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Mar 04

Does meditation really help with work/life balance?

Living Out Work/Life Balance – Jo Goes on A 10 Day Meditation Retreat!

This is an interesting question and one that has always interested Jo and I. A while ago Jo decided to explore it further,  joining up for a 10-day vipassana meditation course. Having dabbled in mostly self-taught meditation for a couple of years, she wanted to learn more about the why’s & how’s of the practice. Jo also wanted to experience the benefits (if any) of full-time meditation so she  could decide if she wanted to carry on – and so she could respond to people’s questions when they asked why or how she meditated? These are the questions I was dying to ask her when she got back from her trip!

What is a meditation retreat like?

A couple of friends has done Vipassana so I thought I’d give it a go. I did a lot of reading of their website, found a course in a country that suited me and headed off to Sweden to get started. The course was very structured, both in the timetable each day and also the way in which the technique is taught, practiced and then built on. There are lots of ‘rules’ to follow which some found a huge challenge, though everyone was able to see why those guidelines were in place.

Each day was the same – a very early start and a couple of hours of meditation, a break for breakfast, three more hours of meditation, a long, early lunch break, lots more meditation in the afternoon, an evening break, and then a discourse where we heard from Goenka, the teacher. The discourse was really interesting and an important part of the course, partly because it explained (on the intellectual side) the meditation we had been doing. It was also pretty humorous and offered some light relief! I found the discourses also gave me the motivation to carry on.

I found the course hugely challenging -it was possibly one of the hardest things I have done

The Vipassana Retreat Centre in Sweden

The Vipassana Retreat Centre in Sweden

Does it really help with stress management?

The physical and mental challenge of the meditation sessions, the ‘silent’ nature of the retreat and the length of time all required huge determination. For this reason I would never encourage anyone to go unless they had chosen to do so for themselves! Having said that, I am so pleased I chose to take part. I feel clear on the practice of Vipassana meditation, and know how to carry it on in my life.

I learned a lot, more than I would have expected, about myself, my mental and physical strength, and who I am! I met a great bunch of people – the shared experience we had together was pretty amazing, especially since we didn’t communicate with each other for 9 or 10 days. I was also able to experience for myself the benefits of practicing meditation in the true vipassana sense for a number of days… this in itself was fantastic – I felt truly great, grounded, calm, positive and empowered following the course.

What happened after the retreat? Did you carry it on?

One of the things we all discussed on the last days was whether we would carry on the practice. I was pretty determined to do so given the benefits I had experienced, but I also tried to be realistic about how much I could / would do.  Over a year later, I am still really pleased I did the course, still feel the benefits and have kept up the meditation but to a much lesser degree than the recommended two hours per day. Sometimes it is a struggle to get into the space I want to be in while meditating, because its made so easy while on the course, but then I remember not to beat myself up – there is a lot to be said for sitting quietly and breathing!

I’m still in touch with a lot of people from the course, who have had varying degrees of success in continuing their practice. Not one of them regrets giving 10 days to learn so much, meet great people, and experience the true practice of vipassana meditation!

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