In 2016, I did a 10-day Vipassana meditation course in the south of Portugal. 10 days of total silence, minimal meals, no technology, exercise, yoga or books, and more than 12 hours of meditation per day. The experience had such a profound effect that I’ve already diarized the July application date for my second dip in December.

Vipassana is huge – as we speak, there are dozens of courses being held around the world. So you don’t have to travel far to find a course – nor do you need to get a second mortgage; Vipassana is donation based, in contrast with posh meditation retreats charging thousands of dollars a week.

Obvi, accommodation is basic (I slept on a thin mattress on the floor of a cold room shared with 11 others) and meals are simple. If you’re looking for a luxury getaway, look elsewhere. But the simplicity of the set up – together with scale, more than 110 hours of meditation over 10 silent days in the Portuguese countryside – made its effects more intense.

Beforehand, I spoke to a friend who had done Vipassana a couple of years prior. She told me her meditation practice remained strong for a few months, then dwindled. I vowed not to let that happen. I would meditate two hours every day forever!

Annnnnnnd… I totally let that happen. I meditated for two hours a day for a month or two… then let it slip.

Currently I meditate anywhere between 5 minutes and an hour per day. I decided not to view this as abject failure.

Not meditating for two hours does not mean I shouldn’t bother at all. Meditating for ten minutes at the airport, in bed before the alarm goes, or on the couch waiting for the kettle to boil, is better than no meditation at all. Some days I feel pulled and meditate much longer. But not always.

Last week I attended a one-day Vipassana course for ‘old’ students (this just means that you’ve done a 10-dayer, not that you’re ancient) in an unassuming converted house in a poorer southern-Californian suburb.

I was a little nervous; see above re failure to meditate two hours a day, every day. But despite my patchy practice, I found myself in super deep meditation for hours. By the end of the day, I’d revived the calm that lingers in the wells of my soul.

I made no empty promises to meditate for two hours a day or otherwise radically change my schedule. I’ll take 5 minutes consistently, and occasional longer sittings when I feel pulled, over setting unreasonable goals.

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