What if you were able to get to the root of your own ego's misery and end any suffering? What would this inner peace of mind look like?
Does sitting meditation for hours at a time sound daunting?
It does for most and I started right where you are. Sure I could do longer sits of meditation at a retreat with no distractions or responsibilities. But whenever I came home, chaos would ensue.
After hearing from my friend how great this ten day Vipassana silent meditation retreat was, it took my twenty years to actually commit. I could never make the time for it in my already full life as a mom and business owner. But I won a lottery seat eighteen months into the pandemic.
The retreat is ten days of silence, 100% offline from your devices. Rising at 4am from the gong bell, you meditate twelve hours a day in stillness in bed at 9pm.
On breaks you agree not to write, read, dance, exercise, make eye contact, gesture with others, or bring in any other spiritual practice--to give this type of meditation a fair trial in its purity and establish your practice. I shuddered thinking about whether I can handle this--yet was up for the challenge.
While this may sound like hell for many, I got what I came for and much more.
Why I Came
No matter how much I accomplished, I still felt empty. I’d feel a temporary “high” from the accomplishment as I returned back to real life. I’d create another vision board, accomplish it, then always be left wondering to myself “Is this it?”
This was maddening.
I should stay happy given how good my life was. How dare I feel ungrateful? Why couldn’t I experience the joy of being alive? Why was I so bored?
I was at peace about death and wasn’t interested in going through the motions, experiencing the inevitable roller coaster of pleasant and unpleasant emotions, misery to joy, then dying.
Simply being happy wasn’t enough of a reason for me to live. I wanted inner peace. To trust and surrender to my Highest Self, Source, God, a higher power. To feel the elixir of being alive--the preciousness of life on planet earth. To fulfill on my purpose to its highest expression, revealing my best path to express that in this lifetime.
Basics of Attending a Vipassana Meditation Retreat
First, you agree to a code of discipline for the duration of the meditation experience before applying that includes no killing, stealing, lying, sexual misconduct, or substance use.
At the start, you turn in your smartphone so you can remain 100% offline with no devices or anything to distract you.
From 4am to 9pm you meditate in 2, 3 or 4 hour chunks at a time, with 1.5-2 hour breaks in between for meals and resting your body.
On the breaks between meditations, there’s no gesturing to others, eye contact, writing, reading, journaling, yoga, jogging, other spiritual practices, or three meals a day. There is a vast beautiful meadow complete with frolicking deer and rabbits you can stroll around or eat your meals in. This design is so you can get established in the Vipassana practice and give this approach to meditation a fair trial.
For meals, they are vegetarian (and quite delicious and nutritious!) served at 6:30am and 11am sharp for a precise window of 30-45 minutes. Dinner at 5pm is a piece of fruit with tea.
The retreat is free, including room and board, and there’s an opportunity to give a donation at the end only if you received value.
Your bedroom is spartan--a simple bed, shelf, and end table. Nothing else. You can take up to a five minute hot shower per day to help conserve water.
You can ask questions to the teacher each day at noon or 9pm for five minutes. Every evening at 7pm, you also listen to a recorded discourse from Vipassana’s original teacher on how to master the meditation technique.
Results from My Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat
I discovered impermanence. Impermanence was an intellectual concept and became an undeniable, “as lived experience” in my body. Experiencing impermanence in all ways was the source of my soul’s liberation.
Discovering impermanence was also the root of my ego's misery. My longing to escape this world from boredom and feeling empty no matter what I accomplished or my clinging to feel bliss permanently was one in the same in different forms.
I learned through my body how the mind is always in one of three places--clinging (wanting more pleasure and getting attached), aversion (avoiding what you don’t want), or ignorance (being unconscious of the source of your misery and stuck in reaction). All three roads of clinging, aversion and attachment lead to misery. I experienced this in my 100 hours of meditation.
Now I realized that focusing on craving lasting fulfillment was entirely based on ego and was impossible to ever feel settled from that place. By practicing being equanimous, calm and unattached to either cravings or aversions, I found true inner peace that can last. Free from the bondage of the ego mind.
After the realization of impermanence, meditation now becomes an access to purify my mind, allowing me to master my mind’s reactions by rewiring my neuronal pathways and fixed patterns.
I can clear out all reactive responses and triggers of the mind that gets created in my body, bit by bit, layer by layer, through every cell of my body.
Instead of craving bliss or avoiding boredom, I can choose to fly free like a bird than react in ignorance.
My two wings are 1) awareness in equanimity (non judgement, detached, seeing pain and pleasure as they are) as well as 2) feeling body sensations of physical pain or pleasure I’m experiencing in the moment.
By feeling body sensations of pain and pleasure with an equanimous mind, this becomes my access for purifying all defilements of my mind.
No longer must I rely on a person, place, or thing outside myself to access lasting inner joy and peace. Simply being the Observer, the Witness, to whatever is happening whether I like it or not is where I experience inner peace.
Experiencing impermanence at the cellular level, I’m now settled in my life’s work. Rather than constantly try to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing that makes the best use of my genius, I’ve surrendered to and expect myself to constantly shift HOW I’ll play out my purpose: to liberate a leader’s soul expression in this lifetime.
This allows me to finally experience the joy of being alive each time I am able to fall back into equanimity when all is awesome or horrible or anything in between.
This is just the beginning. Establishing myself in this practice showed me it IS possible to rewire unconscious reactions in the human mind so that all thoughts that arise are pure.
Whether scratching an itch at night unconsciously to judging someone silently to snapping at your kid--the root or these reactions dwell as a cellular experience in the body. By focusing your mind’s awareness on the body sensation, then practicing responding equanimously, you can rewire your neuronal pathways.
If you want to learn how to get to root of your misery, end suffering, and experience inner peace no matter what life throws at you--learn more and attend a Vipassana Retreat.
It could change your life.
Anna S. Choi, Forbes Author, TEDx Speaker and Chief Energy Officer of Conscious Business Coaching, is committed to elevating humanity's consciousness by empowering high achieving, conscious coaches, entrepreneurs, and business leaders to prevent burnout and find peace in chaos through energy mastery.
As a broke art major with zero experience or connections, she started and sold her first financial planning business grossing six figures by age 25. Burned out from the hustle and grind, she water birthed her son with no drugs and pursued energy mastery as a taekwondo martial artist, qigong yoga instructor, and certified Flow Consultant and Dahn Master with over 10,000 hours of personal growth, training, and development training serving hundreds of conscious leaders over the past two decades.
If you're interested in finding peace in chaos, visit www.annasunchoi.com.
Anna Sun Choi