A young woman’s yearning for inner peace is about to be realized–at a trip to the woods to unlock the secrets of the ever-thinking mind. Hosted by spiritual master S. N. Goenka, a ten-day vipassana meditation retreat that she attends irrevocably alters her perspective…and her future. Inner Pilgrimage: Ten Days to a Mindful Me is a comprehensive, moment-by-moment description of the author’s ten-day vipassana meditation retreat. The story unfolds with her arrival at the retreat as an ordinary citizen seeking a calmer, more centered existence. Sacrificing every luxury and self-indulgence, and following a rigid daily routine that excludes reading, writing, praying, listening to music, watching TV, and talking, the author spends ten hours every day, meditating. Inner Pilgrimage provides rich imagery and clearly articulated details of the author’s physical experience and her mental & emotional states, during sustained meditation. It provides a compelling insight into her experience of discovering the realm and rewards of vipassana meditation. (from Goodreads)
Raji Lukkoor’s experience on a vipassana meditation retreat inspired her to craft the book: “Inner Pilgrimage: Ten Days to a Mindful Me”. I was immediately drawn to the words in the title: “Inner Pilgrimage”, “Mindful Me”. The words conveyed a feeling of calm and serenity, along with a desire to discover self.
Vipassana meditation, also known as insight meditation, is a journey of personal awareness that can transform the quality of our lives. And this book is about one person’s journey with vipassana meditation, as experienced on a ten day retreat.
This vipassana meditation retreat consisted of ten hours of silent and motionless meditation, every day, for ten days in a row. As a participant, Raji Lukkoor, the book’s author, spent that meditative time sitting cross-legged, (the typical meditation pose), with pillows propped under her knees and ultimately ignoring all sensory experience outside of her body. There were teaching sessions, via DVD, that spoke to the proper ways of meditating, and breathing as a whole body experience. This particular vipassana retreat is styled using the methods in the tradition of S.N. Goenka, a vipassana spiritual master, of the Buddhist tradition.
Raji describes the location of the retreat as being in the middle of nowhere, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California, U.S.A. The accommodations are quite sparse – gender-segregated group cottages, with heat and lighting, beds, bedding, bathrooms and showers. No access to the outside world, no reading material, no journal writing. And the first thing Raji had to consider was locating a place to sleep. I identified with Raji’s determination to find a place where she would be comfortable to sleep for ten days. I have never attended a vipassana meditation retreat, but I have attended other types of silent retreats, all of various durations. Getting ‘settled’ and feeling comfortable in the sleeping area is very important. What is new to me is the requirement to remain motionless for ten hours of active meditation. It intrigues me, but I am not sure I would have Raji’s stamina! If you connected the lack of writing supplies on the retreat, to the writing of this book, you will realize that Raji Lukkoor wrote this book based on her memory and experience of those ten days – and that I find remarkable. To me that means that this retreat made such a deep impression on Raji, had such meaning in her life, she was able to write about it many days after its end. And not just a re-telling of the events of those ten days.
Raji Lukkoor was able to step back in time, to the first day of her vipassana meditation retreat, and bring us, the reader, along for the journey. We travelled with her as she settled herself in her sleeping area, and checked the bath and shower accommodations. We joined her negative and positive reactions to the dietary rules and conditions. As Raji struggled to learn vipassana meditation, we captured the moments with her. The seating challenges, the physical wins and the physical losses. Lukkoor’s detail focused, sharp engineer’s mind, plus her gifts as a writer brought the reader directly into the centre of the retreat. We see the balance tip between the whole experience as overwhelming, and the whole experience as life-changing. As the book comes to conclusion, Raji excitedly travels home bringing with her new spiritual skills to use in her everyday life. A life in which, she feels more aware and more authentic.
This book is not an answer to all questions about vipassana, nor is it an instructional manual. It is one person’s experience. Within the book, Raji does point us in a direction that will give us additional information and assistance, should we choose to study vipassana meditation more extensively. Belonging to the Buddhist tradition is not necessary, in order to experience vipassana. Raji herself had no Buddhist background.
This is among the best inspirational books that I have read. I was inspired by Raji Lukkoor’s personal spiritual journey. I was inspired by this new-to-me form of meditation. And I was inspired to sincerely look where in my life, I can move from restlessness to calm, from cloudiness to clarity.
For me, the Joy of the Written Word is written throughout “Inner Pilgrimage: Ten Days to a Mindful Me” by Raji Lukkoor.