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  • Writer's pictureVanessa Vella

My Long-Awaited Return to Vipassana

I just returned from my most recent Vipassana Meditation course at the Ontario Vipassana Centre. You can follow my journey from the anxious beginnings (So, I’m Going to Jail) to the hopeful reflection after (Assorted Thoughts About My 10-Day Vipassana Meditation Course) and my second course (My Sorta Secret Return to Vipassana), which I completed in late 2019, just before Covid started. Here are my reflections on my third course:


I arrived at the Centre super duper early due to the understandably jangled nerves of my rideshare buddy, who was sitting his first course. I had lots of time to unpack, register, and walk through the woods. The woods there are amazing - the property backs onto a ravine with beautiful trees and scenery, but more so all the good vibes of the thousands of people. I felt so joyful to be there and like I was coming home to a place where I’ve always felt I belonged. I realized that I don’t ever remember feeling uncomfortable there. The nostalgia hit me at the start of my second course, but even the first time it felt very natural. Interesting!

I also felt a lot calmer and less nervous about being there, both because I now had a good understanding of what to expect - I know the way the schedule and routine goes, but I also know enough not to expect any certain experience - and also because I was way overdue for a return. I’d planned on going once per year for a course, but Covid and a lot of other curveballs from life had turned that into a 3 year gap. I was in need of a big time recalibration of my meditation practice and a lot of rest and down time. I knew both those things would happen somehow and was open to how exactly it would all go down.


I’m always nervous about getting up at 4am because the ass-crack of dawn is not the usual time I wake up. This time of year the sky doesn’t even lighten up until after we are done breakfast! But somehow every time I go I have no problem getting up at that time, whereas if I were attempt to get up at that time at home: many problems. Life is a mystery. I was also staying in a cabin this time - super cute, but no bathroom (well they give you a pee bucket but I prefer an actual toilet).

A small cabin, made of wood and painted green with a white door. There is a light beside the door and two steps leading up to it. There is snow on the ground and on the roof of hte cabin
My cute cabin, Cabin #2

Helpfully, immediately going outside into the cold, dark winter air for a minute to walk to the residence building really wakes a person up fast. Thanks, nature!

The interior of the cabin: one window above the bed, a single bed with a colourful quilt and pillows on it, and a small shelf beside the bed. There is a wood floor, floor mat, and shoe tray on the ground. The walls are off white.
The interior of my cabin, featuring the quilt my Mom made for me to meditate with (unfortunately cats like to bite it, but that wasn't a problem while I was at the centre)

Here is the full daily timetable FYI:

4:00am wake up

4:30am-6:30am Meditation on your own

6:30am-7:15am Breakfast

7:15 am-8:00 am Break and/or chores

8:00am-9:00am Group Meditation in the hall

9:00am-11:00am Meditation on your own

11:00am-11:45am Lunch

11:45am-1:00pm Break and/or chores. I usually went for a walk outside at this time and did the chores I signed up for on the days I had them scheduled.

1:00pm-2:30pm Meditation on your own

2:30pm-3:30pm Group Meditation in the hall

3:30pm-5:00pm Meditation on your own

5:00pm-6:00pm Tea time (new students get fruit for a snack and old students get nothing but tea if they want *sad trombone* I had my shower at this time since no fruit for me)

6:00-7:00 pm Group Meditation in the hall

7:15pm-8:30pm Dhamma Discourse (a video lecture by S.N. Goenka, the teacher)

8:30pm-9:00pm Group Meditation in the hall

9:00 pm Rest / Bedtime for those who are wise enough to know you gotta get that sleep started if you have a hope of being even semi-functional at 4am ha ha

10:00 pm Bedtime for those silly risk takers who think going to bed at 10pm is a good idea when getting up for 4am

I had a great “opportunity for ego dissolution” this day, which is to say I was mildly snubbed and disproportionately offended, as usual. I had emailed in advance to ask for a spot against the wall so my back would be comfortable (despite the fact that I knew in advance that being super comfortable isn’t even the point of all this). For some reason I convinced myself my back would be sore due to my advancing age ha ha. But as normal my legs were the sorest from the many repeated bendings. My partner Gord likes to say I went there to get my mind "bent," but seriously my legs were much more bent. Perhaps one’s mind gets bent proportionally to the bending of their legs; I don’t know all the sciences.

