Lived Through This

A Brutally Honest Review of My 10-Day Silent Vipassana Meditation Retreat

My slow spiral into insanity and inner peace

Ivy Kwong
Human Parts
Published in
24 min readSep 25, 2017

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This gong at rang at 4:00am in the morning. Every. Freaking. Morning. For 11 days straight. All photos courtesy of author unless specified.

NoNo talking. No phones or technology. No yoga pants. No working out. No music. No reading. No writing. No killing (even spiders!). No stealing. No masturbating. No sex. No lying. No drugs or alcohol. No moving during “sittings of strong determination.”

The morning gong rings at 4 a.m. sharp to rouse everyone for the opening 4:30–6:30 a.m. meditation session. The first two of 10 1/2 total hours of meditation scheduled every single day. For 10 days straight.

I am officially in Meditation Prison.

How did I end up here?

In a questionable moment of sanity, I decided to book a 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat for my birthday. I had no idea what I was in for. Without bothering to do much research beforehand, I figured it’d be nice to disconnect and take a break from technology and social media, relax, and do some yoga and meditation. On a good week, I average about 20 minutes of meditation every few days, so this seemed like a solid way to try and practice it more regularly.

When I looked for payment options on the mysterious website Dhamma.org — complete with a spinning wagon wheel graphic that looked like it was downloaded directly from a GeoCities website in 1998— there was none to be found. What was this madness? What kind of place gives you a bed, three meals a day, and daily meditation instruction for nearly two weeks without requiring a significant chunk of change in return? Was I being lured into an international organ harvesting organization cleverly using the guise of a retreat to find deep inner peace as their cover? Was this some sort of Satanic cult? Do Satanists even meditate?

I had questions.

Digging deeper, I discovered that all of the meditation courses offered via the site are 100 percent donation-based. They won’t accept any money up front, but you can offer a donation after successful completion of one of their programs.

It seemed too good to be true. What was the catch?

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Ivy Kwong
Human Parts

Asian American therapist specializing in healing codependency, trauma (ancestral, sexual, racial), AAPI thriving, & decolonizing mental health. www.bareivy.com/