What did it take to survive on a silent meditation retreat? My first-hand experience

17 march 2019, 13:45 ∙ 14 min read

Foto author

Dmytro Marakhovskyi

Co-founder of GrowApp and Grand Master Yoga. Can be seen working hard, building businesses as well as meditating, doing a handstand, eating croissants and simply enjoying life.

10 days. 10 marvelous, frightful days I spent in a Vipassana meditation retreat camp.

You might have heard of similar places, where busy and successful people spend a weekend and learn to live in silence being separated from their phones and power. They wake up, contemplate the outer and inner world, sip veggie cocktails near the pool, eat healthy vegan food, and pray to finally escape back to their cozy lives.

Well, that’s only a half-truth. Silent Vipassana retreat is completely free and open to anyone who’s seeking answers.

As for my experience, it was one-of-a-kind and dramatically different from all rumors I’ve ever heard. Nearly 40 men and 60 women from all over the world consciously and voluntarily paused their lives, ventured to a secret place in the North of Israel, to find themselves helpless, confused, lost, metaphorically tied with arms and legs, separated from the rest of the world and doing nothing but meditating 10 hours a day.

Here’s the most vivid explanation of what Vipassana is I’ve ever heard: "How many vipassana meditators does it take to change a light bulb? Doesn't matter; they simply note, "darkness, darkness, darkness..."


Long story short, Vipassana is a straightforward way to self-transformation through self-observation: you stay in a max distance from distractors and discover the real YOU beneath all your masks.

To be honest, there are people in this world much braver than I am. Yuval Noah Harari, a star historian and the author of mindblowing futuristic books, undergoes a 60-day silent Vipassana retreat each year. That’s literally two months! In a recent interview, he revealed that it’s a meditation that got him to where he is now (to the top of best-selling writers). This practice taught him to focus on essential matters and to separate the truth from the stories made up by humanity.


I’m a human, nice to meet you!

If you’ve already assumed that I’m a meditation guru capable of sitting still on a foam mat for weeks, then I want to confess. I’m a guy working in IT (check out my GrowApp startup, by the way), who got trapped in a daily rush, in an eternal desire to do, create, build businesses from the ground up, get things done, day by day, over and over. But the further I got, the more obligations I took, the more doubts besieged me. Is this the right way? Is this MY way? Yep, I stuck in a rut.

I do sports 3 to 4 times a week. I’m inclined to hanging out with friends in restaurants and bars, reading books from cover to cover, and being constantly tempted with chocolate croissants. Nice to meet you, I’m a human! A good son of the tribe. The same as you are.

But two mighty tireless forces kept following me along my way. Their names were Procrastination (in almost everything I did) and Pain (in my spine somewhere in between two vertebrae). Procrastination was a tough cookie.

Action icon
Do the hardest task first thing in the morning
Try out this action in GrowApp
Download on the App Store

Absurd as it may sound, I used to spend bloody days in front of my laptop drawing butterflies, sitting on the fence, and not only metaphorically. While indecisiveness was literally paralyzing me, my office background and sedentary lifestyle united to lay me off at least 10 years earlier.

Now you see why I craved to shift the focus. By the time this crazy idea about signing up for a 10-day meditation retreat in a camp popped up in my mind, I had been practicing various techniques for a year, and that was it.

Was I expecting something from my trip? As a matter of fact, I was.

I longed for enlightening. Complete and non-negotiable. I had so many life questions, and I was thriving for answers. Frankly, I’ve always wanted to conquer the world, and rise to the top. It's just...I didn’t know where the heck this top is, and what I will do when I finally get there. What’s more, I was passionately seeking insights, knowledge, different perspectives. I hoped to calm my mind. I wanted to get my life back on track.


How to jump off the cliff. An ultimate guide

When I got to the camp with my friend, I still didn’t believe that I was going to do it. I bit off more than I could chew.

Camp workers took my contacts for emergencies. I got worried a bit but didn’t want to blurt it out. Then I was forced to sign a consent to be fully responsible for my life and to give up even a thought to make any claims in any case. Though I’m a mature guy and I got used to keeping myself safe and sound, that sounded creepy. And my medical insurance was double-checked. That was even creepier, I thought, but Israel medicine is widely well-known, so there was a chance.

