Just over a year ago, in Battambang, Cambodia, I was taking part in a most torturous task that I'd actually been looking forward to for a very, very, long time—my first Vipassana. For those who may not be familiar, a Vipassana, which literally means "to see things as they really are," is a 10-day retreat in which one takes a vow of noble silence and practices meditation for a minimum of 10 hours per day, every day. No use of electronics, reading, writing, exercising, speaking, touching, or even eye contact is permitted during this time. From 4:30 a.m. until 9 p.m., with a few breaks for meals or tea in between, you are expected to sit cross-legged on the floor, not allowed to move even a finger during "strong determination" sittings, attempting to solely focus on the sensations of being alive.
I was drawn to the idea of a Vipassana retreat because I wanted to see how it would feel to be truly and utterly alone with myself—just my mind and me, not a thing to busy ourselves with; a kind of "come to Jesus" meeting between my physical and mental self, as never in my life have my mind and body sat together in silence with absolutely no distraction for anywhere near this amount of time. I am also a steadfast believer that the human mind is capable of so much more than we give it credit for and is an incredibly powerful, yet misunderstood, vehicle for creativity, spirituality, healing, peace, love, and understanding—in ways we as individuals have yet to realize. I thought hanging out with just my brain for 10 days might help us become better friends and might help me better understand its potential.