I came back a few days ago from the 10-day silent meditation retreat I briefly told you about in my last post. It was quite a shock to come back to the big city after 10 days of complete silence and introspection. I am still slowly adjusting to “real” life. I was excited to share my experience with you here today, but the truth is, it is very hard to put words on an experience like this one. Vipassana is not an experience that can be described, but rather one that has to be lived. Mostly because the technique has to be understood at the experiential level. And since every person is different, everyone’s experience will be different.
Vipassana is one of India’s most ancient meditation techniques – the same technique that was taught by Gautama Buddha over 2500 years ago and led him to reach enlightenment at the age of 35. It is not only a meditation technique, it is an Art of Living that allows you, when practiced seriously and continuously, to liberate yourself from all suffering and live a peaceful, harmonious, happy life. This simple but powerful technique teaches you how to observe your own body to see things as they really are (not as you would like them to be), allowing you to access to the deepest levels of your subconscious mind and therefore experience the truth pertaining to your own self. It then results into nothing less than the liberation of pain, traumas, impurities and suffering.
This meditation course is a deep, profound introspection into one’s mind. The word “retreat” is actually misleading – this is definitely not your typical relaxing getaway! It is a difficult, intensive, challenging course that forces you to face the deep, sometimes hard reality of your own subconscious mind. I like to see it as a bootcamp for the mind. The course also refers to it as a deep surgical operation of the mind. The technique is taught over 10 days of intensive meditation practice (a total of 10 hours of meditation each day, with a busy schedule from 4:30am to 9pm). Anyone who wants to take such a course has to be serious, committed, very disciplined and has to be ready to work very hard. This is no easy task, let me tell you! But I sincerely think it is worth every single effort. By learning and applying the technique, you grow and evolve onto a wonderful path of liberation and discovery of life’s ultimate truth. The technique allows you to witness the incredible relationship between mind and matter. For sceptics who may think that our mind doesn’t affect our body, or that the two are not connected, Vipassana is truly a life-changing experience. It has been for me an incredible revelation.
We spend countless hours training and taking care of our bodies, but we dedicate very little time and effort into training our mind. How absurd is that? We let our mind rule us, instead of learning how to master it. We let it overpower us, we let it take control of ourselves, lead our actions and our decisions, and ultimately determine the course of our lives. By learning a meditation technique like this one, you learn how to become the master of your own mind – the key to living a happy life.
I now know without a doubt that happiness lies within ourselves. It comes with living in the present moment and accepting it, whatever it may be. Happiness can never be found in the exterior world. It comes from within. We have the capacity to be profoundly happy and live the life we want, simply by the infinite power of our own mind. All we need to do is to learn how to master it. And that is exactly what the technique teaches you to do.
Of course, you won’t come back completely changed from a 10-day course like this one, but you will certainly see improvements in your life. You will gain a new perspective on life and you will have in your possession an incredible tool to use in your everyday life. Everyone I’ve spoken to who has done the course has said the same thing: they have learned about themselves in an incredible way. They have become more mindful, more happy, they get mad less often, are less impatient, they have more compassion and they see life in a more positive way. Personally, I’ve noticed a big change in my life since attending my first course 4 years ago and I keep on benefiting from it every single day.
If you’re interested in attending a 10-day course, you can visit their website. (I am by no mean compensated to talk about Vipassana. I am just really grateful for what it has done for me and how it has improved my life. It is certainly not for everyone but if it speaks to you, I highly recommend it. I think it is a transformative experience.)
Now onto these cute mini bunny-shaped shortbread cookies. These are the perfect Easter treat, but they can (should) also be enjoyed all year long. The shortbread cookie itself (without the coconut) is a great base to which you can add any flavouring you like. I chose toasted coconut here, but lemon zest, lime zest, lavender, chai spices, or any other flavour you like would work wonderfully.
The cookies are vegan and gluten-free. They’re made with coconut oil and maple syrup – no butter and no refined sugar. And the dough doesn’t require chilling, which means you can make and enjoy these in no time.
Note: You could replace the suggested flours by 2 cups of your favorite gluten-free blend, but since the texture of the cookies is very fine and delicate, make sure your blend has a very fine consistency for best results.
- ⅔ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- ½ cup coconut oil, softened
- ⅓ cup pure maple syrup
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- ¾ cup sorghum flour
- ¾ cup brown rice flour
- ½ cup arrowroot flour (also called arrowroot powder or arrowroot starch)
- ¼ tsp fine sea salt
- Toast shredded coconut in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently. Keep an eye on it to make sure it does not burn. Toast until golden, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line one large or two medium baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Add softened coconut oil to a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Add maple syrup and vanilla and beat to combine.
- In another medium mixing bowl, whisk together the sorghum flour, brown rice flour, arrowroot flour and sea salt.
- Slowly add the flour mixture to the bowl of wet ingredients and gradually beat to combine. Add the toasted coconut and using your hands, knead the dough to incorporate the ingredients together. The dough should not be sticky but should hold together when pinched. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour (start with 1-2 teaspoons). If it's too dry, add a little bit of water (I added about 1 tablespoon of water and it was perfect). Shape the dough into two balls.
- Lay a large sheet of parchment paper on a work surface. Place a ball of dough on the parchment and flatten with your hands. Cover with another sheet of parchment and using a rolling pin, roll out the dough ⅓" thick.
- Using a cookie cutter of your choice, stamp out cookies as close together as possible and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining ball of dough. Re-roll remaining scraps and repeat until all dough is used up.
- Bake in the oven for 10-14 minutes, until the edges and bottoms are lightly golden - do not over bake. Baking time will vary depending on the oven and thickness of the cookies so make sure to keep an eye on them.
- Remove from oven and using a spatula, transfer the cookies to a rack to cool completely. Enjoy!
Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.