Just before I said ‘goodbye’ to my phone, I had got a message from my close friend: ‘Please be careful’ – she was nearly begging – ‘people sometimes go nuts in such places’. Was there any chance to fulfill her wish? No way, you’re either jumping off the cliff and diving into deep waters or staying at the shore. I was the first type.

Action icon
Get rid of unnecessary things
Try out this action in GrowApp
Download on the App Store


Not people, silhouettes around

All retreat participants were not allowed to speak, to read (even the shampoo contents), to write (though my ‘smart’ thoughts were jackassing around and intended to jump out on paper), to give any signs, to look into your co-campers’ eyes. Not to mention leaving the camp or at least walking in the garden. In other words, I was forced to switch off all my senses. To become almost blind, nearly deaf, and 90% dumb. Now imagine it for a second. Appealing, huh?

It was as if someone had stopped a car with a roaring engine, driven by a reckless driver, who was speeding on a freeway, by placing a concrete STOP sign across the road. A crash happened. Tiny pieces of my habits, pastime patterns, routine, schedule, plans, thoughts, and typical behavior were scattered around with the force of an explosion.


That’s what was happening inside, while outside I seemed to be peaceful and submissive in my attempt to succeed with Vipassana retreat.

That’s what some people are – a hurricane in the soul and a smooth water surface outside. You’ll never guess.

The other rules included prohibition to make sex, steal things, kill (I hoped, they were talking about insects), to tell lies (I wondered how it was possible to tell lies if you weren’t able to let a single sound slip), drink alcohol, take drugs (if only you doctor hadn’t given you the prescription).

That was it. All participants were split into “teams” by gender. Women went away. From that second and during the next 10 days I was able to see only my spiritual teacher and the silhouettes of my pals (remember the “eye contact” rule). If there were any droids, I wouldn’t be able to notice.


For whom the bell tolls

On the first day, I woke up at 4 a.m., being thrown a thousand miles from home, being forced to get up by the bell that kept tolling so insanely as if it was made to make me suffer. No pain, no gain. During that day I was meditating for 10 hours, ate healthy high-fiber foods, and tackled a panic attack that came back to me at night, for the first time in the last two years.

Habit photo
Practice "gratefulness" meditation
Try out this habit in GrowApp
Download on the App Store

That was a bolt out of the blue and definitely not the benefit I expected.

I was obliged to share a room with three strangers whose names I could hardly remember. I found myself between a rock and a hard place.

If anyone asked me that day whether I would prefer being jailed or enlightened, I’d prefer a prison. No doubt, I’d prefer a prison. Criminals can speak and do exercises. I envied them.

On the second day, I got out of the meditation space in a fever. I felt like I had caught flu, I nearly froze though people from the outside wore t-shirts. “Oh, here comes the Enlightenment” – I thought. – “I tamed it faster than Neo from Matrix learned to catch bullets with bare hands”. I was satisfied and proud of myself.

Silly, silly me.


How I got my life as a present

The fourth day was the last time I put a smile on my face. Realizing how ridiculous the situation was (40 mature men silently hanging around in some kind of monkery), I started to laugh madly. When I stopped, there was only emptiness inside.

During these days silence was covering everything around me like a weightless and at the same time too-heavy-to-bear blanket. It was waiting for me around the corner, it attacked me in the moments of desperation. I hated it, but I spotted out that my thoughts and senses slowed down, my mind became clearer, the entire I was able to exist not running anywhere, not asking questions, not inquiring answers, just living in a moment. Truly LIVING.

Life was flowing through me. Not my memories from the past, duties or external expectations of other people. It seemed like I got my life back, as a present with a bright ribbon. My own life. Wow.


How does it feel – to be a sloth?

Did I mention that everything was as slow as in a sloth realm? We moved like sloths, ate like sloths, I guess even the cells inside of my body pretended to be the cells of a sloth. My teeth had never been so clean, my nails had never been so polished. Frankly, slowing down dramatically allowed me to live in a moment and, finally, to STOP worrying for my tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and ten years ahead. My existence was something wonderful and beyond.


On the eighth day, I squashed a snail. I got upset. I broke the rule. I took life. A bit later, I got back to accompany it to the other world. Every living being deserves to be treated with honor.

