More than a month after returning from a Vipassana meditation course, I decided to write down my experiences for you to read. I wanted to take some time to let it all sink in and see what effects the course would have on my life.
And even now, I like to be very careful. Each person experiences a Vipassana course in a different way and anything you know in advance will influence you in one way or another. You can read about the Code of Discipline and the daily timetable on the Vipassana website and there are plenty of people who did decide to share their experiences in full detail online. If you are even slightly contemplating of doing a Vipassana course at some point in your life, I can strongly recommend you not do too much research into other people’s experiences. In fact, you might even want to stop reading now. (This is test #1 to see as to what extent you can control your craving mind;)
Six more hours and I will be silent. I am off for what may be the biggest challenge in my life up to today: a 10-day Vipassana course.
I am so nervous.
Ten hours of meditation per day, getting up at 4 am, no talking, no reading, no writing, and only 2 vegetarian meals a day…. what am I getting myself into?
I feel super anxious about if I will be able to do it. I have never in my life not talked for an entire day, let alone for 10 days. Will I be able to cope with the boredom? I am a person who checks her iPhone the second I have a moment of downtime. I cannot sit still for 1 hour straight unless I am asleep. Won’t I get excruciating lower back pain from sitting on the floor day in day out? What if my stomach will make rumbling sounds in the meditation hall? How can I ever concentrate on my breath if the one thing on my mind is food!?
But most importantly: What if I don’t see the ‘light’ after the 10 days? Will I have failed then? When do I consider this to be successful?
And then there are random curiosities about practical stuff: Will I be sleeping in a dorm or have my own room? I hope the food is tasty and plentiful. What type of people will be in this course and how many will we be? What if I need to pee during a session? How to ask someone to pass the salt when I am not allowed to speak or make eye contact? How come I am not even allowed to write down my train of thoughts over the course of the 10 days???
But what the heck, I don’t have much to lose other than 10 days of my life. The course is donation-based.
Here is the daily timetable:
4:00 am Morning wake-up bell
4:30-6:30 am Meditate in the hall or in your room
6:30-8:00 am Breakfast break
8:00-9:00 am Group meditation in the hall
9:00-11:00 am Meditate in the hall or in your room according to the teacher’s instructions
11:00-12noon Lunch break
12noon-1:00 pm Rest and interviews with the teacher
1:00-2:30 pm Meditate in the hall or in your room
2:30-3:30 pm Group meditation in the hall
3:30-5:00 pm Meditate in the hall or in your own room according to the teacher’s instructions
5:00-6:00 pm Tea break
6:00-7:00 pm Group meditation in the hall
7:00-8:15 pm Teacher’s Discourse in the hall
8:15-9:00 pm Group meditation in the hall
9:00-9:30 pm Question time in the hall
9:30 pm Retire to your own room–Lights out
After months of new impressions, sweaty travel days and fried foods my body was longing for exercise, healthy cooking and quietness. I no longer had the energy nor the interest to hike another volcano or go into the rainforest down the Rio San Juan. I guess there is only so much you can absorb in a 4 month stay in a country.
So I let go of my ambitious travel plans and decided to spend my last weeks on the Pacific Coast, doing daily yoga practice and some surfing. I looked up various retreat options and I was shocked by the prices, starting around $1500 for a 6-day yoga retreat in Nicaragua or Costa Rica. Apart from not having the money, I was not interested in an infinity pool nor in a pillow menu.
How could you ever spend 10 times an average monthly Nica salary in just 6 days?? It just didn’t feel right to me after having witnessed so much poverty.
So I decided to create my own yoga retreat, which would take place in San Juan del Sur, a tranquil town on the Pacific Coast known for its beaches (meaning: running and surfing) and for its expat community (meaning: fresh vegetable dishes and Italian pizza). There also is a yoga studio that I heard raving stories about from other travellers as well as from my online travel bible TripAdvisor.
The bay of San Juan del Sur
One of the first things I always do when I arrive in a new country is trying out the local beer. Toña is a nice fresh beer and light to drink, but I like to spice it up as a Michelada, the Bloody Mary version of beer.
Toña – the local beer in Nicaragua
The local rum is truly delicious. The most famous brand is Flor de Caña and is best drunk pure with ice. It is also very common to order a bottle, a bucket of ice, lemon, salt and a gaseosa of choice and build your own cocktails at your table.
Build-your-own Flor de Caña cocktails at your table with a bucket of ice, lemon and salt. All of this for less than $10.
At the end of this blog post I will give you the recipes for Toña Michelada and Macua, my favorite Nica drinks. But let me first take you to the place where these drinks are produced, namely the oven of Nicaragua: the sugarcane fields in the west around the village of Chichigalpa.
A very good friend introduced me to The Holstee Manifesto a short while ago. It was as if the author had read my mind – and as if this piece of text came into my life at the right moment.
The Holstee Manifesto was written by two brothers and a friend who started the company Holstee, designing products from recycled material. During the first months as a start-up, they wrote up what was going to be the Holstee Manifesto. It was a reminder of what they wanted from life, as it felt to them right there at that crossroads moment in their life. Against all expectations, its poster print became one of their top selling products.
It was my birthday last week. Another year gone by, time to reflect on the last 12 months and look forward to the next. The Holstee Manifesto is now my new screensaver and a constant reminder of how I want to live my life. Below are some of my attempts.
While travelling through Nicaragua and meeting microfinance clients, there was one Kiva borrower that stood out from the rest. 29-year old Alejandro Jose is a fietsenmaker, a bike repair guy. As many of you know I loooove my fietsenmakers. It also happened to be one of the persons that I lent $25 to through Kiva.
Type of Business: Bicycle Repair
Loan amount: $650 (This loan was fully funded on May 9th, 2012)
Number of Kiva lenders: 26
Purpose: To buy bicycle rims, tires, inner tubes, ball bearings, chains and gear selectors.
Alejandro Jose from El Sauce, Nicaragua, in his bike repair shop. He is holding a print out from his own Kiva profile with me depicted as one of his lenders.