Anyhooo, I was given my spot on the floor, as is the custom for those who didn’t request a chair or wall spot, and I whispered to the manager that I’d asked for a wall spot and she asked if I could “manage for tonight” and I reluctantly said “Sure.” I was initially very irritated and honestly just pretending to be gracious, when I sat down and remembered that non-reactivity (equanimity) was one of the main points of this meditation technique and gave a mental nod of recognition to the Universe for it’s wicked sense of humour. The next day there was no follow up and I ultimately decided that maybe being in the present moment meant not pre-planning my body’s aches and pains was best, so I kept my spot and - get ready for this plot twist - my back was totally fine the entire time. Of course lol.


I woke up on Day 2 and promptly thought, “What a great first two days, time to do my Day 3 Covid test.” While taking the many bits out of the box of rapid tests I realized two things simultaneously: It’s only Day 2, silly goose, and “OMG I DO NOT HAVE ALL THE BITS THEY ARE GOING TO SEND ME HOME AND EVERYONE WILL POINT AND LAUGH AT ME AND CALL ME STUPID.” I want to emphasize this was all happening at around 4:30 am. I tried to be cool about it and sat down to observe my respiration, nose-wise (called Anapana Meditation) and observed that my nostrils were full of snot, due to the fact that I was currently bawling.

I took a break to have a little mental chat with myself: “When they almost certainly kick you out for being unprepared and a dumb-ass, you can make the most of your time by doing… stuff.. and hanging out with Gord and whatnot. Which will be good….” Then I thought about all the people I’d have to tell about getting kicked out who would certainly point out my terrible stupidity and question my intelligence. I realized almost immediately that would not happen because most of my chosen peeps are nice, understanding, and compassionate, and that’s why I chose them. “Hmm, I wonder where this crazy is coming from?” I asked myself and went on a whole journey about my family dynamic, fear of failure, perfectionism, and projection of this fear onto others (I’ve spent a lot of the latter half of 2020 and 2021 complaining literally about ‘all the stupid people’... WHOA).

That was helpful enough to calm me down and take care of the aforementioned snot situation. That tiny bit of calm led to another useful realization: “Wait… this entire environment is designed to make sure no one needs to leave so they stay and complete the course. Only a positive Covid test would make them send me home. Even if I wanted to go home, they would try and get me to stay and work through my doubt.” So before breakfast I approached the manager and whispered to her about my dilemma and which part I was missing and she said…*drum roll* “Okay I’ll bring you some.” And that was the end of that. All before 6:30am. Who says you don’t ‘do’ anything at a Vipassana course?! I went on a damn journey! I also went for a long walk in the woods after lunch, super elated to be staying (unless I got Covid the next day but that was in the future, and I live in in the present - at least I’m trying to lol).


I didn’t get Covid and get kicked out, but I did get something else in the category of freakouts. Sometime in the daylight part of the morning, I found a little bug in my bed. He was dead but located in a troublesome spot- i.e. inside my damn bed. I was like “Don’t freak out!” and “I sure wish I could use Google right now!” Then I thought about the potential harm of having found a bedbug (improbable but always possible at a place where hundreds of people come to sleep) or tick (very improbable but ticks are getting really out of hand, so you never know these days). I decided I should err on the side of caution, which is usually my favourite side on which to err anyway. I again approached the manager, who I hoped did not think I was being a dramatic pain in the meditative butt, and she said “Thank you for bringing these! We will get them checked by public health.” During my shower break, I then spent too much time looking at myself and wondering if that mark on my skin or this thing here had been there before. I once again remembered the objective of practicing equanimity and wisely thought I’d wait to see. You know, the thing I’m really bad at doing in my regular life. Thanks Universe, you are really too funny and clever and so beautiful and please stop freaking me out, okay? (Anyway, it was a spider. I probably rolled over on him and did way more harm than he did to me. Sorry you had to die in my bed, little friend). This was an interesting experience because I am not a hypochondriac, but put yourself in a fishbowl situation and watch your normal behaviour get a little weirder. Maybe my mind did get bent a little…