When I was walking through a garden, I noticed three large colorful parrots perching on a tree. Two of them (boys, no wonder) were singing for a girl in an attempt to draw her ultimate attention. That was a serendipity moment. “Wow” – I exclaimed – and stepped out of line for the second time in one day.

Action icon
Contemplate nature silently somewhere peaceful
Try out this action in GrowApp
Download on the App Store

On the tenth day, we were blessed with permission to talk. Have you ever seen a river flooding its banks? Or a volcano erupting? Each one of us was a cheerful, talkative volcano thrilled to set sounds, words, senses, and emotions free. Pure positive sensations. I had nothing to hide from my co-campers because I had no preconceptions, no prejudices. My mind was clear. A guy that seemed to be arrogant when I just landed here, in effect, was a sociable, friendly mate.

That’s when I realized that I’d been living in a world of phantoms, rather following my vision of people than perceiving them for real.


Superpowers, finally

One way or another, the silent war was over. We were the winners. Soon after, 38 of us were allowed to pack our bags and get back home (fear not, the others dropped out earlier).

I could tell you I came back contented and fulfilled, suspecting where my place in this world is.

I could tell you that my inner sight gained two super-modes. On the one hand, I reached the discernment, the ability to see tiny hidden details in people’s intentions and actions, as well as the lurking reasons for them.

At the same time, I seized with both hands unbelievable power to step back and look at things on the whole. A map with thousands of crossroads and chances was unfolding in my mind every time I had to make a decision on something.

I could tell you I reached the desirable work-life balance due to the soothing equilibrium state of mind and soul. Elon Musk would be envy).

I could tell you I learnt to focus on what matters, avoiding the white noise of bustling business life. Checkmate, messengers and emails, you won’t catch me.

Program picture
Raise self-awareness
Try out this program in GrowApp
Download on the App Store

I could swear I lost 11 pounds and got slimmer. Bye-Bye, croissants! (Vipassana is not a diet, please don’t be tricked).

I could prove I became more patient and indulgent when it comes to my surroundings.

I could declare all this, and I will because that’s exactly what happened to me. Vipassana made me wiser and more stress resilient. The deep 10-day abdication helped me get in touch with myself. To study mySELF. A rare opportunity one can get only in such places.

But everything I’ve gone through, and every single ‘superpower’ I gained, will remain true only in this story, my story.

As there are no identical personalities, there ain’t no identical experiences. Or Vipassana camps. Or ways to happiness. Or advice on how to get there. Good news: you can still find your own. I wish you did


Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn

Start your #GrowUp way today


Related articles

How to be organized in 17 small steps
june 04, 2019 7 min read
How to be organized in 17 small steps

Privacy Policy

Effective Date: August 15, 2018

Our Privacy Policy continues our commitment to serve you and explains how we intend to protect your privacy. We want to help you grow as a person by helping you reach your goals, implement good habits and balance your life while providing you the best possible experience. In order do this, we need to understand how you use and interact with the Services, to deliver an exceptional service that is personalized and relevant to you. This process includes collecting and processing personal data from you.

We are responsible for the protection of your personal data and we take this responsibility very seriously. All basic customer data are encrypted end-to-end. This Privacy Policy covers IntelVerse Inc.’s (“IntelVerse”, “We”, “Us”, “Our”) treatment of information we collect when you are on our mobile application GrowApp (“App”), site, www.growapp.me, and when you use our services.  IntelVerse has created this privacy statement to demonstrate our firm commitment to protect your privacy and to fully disclose what information we collect and how we use it.

This privacy notice discloses the privacy practices for IntelVerse and our mobile application GrowApp (“App”) and website www.growapp.me (“Site”).  This privacy notice applies solely to information collected by this website and mobile application, except where stated otherwise. It will notify you of the following:

What information we collect;

How it is secured;

How policy changes will be communicated; and

How to address concerns over misuse of personal data.

Information Collection, Use, and Sharing

We are the sole owners of the information collected on this site and app. We only have access to/collect information that you voluntarily give us via email or other direct contact from you. We will not disclose your personal data including your email address to third parties, categorically. There will be no sale of data. Unless you ask us not to, we may contact you via email in the future to tell you about specials, new products or services, or changes to this privacy policy.

Your Access to and Control over Information

You may opt out of any future contacts from us at any time. You can do this by changing your contact preferences on the Site and App or by contacting us via the contact info provided on our website.


