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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 September 18, 2020

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

1. Exercise Daily

It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

3. Acknowledge Your Limits

Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

The basic nutritional advice includes:

  • Eat unprocessed foods
  • Eat more veggies
  • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
  • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

    5. Watch Out for Travel

    Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

    This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

    If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

    6. Start Slow

    Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

    If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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    7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

    Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

    My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

    If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

    I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

    Final Thoughts

    Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

    Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

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    Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

    Reference

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