This day’s “opportunity for ego dissolution” this was occurred in the dining hall. We are meant to bring our own slippers or sandals to wear in there but they also has a basket of ones to borrow in the foyer if you’ve forgotten yours (along with extra Covid tests and anything else you’ve forgotten). I decided to be clever and lazy at once and leave my sandals in the foyer next to where I always put my jacket and shoes, because surely everyone else there knew that those were my sandals because I’m very important. I went in for lunch and they were gone. I saw them on someone else’s feet because of course in a room full of sandals there specifically for borrowing would a random pair be interpreted to also be for borrowing. I laughed at my silly ego and realized that I needed to bring my in everyday just like everyone else did. A real “Come on, man…” moment to myself


I woke up on this day very excited, because today is the day Vipassana meditation starts. This is a big milestone in the course and makes the whole experience much more interesting. The first three days of Anapana I find very challenging - it makes me very drowsy and it’s boring as hell! I understand why it is this way - to help us develop concentration and the ability to observe sensations in a very small area of the body and you need tht foundation for Vipassana. It is a bit easier to focus during Vipassana meditation since it’s a whole body scan and so there’s a lot more variety, although like all meditation it is still challenging in many ways.

Vipassana instructions are given in the afternoon in a long session which is almost two hours long and the longest group sit. I knew that our Adhiṭṭhāna (strong determination) sittings would start later that day (during which we commit to not moving our legs, opening our hands, or opening our eyes, to the best of our ability without straight up torturing ourselves. The stillness facilitates observing with equanimity). I thought I’d see how much I could do that early because I am an impatient go-getter like that and clearly still working on being in the present moment only. I only moved a couple times and it buoyed my spirits that the next 5 days of Adhiṭṭhāna would maybe be easier than my first two courses. Naturally during my first course I was like “Yeah… I don’t know about this.” As I am a wiggly individual I was hella doubtful. But I learned how to do it! It was actually amazing how much my Adhiṭṭhāna over the course of just one day. It’s almost as if each day there is actually a week’s worth of experiences.


Every night there is a Dhamma Discourse, which is a recorded lecture from the late Goenka, the teacher of the Vipassana courses. He gives lessons on theory and tells cute and funny stories about Buddha and pumps you up for the next day of meditation. On Day 5 the topic is Saṅkhāras. Saṅkhāra means ‘'that which has been put together' and 'that which puts together'. In Goenka’s words they are the ‘old habit patterns of the mind.’ As the theory goes, when you meditate with equanimity (i.e. not reacting with craving - liking or clinging- or aversion - hating) then you allow your old saṅkhāras to be released and over time, and bippity bop, you’re enlightened *please note: enlightenment may take many lifetimes or the very least a big ol’ chunk of this lifetime* And on the not-so-motivational flip side, every single time you react with craving or aversion, you are generating new saṅkhāras. I don’t know about you but I can generate saṅkhāras like a boss, like at least a few per minute, just walking down the street:

  • that guy is driving terribly

  • I hate slow walkers

  • ooh a cute dog I want one!

  • I’m itchy and do not enjoy

  • I want a snack, mmm snacks

  • it’s too windy

  • I wish it were sunny all the time

  • oh I like this song, ew what’s that smell?

  • I want a pond of gold coins like Scrooge McDuck has?

  • ...and so on! You know, regular thoughts.

Taking in the concept of saṅkhāras can be intense, as naturally one simultaneously realizes: “Wow I got a lot of old saṅkhāras” and “Oh crap, I’m making new saṅkhāras all the time” and “Oh this is gonna be a lot to work…”. It’s like when you look around your home and realize there’s so much to clean and get overwhelmed and bummed out, but for your entire mind and life history and also future. During my first course I had a not-so-thinly veiled dream about carrying so many heavy bags that kept multiplying and multiplying and no one would help me carry them and I just had to struggle with them constantly. I can’t remember my bonkers dream from the second course, but I know I had one on this night. During this course I had a much more veiled and legitimately disturbing dream that Mr. Rogers came back to life as a Zombie, to kill children, I while I tried to save the day I was a real ego-jerk about it. Also Zombie Mr. Rogers could walk through walls. Saṅkhāras: the existential crisis that keeps on giving, even when you’re alseep! Fortunately the following days discourses are more encouraging on the topic of saṅkhāras, giving the context that the more and more you can cultivate equanimity the less entrenched your saṅkhāras will be and the less you will have to release over time. Still, living a saṅkhāra-free life seems like a real slog for most of us non-enlightened ones (at least for now!)

