Over the past year, I’ve been exploring and researching different meditation modalities around the world to deepen my own practice and learn new techniques to share through my work. In January, I headed off to Bodh Gaya, in India’s Bihar state. It’s where the Buddha sat under the Bodhi Tree. A descendent of the original tree grows behind the Mahabodhi Temple today. I visited Bodh Gaya to circumambulate the Mahabodhi Temple and do a 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat.
In terms of difficulty, when people hear about a 10 day meditation retreat, that might initially seem like too much! But in the vast array of meditation retreats you can choose from, a Vipassana retreat isn’t especially difficult. You do work up to sitting for four 50 minute meditation practices each day without moving, but there’s a gradual process to it. And, at least at the Vipassana retreat center in Bodh Gaya, they gave back everybody’s phones on the 9th day and the first day was the arrival day. So the focused meditation practice is 7 days. You can make it for a week without your phone.
This was the meditation hall where we would sit each day. Note all of the blankets—an unseasonably cold weather front descended from the Himalayas and caught everybody unprepared. Many of us wore all of our clothes EVERYDAY, just rotating the layers each day, while also wearing our bedding like capes. It was a wonderful opportunity to make space for discomfort!
Since I was going to be in India, I arranged some workshops in Hyderabad and Delhi. It was awesome to meet so many people I’ve interacted with over the years through YouTube, and to meet some new friends. For both workshops, we spent an afternoon using design thinking exercises to explore changes we wanted to make in our lives, the barriers that interfere with those changes, and how to develop a plan of action for breaking down those barriers or learning the skills to climb over them. Thank you to everybody that came out!
I was also in Bangalore to meet up with the team at Wysa, to learn about the innovative work they’re doing with their mental health chatbot (which you can more about here: http://www.wysa.io) And I sat down with founder, Jo Aggarwal, to answer audience questions and chat about making mental health skills more accessible: