10 days out of the world, into myself

June 18, 2012

10 days out of the world into myself.


Vipassana.  in the Buddhist tradition means insight into the true nature of reality. It is a practice of self-transformation through self-observation and introspection to the extent that sitting with a steadfast mind becomes an active experience of change and impermanence

The yardstick to measure your progress is equanimity :  Mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, esp. in a difficult situation.


I left on June 6th. I had spent the previous 10 days at Fazilet’s home, with her family, an experience for which I am so grateful. They took me in and made me feel human as I was torn apart by what seemed to be my reality of the moment : broken hearted, homeless, jobless, alone and kind of lost. I shared these days with them,  I helped them with their ESL school projects as much as I could. Vaccumed the house, tried to be as mindful as I could.  We clincked Raki filled glasses in the evening that lead to deep conversations about the Universe and they made me part of their family.  To thank them I gave Fazilet this one…  I had just finished it for her :
she named it Venus for the fact that the planet had been visible in front of the sun that day

Wednesday morning, I had to pack the bike, I needed to bring things that I normally would not carry on a bike : Blankets, meditation pillow, much clothing, which I had to purchase as I did not own enough stuff for the course requirements.

I had been expecting my saddlebags from Steve in California, there had been problems with Fedex and suddenly it was uncertain if I were to have them in time or not.   But miraculously it all came in in time.  Thanks Steve…

they arrived, got left at the manager’s office and I happened to run into the manager when I got there. I was elated. That was going to be a life saver.

I washed the bike, set the bags, then proceeded to pack all that stuff methodically, trying to eliminate as much as I could. Finally I was ready. Time was flying, I had to be there before 3 and 5 PM. It was 1:30 PM.

all packed up!

The ride was uneventful. I arrived there as the sunny day transformed itself into a monsoon. Perfect timing.

The centre is in Montebello, which I remembered for the big G8 or was it G7? That took place there years ago. The area is gorgeous, rolling hills, huge trees that could almost remind me of BC. I pulled up to the parking lot, a lot of meditators arriving at the same time. Smiles, gentle beings.


I signed up, was assigned a room, then we were informed of what was expected of us : Noble Silence, which means zero verbal, physical communications with anyone except for the course assistants and teacher.  No phones, computers, music, instruments, paper, pens… segregation Men here and women there.  No food after 5 PM. The schedule was a wake up gong call at 4 AM, then a second gong at 4:30 to call us to the Meditation Hall where we would meditate until 6 AM. 6 AM is breakfast then rest until 8. from 8 AM to 9:30 AM a group meditation with instructions, then a break and then meditation in your room or in the Hall until 11 when lunch would take place, then back to meditation from 1 PM until 8 PM.  A “Discourse” at 7 until 8, then back to the meditation hall until 9, followed by bedtime.

My regular schedule has been something like this : up around 11 and going to bed at 2,3,4 AM so that was quite the turnaround for me. But somehow I didn’t resent any of it. I plunged into the experience without holding anything.


Day 1: we practiced anapana, a technique where you bring up awareness of your breathing along with the sensations produced around the nostrils and top of the upper lip. As simple as it sounds, I was astounded by the amount of noise in my head. It was like having 100 movies going on at once and going 10X the speed. My life from all possible and impossible viewpoints… Emotions flying wild, heart pounding, tears coming or going the other way when my head would nod off, as I nearly fell asleep. Trying to find a comfortable body position sitting on cushions on the ground all my back, shoulder, neck injuries blasting into fevered inflammation bouts all the while trying to center and focus and feel the sensations in that triangular area.


Day 2 : Hell. All the above shifting to yet another gear. I was witnessing insanity. My own insanity, the madness of how my mind has been running my life these past few months. I’m hanging on because I’m told it’s OK. I’m hanging on because somehow I trust this saintly looking course leader who says so little but hits it on the head every time.

Day 3 : I’ll never be ready… we’re supposed to learn the Vipassana technique today… I can’t focus for more than 10 seconds. I tell them, I’m not ready!!! I can’t do it!

“Yes you will be ready”

Ok… I say but inside I have fears.   Late afternoon we learn the first step of the technique. And somehow, it seems I am starting to get somewhere… The big lesson through all this is to keep at it. No matter how insignificant it seems.   An equanimous mind will not be swayed by lack of results or pain or ecstatic feelings, it just observes.  It just sees the laws of nature taking place, nothing lasts.  It comes, it goes.  Just observe.


 It is all and all a major roller coaster ride. It’s harrowing. It’s amazing when you look at it how much suffering there is here on earth for us human beings. Suffering everywhere. But this technique at it shows the nature of the universe the true nature of the Universe as seen by Gotama Buddha and the Quantum physicians.  packets of energy, always moving, always changing, the appearance of solidity only a trick of the senses.  

The first night at the Discourse, there were words about desire. Desire creates attachment, attachment creates suffering. I saw it all right there. Hard to really explain succinctly, lets just say that my own truth was there for me to see.   We are so attached to our desires, our wants, our likes and dislikes.  To passion.  To the big drama that one can make of life.  These all justify our presence… but it leads nowhere, it leads to pain as we react mindlessly to what happens to “us”  Me, Myself and I.  There is much to take in.  

