Do you always get that feeling on your birthday? Maybe, you didn’t accomplish everything you wanted? Or, maybe that year was the best ever? Either way is a turning point.
Last year I made a vow, while cruising the Bahamas. From that point on I would be somewhere different every year for my birthday. My present to myself was being able to reflect about my life and press the reset button, alone.
The term spiritual awakening was foreign to me as I was coming from a business background.
That might have been why it took me 5 days of zipping on a mix of mint and verbena tea, sitting still in Kopan while looking over Katmandu to have my first insight.
It was not a Aha moment, because it came naturally during my stay at the Monastery. But that glimpse opened a door that I didn’t know it existed.
I am not moving into a Monastery, I will still wear my passion for business on my sleeve and I am still keen on my research on success and happiness.
But have you ever felt a void, like something is missing and you need more of whatever it is that you don’t really know?
If you ever found yourself in this situation pack your bags and fly to Nepal.
That’s what I did. In my imagination I always had Tibete as my to go retreat list, however the realisation that it wasn’t neither easy nor cheap made me look for courses Westerners-friendly.
I found Kopan Monastery just 30 minutes from the Katmandu city center. (Well if you count on the traffic along the dirt roads this might be a bit longer than Google gives you – but anyway is all part of the experience)
The 4 Noble Truths course consists of 5 Days where overall you can speak 2 hours or you can also opt-in for a total silence retreat.
The schedule doesn’t change and between sleeping, meditating, classes and eating your free time to think is also on the schedule
Here is why you should do it:
#1 – To Have a break
More than wanted I needed a break to sit and contemplate my life, find some answers and just exist. I needed to be able to disconnect from everything in order to plug to the essence of who I really was.
#2 – To Define your goals
Every birthday I decided to reset the goals and have ME time. I like to define what I want for the following year and my birthday always feels like an adequate time. But I also needed time to analyse and to be still without the day to day pressures. So this time for me is like a New years revamp.
#3 – To be grateful for what you have
We don’t appreciate enough what we have. Most of us anyway because we take everything for granted. It’s the way you were taught. At Kopan you appreciate the food they give, you help out cleaning the dishes and you realize that there is a huge part of the World that lives a very simple and totally different life from you.
#4 – To become braver
I am a female, white and Westerner. Travelling by myself is a challenge and while at Kopan I understood how privileged I am. But most important you will be getting out of your comfort zone. You will adjusting to a reality that you don’t know and that makes you a bit more flexible.
#5 – To understand your mind
The Buddhist focus most of all on controlling the mind. That is one of the reasons you have most of the day to yourself because your inner voice keeps shouting and wanting to get out of your head. It’s a painful exercise but will lead you to a major breakthrough.
#6 – To gain perspective
Try to sit on a room on the right side, now change to the left. Now stay still in the center. The view is different isn’t it? The sensations are also different right? It’s what a silence retreat will do to you. Makes you gain perspective without having to sit around in different spaces. It teaches you how the different angles can work for yourself.
#7 – To detox from food and technology
Most of the silence retreats take away all your phones and digital gadgets. Some allow you to write and read books about the spiritual topic. In the end, you can do whatever you want. It’s not a prison but you will take advantage of the lessons if you allow yourself to stick to the program. As a Buddhist retreat the food was very specific, no meat nor fish. You wont’ starve but you won’t be eating Michelin start food either. You can always have some side snacks, sugar free just in case.
#8 – To watch the butterflies
Yes, this is literally what I did. Sat down to watch the trees grow and listened to the birds chirp. It has been a lifetime since I allowed myself to do that. What about you? The nature has the capacity of give you peace of mind, of letting you be without any anxiety and stress. Take the time to look around and see how life unfolds.
#9 – Learn the power of meditation
We had two sessions of meditation around 45 minutes each. I had done some guided meditation before however these were really powerful. I learn to sit down and cross my legs and place my head for optimum results. I learned how to truly concentrate on the moment and generate inner energy that would last me all day long. Never felt tired nor sleepy.
#10 – To learn how to be happier
During the Buddhist teachings suffering was the main topic. All of the Westerners were disappointed because we were all expecting a formula for a happier life.
What we found out was how to cope with sickness, aging and death. Knowing this gave as a free pass to have a healthier and happy life.
If you were to tell me a few years ago, I would pass my thirties and spend it in a monastery were alcohol was forbidden I would never believed you. But the truth is that I really loved it and the youngsters that were part of the group made me question where have I been all my life to miss out on such a magical experience.
Good luck on finding whatever you are looking for.
If you have any thoughts feel free to shoot me a message!