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10 Benefits From 10 Days Of Silence And 100 Hours Of Meditation

10 Benefits From 10 Days Of Silence And 100 Hours Of Meditation

I completed my second 10-day Vipassana retreat at the beginning of October. Vipassana is a form of meditation originated in India around the time of the Buddha. It is now one of the most widely practiced forms of meditation in the world with over 200 centers worldwide delivered in 55 different languages. The recently deceased S.N. Goenka teaches the meditation technique using video recordings.

Why endure 10 days of complete silence and solitude from the outside world? There has been a growing body of research about the many benefits of developing a consistent meditation practice.

Here are the 10 major benefits I have found after completing two 10 day retreats in the past year.

1. Increased awareness

If you are not aware, change is impossible. At retreats, you wake at 4 a.m. and lights out is at 10 p.m. These are long days with plenty of time for self-reflection. You start to become more aware of the positive and negative sides to your personality and life. Having time set aside each day gives you a chance for this reflection. With this improved awareness I feel much more in tune with my emotions.

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2. Remaining equanimous

This is the main teaching of Vipassana meditation. Remaining equanimous no matter what you experience. Equanimity is accepting all outcomes be it good or bad. So when you have a nice enjoyable experience you don’t cling or become attached to. Likewise, with bad experiences, you do not avert them. Accept everything as it is remaining equanimous.

3. Impermanence

Everything you know including yourself will eventually grow old and die. Everything. All of the people in your life and all of your possessions. During the 10 days you are consistently reminded of this. Realizing that your life is in a constant flux allows you to accept things as they are as opposed to clinging to the people and things in your life. It also makes difficult periods easier as you know that they will end as well.

4. Detox from life

During the ten days you observe noble silence. You are not allowed any electronic devices, reading, or writing material. This is such a strange and at times difficult practice as we spent our whole lives in a constant state of stimulation. Eliminating these distractions keeps all your concentration on your meditation practice. It also helps you slow down the pace of your thoughts as you aren’t digesting any new material. This lack of extra stimuli allows for a deeper focus on meditation and a much better detox.

5. Happiness

“There is only one place to find real peace, real harmony. That place is within.” – S.N. Goenka

The range of emotions I went through during the ten days was like a condensed version of an entire year in the outside world. There are many challenges. The pain in your knees and hips from the long periods of sitting. The hours of endless silence. As the days move on you begin to realize how many awesome things you have in your life. Living like a monk you see all of the things you take for granted each day. Not being able to talk reminds you of all the great friends and family you have. In future you won’t be on your phone when you’ve arranged to catch up with a friend. The long periods of silence allow you to appreciate all of the great people and things you have in your life.

6. Learning to Fail

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert F. Kennedy

With meditation you are constantly failing. The goal is to concentrate the mind by focusing on the breath. This helps quiet the mind but you are never going to go completely without thoughts, unless you reach enlightenment and this state is still impermanent. Constantly practicing daily throughout these failures builds willpower and perseverance. It makes you comfortable with failure which bleeds into other parts of your life.

7. Calmer

Goenka states in his lectures that the 10 days is a surgical procedure of the mind. During the  10 days I experienced minimal external stressors. Each day we were trained how to remain equanimous when different situations arose. This practice has helped me to observe stressful situations without reacting to them in an emotional way.

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8. Broader perspective

One of the stories told at the retreat is the story of 6 blind men who all touch a different part of an elephant:

Six blind men were asked to determine what an elephant looked like by feeling different parts of the elephant’s body. The blind man who feels a leg says the elephant is like a pillar; the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope; the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a tree branch; the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a hand fan; the one who feels the belly says the elephant is like a wall; and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a solid pipe.

A king explains to them:

All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently is because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all the features you mentioned.

The practice of meditation gives us a broader perspective on situations. instead of looking outwards at all of the problems effecting yourself you start to see that it is all a manifestation of your own thoughts. You begin to take responsibility for your own life.

9. Improved efficiency with time

During the retreat I learned for the first time in my life how to slow down and listen. Up until the point my mind was allows crammed with thoughts of what I “should” be doing. After this experience I realized  that there is so much time in the day but it was how I was using my time that was the problem. I now focus on 2-3 important tasks and forget about everything else. Being more present allows for a deeper concentration when carrying out tasks. All of this results in completing tasks faster and more efficiently.

10. Improved mobility

Sitting cross legged for 10 hours a day is painful. The first few days will be agony for most of you. In the last 2 days my hips started to open as my body got used to sitting. Sitting cross legged with your spine straight, tail bone and knees in contact with the ground puts you in a perfect position that allows you to sit more comfortably for longer.

If you give yourself the time and solitude you need to ask the important questions you will be rewarded with a greater understanding of who you are and what it is you want from life. If you are looking for more information about Vipassana meditation including dates and locations check out there website.

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Featured photo credit: Honey Kochphon Onshawee via pixabay.com

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Last Updated on August 12, 2019

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory and brain power:

1. Nuts

The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

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2. Blueberries

Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

3. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

4. Broccoli

While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

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Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

6. Soy

Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

7. Dark Chocolate

When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate: 15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

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Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

9. Foods Rich in Zinc

Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

10. Gingko Biloba

This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

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However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

11. Green and Black Tea

Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

Find out more about green tea here: 11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

12. Sage and Rosemary

Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

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Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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