago I took time off to serve on Vipassana retreat centre in the southwest of Ireland. The organisation is often looking for servers. And once you have sat at least one 10 day retreat you can be taken on to work as a server.
Working on Vipassana naturally was entirely different to the silent retreat. For one you don’t have to take the silent vow, it would be impossible to work and not speak as communication is absolutely necessary when working in a group.
When serving one still gets to sit up to 5 hours of meditation a day, 3 of which are compulsory. Because of the nature of working and doing meditation I found this experience to be really valuable as it is more comparable to my daily life than being silent and expected to meditate up to 12 hours a day as one does when “sitting”. “Sitting” is the term used on vipassana when taking the silent vow.
The experience working in the kitchen was so fantastic. I can tell you it was a far cry from “hells kitchen”. Everyone was super chilled out, easy going and all working with the determination to serve all on the retreat as best we could. As all servers had sat at least one 10 day retreat, (most people working in the kitchen had sat three full retreats), we were fully aware of how important meal times are. It is the one and only thing that you have to look forward to when on the silent retreat. (Well bar Goenka’s chant when one hears it play in the meditation hall, notifying the hour sit of serious practice had come to an end!!)
The dynamic in the kitchen was a lot more fun and interesting than I had expected. The energy altered between having a bit of a laugh to philosophical chat. Everyone sharing their experience on Vipassana with me at one stage or another. I was relieved to know that everyone found the 10 day retreat as difficult as I did yet everyone got as much as I did, if not more out of the practice. The general consensus is that you can literally feel layers of old samskaras (past pain, sufferings, cravings) have fallen away after doing this practice, you notice habit patterns of the mind subtly change and you become more fulfilled with life.
With regard to the meditation, sitting was definitely not as challenging as it can be on the full retreat. The 10 day retreat is intense on the body and the mind, thankfully when meditating for only a few hours a day I found it physically & mentally less intense. I loved being in silence for 10 days, being left with only me and my thoughts so I could really observe what is going on within my mind and emotions. Yet I found serving and meditating equally as powerful in a very different way. I came back absolutely buzzing with energy. The day after I arrived home I felt I had six cups of coffee when I hadn’t even had one. A week later I still have lots of energy while feeling clear and calm. I notice my senses are much sharper. I am really aware of this while on the yoga mat. My body feels so good while moving from pose to pose, being fully present in each moment, each poise, and each movement.
I’m practicing vipassana every morning and some evenings. This practice has being incredibly beneficial to me. I highly recommend it. Until you experience it for yourself you will not know what you are missing out on. Yes it is a challenge, a commitment and you have to work at it but the rewards are invaluable. So please, bear it in mind. Maybe someday you will be ready for the very rewarding challenge.
Coming up soon a list of benefits from practicing Vipassana.
Om Peace, Om Love,