[Note: This was written a few years ago now. Perspectives and use of language has changed dramatically since.]
When you have hippie parents, friends are in no rush to visit. There’s no TV, no packaged food, and no sugar. There’s other differences, too. Brown rice features in most meals, Eastern/Buddhist art is prevalent, along with a prominent altar for meditation. No eight year old has ever described their utopia in these terms.
For this reason, and probably others I’ve since repressed, “hippie stuff” brings out an immediate strong negative response from me. Meditation is one of the many things that fits this category. Dusty crystals, the smell of burning sage, and the portrait of some effeminate Indian man with a creepy smile, depicted suspiciously like Jesus. As a young child, meditation also meant the inavailability of my mom for extended periods, and that I should remain quiet. Really, what’s to like?
Suffice to say then, that for me to give meditation a try, there were significant mental hurdles to overcome. And yet, when many signposts point in a single direction, that direction becomes difficult to ignore. Recommendations triangulated from a recent Ayahuasca retreat, books, blogs, and podcasts, and of course, friends. You get the picture.
So I began to dig deeper on the subject in mid-2018. Quietly of course, in case my parents should find out. My primary motivation at the time was to avoid losing my cool at work. Not that I lose my shit on the regular, but certainly I can turn on the fire, particularly in internal meetings, when there are no clients in the room. Perhaps a more accurate description would be to say “the fire can turn on”.
Anyway, my attitude towards meditation was to remain the skeptic, yet to keep an open mind.
I read some meditation blogs, I downloaded Sam Harris’ app, and also listened to a few guided meditations on Spotify. Results were mixed, but I could sense there was value in the practice. I felt calmer at work, and a colleague also mentioned I seemed less high strung. I typically meditated while on my daily taxi commutes. Still, I found it difficult to stay motivated to practice, and wasn’t convinced I was doing it right. Self-doubt was there. Ahhh yes, the human condition.
A few of my friends had done a Vipassana retreat. After further digging to convince myself this was a good option, or at least, a good enough option, I signed up via their website - www.dhamma.org/
What specifically appealed to me was that Vipassana is described as:
Point #2 really resonated for me. While the wisdom of the ages may be available in text and scripture, unless we have our own direct personal experience (learn our own lessons), this wisdom does not and cannot become OUR wisdom.
While the goals of Vipassana were progressively revealed to me over the 10 days (not having done that much homework), I’ll spell it all out here.
The primary stated goals of Vipassana are to develop Awareness and Equanimity in ourselves. Awareness of the physical sensations that naturally arise in our bodies as we interact with the world, and Equanimity in how our minds react / respond to these physical sensations, also known as our emotions.
By understanding the mind’s established habits of “wanting more of the good” (craving) and “wanting none of the bad” (aversion), we are able to take ownership and control of our emotions. With this understanding and control, we become personally liberated, and able to improve our worldly interactions with others.
Supposedly, we are able to achieve this by sitting with pain (e.g. sore back/legs) during meditation, training the mind not to respond with aversion, and equally by not responding with craving during pleasant experiences that can arise in meditation.
There is also an emphasis on the Law of Impermanence - which describes that both “good” and “bad” physical sensations have the same underlying characteristic - impermanence. Arising, and passing away. Arising, and passing away. Impermanence.
S N Goenka points out our craving / aversion habit-patterns are both natural and deeply ingrained, beginning for all of us just after birth. Babies want, babies cry, babies get. The pattern is established, and so on it goes. Soon, you want a bigger car, then a bigger house, a promotion, etc. This pattern progresses and develops to a point where you really just crave craving itself.
In summary, we are all just a bunch of big babies. Some perhaps more than others.
Goenka also emphasizes the insight in to how to break this ingrained habit-pattern (also referred to as “the path”) is Gautama Buddha’s singular (ONLY!) significant contribution. In the same breath, he also points out it is and was revolutionary.
For me, a naturalistic argument always resonates. The baby craving/crying logic as grounds for our habit-pattern is both simple and rational. This whole thing sounds plausible.
Vipassana hosts retreats in Thailand, and operates completely on a donation basis. You donate what you think is fair following your own experience. Sounds good - let’s go.