.... and now a brief intermission for cuteness:


Needless to say my Zombie Mr. Rogers / Saṅkhāra night terror experience did not spark joy in the morning when I woke up. In the morning there is time from 4:30-6:30am to meditate on your own and since that’s very early in the morning, I would usually do the first hour in my room, easing myself into it, and then mosey on down to the meditation hall and be with others to ensure I didn’t decide an hour long break after one hour of meditation was in order. I walked into the hall and immediately saw another student going into the area with cells. Cells are what they sound like: cute little prison-like rooms for one individual to meditate privately. They are about 1 meter by 2 meters and have a 20 watt bulb in there so you can just barely see but not entirely (one day I accidentally flopped into the wall because my rods and cones were all screwed up in the dim light. It was funny and hurt-y all at once)

Usually, the old students get their cells before the new students (we fancy!) but I couldn’t remember which day that happened on. I figured Day 6 or 7 but not until after brekkie. And here was this person* (*not the word I used in my head) going in there without permission. There is a sign right on the door that says not to enter until you are assigned a cell! My morning brain decided either: 1) this person was a rule breaker (rude!) 2) this person got a cell before anyone else (how?1) or 3) everyone else got a cell but me (sadness). All of these angered me and created hella new saṅkhāras because: 1) I can’t abide rule breaking 2) I can’t abide favouritism 3) I can’t abide being left out. Not being able to abide so many things made me go grumpy and not equanimous! I was a spewing saṅkhāra all over the place!

As I was plotting marching up to the manager at breakfast to demand satisfaction I realized: 1) I’d been craving for a cell. I had good memories of being in there last time, crying and working through an existential crisis and so maybe I should deal with that craving rather than demanding satisfaction 2) I was fairly certain it was not my job to mentally note all the rule breaking and make myself miserable while everyone breaking rules went happily on their their lives, even though I’m super good at it and 3) this fear around being left out is completely unfounded, it’s usually not even a thing at all and when it is it’s usually just a mistake and not personal. So it turns out I can abide by those things, when I choose to. I decided to not speak to the manager or do anything about it, but to practice equanimity: I will get a cell when I’m supposed to, or maybe I won’t. It makes no difference as I already have enough spots to meditate. I am choosing to follow the rules for reasons of my personal values and that’s what matters. This is a time lapse of my mental process: it took me a day and a half to get to that reasonable place in mind ha ha

On Day 10 during the Nobel Speech (or Noble Chattering as Goenka calls it), when the silence ends to allow us to debrief with each other, I was telling a co-meditator this story and she told me that her friend calls the unsolicited enforcement (imaginary or real) of rules by those not charged with the task ‘Park Ranger-ing’ which I found delightful. Now I say to myself, “Vanessa you are Park Ranger-ing again” when I catch myself doing that thing. Helpful!


I remember sitting down at breakfast and thinking “I’ve been here for a week!... A week is a lot” then immediately remembering why it’s not wise to count the days (up or down) while there. Also it’s not very … mindfulness. You know, be in the now, man! Interestingly, after I got my phone back on Day 11 and was patiently waiting for it to process the fact that it had been off for ten days (i.e. load all the things) I had an email in there with some bad news in it that was sent on this very day. Maybe I picked up on that energy. Or maybe I was just working my way over that one week hump. The good news is that getting through Day 7 is, to me, the beginning of the ending and that’s an important milestone.

