Insights from a 10 Day Vipassana Meditation Retreat

by | Sep 22, 2017

For 10 days in August I sat in silence at the Dhamma Bhumi Vipassana Meditation Retreat in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia.

Now that I’ve had some time to reflect on the experience, I’d like to share with you what I learned.

I entered the retreat perhaps the happiest, healthiest, and most grateful I had been in my life up until that point in time.

I was seeing each day as a miracle – a gift – and was pursuing a mission bigger than myself: To Inspire Others to Lead Their Best Life.

And I entered the retreat with the intention of taking my life from GOOD to GREAT.

But what happened over the next 10 days caught me off guard…

Over the next 10 days volunteers diligently served all 50 of the meditators at the retreat.

They cooked for us, cleaned for us, provided us accommodation, and alerted us when to start and stop meditating.

All we had to do was Eat, Sleep, and Meditate.

We were also situated in the stunningly beautiful Blue Mountains, meaning each evening we could enjoy picturesque daily sunsets while drinking warm tea.

And the 10-day retreat was FREE (donation only), so we didn’t even have to worry about “getting our money’s worth.”

Yet for most of the retreat myself and many of the other meditators were miserable.

Even though we were in a beautiful location eating delicious food and being waited on hand-and-foot, we were miserable!

Why were we miserable? how could we be miserable? when everything was provided for us, and for FREE!?

The reason is that we came face to face with a truth that’s buried deep within the distractions of daily life.

A truth that’s buried deep within the distractions of work, friends, family, technology, entertainment…

And with no work to do, no friends or family to talk to, no smart phone to use, no books to read, no Netflix to watch, this truth could not help but rise to the surface.

What is that truth?

It is this:

When we operate primarily in the Mode of Mind, we make ourselves miserable.

Since the retreat I’ve come to truly understand that we humans can operate primarily in one of two modes during this life of ours.

We can operate primarily in the Mode of Mind.

Or we can operate primarily in the Mode of Heart.

Have you ever asked yourself any of these questions before?

How can I be healthier?

How can I be happier?

How can I be more grateful?

What’s my purpose in life, my mission on this planet?

How can I be the best possible version of myself?

How can I tune into my highest self?

How can I lead a more fulfilling life?

They seem like good questions to ask, right?

Yes, but here’s the thing:

These questions are predicated on an illusion of control and they reflect somebody operating primarily in the Mode of Mind.

(If this doesn’t make any sense to you right now don’t worry — the exercise below will help; just keep reading and let the words sink in… let them pierce you like an arrow… but absorb them and then let them go… for when the hook is in the mouth, soon enough the fish comes into the net.)

Here’s an exercise to make this clearer:

Can you think of the very best events/experiences/things that have happened to you in your life? The events/experiences/things you look back on and say “Wow, that was truly something amazing in my life!”

I’m talking the very best here…

Take a couple minutes to jot down 2 or 3 things on a piece of paper or if you don’t have paper then use your phone or something digital…

Have you got them written down now?

For me, some of these things include:

  • being laid off from my management consulting job after 1 year in the role
  • writing and publishing a best-selling book at age 25 (The Art of Success)
  • discovering the Six Figure Mentors after resigning from my strategy consulting job
  • attending an Ayahuasca / Yage retreat in Colombia
  • meeting a variety of influential mentors and friends on my journey

Now, take a second to ponder your list.

Do you recognize anything interesting about what you wrote down?

The interesting thing that I notice is that I planned NONE of them!

They happened to me.

They unexpectedly unfolded.

And in this sense their manifestation had a certain effortless, easy, miraculous quality to it.

To demonstrate:

  • I was laid off from my management consulting job totally out-of-the-blue. In fact, I found out literally 10 minutes after my manager told me my performance was great in our performance review meeting.

    Being laid off was one of the best things to happen to me because it led me to where I am today. If I hadn’t been laid off, I’d probably still be climbing the corporate ladder in the corporate world.

  • The idea for my book came to me in the middle of the night and against ALL ODDS I chose to get out of my warm bed, find some paper and a pen, and write down the concept, which is why the book exists today.

    Publishing the book was one of the best things to happen to me as it gave me the courage to resign my job and pursue my passion of helping others improve their life.

  • I discovered the Six Figure Mentors by mere chance when I randomly opened an email one night after not reading a single email from The Lifestyle Team (now my mentors) for over 9 months.

    This email came at the perfect time – it was three months after I had left my job and I was really struggling to find my footing on my own. If I didn’t open that email, I wouldn’t be where I am today: running a profitable online business while helping people change their lives and travelling all over the world; and a leader and mentor in the SFM community.

    The SFM has changed my life in so many ways, which is why I’m so passionate about helping others to discover the community.

  • The idea to attend an Ayahuasca / Yage retreat also came totally out of left field – after unexpectedly discovering a little-known but excellent podcast called Have It All by Satori Prime.

    Attending this retreat has been the crown of transformational experiences I’ve had in my life up until this very email that I’m writing you from my hotel in Bogota, Colombia. It has taken my understanding of life, success, enlightenment, spirituality, happiness, peace, love, grace, trust, faith and service to a completely new level.

Pondering your list, do you see that you didn’t “plan” the very best things that happened in your life? That they happened rather “unexpectedly”?

Interesting, right?

But let’s continue a little further…

Now, can you think of 2 or 3 things your mind told you that you needed to do/achieve to be happy/successful/fulfilled? (These are the things we also tend to try to meticulously plan out.)

Take a couple minutes to think about 2 or 3 of these things…

Have you got them in your mind now?

A few of these things for me include my prior goals/plans to:

  • climb the corporate ladder to become a CEO of a well-recognized company
  • negotiate bulk book-sale deals to Universities in Australia and the USA for my book
  • get on the personal development speaking circuit

Chances are these things worked out very differently to what you had planned, yes? (Certainly the case for me!)

And chances are these things caused you much stress, much anxiety, much fatigue and possibly even sucked the very essence and joy out of life… and then left you with little more than temporary satisfaction when you finally reached the “finish line,” if you ever did reach it.

What’s my point here?

What am I trying to say to you?


1.  With so much going on in our lives it is difficult to recognize that we are operating in the Mode of Mind.

2.  When we operate in the Mode of Mind we create misery for ourselves and have the illusion of control.

3.  Upon investigation of our life, it becomes clear that the very best things that happened to us in our life we never planned…

and the things that we planned in detail and lost sleep over only ever brought us temporary fulfillment at best and at worst robbed us of the joy of life.

4.  There is another mode of operation: the Mode of Heart.

5.  The greatest success, happiness, peace, love, contentment, joy, trust, faith, and grace you will ever experience in your life will come when you shift from the Mode of Mind to the Mode of Heart.

If you’d like me to discuss how to shift from the Mode of Mind to the Mode of Heart, let me know by commenting below and I’ll cover this in one of my future blog posts.

Until next time.

Your friend,
James Melouney