What follows is the account of my first 10 day retreat. In writing this, my hope is that it provides a chuckle, and motivates at least one friend to also give Vipassana a fair trial (assuming you haven’t already done so).
I really didn’t know much about what to expect going in, and in retrospect, I’m glad.
Through a garbled exchange of emails, I’m instructed to meet a mini-van driver at a ramshackle gas station located on a busy intersection in Ratchada. Ratchada is roughly an hour outside of Bangkok, and to Thai people, still considered central Bangkok. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the mid-point to China.
Immediately upon arrival, there is an accident on the main road. A middle-aged woman is injured falling from her moped, and cars vy for position to get past her as she limps to the shoulder. Not that Thai people are low-empathy, simply that it’s Wednesday, and the people gotta get to work. No hard feelings lady.
The accident serves as yet another reminder that I need to stop jumping onto the back of these death-traps. Sigh, Thailand.
Ten of us are smooshed into the mini-van, and as we begin moving, the Thai karaoke blasting in the van’s TV is turned off. Bless the gods. They don’t make headphones big or loud enough to drown that out. The trip is 6 hours to the retreat in Chantaburi, including a stop for lunch. Vamos!
A few hours in, the elderly gentleman on my left taps my shoulder, indicating it’s chat-o-clock. Low is approximately 60 years old, retired, from the Malaysian countryside, and speaks with a strong Singaporean accent. He has a kindly face and a monk-like demeanor. He seems cool. He is also wearing a tunic. Where does one even get a tunic? We engage.
After the briefest of niceties, Low catapults himself into a monologue on the importance of a simple life. Oh boy, here we go. I nod along as he tells me about how some people can see in 4D with enough meditation. Upon writing this, I regret not asking what he meant.
I mention to Low that I nearly travelled to Malaysia for the retreat, being difficult to secure a place in Thailand. He tells me the retreats are much better here, and that’s why he’s come. They’re “structured and disciplined” in Thailand, he says. Ha! Now I’ve heard it all. We laugh about this together.
We stop for lunch.
Over lunch I meet Sahib, Bangkok born and raised, US educated, and of Indian ethnicity. He’s recently moved back to Bangkok. It’s his first Vipassana retreat, too. We become buds.
After lunch I tuck into the to-do list before disconnecting for 10 days - reminding colleagues that I’m going to be actually, properly, and entirely incommunicado for 10 days. They seem unfazed. This concerns my ego initially, but subsequently instills me with confidence. We all tend to overestimate what small significance we may have. I congratulate myself, feeling righteous in mild noble thoughts in the lead-up to a meditation retreat.
Upon arrival, there is lots of bags, back and forth, and confusion - typical of any logistical experience in Thailand. I suddenly realize I haven’t brought my passport, a purportedly non-negotiable prerequisite for any attending foreigner. I reason that I didn’t bring it because I live here, and I wasn’t leaving the country. They don’t acknowledge my argument, and I don’t blame them.
After some back and forth to my bag, I’m asked to please stop walking through the women’s section, and instructed that the men’s section is bounded by this and that. The lady is nice about it, but she’s not messing around, especially by Thai standards. I apologize, wondering to myself how on earth I was supposed to know this.
I meet our two volunteer assistant teachers for the men’s group - Bang and Kitty (both of whom are men, for those of you wondering & playing from home). There is a flurry of forms, and I re-provide information that exactly duplicates that already provided during registration.
Chatting with Bang, who is perhaps 40, I learn he is doing a 30-day Vipassana next month. Whoa, dude. He says it has helped him a lot in his life. He’s also surprised a foreigner would come to Chantaburi, and tells me it’s the best place to come. Good news! Like most Thai people, Bang is friendly and helpful, though in him I sense some instability not far below the surface.
Given my lack of passport, neither Bang nor Kitty are empowered to check me in without the Teacher’s go-ahead, and I’m told she is currently meditating, and so unavailable. So the Teacher meditates outside of class? I like the sound of that. Wait 1 hour please. Ok, no problem.
An hour passes, and we get the go-ahead, on the condition that I interview with the Teacher. She asks me about Ayahuasca and whether I’m still addicted. I tell her I was not and am not. She seems convinced. I’m in.
