Have you ever wondered what it would be like to meditate for ten days on a silent meditation retreat? I definitely have.
During my yoga teacher training in India, we were not supposed to speak during meals. The idea was that we were supposed to be fully conscious of our food rather than getting distracted by socializing. Some people took it further and did not speak for an entire day, wearing a little sign around their neck that they were observing silence aka mouna. Some people say observe silence so that you save your energy to turn inwards rather than focusing outwards in idle talking. Once you quiet speech, the mind quiets down too. Others say that there is no need for communication if you realize the great truth that there is no other–‘they’ are no other than me. Whatever the reason, observing silence is a powerful practice especially in conjunction with meditation.
I decided to connect with Alessandro Aliosha Pedori, teacher of contact improv and yoga in Berlin, who meditated in Thailand for ten days at the Buddhist International Dhamma Hermitage of Wat Suan Mokkh. Even though their website is quite comprehensive, even giving out a detailed 11-page description of their yoga classes, I wanted to know what it was really like to experience and live there for a silent meditation retreat.
Listen to my interview* above (or download it!) with Alessandro to find out:
What he would have done differently at Wat Suan Mokkh knowing what he does now (hint : bring a pillow!)
Who would be your fellow meditators and the leaders / facilitators?
Was the food good?
The lasting effects of meditating for ten days in Thailand
If you want to meditate for 10 days at Wat Suan Mokkh, here are your ACTION STEPS:
Pack a yoga mat, a pillow, tiger balm, and some paracetamol. No pretty clothes allowed, so leave them at home.
Get yourself to Thailand by plane, train, automobile, boat, foot in outside the months of January and February.
Make it to the Buddhist hermitage by 3pm on the last day of the month to register for the next ten days.
Meditate, practice yoga, soak in the hot spring, and eat delicious Thai food for ten days.
Celebrate with a Thai iced tea upon your ‘graduation’ from meditation.
Stay at the main monastery in the woods for a few days.
Escape to a tropical island in Thailand.
Interested in finding out more about Alessandro? His soon-to-be-launched website is aliosha.info.
* I apologize for the poor sound quality. My skype-to-skype interviews sound fine, but my skype-to-phone interviews get a lot of static and interference. My new microphone is in the mail; stay tuned to hear the difference with a Zoom microphone.
Have you attended a silent meditation retreat or ever wanted to?
Share your experiences–critical and cynical or blissed out–in the comments below please.
Photos (from top to bottom): Hot springs at Wat Suan Mokkh and Alessandro Aliosha Pedori
I was really anxious when I interviewed Penelope Trunk. Not only is she internet famous, I had no idea what the conversation was going to be like. Actually, I had thought that talking to her would make me squirm uncomfortably.
Penelope Trunk is a big name in career advising. She’s got a start-up funded doing exactly that. So it’s no surprise that even though I called her to talk about her humane goat cheese project, we ended up talking about my career as a yoga teacher around 8 minutes in.
She told me right away that people don’t want to read about yoga. And it’s a waste of time to blog as a marketing tool, because only people in a three-mile will come to my yoga class. So she tells me I should quit blogging.
No one wants to read about my yoga successes, because it’s boring. She told me to force myself to fail and then to blog about that. Or else blog about how yoga can help you get a boyfriend, or how yoga can save your marriage, or how to make more money by doing yoga daily.
Instead of reading about yoga, people want an interesting experience. She, for one, started doing Ashtanga yoga because movie stars went to the Ashtanga studio. Any movie stars out there who want to come to my class? I teach yoga to the movie star equivalents of the Berlin start-up world. Does anyone get a thrill from doing yoga right next to successful start-up founders?
Listen to my interview above (or download it!) with Penelope to find out:
Why Penelope thinks I should go work at McDonald’s
Is it yoga if you’re pissed off while you’re doing it?
The difference between struggle and failure
Here’s what I wanted to tell Penelope on the phone but couldn’t: Penelope will grow in yoga by accepting the reality of her yoga practice. Her struggle with her current practice is her path of growth in yoga. It’s inner, not outer physical, work. Yoga is not just about putting your feet behind your head or holding headstand for 3 minutes. Yoga is also about how much you try and how much you fail and–the most important part—how you treat yourself after your failure. If you berate yourself and push your bodytowards injury during yoga practice, that’s not yoga. The yoga is in the compassion.
Be grateful for your limits. If we didn’t have physical limits, we’d have no opportunity to listen to our body telling us where our boundaries are for today. Maybe that’s a better way to describe yoga: playing with your physical and mental limits to keep expanding them.
Around minute 12 Penelope asked me how I got the courage to email her. I sent her an email without expecting any response whatsoever. The importance for me was in thanking her, not in getting any kind of acknowledgment. That’s how I do yoga too—I’m not doing it for weightloss or stress management. I do yoga for the sake of doing it—to connect my body, breath and mind. Does anyone want to buy that? The more I write about yoga, the more I think it’s unmarketable.
ACTION STEPS TO BEING COURAGEOUS:
Do yoga to feel strong inside.
Take a risk like sending an email to someone you admire.
At The Joy of Yoga Emma Silverman blogs about yoga, meditation, being a yoga teacher, and–what makes her blog unique–yoga sequences. Of these, she will be publishing 108 in a book.
If you’re an intermediate or advanced yogi, try following one of the sequences at home for a DIY yoga class–like this one to get yoga arms (like tennis arms, but long and lean rather than bulky). They are helpful tools if you are developing a home yoga practice.
What I find most inspiring about Emma’s yoga sequence project is that it’s community-supported : yogis all around the world contribute sequences, so there’s a huge variety of intensity, focus, and effect.
So, get to know Emma and her book project The Joy of Yoga by listening to our interview below. You’ll learn
what karma yoga is
the process behind publishing a book
Emma’s biggest challenges and how she’s moving beyond them
Find out more about Emma and her yoga sequence book on her blog The Joy of Yoga. If you would like to contribute a yoga sequence to Emma, her submission guidelines are here.