In order to use this app and website, a user must first complete the registration form. During registration a user is required to give certain information (such as name and email address).  This information is used to enable your use of the Site and App.


We will not disclose your personal data to third parties.  We may use a processing company to bill users. These companies do not retain, share, store or use personally identifiable information for any secondary purposes.

We may partner with another party to provide specific services. When the user signs up for these services, we will share names, or other contact information that is necessary for the third party to provide these services. These parties are not allowed to use personally identifiable information except for the purpose of providing these services.


We take all reasonable precautions to protect your information. When you submit sensitive information via the Site or App, your information is protected both online and offline.

Wherever we collect sensitive information, that information is encrypted and transmitted to us in a secure way.

While we use encryption to protect sensitive information transmitted online, we also protect your information offline. Only employees who need the information to perform a specific job (e.g. billing or customer service) are granted access to personally identifiable information. The computers/servers on which we store personally identifiable information are kept in a secure environment.


This Site and App may contain links to other sites.  Please be aware that we are not responsible for the content or privacy practices of such other sites.  We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our Site or App and to read the privacy statements of any other site that collects personally identifiable information.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our Site and App may request information via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and you may choose whether or not to participate and therefore disclose this information. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and address), and demographic information (such as zip code, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the use and satisfaction of the App and Site.

Compliance and Cooperation with Regulatory Authorities

We regularly review our compliance with our Privacy Policy.  We also adhere to several self-regulatory frameworks. When we receive formal written complaints, we will contact the person who made the complaint to follow up. We work with the appropriate regulatory authorities, including local data protection authorities, to resolve any complaints regarding the transfer of personal data that we cannot resolve with our users directly.  Requests made by regulatory authorities for subscriber information will be responded to by IntelVerse asserting all legal claims to refuse compliance. 

If you feel that we are not abiding by this privacy policy, you should contact us immediately email at ask@growapp.me.

Aggregated Information

We do not provide aggregated usage or tracking information to third parties.

HTML Verification and Email Tracking

When receiving email from us, we may place a small piece of code in that email to determine whether or not you can accept HTML images and whether or not you viewed and/or clicked on links contained in the email. This process does not leave any information on your computer, nor does it collect information from your computer. Email opt-outs. In the event you decide to unsubscribe from our newsletters or promotional emails we will honor your request within thirty business days.

Information on Children

IntelVerse does not knowingly collect information from children under the age of 18. On-line registration is restricted to adults. Persons under 18: Do not send any information about yourself to us--including information such as your name, address, or e-mail address. We do not knowingly collect personally identifiable information from children under 18. In the event that we learn we have collected any personal information from a child under the age of 18 without verification of parental consent, we will delete that information from our database as quickly as possible.

Updating Visitor Information

Registered users have the option of accessing, correcting, updating and modifying Personal and/or Financial Information, or visitor profile, at any time and as often as desired. You may elect to stop receiving marketing material from IntelVerse or on behalf of external third-party business partners. Users may choose to stop receiving such communications at any time by visiting their member profile page or by following instructions at the end of any such e-mail received.


A "cookie" is a bit of data sent by a Web site through the browser to the computer of the user visiting the site, and enables the site to return the results the browser expects. IntelVerse uses temporary, session-specific cookies to ensure visits to the Site are smooth and customized for the visitor. Such cookies allow us to provide a visitor's browser with information tailored to the visitor's preferences and needs. IntelVerse also uses permanent or persistent cookies that remain on a visitor's computer after the visitor leaves the Web site.

If you do not want your browser to accept cookies, you can turn off the cookie acceptance option in the browser's settings. Disabling the cookie support function of the browser will, however, prevent our Web site from functioning properly and you may not be able to utilize fully all of the site's features and information.

We use advertising companies to develop banner ads for our Digital Offering. These ads may contain cookies. These companies collect cookies sent to your browser through the banner ads and we do not have control or access to this data. Information may be collected from a third party through the use of cookies and web beacons to measure website traffic.