Before checking in to my room, I’m asked to lock up my phone and wallet in the main office. Hollywood has led me to understand they also do this in prison. I wonder if any of the guests may be attending not entirely under their own volition.
The room itself is replete with a military style cot, single shelf, plastic deck chair, and a simple bathroom. Just missing a pond to complete the ascetic. I unpack the few things I’ve brought and settle in.
The set-up of Canda Pabha Dhamma Center (and other centers, presumably) is that Women and Men are separated, each with their own side on the property, and a demarcation line down the middle of the shared meditation hall. There are separate doors for Women and Men to enter the meditation hall, with separate approaches from their respective sides.
The grounds are beautiful, and the surrounding vista, too. High hills shrouded in mist, and a mesmerizing orange sunset.
We are briefed on the daily schedule (more below) and commit verbally to following the 5 Precepts for the duration, which are:
You are also silent for the entire period, and are also not to make any non-verbal communication (e.g. eye contact).
Once we’ve all committed, there is a short warm-up meditation and we return to our rooms at 9PM. 10PM is lights-out.
Using the toilet before bed, I realize there’s no toilet paper. I take a forlorn look at the high pressure hose bolted defiantly adjunct to the toilet. I’ve lived more than a year in Thailand and this beast is still alien to me. Today is the day.
I do my best and, unconvinced, waddle to the shower. This becomes my daily routine, and we will speak no further on this subject.
The shower is a bit cold so I turn up the dial on the electric water heater. The increased power consumption trips the circuit breaker, and I’m left to enjoy a cold shower in the dark, crickets chirping all around.
Ahhh this is gonna be a fun 10 days.
A daily schedule was kept for the 10 days, with a few minor deviations. A bell chimes for each event through the days.
The schedule was:
Those of you paying attention may have picked up a theme. We are not here to play grab-ass.
4AM - I slept well, and drag myself out of bed, throw on sweat pants and a t-shirt in the dark (no lights, remember), and head to the meditation hall.
430AM - Full house in the meditation hall. There is not a framed portrait in sight, which pleases me. I even check the back wall. The ratio of Women:Men is about 4:1. Accommodation on the Men’s side is full, which means this place was designed and built for this ratio. Interesting. I ponder whether Goenka was the humble Hugh Heffner of Happiness.
There is introductory instruction on how to focus your mind on your breathing, a warning repeated that your mind will naturally wander, and that we should bring the attention back to the breath. And just like that, we’re set loose to pursue the path to enlightenment. Easy.
Shit, maybe not. My back hurts. My legs hurt. We haven’t even been here 20 minutes. I am acutely Aware of the pain. Equanimity is out of the god-damn question. I resolve to suffer through the pain by any means necessary. Must not fail in first meditation.
The mind certainly wanders, this I know from my early experimentation with meditation. But sitting for extended periods magnifies the dysfunction. I cannot focus my mind on my breathing for 10 seconds at a time before the brain is off thinking about this or that. Craving something, planning something. As a person generally ok with my mental faculties, this bothers me tremendously. I redouble my efforts, but my brain doesn’t really give a crap about my efforts. So I continue to focus on developing my Awareness of the breath. Over and over and over, bringing the attention back. Equanimity remains 0; this is irksome work.
The pain becomes biblical. Easily top 5, maybe top 3. I’m doing mental comparisons to past painful experiences to escape the present reality. It’s been MAYBE 40 minutes. I do everything I can to remain completely still, but my body starts rocking back and forth, probably as another coping mechanism, but who gives a shit. When does this end?
Tears begin to stream down my face. Time loses linearity and progression. There is only now, now, now, ow, ow, ow. I suffer through. This may be heading for the #1 spot ladies and gentlemen. With Awareness (of pain) 100 and Equanimity still 0, I begin to wonder if you can black out from meditation. Let’s see. In my mind I hear a particular friend telling me I’m an idiot.
Somehow, 630AM rolls around after 30 minutes of ancient chanting.
