10 Days in Silence

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By Mary Clements

It’s my one year anniversary since I attended my first meditation retreat and even more notable for me, one year since I’ve had my last panic attack.

When I turned 30 I started getting panic attacks about 3-4 times a year. They weren’t frequent enough to majorly disrupt my life, but they were frequent enough that I knew I needed to address them because just the fear of them coming back and increasing in frequency itself was  becoming an issue.

I had gone to the doctor, started talking to a therapist, doing more yoga and reading more self help books and the suggestion of adopting the practice of mediation popped-up a few times between them all. My friend Steve had mentioned to me that he attended a 10-day silent retreat to learn the technique of “Vipassana Meditation” so I looked it up and signed up without too much research except that Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is an ancient technique from India that is a practical method of self-awareness that allows one to face the tensions and problems of daily life in a calm and balanced way. Vipassana is taught all around the world, with 5 centres in Canada, the one I attended is in Egbert, near Barrie.

Boy was I in for a surprise, I went from about 0-5 minutes of mediation per day to 10.5 hours! It is the most unique and one of the most challenging experiences I have ever had. The course was/is done in complete silence for 9 days with no phones, writing, reading, exercise or communicating with other students. (On the 10th day students can interact and discuss their experiences) There is a very specific schedule to follow and daily directions given. It is non-denominational and the instructions for everyday are very clear. There were 80 women and 35 men in the same session as me.

Overall, the course was very hard for me and I wanted to quit many times. I have lived alone, gone on many solo trips and thought I had a pretty good sense of knowing myself. Observing my mental activity for this long in such a focused way held up a mirror to the inside of myself and revealed to me things that I have never seen before. I was able to experience how the sensations in my body were informing my thought patterns and how easily they would spiral into negativity and anxiety. And now after a year later of no panic attacks, I feel much more at ease and power in my world knowing that I have a tool I can use anytime.

I bring this up in our LPP newsletter because we encounter students from all different ages, grades and backgrounds who have varying levels of anxiety all the time and one of our core values is to hold a space of acceptance and to meet them where they are on their learning journey.This begins with listening and being present to their needs.

After my retreat last February, I discovered they offered children’s and teen’s courses so I volunteered at their children’s course in May to learn how they introduced these concepts to children as young as 8. There was about 120 kids from the GTA there and it was a great day of learning and I ran lots of games in between the meditation for them (In French of course:)

As always, if you want anymore information or have any comments or something you’d like to share, please reach out! We always appreciate the feedback 🙂 Happy last week of February!

A picture of me on the last day of the retreat last February, a great feeling of accomplishment!