I don’t really remember much else about this day. We aren’t allowed to write (or read) as part of our Noble Silence precept, so I tried to just mash the highlights in my mind nooks and crannies in the right order and hope it all came out right in the end. Naturally, some of it got lost in the shuffle. It’s inevitable! So to round out this day I’ll talk about my hunger with what I call the ‘half-fasting’ meal plan of the course. As I mentioned, old students only get breakfast and lunch, having taken a precept not to eat after 12pm. But lunch ends at 11:45am, a kind of culinary microaggression, so you are actually fasting from 11:45am to 6:30am the next day. The first time I was an old student (my second course) I was very anxious about this fact (I am a snacky individual with a history of hangriness). Lo and behold I found the half-fasting very difficult, but ultimately constructive. I got through with a quotation from nutrition guru John Berardi: “Hunger is not an emergency.” I know that might seem obvious, but for me it was a damn revelation. It was interesting (and uncomfortable) to experience hunger for hours and hours, observing how it ebbs and flows. Most importantly, I got through it and, of course, was just fiiiiinie. That also meant going into this third course I was not as concerned about the food situation and, lo and behold, I was totally fine. I often didn’t even feel hungry at all and there were a couple meals I had to get myself into the mood to eat. I also didn’t eat as much (the first and second courses I had more of a “Eat now while you still can!” attitude which, yes I know, is not the picture of mindfulness or equanimity lol). I’m certain it’s no coincidence that my mental state was much calmer and more accepting of the half-fasting this time around and that I was so unbothered by hunger and so much less frenetic about eating.


Shortly after I worked through my cell freakout, we were quite hilariously assigned cells, as if the Universe was just waiting for me to get real with myself. I swear we got cells on Day 6 the last time I came but I am proud that I resisted by urge to sate my curiosity since that’s another strong craving I have. I’m not messing around, I’m trying to reduce my stock of saṅkhāras!

My mental image of the cell being this amazing place to meditate which was superior to my other places had already been demystified by the end of this day, as I was right when I told myself it makes no difference where I meditate. Memories can be troublesome!

I also had a lot of indigestion for some reason, which provided ample opportunity to both feel my sensations (a lot of action inside my body) with equanimity (a lot of said action didn’t feel great). Long story short, I mostly use my cell for farting and weakly attempting to meditate while farting, as my previous meals reorganized themselves in my digestive tract. As the saying goes, ‘The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.’

The Meditation Hall, a large beige building with a snow covered roof, appears on the right side of the image, while the sun peeks through the trees in the background, framed my two trees in the foreground through which the photo was taken
The sun coming up over the Meditation Hall on the morning of Day 11, just before we left to go home

Again, I do not remember anything else very specific about this day so I will talk about the weather. It was great. Who needs TV when you can just look at the outside all day? It’s very cool to have the opportunity to just observe nature doing it’s thing. Even when we are camping, there are a lot of tasks that need doing, but at Vipassana, you can just watch the snow melt, literally. It was so beautiful and snowy and sunny when we arrived, and we had a great big rain and subsequent melt, with all manner of itinerant ice formations in between. It was cold, then very cold, then mild, then regular cold again. The snow came back towards the end and made everything pretty and fresh again. One morning - this one or Day 9, I can’t remember - I sat on the bench outside the Meditation Hall and literally watched the sunrise. I was so enamoured I may have singed my retinas a little, but it was worth it. I’m usually do busy doing stuff to take the time to watch the world change in front of my very eyes. We also had the full moon when were were there and I could see if from my cabin window. So cool! The FOMO for all the missed picture is real, but there is something special about not being able to document it for late and just having to experience it and make a memory instead.


Every so often during Vipassana mediation, when one is right in the equanimity zone, something cool happens: you can watch your sensations change before your very eyes. Your mental eyes, anyway - your actual eyes are closed. On the practical side, we are each learning that any sensation - pleasant or unpleasant, subtle or obvious, etc. - is impermanent and consists of vibrations, at the very tiniest level which is hard to observe but possible with practice. During one adhiṭṭhāna sitting, my legs were very sore. My feet had gone numb and my one leg had shifted a bit into an unfortunate position. I remember myself that I could move if absolutely necessary but also that if I was able to maintain my adhiṭṭhāna I would be better able to observe anicca which is the pali word for the concept impermanence or the constantly changing nature of all things. So I kept still and worked on my equanimity, which is to say I resisted continually thinking “OW OW OW I HATE THIS UGGGGHHHH” as is normal in a situation like this. It was interesting to watch how the sensations did indeed change - getting more and then less intense before coming back and fading again - and also moving locations - like my toes would really hurt, and then the top of my foot and so on.

