How about ten days without talking, writing, reading, working out, having a bath, let alone chilling out in front of Netflix? Instead, you get a daily wake-up gong at 4am, followed by ten hours of seated meditation. This was my introduction to Vipassana meditation and is something that has made a very positive impact on my life.
Why I chose Vipassana meditation
Vipassana is one of India‘s most ancient meditation techniques in which students focus on the deep interconnection between their mind and body, through disciplined attention to their physical sensations. And I decided to give it a go.
When I announced my plan to go to a Vipassana meditation center to my family, they thought I was crazy. My uncle called me a borderline hermit, my mom checked to see that it wasn’t a sect I was joining, and my dear colleague said I would be the first person to be thrown out of such a ‘retreat’ because I would most definitely break the no-talking code.
Despite some heavy doubts from outside, I made it. The strict silence and absence of my phone was the easiest and quite enjoyable part. The struggle becomes real when you are exposed to your 60,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day – without any opportunity to run off, both literally and in the figurative sense. What I found was that much of that inner monolog is incredibly positive and affirming.
Experiencing a meditation center firsthand
During the course of my experience, I learned to observe my breathing, concentrate my mind and embraced ‘Adhiṭṭhāna’ (strong determination). We weren’t allowed to move at all, holding the same position for 60 minutes – eyes closed, of course. I was feeling a lot of rage inside (a lot!) but over time, those hours of sitting still became easier. We were training ourselves to reach a state of complete calmness and composure.
If I had to describe my learnings in one word – it would be equanimity. It defines the mental calmness, balance and evenness of temper, especially in difficult situations. It refers to a mind at peace even in the face of stressful and unpleasant experiences derived from inner stability. Honestly, for me this sounds like the ultimate goal.
From my own experience I know it seems easier to intoxicate or numb ourselves than dealing with our own – sometimes mad – daily thoughts. I would say I started to get an understanding of the importance of mastering our minds as our own and everyone’s well-being greatly depends on it.
Taking my learnings back to work
After ten days, it was time to get back to normality and I was keen to see how I’d see things following my experiences. At adidas, we believe in living specific behaviors based around three Cs: confidence, creativity and collaboration. I believe this retreat helped me to apply what I learned to put an even more positive spin on this belief.
1. Working with others
I want to start with my learnings around collaboration: Mental stability has helped to build compassionate, productive and successful relationships with colleagues. With an even temper, you can recognize, avoid and/or minimize emotional reactions. It also helps to avoid making irrational decisions and approach things in a more balanced way.
There will always be unpleasant and stressful times and they certainly won’t fully disappear, but if you’re at peace you will change the way you look at them. You know they will pass. If everyone detached and just observed themselves in an objective way, we would also experience fewer turbulent meetings, political fuss and egotistical email chains. We’d work better together.
2. Stimulating creativity
When applying the Vipassana meditation experience to creativity, I would say it helps to remove layers of distractions. You have a blank canvas, with no pressure to invite ideas and new thinking in. I spoke to a fellow student who came up with several business ideas during the ten days, another one wrote poems in her head, just to give you two examples.
Without the intense amount of daily distractions (music, film, discussions, messages, etc.) you automatically become creative in how you spend what little free time you have, so I watched the clouds move and found excitement in the beauty of nature.
3. Knowing yourself is the key to confidence
Finally, confidence. Learn and grow. With patient and persistent self-observation, you start understanding yourself and especially the root of your actions better. We radiate a lot of energy even without the use of words, looks, or gestures.
You won’t fear the outcome of the things that you do, and you’ll develop an understanding that you cannot change the outside, only the inside, which is all part of knowing what you can control. The truth is, everything is impermanent and constantly changing. This realization allows us to accept the truth. Accepting the truth manifests equanimity – mental calmness, balance and evenness of temper, especially in difficult situations.
I am very grateful for this experience and my colleague and friend Kathi Knoerle who inspired and greatly encouraged me to invest those ten days of my annual leave into such a wonderful self-exploratory journey. As I can recommend Vipassana to everyone and I am convinced it would benefit our society, I am happy to answer any kind of questions in the comments below. If you want to find out more, you can also check out Dhamma Dvāra Vipassana Meditation Centre.