Upon opening my eyes, I notice just about everyone else has taken additional cushions from the back of the meditation hall, and variously buttressed themselves into what appears to be more comfortable circumstances than my own. Our friend Low, however, is the exception. He has moved ALL of his cushions to one side, and is sitting on the tiles with a thin sheet he brought from home. I shudder at the thought. Certainly not his first rodeo.
Some quick math tells me we’ve just completed about 2% of the total meditation on offer over the next 10 days. And you don’t need any math to know this was a dumb thing to calculate. I’m fucked, completely and entirely. What on Earth have I signed up for?
Standing up, I quickly discover that the pain dissipates quickly and relatively completely - the law of impermanence. Also, that despite 2 hours of trauma, I actually feel pretty good. Grounded. In the absence of the whirl of a now past pain, a calm persists. The mind is quiet. Interesting.
Over subsequent meditation sessions, I obsess over finding a cushion configuration to reduce my agony. The extra cushions help a lot, but the optimizer within can’t stop looking for an even better solution. There’s probably some deeper analogy here, but let’s keep trucking.
The rest of the day was more of the same. I’ll spare you the details as this is becoming a novel. Now that we have the basics in place, let’s see if we can pick up the pace.
I slept very, very well.
More meditation, more breathing. My ability to focus on my breathing improves significantly. I can go a minute or two without losing concentration, though it is a huge conscious effort to remain Aware, and it turns out, tiring too.
Despite the progress, I’m still physically agitated, and feel the need to move a lot while I meditate. My posture sucks, it always has. This begins to put quite a strain on my back. I’m feeling every day of these 34 years, and each one hunched over a laptop, too.
Awareness improving, Equanimity, still low.
Towards the end of the day, I dip into a deep calm, meditative state. Somewhere between asleep and awake, but still feeling fully conscious. Super peaceful. No thoughts.
Walking back to my room before bed, I feel good. So good that I decide even if there is no more progress, Vipassana can still be chalked up as a success. 8 more days of breathing and meditation ahead, I think to myself. Let’s see.
This Noble Silence business isn’t great for developing the other characters in the story.
The next day, the practice evolves to become more focused on the physical sensations that result from the breathing. Ok, cool. Things are getting more interesting. Although now, there’s anticipation, and I’m already wondering what’s next.
Still highly agitated. Moving, moving, moving in my seat.
I get a strong numbing / piercing sensation in my so called ‘third eye’ during the afternoon. This intensifies throughout the evening.
Despite instruction to focus on the area surrounding the nose, I decide to focus on this intensifying sensation in my forehead. It quickly further intensifies, and a sort of numbing pressure takes over my whole face.
All my facial muscles begin tingling and twitching and my eyes roll back. I’m fully conscious through all of this, and it feels like I would be able to stop it if I so choose, but decide to let things roll on.
The word seizure comes to mind, but the sensations do not feel negative, just new. Whatever it is, something is definitely happening. The whole experience culminates in a sudden cosmic explosion of colors in my mind, and then the sensations quickly subside.
Whoa - what the hell are we dealing with here? I have no other memories of being able to “feel” my brain.
I stay back that evening to tell the Teacher what happened. She doesn’t seem fazed nor interested, and tells me to focus around the nose.
I also tell her I have a phone call scheduled for 5 days from now, on Wednesday 4pm, to discuss annual promotions.
This grumps her greatly. From her lordly position atop her white meditation throne, she tells me I should’ve mentioned this on Day 0. I grovel and apologize. She tells her subject no phone calls will be allowed.
I was prepared for the hardline stance, and attempt to appeal to her better judgment and saying that “I understand, and just don’t want to negatively impact people’s promotions.
She says we’ll see, and to focus on my practice. Delay tactics and a dismissal - I like my chances!
I’ve never liked rules. Off to bed.
The exercise narrows to focus on the area between the nostrils and upper lip, looking for what physical sensations arise only in this area. Could be tingling, pressure, perspiration, pulsation - etc.
The purpose of the narrowing is to further develop your acuity in noticing sensations as they arise and pass away, and to continue to treat them with Equanimity. We spend the day doing this.
If anything else noteworthy took place, it has been cast from the memory banks.
Towards the end of the day, I’m totally exhausted, and have a fever. My sight feels a bit blurry. I skip the last meditation in preference for sleep.
