Vipassana Meditation Retreat

Published on Feb 11, 2022 By Lisa Codina

When I think of my most profound meditation experience it was neither easy nor glamorous. Four years ago I attended a Vipassana silent meditation ‘retreat’ in Chiang Mai, Thailand. ‘Retreat’ is relative. There was nothing glamorous about DoiSuthep; empty rooms, ripped window nets, insects in the showers, moldy pillows, flattened meditation bolsters, and runner carpets that gave away how many thousands of dirty feet had walked on them over the years.

Besides some ‘free’ time for breakfast and lunch (no dinner allowed!) I was meditating, for up to 14 hours a day. It was physically and emotionally challenging, to say the least. My knees and hips ached as I sat cross-legged on the floor, my back hurt, my feet ached from all the walking, my stomach burned from the spicy food (think spicy rice soup for breakfast at 7am!).

And I was desperate for coffee. Italian espresso to be exact.

Nevertheless, I couldn’t allow myself to complain. As part of a 14-day trip, I had chosen to set aside time for a “profound meditation experience”, and that is exactly what I got.

As uncomfortable and unglamorous the whole experience seemed, it was also blissful, joyful, and life-changing. There is something so deeply profound about sitting in silence. In your own silence. Your mind feels like a tornado of thoughts and emotions, whirling around you chaotically. Your body feels like it’s falling apart, sometimes the pain can be so excruciating you don’t know how you’ll continue, but you do. You find the strength within.

First comes the discomfort and pain, then comes the bliss. Once you begin to notice the space between the thoughts and emotions, and how the mind is intrinsically able to soothe and settle the physical body, you begin to understand what coming HOME feels like.

You get a glimpse of your our divinity, your innate sacred space, void of thought, perception, and emotions. You feel empty, but yet you have never felt so full of joy, love, and life. You cry like a baby, yet you may not even know why. But you feel true release, from the burdens of life, worries, past trauma, even the smallest and insignificant nuances. You feel free and disconnected yet so close to understanding your purpose in the world.

This was my profound experience, in a nutshell. It was painful, exhausting, and frustrating. But it was also enlightening, beautiful, and life-altering. It made me realize the profound power of the mind, and how we carry all our (and other people’s) joy and trauma in every single cell in our body.

If I could, I would do it all over again.

I may not be in Thailand, but whenever I meditate I go back to that place; in my mind, in the fibers of my body, and I manifest those deeply rooted sensations of calm and presence into my practice. It makes me feel joyful, blessed, and forever grateful for gifting myself that experience.