So 10 days in this Noble silence, introspecting into my own deep universe, Waking up before the sun, seeing the moon halved in the pure blue sky as I walked to the meditation hall along with my silent co-meditators. I gave myself totally. I did not hold back anything. I trusted myself in the Buddha, in the Dhamma. (spelling?)  Oh please take this soul and hopefully incite it to get infused with the qualities, the discipline, the faith to get through this.

Then there was a shift.

The images changed and their meanings shifted. There was a shine. There was me. Finally, emerging from all this Pain, with a capital “p”. The boundless soul, unattached by gravity, trusting, creating.  So profound.

I also found a place where music lies. There is so much music in there I was astounded, all could be translated into music…

There was a prism of viewpoints on anything I’d look at, but suddenly I was able to say “no” to the manic ones, the desperate ones, the hopeless ones.

One of the most remarkable shifts in viewpoints was this ; I was at the Dinning Hall, sipping, believe it or not, a cup of Nescafe (that was the only “coffee like” substance around…) I had been feeling rushes of anxiety about “I’m homeless” here and there… Then suddenly it came crystal clear :


I’m not homeless, I’m between places”


And this, this was monumental. Because “between places” implies so much space. So much possibility. So much discovery. So much of the Freedom we so crave and yet cannot get because we put ourselves in little boxes, with a set of stiff rules and a set of control mechanisms made of fear and we decide to blindly believe that and call it security.

Between places means the world is open.  Between places means I can be me.


Between places is closer to reality than between walls. Oh what liberation.

So… I could go on. The vision of horses, of being one feeling like one.  Knowing to be one.
The visions of forgiveness, Peace.

The last three nights I averaged 3hrs sleep per night. Strangely I kept on. I was intently determined to not miss a moment. Then finally on day 10 we were allowed to talk.

I couldn’t at first. Such a gross mode of communications… coarse, loud, noisy… We had been delving in subtle sensations and now people are chatting about trivial stuff so loudly, I had to keep myself in this sacred place a bit longer, slowly emerge, it made me dizzy. It took me about 5 hours to open my mouth.


The sound of my voice as I laughed whipped my eardrums. I got caught in a silly conversation. I mostly smiled. How much we do get lost just talking away. Blah, blah, blah…. That I can stay aware… Talking changetd the whole atmosphere of the Centre. People suddenly had this extra element of color about them, the tone of their voices, the range, expressiveness or lack of, the shrillness, the energy of their speech. Amazing.

Day 11, this morning, we meditatied. It was good… it was too short… then it was breakfast and the clean up operation. I stayed as long as I could help.  Doing physical work was good and strange, my arms seemed thin, unused that they were for 10 days.  I did as much as I could to contribute to the clean up.   That was the least I could do.

Then it was time to get the bike. Arkadash had been sitting there in the parking lot… covered up. I pulled the cover off… a bit of condensation on the tank… I wondered if squirrels would have elected residence under there but no, just a spider. I hopped on it. Started it. I wondered if I was going to find it loud… No, it was … musical. I laughed. I rode it up the hill where our dorms were. The sensation was UNBELIVEABLE. I felt everything. The air on my skin, my shirt moved by the wind, the suspension dipping, handling the gravel parking lot, the engine pulling the machine up the hill, the revolutions of the engine increasing,  Pure exhilaration…

A little while later I was on the road. I had a twinge of emotion, I felt it, acknowledged it, like leaving sacred grounds, there is a slight anxiety about how the world will receive me.   The sun was high in the sky, the weather perfect. The greens of the trees screaming of life in this near Solstice time. I got to Montebello. There had been this Massive rock fest. 20 thousand people every night for the last 4 days. It was wild… You could feel the vibrations still reverberating in the air.  They had partied, their young bodies looking old from the hardness of it all. It almost looked like suffering. I realized how deep I have just been… I turned around, headed for St Andre Avelin’s Petite Nation Youth Hostel. One more night out here before going back to Ottawa where I’ll get everything ready to start the next chapter.

How blessed can I be?

During the retreat at one point I had a thought about how during my trip around the US I used to say : “what have I done to deserve such goodness?”  and realized how I had not said that in a while.  So now I do again but with a twist, remove the ‘deserving part” out of it.

I am so, very Thankful. So very Thankful.

the meditation hall




5 Responses to “10 days out of the world, into myself”

  1. david walker Says:

    Amazing grace Danielle. liberation for you.

  2. Charlotte Says:

    You are my soul sister. I did a ten day Vipassana retreat years ago in Massachusets. You reminded me of the grace that comes from meditation.

    Also, please, look up the “bardo” teachings of Pema Chodron. The “bardo” IS the in between place and I am right there with you.

    Accepting it makes it a lot less scary! ; )

    Charlotte (and Piglet)

  3. Emilia Gerritsen Says:

    Wauw, so inspiring. Soon I will also be inbetween places and it is encouraging to look at this as a place of opportunity and freedom. It must have been so strange to hear people talking after such deeper, silent contact. Hopefully I will find the strength to go to a place like that, it must give so much insight in your own thoughts and way of being.
    Thank you for all the inspiration 🙂


    • Emilia! so good to hear from you. Yes, It’s all about going deep, without reservations, without reasons why or why not. All my love to you. go for what you heart asks for, with a quiet or with a loud voice, just listen to it.

  4. Wonderful testimonial of your retreat. I hope to do this retreat there this year, my first time. Blessings.

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