Pixel Tags

This Site may also use pixel tags, also known as beacons, spotlight tags or web bugs, to improve our understanding of site traffic, visitor behavior, and response to promotional campaigns, as a supplement to our server logs and other methods of traffic and response measurement. Pixel tags are sometimes used in conjunction with small JavaScript-based applications, also for the purpose of traffic measurement. We may also implement pixel tags provided by other companies, for the same purpose. You can disable pixel tags by changing your browser settings to omit images and disable JavaScript; or there are commercial software packages available that can omit pixel tags and most advertisements.

EU Personal Data

If you are located in the EU, United Kingdom, Lichtenstein, Norway, or Iceland, you may have additional rights under the EU General Data Protection Regulation (the “GDPR”) related to your personal data.  We will be the controller of your personal data processed in connection with the Site and App.

You have the right to fully access all of your data.  Without prejudice to any other administrative or judicial remedy, every customer shall have the right to lodge a complaint with a supervisory authority, in particular in the Member State of his or her habitual residence, place of work or place of the alleged infringement if the customer considers that the processing of personal data relating to him or her infringes this Regulation. 

You have the right to restrict or object to any of our data retention policies.  You may request corrections to data.  You have the right to erase your data from the Site and App.  Should you select the optional opportunity to receive promotional emails from us about current offers and incentives, we will also use your email for this purpose. If you have not selected this Opt-in option, you will not receive promotional emails. If you have opted to receive promotional emails, or if you receive transactional emails about your incomplete order, you may choose to remove (Opt-out) this feature at any time and the emails will be stopped. 

Your contact information may also be used should we ever need to contact you regarding your order.

The User has the right not to be subject to a decision based solely on automated processing, including profiling, which produces legal effects concerning him or her or similarly significantly affects him or her.  Please forward any data inquiries to ask@growapp.me.

Your Acceptance of these Terms

By using our App and Site you signify your acceptance of the terms of this Privacy Policy. If you do not agree to the terms of this Privacy Policy, please do not use the Site and App and exit immediately. Consent may be withdrawn at any time by emailing us at ask@growapp.me. Corrections may also be made by emailing us at ask@growapp.me.

Your Rights

The Site and App may contain links to and from partner and/or affiliate websites. If you follow a link to their sites, please note that these sites have their own privacy policy and that IntelVerse does not accept any responsibility or liability for protection of personal data which you may submit to a third party's site. You are recommended to check the wording of the relevant privacy policies before you submit any personal data to those sites.

In The Event of Sale or Bankruptcy

The ownership of IntelVerse may change at some point in the future. Should that occur, we want to be able to maintain a relationship with you. In the event of a sale, merger, public offering, bankruptcy or other change in control of IntelVerse, your information may be shared with the person or business that owns or controls this site. Opting out of receiving information from third parties will not affect our right to transfer your information to a new owner, but your choices will continue to be respected regarding the use of your information. You will be notified as described below in “Changes to Privacy Policy.”

Changes to Privacy Policy

IntelVerse may amend this policy from time to time. If we make any material changes we will notify you by email (sent to the e-mail address specified in your account) or by means of a notice on this website prior to the change becoming effective. We encourage you to periodically review this page for the latest information on our privacy practices. If we make any substantial changes in the way we use your personal information, we will notify you by posting a prominent notice in our privacy policy or in other locations on our Web site or by sending you an email to inform you of our updated privacy policy.


We do not like it, we do not support it, and we do not engage in it. If you do not want to receive e-mail from us in the future, please let us know by contacting Customer Service at ask@growapp.me. Be sure to specify whether you want to be removed from a certain e-mail list or all of our product e-mail lists.

Customer Service

Email: ask@growapp.me.


If you have any questions on our Privacy Policy, or complaints about our handling of your Personal and/or Financial Information, you can contact us at ask@growapp.me.

Contact Us

How can we help? Please tell us a little about what you need help with. Your letter or request will never remain unreplied. Type your question or a description of the problem you're trying to solve.


Help us make GrowApp perfect

Together we will have a power to create something special.

This email is already subscribed to newsletter

Name not entered correctly

Your email not entered correctly

Thank you for signing up

And thank you for your interest in becoming our tester. Today you will receive another email with all the info on how to join our private beta. Welcome to the family! Feel free to share this happy occasion with friends.

We got it!

We got our best people on it. We will reply to you shortly.

Happy reading!

We pinky-swear to send you only the cherry picks and gleaned content. Feel free to share our awesome content with friends.


error error error