Something I Think I Could Fail At: 10 Day Silent Meditation Program

When I was in Vegas the other month, one of the guys missed a day’s activities because he had to go on a long bike ride. He was training for an Ironman.

“Why are you doing an Ironman?” I asked him.

“I wanted to try something I thought I might fail at,” he replied, “I’ve never done a triathalon or any endurance sport before. So I thought I’d start with an Ironman and really challenge myself.”

I was immediately inspired. Trying something I had a decent chance of failing at resonated with me as a worthy undertaking. It’s not that I don’t fail or rarely fail in general — quite the contrary — but I haven’t tried to do something that I knew at the outset didn’t play to my strengths and may well not work out.

Over the next few weeks, I researched Ironman training. But then a better idea came to me: meditation.

I’ve been trying to meditate regularly for years. The research is clear and my personal experience backs it up: meditation calms me and clears my mind. My interest in meditation increases during nights when I have a hard time quieting my mind or during the day when I have a hard time focusing on the task at hand, as I’m instead overanalyzing the past or letting my mind race into the future.

But I’ve had a hard time making meditation a daily (or even weekly) habit. So I’m trying “shock therapy” of sorts: a 10 day silent meditation program at the Northern California Vipassana Meditation Center.

Robert Wright, one of my favorite authors, once blogged about his experience at a silent meditation retreat, saying it was one of “the most amazing experiences of his life.” He’s a hard headed guy, and yet he was moved in a lasting way. It pretty perfectly captures the kind of life change / evolution I’m thinking about if I can do the 10 day program and then institute a regular meditation practice.

Some call the 10 day program a “retreat” — which I suppose is what it’s technically called — but that seems like a misleading word. I’ve gone on retreats, and they are considerably more relaxing than what this seems to be: No reading, no writing, no talking/communication of any kind except when necessary with teachers. Two vegetarian meals a day. 4 AM wake up. Hours and hours of meditation each day, sitting on the floor, mostly cross legged. I expect it to be an intense physical and mental challenge.

I’m headed off tomorrow afternoon and will be off the grid without email or voicemail (or blogging/tweeting) until July 29. See you when I get back.

17 Responses to Something I Think I Could Fail At: 10 Day Silent Meditation Program

  1. surya says:

    awesome! good luck. looking forward to hearing about your experience. depending on that, i might hit this up too!

  2. gregorylent says:

    easy and great, after the third day you hope it never ends. at the end, life is not the same. congrats

  3. Lacey says:

    That’s been on my list for a long time! I have actually signed up twice before and never made it. Yesterday I bought a magazine in the airport and read a story about it and now this morning, your blog about it is in my reader! Hmm… Can’t wait to hear about your experience.

    Lace

  4. Jen Gresham says:

    That is something I would almost definitely fail at. Just the thought of it makes me twitchy. :) So maybe it’s finding something that sounds fun and you think you might fail at? No talking is one thing, but only two meals a day? That would kill me.

  5. I did a 5 day silent retreat after graduating. It was an amazing experience, and one that I am sure I will repeat someday (although I will likely go for a longer time — perhaps 10 days like you are).

    It can and will change the way you look at things. Enjoy!

  6. Laurie says:

    I have a friend who did this exact retreat, and said it was one of the most intense and most rewarding experiences of his life.

  7. Aida says:

    OMG! I can totally relate to this. I have the same expirience towards meditation. Looking forward to a post with your expirience. It might be the push I need. Have fun!

  8. bex says:

    i just did one about 3 weeks ago. very enoyable. piece of advice, just do a quick run through of postures – that’s the killer during the 1 hour ‘sitting’s of determination’ – pelvis forward. got recommeneded to me by someone who said best thing they’ve ever done. at the end most people said it was an enjoyable experience. but different reactions for most people. you have to rememeber that most people never let their minds sit still so doing so… crazys stuff can sometimes come up (we had 3 i think regularly in tears)

    for me…. i think its something you look back on in 1 years time and you can just notice little things that you’re doing differently. but definitely want to do another one.

    on a side note….the food is awesome…. would be interested if the food is different between say Australia and the US???? they have menu’s which they give out for free.

    oh and, after that final meditation on the 9th day before you can talk….socialise IMMEDIATELY. just find the first willing person and go for it. you might find out why i say that. i made that mistake

    have fun!

  9. Eugene says:

    Just did it a month ago, had a profound experience. Good luck! Look forward to what you would have to say about the experience

  10. Andy Sack says:

    Ben
    Sounds like an awesome reason to try something….and I’m inspired by your desire for control over silence and mental noise. Enjoy the ride.
    andy

  11. Brad Feld says:

    Awesome Ben – I expect it will be an incredible life experience. Amy has done a few and they are unbelievably intense based on what she tells me when she reports back. Good luck – talk to you on the other side.

  12. Cindy Rangel says:

    Would love to hear abt the food and meditation time.
    I would have to agree w/ finding good hourly siting postures
    I meditate for 40 minutes and sometimes it gets uncomfy.

  13. Janet says:

    This is so incredibly motivating. I’ve tried meditating at home and/or even walking meditations and I fail. My mind drifts and I’m uncomfortable sitting in silence for so long. My friend went last year and it changed his life. Can’t wait to hear about your experience as I think it might be a push to try even the one day or weekend sessions at Anubhuti Meditation center.

  14. Tyler says:

    Sounds pretty intimidating, but it seems like a lot of people find a silent mediation retreat incredibly rewarding.

  15. neeraj says:

    Hi Ben & all readers of Ben’s blog
    Can anyof you ( specially those who have gone through a this meditation experience) tell me why this is so “awesome” & the other adjectives used to describe meditation
    I ask this in all ernestness and am keen to learn
    thx

  16. I hope this went well for you Ben. I would find it to be a challenge. I do find silence and meditation quite calming and just a positive exercise in general, but it would be quite the task to do so for hours on end so regularly. Maybe I’ll try this myself. Couldn’t hurt, that’s for sure.

  17. Jace Lieberman says:

    I’ve always been intrigued by meditation but have never committed the time to do it regularly. I love the idea of trying something that plays to my weaknesses, how did you prepare for this experience?

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