Right at the end of the meditation session, all of the discomfort sort of merged together in a giant vibration-y sensation and dissipated. It just WENT AWAY. ON IT’S OWN. Just like Buddha said it would do! What a guy! One of the things I really like about this meditation technique is that instead of just taking Buddha’s (or Goenka’s) word for it, you are to there observe this reality (impermancne) inside the framework of your own body. In other words, see for yourself and then decide if it feels true or not. I really admire that part of the technique as it counteracts anything that may (legitimately) seem cult-y about Vipassana - the dress code, the quiet shuffling around and not looking at each other, the occasional chanting, the encouragement not to leave and the many delightful weirdos (Hi, it me!). The main idea of a 10-day course is that you come and see for yourself, throw yourself into it and give it a go, and after, as Goenka says, “You are your own master.” If it works for you, keep it. If not, do something else. It’s up to you!


As usually happens, this day is a total blur. That’s because in the morning we learn Metta meditation. Metta means “friendly, amicable, benevolent, affectionate, kind, good-will” but is more commonly known as Loving Kindness or Compassion. And right after that happens we are allowed to break our Noble Silence and talk to one another. It’s a weird experience after 9 days of silence. It feels like rule breaking but it is a big relief too. During my first course I felt very overwhelmed by feeling obligated to talk and not knowing what to say so I hid in my room for a while (I eventually came out!). This is a common (but not universal, of course) experience during a first course. But the second time and this time felt smoother to me. Usually I find that rather than having deep and meaningful conversations after 9 days of silence and intense meditation, we all just chat about our crazy dreams, which meals we liked best, how funny Goenka is, our various aches and pains, and so on It’s hard to sum up the experience right as it is ending, especially for new students. And it’s near impossible to know how exactly it will impact your life, until you have the chance to go back and live it as you normally do.

In addition to chattering, there is also a bunch of information available in the dining hall and reading stuff is a real trip after 9 days of not being able to read (or write). The whole day is intense, the noise, the words, and all the sensory stimulation is a lot. Thoughts of being out of the course and back at home are harder to manage. Happily, they give us a light dinner this day to help us with all the extra energy expenditure. Unhappily, we have to mediate right after and the mash up of digestion and meditation is a tough one. The silver lining of that is if you’ve ever thought your body was weirdly loud, you are soothed by realizing it’s actually everyone’s. It’s an orchestra of soup digestion and quite funny. Meditation is a bit of a pipe dream from here on in lol.


We started this day with a final meditation and Discourse in the hall at 4:45am. I’d been up since 3:30am as I’d had a bad dream Gord had gone missing and no one could find him, not even Snoop Dogg (and he can do a lot of things!). I was again morning-grumpy but also morning-excited to go home and see Gord, provided he was still present and accounted for, and also see our cats! I am usually apprehensive to get my phone back and get sucked into it but this time I was like “Gimme, gimme!” (What? I still have work to do!). In the end I was already pretty bored of my phone and tired of hearing about John Tory’s damn affair before I’d even arrived home.

I got home around 10am and was immediately overwhelmed in a good way - Real coffee! Chocolate! Cats! Gord! Sounds! And also I did a bunch more chattering. Since I’ve been through this before I knew I would tire myself out with excitement over the course of the day and I sure did. But wisely I didn’t really plan anything, just went witht he flow. The first thing I did was have a long shower and twirl around in there since the shower at the centre was very small (I bonked my head more than once). To test my equanimity I did a cold dip at the end and didn’t react at all (usually I squeal and wiggle and immediately regret my life choices and curse Wim Hof all at once).

Then we went out to run errands and it was wild! Stores are soooo bright and loud! I took my basket to the cashier at the grocery store and plonked it right on the conveyor belt. Gord had to intervene and remind me that you’re supposed to take the things out of the basket. Oops! The cashier seemed both unimpressed and confused, whereas I was delighted and amused by myself and also excited for the chips I was about to eat.

