Vipassana 10-Day Meditation Retreat Review

2 months ago* I did a 10-day meditation retreat, put on the by Dhamma.org organization (they have centers all over the world, including one a few hours from me). This will be a long review since there is a lot to say!

They teach a specific type of meditation called “Vipassana Meditation”. First I’ll explain what the whole thing was like, and then let you know my opinions on it.

The Rules

There a few strict rules that you have to follow during the retreat:

  • “Noble Silence” for the entire 10 days – no communication of any kind, including verbal communication, non-verbal communication (gestures), physical contact, or eye contact. There are 2 times each day when you can ask an assistant teacher questions if necessary, but otherwise the entire retreat is completely void of communication. Since I was a bit late on the first day, I didn’t get to meet the other students ahead of time, and had no idea what anyone else looked like until the last day when we were allowed to talk again.
  • Complete celibacy (no sexual activity of any kind)
  • Can’t kill any animal (including insects like mosquitos)
  • Can’t lie (not too hard since you can’t talk)
  • Can’t have any intoxicants (alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, etc)
  • Can’t have any reading or writing material
  • No physical exercise
  • No music
  • …and a few others

All the rules are to facilitate meditation, minimize distractions, and allow people to get as deep as possible with their introspection. [Read more...]

A Month of Blogging

The Thinker Statue - Thinking About Blogging

Statue of a man having a hard time thinking about what to write on his blog.

One month of blogging complete!

Man that was a lot of work. I’ll keep this post short because I’m just a couple hours from my end of the month deadline as I write this, and don’t quite as much to say about blogging as I’ve had to say about everything else.

Have I enjoyed blogging?

Yes and no. It’s nice to get my thoughts out on “paper”, to have my experiences recorded so I won’t forget them, and think that people are going to read them & might enjoy them. It’s also nice to create something (whether it’s a blog or something else, it’s just enjoyable to create).

And yet blogging has also been somewhat frustrating because my brain doesn’t seem to have a knack for it. I can handle technical writing no problem, but the closer I get to “creative” writing, the more my brain gets all gummed up. If anything I’ve written so far this month sounds somewhat coherent or fluent so far this month it most likely didn’t come out that way at first.

This month has involved a lot of writer’s block and banging my head against walls, computers, my own knees, etc. BUT at times the words come easier, and regardless of the process, it’s nice to read through the final version of a post and click “publish”.

There’s more to blogging than simply writing though. [Read more...]

A Month of Astronomy

Andromeda Galaxy - By NASA

Andromeda Galaxy, which contains about 1 trillion stars. Andromeda is on a collision course with our own Milky Way Galaxy – it is rushing towards us faster than 100km per second, but is so far away that it won’t reach us for about 4 billion years. Andromeda is faintly visible to the naked eye.

Since watching some episodes of “The Universe” (History Channel) a year or two ago, I’ve wanted to know what I was seeing when I looked up at the stars. I wanted to be able to recognize the constellations, and I wanted to be able to marvel at the fact that a certain star that I was looking at was a certain size, or a certain distance from the earth.

So last month I decided to start learning astronomy. Before I explain how I got started & how you can too if you have the urge, here are a few astronomy facts to whet your appetite. (If all you want is to start doing astronomy, scroll down to the heading “Tips To Get Started”)

Our Star, The Sun

The sun looks roughly the same size as the moon from our perspective. But whereas the moon is much smaller than the earth, the sun is so big that over 1 million earths could fit inside of it.

The sun is made of mostly hydrogen and helium. The hydrogen atoms are flying around so fast in sun’s core that when two hydrogen atoms smash into each other, they fuse and become one helium atom. Every second, the sun fuses about 600 million tons of hydrogen into 595 million tons of helium. In the process, it gives off a lot of energy.

Every second the sun gives off about as much energy as a billion 1-megaton hydrogen bombs going off. The Hoover Dam has a maximum capacity of 2,080 megawatts of power. The sun generates 386 billion billion megawatts of power. (the 2nd “billion” is not a typo)

[Read more...]

A Month of Volunteering (@ A Long-Term Care Residence)

I was sitting at a table in a long term care residence, waiting for a bingo game to start.

On my right was a very old woman in a wheelchair who always brought a stuffed toy rabbit around with her. She’d often pet the rabbit and try to tell me about it, or she’d talk about other things, but unfortunately I usually couldn’t make out what she said. She seemed very sincere when she tried to communicate. Her lips would move slightly, and little puffs of unintelligible sound would come out, but recognizable words were few and far between.

Luckily she didn’t seem to be aware that no one could really understand her. And when I responded by smiling and nodding, or by saying something that I feared had no connection to what she’d just tried to communicate to me, she seemed to be satisfied.

A few seconds before the bingo game began her daughter showed up to help her mother with the game, so I didn’t end up needing to help her myself.

Instead, I was able to focus most of my attention to the guy on my left.  He was a also in a wheelchair but was around my age – much younger than most of the residents.

[Read more...]

A Month of The Paleo Diet

caveman hunting a woolly mammoth

The Paleo Diet is sometimes referred to as the “caveman diet”, although it doesn’t actually
involve eating woolly mammoths. (Illustration by Jasmin Lantos)

I’ve been curious about the Paleo Diet for a while. The theory behind it seems reasonable to me and I’d heard some convincing testimonials, so I decided to try the diet myself for 1 month. This post describes my experience.

What Is The Paleo Diet?

The Paleo Diet – short for “Palaeolithic diet” – involves eating the types of foods that cavemen (cavepeople) ate. The theory is that over millions of years, evolution designed humans to eat the types of foods that were found in their natural environments.

When agriculture began 10,000 years ago, the types of food we ate started changing so rapidly that evolution hasn’t been able to adapt our bodies fast enough to keep up (10,000 years is nothing on evolutionary time scales).

On the paleo diet you revert back to eating what you are designed to eat – what you’d find in your natural environment. That means eating meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and… that’s about it.

The theory makes a lot of sense to me, so I thought I’d give it a shot. For the month of May I ate 100% paleo.

[Read more...]