yoga yenta’s silent vacation…

By: Doris Schwartz
Doris Schwartz is the creator and alter ego behind Yoga Yenta, the sassy self-appointed commentator on all things yoga. A management and fundraising consultant based in Los Angeles, she's maintained ...

Meditation is on the up and up. Cover of Newsweek. Cures heart disease and many other ailments. Practiced by everyone from the Dalai Lama to Howard Stern. They say it’s the key to finding harmony and inner truth. If you sit for a little while every day, your mind will become quiet, peaceful and filled with love. Sounds simple, right? As if.

In an effort to stay ahead of all trends, and report the scoop to all of you, I signed myself up for a ten-day silent meditation retreat to learn a technique called Vipassana (Insight meditation).

Ten days with no distractions. No speaking. No reading. No music. No movies. No knitting. No yoga!!! Would I survive? It’s a shocking concept for a yenta to shut her mouth for ten minutes – let alone ten days – but I decided to give it a go.

Immediately after signing up, I began receiving messages from the East”¦ But no, not soothing spiritual signals telepathically transmitting from Tibet, but rather, frenzied email messages from the East coast”¦


“Re: Buddhism vs. Judaism”

No worries. I’ve been through this reaction before with family and friends – first with fasting, then chanting, chakra balancing, sound and light therapy, rebirthing, colonics”¦ And once I promise to never stop shaving my legs or using deodorant (and only wearing a turban on bad hair days), they sigh with relief and support my exploration (even if they still think I’m kind of whacked.)

No new experience is complete without a little shopping, so luckily, even the sacred practice of meditation has cute, overpriced specialty items to choose from. After my trunk is packed with the most fabulous assortment of benches, blankets, books, beads, bindis and butt-cushions (my tushi deserves the best, afterall), I head up the highway towards enlightenment (aka the 5 freeway).

Yahoo! Arrival. A quick bout of separation anxiety shortly after turning in my cell phone is the first challenge I must overcome. I manage to stay calm and welcome the internal adventure ahead. In the process of self purification, a new lesson is introduced every day, each one building upon the next.

Day One: Concentration.

Wow. Thinking about not thinking is even more frustrating than thinking in the first place!

Day Two: Focus on the breath.

The volume of thoughts running through my head is literally mind-boggling.

Day Three: Notice the sensations as the air passes in and out through the nostrils.

I’m so productive. I’ve completed five to-do lists, holiday card lists through 2007, and a revised TiVo season pass list ”” and it’s only 7:30am!!

Day Four: My ass is killing me.

Day Five: Now that our minds are quieter, focus on bodily sensations – observing with non-attachment as they continually rise and fall.

Omigod, I have seriously got to pee. How much longer until stretch break?

Day Six: Counter the automatic tendencies to crave positive sensations and avert the negative ones.

When the flatulent girl to my left lets loose again, I can more easily avert my normal case of the giggles. I think this maybe getting a little easier.

Day Seven: Accept life as it really is – not just how we want it to be. Struggling begins to turn into acceptance.

Deep insights begin to surface, like that Jennifer and LaToya being voted off American Idol may be a blessing in disguise and just perfect the way it is.

Day Eight: Only three more days ”˜til Ben & Jerry’s!!!

Day Nine: Learn to accept all the trials and tribulations of life with equanimity and happiness.

By the way, my ass is still killing me but it’s somehow not making me so miserable anymore.

Day Ten: Share this love peace and harmony with all those around you. It is only by giving to others that we benefit from a peaceful and harmonious world”¦ May all beings be happy!!

Even a yenta has nothing to add here.

What an amazing and wild experience. It’s scary to think of how much time we typically fill with distractions and even scarier to think about spending this much time without them – focusing entirely on ourselves, and becoming open to inner truth. But self-control over the mind is definitely not easy. It’s kind of like painting your toenails while driving. The more you practice, the easier it gets.

Om Shanti & Infinite gratitude,

Yoga Yenta

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