Maarten Dankers, Globe and Mail: I never thought I’d look forward to brushing my teeth. It’s not a task I consider particularly exciting. But late last November, it came to that. After eating an apple for dinner, I found myself rushing toward the bathroom for some quality dental hygiene time. That’s what happens when you’re not allowed to partake in many activities of ordinary life.
For 10 days this past fall, I subjected myself to a meditation retreat. Along with about 70 other souls, I was confined to a basic compound in the woods along the shore of Shawnigan Lake on Vancouver Island. We were left without the freedom to speak, read, write or exercise, among other things. There were no cellphones, no e-mail and basically no communication allowed.
These are the rules of Vipassana, an ancient Buddhist meditation technique that aims to purify the mind by eliminating the root causes of suffering. I had dabbled in meditation before, but nothing more than a few hour-long sessions, so this was a big leap. I first heard of it about five years ago after meeting someone who described it as a life-changing experience. Other people told me it gave them increased mental clarity, focus and patience.
Since finishing a master’s program in sustainability last summer, I had been in a prolonged and uncertain state of transition. Unemployed and unsure what to do with my life, I decided a Vipassana retreat would be the perfect opportunity to tame my wild mind and have a break to focus. Plus, I always like a good challenge…