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Young Vietnamese embrace meditation retreat to find inner peace

Young Vietnamese embrace meditation retreat to find inner peace

Tuesday, August 23, 2022, 09:31 GMT+7
Young Vietnamese embrace meditation retreat to find inner peace
A lot of young Vietnamese people are taking up Vipassana, a form of mindfulness meditation, in a 10-day silent and device-free retreat program. Photo: Duc Thuan / Tuoi Tre

A large number of young Vietnamese office workers are adopting a special form of mindfulness meditation, instead of traveling, mountaineering or doing charity as a way to find inner peace.

The meditation experience offers a breakaway from the earthly worries of life.

Meditation suits all age groups; however, this practice might strike outsiders as tedious and boring.

Thanh Thuy, 28, was taken aback to realize that over half of the 100 participants in her meditation camp were between 20 and 30 years old. 

10 days without worldly concern

Thuy signed up for a 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat program in Cu Chi District, Ho Chi Minh City. 

Vipassana is a kind of meditation that concentrates on mindfulness and awareness. 

To make sure she could land a spot, her registration was done one month in advance. 

The participants in this experience stayed in two dormitories, one for men and another for women. 

There was one large and one small meditation hall together with a kitchen area. 

The 100 meditators come from all walks of life.

Some of them are university lecturers, while others work as IT engineers, nurses, undergraduate students, and housewives. 

Each received an identification number on their orientation day. 

Number 45, for example, indicated the holder could only use locker 45, bed 45, seat 45 in the common dining hall, as well as cushion 45 in the meditation hall. 

Even the restroom area had numbers in it and the participants were forbidden from entering a room bearing a number different from their own. 

The sleeping arrangement had a very simple bed and pillow. 

For 10 days at a stretch, the meditators were away from their daily conveniences. 

All of their phones and other tech devices were stored away until the program ended. 

The meditators also had to remain absolutely silent, refrain from conversations, including eye-contact and hand gestures, as well as fast for the whole duration of the experience. 

After 17 years being attached to her phone, these 10 days were the longest amount of time Thuy had spent without it. 

“I work in the media and I’m still single, so my daily routines are unpredictable," she said.

“I’m also a night owl and I do all kinds of things on my phone until 1:00 am every day.

“I was deeply concerned whether I could go through with this, but it turned out to be quite easy.”

During the retreat, the woman had no access to any smartphones, televisions, or newspapers. 

Even interpersonal chit-chat was out of the question.

She woke up at 4:00 am every day, spent the majority of her daily schedule practicing proper techniques under professional guidance in the meditation hall, and went to bed at 9:30 pm. 

A path to finding oneself

Leaving work aside for 10 days was no easy feat.

Most young people like Thuy have to either use up their yearly days off, or quit their current occupation and find a new one afterward if they are to join the meditation program. 

Minh Vuong, a 26-year-old IT engineer, decided to quit his job in May because he was struck with a sense of imbalance in life. 

“Two years ago, I left Da Nang for Ho Chi Minh City to work for an Australian start-up business as I wanted a change of work environment,” said Vuong.

“I also planned to pursue a college degree and other soft skill training programs that would help me to empower myself.

“The job was demanding and I had good pay, but to be honest it was not the change I had been looking for.

"So I quit.”

Vuong sought advice from his friends regarding what to do after his resignation. 

Some recommended traveling and doing charitable work, and others brought up meditation. 

“I went traveling first for a few weeks, but that couldn’t give me what I really wanted,” Vuong said. 

“I spent several weeks at home with my family, surrounded by a sense of safety and familiarity, but still it was not what I needed.”

Finally, the man took up meditation. 

“I work in the field of IT and I consider myself a man of science and logic. I tend to question the scientific grounds of whatever advice I get,” he added. 

“People often deem meditation a spiritual practice, but I still decided to give Vipassana a try after studying it through the Internet.”

Vuong spent about 12 hours meditating every day during his 10 days at the camp. 

He graduated cum laude from college and was a popular undergraduate student, so he was also pushing himself to the limits. 

To him, both traveling and family time could not touch himself on the inside because they were external sources of comfort. 

“Meditation helped me to look inside of myself and understand my own emotions," he said. 

“I became more calm and less strict with myself after the trip, but I am more careful with what I do for other people.

“I understand that I need to look at my own feelings and understand myself before judging others."

The appeal of the mindfulness practice

Linh is a 20-year-old college student.

She is the youngest member among the 100 meditators. 

She learned about this program through word of mouth from fellow pagoda goers.

Meanwhile, M.T., a 29-year-old university lecturer, chose the meditation course to find a new path for herself. 

She got the information from a close student of hers. 

The 10-day experience added to her calmness in reorienting her career path. 

“After the program, I will spend half a month in Indonesia for pleasure, then I will head back to plan my new job,” she said.

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Tien Bui - Vu Thuy / Tuoi Tre News

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