🌱 This article is a unique experience written 100% by me

The Other Side - A Buddhist Story

One day a young Buddhist on his journey home came to the banks of a wide river.

Staring hopelessly at the great obstacle in front of him, he pondered for hours on just how to cross such a wide barrier. Just as he was about to give up his pursuit to continue his journey he saw a great teacher on the other side of the river. The young Buddhist yells over to the teacher,

“Oh wise one, can you tell me how to get to the other side of this river”?

The teacher ponders for a moment looks up and down the river and yells back,

“My son, you are on the other side”.

I have come to the realization:

I am on the other side.

This short story is a thoughtful illustration of the concept that we often go out on internal and external journeys in search of something be it the desire to impress others with new fancy clothes, or the wish to be in a place where the sun shines all year round.

During this journey we forget that we already have everything we need - it is within ourselves. This powerful idea has grown into a life philosophy for me since I came out of the 10-day meditation retreat at the temple in Thailand in February 2023.

To understand why and how I have grown into understanding and appreciating this ancient way of seeing the world let us start at the beginning.

Why Did I Do A Vipassana?

Glad you asked.

Besides this question, many people have also asked me this:

What did you learn?

Why do a Vipassana?

What did you take out of it?

Did you meditate a lot before?

Did you really not speak the whole time?

What’s special about Thai Buddhism?

What was your daily schedule like?

Some of these questions are not that easy to answer, but I will try my best.

Let’s first do a little thought experiment to understand why a simple answer is not as easy as it might seem. Think back to the last time you were at an amazing music concert.

Reimagine the excitement you had before going there, after arriving remember the smell of the venue and the sparkling eyes of other visitors. Mentally recreate the moment the music peaked and everyone was at the highest moment of joy and excitement.


Now, try to explain this experience to a person who only knows the concept of music from books. The person has never actually listened to music.


How do you explain all the nuances of the impressions that were going on that day?


It’s impossible.

Back to my story.

Words are the wrong medium to convey what I experienced during my stay at the Buddhist temple in Thailand. Nevertheless, words are a viable option to process and express my experience and I am happy to share my words with you.

Before I explore an attempt to answer the questions I would like to take another mental step back, this time some years back to the year 2021.


I started a new chapter in my life, full of energy and excitement I started my own small company and did freelance work. All the project ideas and topics I wanted to work on were suddenly unlocked and I had the freedom to work how I wanted and where I want.


I loved it.

And, I still love it to this day.

But, as you can imagine being your own boss comes with its own challenges.

I had to face many of them.

Business ideas not working out, loss of income, no financial stability, paperwork, and administrative tasks piling up like a dark gray layer of clouds over the sky. This led to a wish slowly growing inside me.

Mental Reset

Overall I felt full of energy, but I did not take more than a couple of days off since I started this exciting new chapter. At some point, I noticed, that my mind felt like an unsteady wave in a stormy sea, constantly moving, jumping all over the place.

I realized, I needed a “mental reset”, just like we used to reset game cartridges of our console games back in the 90s. A friend told me about a Vipassana retreat they did in Thailand and I was thrilled. I had meditated very regularly for a while but lost the habit over the last months. For some reason, I had an underlying feeling:

I am ready. I can do this.

Well, I wasn’t fully ready as I found out later.

What Exactly Is A Vipassana?

Here’s what ChatGPT answers (who still googles things? Move on, it’s 2023!)

Vipassana is a type of meditation practice focused on observing one’s own experiences, sensations, and thoughts with a non-judgmental and non-reactive attitude to develop insight into the nature of reality and cultivate inner peace and equanimity.

Here’s what I googled.

Vipassanā is a Pali word derived from the prefix “vi-” and the verbal root “-passanā”:

prefix vi-:special,” “super”, “in a special way,” “into, through”; “clear.” verbal root -passanā: “seeing”, “seeing,” “perceiving”, “free from preconception.” The literal meaning is “super-seeing,” but is often translated as “insight” or “clear-seeing.


Vipassana means “insight into the nature of reality.” Believed to have been taught by the Buddha himself, vipassana meditation focuses on purifying the mind and eliminating delusions, thereby ridding the individual of negative attachments such as pain, suffering, and distress.

Vipassana is also called insight or mindfulness meditation. The term comes from the Sanskrit vi, meaning “intense” or “powerful,” and passana, meaning “seeing.”


I see Vipassana as an act of gaining a clearer view of the experience we label as life, reality, or the world. To achieve this clearer view you will have to get rid of all distractions that disturb the mind. This is often done by going to a dedicated space like a temple or a remote place e.g. a house in the countryside, or a cave in the mountains, and then focusing all energy on meditation. You can do it anywhere, but being in a place where your undivided attention is focused on meditation helps tremendously.

Now, let’s get back to the questions I mentioned earlier and let me attempt to answer them.

What did you learn?

I learned too much to put into a few words. But, one of the main learnings is, if I have my mind under control, I have my life under control.

Why did you do a Vipassana?

To get a mental reset and clear my mind.

What did you take out of it?

Meditation techniques and understanding how powerful a calm and quiet mind can be.

Did you meditate a lot before?

Yes and no. I have been meditating on and off over the past decade, sometimes daily over the course of months, sometimes not at all.

Did you really not speak the whole time?

Besides the short talks to the monks at the reporting, I did not speak throughout the day.

What’s Special About Thai Buddhism?

The main form of Buddhism in Thailand is Theravada Buddhism, which is defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica as follows:

*Theravada, (Pali: “Way of the Elders”) is a major form of Buddhism prevalent in Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos.*

Theravada, like all other Buddhist schools, claims to adhere most closely to the original doctrines and practices taught by the Buddha. Theravadins accept as authoritative the Pali canon of ancient Indian Buddhism and trace their sectarian lineage back to the Elders (Sanskrit: Sthaviras; Pali: Theras), who followed in the tradition of the senior monks of the first Buddhist sangha, or community.

Daily Schedule

This is what the daily schedule looked like

  • 3.50 AM - Loud gong
  • 4 AM - Wake up
  • 4.15 AM - Group chanting led by one monk
  • 5 AM - Meditation
  • 6 AM - Gong for breakfast
  • 7 AM - Either meditation or shower and clean room and then meditate
  • (8 or 9 AM - In the first 4 days short group check-in with one monk)
  • 10.30 AM - Gong for lunch
  • 11.15 AM - Sweeping around the room area of the temple
  • 11.30 AM - Meditation
  • 3 PM - Reporting to a monk
  • 3.30 PM - Meditation
  • 10 PM - Sleeping time may begin

Deep Cleaning The Mind

After coming out of the temple I felt like my mind had undergone a deep clean with every corner having been meticulously mopped. It was very hard both physically (sitting for hours, or doing walking meditations for hours) and mentally. Nothing could have prepared me for this, but that is fine and part of the experience. I have grown to understand that a lot of worries in my life are a result of my mind running into doubtful thought patterns. I know this sounds obvious, but there is a huge difference between knowing something intellectually (e.g. smoking is not good for you) and seeing and understanding the underlying processes and not reacting to them (e.g. your body has the desire to smoke, you observe it and don’t react to it).

I will most likely do another Vipassana in my life again, whereby I also want to try a non-temple setting that fully focuses on the meditation aspect in a calm and remote place.

When is the last time you have meditated?

Give it a try.