I even did my first post-Vipassana at-home mediation, which was a bit of a rude awakening. The cats were going bonkers and kept trying to burrow under and eat my meditation blanket and also had a literal fight on my lap. Gord was cooking and watching YouTube and the street noise outside was so distracting. I tried to be equanimous, but it was hard. I reminded myself it’s always a transition coming home and since then it’s gotten better. The cats are getting into it (i.e. laying down and going to sleep) and I’m getting used to the noise again

So that's a play-by-play of by most recent Vipassana course! You can look forward to more deep dives into my mind as I continue to go to future Vipassana courses ha ha. But more importantly: are you thinking of sitting a 10-day (yes that's the only option for new students, sorry not sorry) Vipaassna course? If so I would love to help you with that in any way I can! I wish everyone would be willing to try this at least once and if it's something that intrigues you I will support you in making that happening. Holler at me!


So the way my mind works is: I’m not sure lol. But one near constant feature it music. I listen to music every day and I also get songs stuck in my head a lot. During my first course I had “Oh Yoko” by John Lennon stuck in my head for days and I remember the literal moment it arrived: I was walking to the meditation hall at 4:30am, nothing that was happening or that I was thinking about related to the song at all and I hadn’t even heard it for ages. Strange! (Also: annoying). Anyway I thought it would be fun to share the songs that were rattling around in my brain this time around. Here they are:

Nobody Like U” by 4*Town (from the movie Turning Red)

So I was a bit late to the party but I finally watched Turning Red in January when I had the flu. I loved it so much! I watched it many times. Great story, adorable animation, and good tunes. One such tune got stuck in my head and this was it. It’s so cute!

Vipassana Rating: 4/10 This was too fast and bouncy, but the positive message and cuteness may have helped with the state of my mind. Alternatively the catchiness definitely hindered by focus, as all mind music does

I have been listening to these two songs by David Myles since hearing Turn Time Off in an episode of Workin’ Moms (great show!). These songs are lovely and were already in my head but wriggled in there moreso with the lyric “snows been falling and it suits me fine” (It was snowing the first couple days of Vipassana) and the idea of turning time off, which is useful when you’re sitting down to meditate in a 2 hour chunk of time (thinking about time is super duper not helpful)

Vipassana Rating: 7/10 As far as meditation songs go, they were slow and sweet and not too distracting

I know I listened to this recently at the gym but can’t remember how exactly it came to be lodged in my brain, particular since it was just the first 30 seconds or so, before she starts singing, that got in there. Very specific! When I listened again when I got home I chuckled at the line “I’m so unbothered, I’m so unbothered, y’all be so pressed” since I indeed felt as unbothered as Beyonce, especially as I spent my first full day back having all my plans changed on the fly (something which typically makes me very bothered)

Vipassana Rating: 6/10 It was a bit loud and fast to be helpful, but at least the lyrics politely stayed at bay and I wasn’t mentally rapping my way through my meditations

This one is totally my own damn fault. In the middle of one meditation where I was feeling some unpleasant sensations and also some pleasant ones I noticed myself thinking “ow!” and “ooh!” (I am one of those people whose inner monologue is my own voice talking to me… which has pros and cons). I decided in the name of equanimity that a neutral reaction would be better and settled on “oooee.” Smart, maybe, but that also had the unintended consequence of making me thing of the awesome and funny song Thunder Thighs by Miss Eaves in which “oooee” is a lyric.

Vipassana Rating: 1/10 This song is great to dance or walk to but super duper not for meditation. Too fast, too exciting, and too many EDM sounds, none of which helps a mind focus. Why do I do these things to myself? SIGH

In an attempt to calm down my Thunder Thighs troubles I tried thinking of a slower and calmer song which I enjoy and came up with this one. The problem with thinking is that I then thought about all the covers of this song, decided Rufus’ was my favourite, remembered he came from a big musical family and how are they all doing now, I wonder? and then also thought about Shrek since this song was on the soundtrack. I’m pretty sure thinking about music while meditating is not adding value to my experience, but since it’s almost always there, sometimes I have to DJ a little bit.

Vipassana Rating: 7/10 It’s a great song and this version is beautiful, but it wasn’t wrong enough to overpower Thunder Thighs (I mean, who is?)

This happened very organically on Day 11 then I telepathically (before I’d gotten my phone back) said to Gord, “I’m coming home!”

Vipassana Rating: 8/10 It’s not overly fast or distracting, but truthfully it didn’t interrupt my meditation during the course as much as it did when I was, you know, coming home



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