Kitty comes to check on me, and I tell him that I’m fine - just need sleep.
On Day 5, the sensations grow stronger, and despite the instruction to focus on the small area, I begin to feel tingling sensations throughout the body.
I grow bored. My mind starts to wander, not just between meditations, but to winder with purpose, as sport.
I’m triggered, and my mind declares open season on Vipassana. What is this bullshit, anyway? Just because there’s a sign on the wall that says Vipassana is not self-torture doesn’t make it true. If it’s so rationalistic, why the hell do they do all this forsaken chanting? All the teacher does is press play on Goenka audio/video, how much is she being paid for this? (I later learn all teachers only volunteer). Why can’t I keep a journal during the 10 days? Are they afraid I’m going to say what it’s really like? Bastards. I’m going to do that anyway. Why does Goenka speak with so much conviction if he is such a freaking Equanimous little hobbit? How do they reconcile that?
Look at us sad lot. A bunch of dudes in pajamas dragging their slippers around the compound and avoiding eye contact. This isn’t a birthplace of liberation and enlightenment. This is a voluntary insane asylum.
Sigh, back to meditation. Equanimous, Equanimous, Equanimous.
Throughout the 5 days, there’s been a gentleman sitting in front of me with perfect posture. I mean PERFECT. We will call him Mr. Posture - silence, remember. Mr Posture is always one of the first in, sits in full lotus position, and as far as I can tell, never moves during a meditation. His back is straight as an arrow, with his shoulders broad.
After 5 days of pain and posture envy, it crosses my mind to sit like he does for the first time. I straighten my spine, tuck in my legs more tightly, and pull back my shoulders as we begin the next meditation. There, done.
As time wears on, a pain in the bottom of my lower back grows and grows. And grows and grows. Just as it approaches Day 1 pain levels, something clicks and crunches in my back and the pain is replaced by an odd warm sensation.
Shit. I’ve just paralyzed myself. I’m afraid to move for the rest of the meditation.
As I stand up, there are 3 more structural pops. It feels as though my posture has made some permanent improvement. I feel terrific - energized, physically and mentally fit for sprinting up mountains.
We often hear about the relationship between mind and body, but it’s not something I’ve ever experienced so directly. My mind is/has been for cerebral activities, the body for those requiring interaction with the physical world.
Heading to bed on Day 5, I felt a strong mind/body connection, far more consciously aware of what was happening on and even in my body. It was powerful, though not easy to put into words.
Part of me cringes at the thought of my mom saying “SEE! I’ve been telling you all these years!” as she reads this. Christ...
I wake up on Day 6 feeling a little stiff, but good. I affirm not to feed my vortex of negative Vipassana thinking, and just get on with it. 4 days to go.
The morning meditation exercise is to spread your attention to sensations in other parts of the body, and as we do so, my body responds immediately.
Every single nerve in my body pulses and catches FIRE, in the most positive way possible. The sensation is something between “just finished a swim in an alpine lake on a sunny day” and “full body orgasm”, with strength closer the latter.
I feel absolutely terrific. Unstopped, like I’ve just gone frickin’ Super Saiyan. The electrification lasts about 3 hours. The sensations are blissful and relaxing.
After I come down from my reverie, I still feel charged and motivated. It bothers me a lot that I have nowhere to direct all this energy. No thing to do, no journal to write down my thoughts, which are meaningful, powerful, and clear. Or rather, they felt that way at that point in time. Thinking upon some of them later, there were some downright stupid ideas in the mix. Par for the course I suppose.
Given the power of this experience, I decide to give Vipassana a chance, and that I will commit an hour each morning for a month.
I begin to dwell on what’s happening from a neurochemical perspective. The pain/discomfort during meditation is effectively draining reserves of all stress and pain response related chemicals (e.g. cortisol). Equally, there was a build-up of positive chemicals in the brain that were triggered for release.
I speak to the Teacher after our final meditation, and we come to a compromise that I can text our HR Director to reschedule the meeting to after the retreat. Easy solution.
I wake up feeling good. Connected and grounded, but it doesn’t last. I find it hard to stay focused on the instructions or the meditation. I feel like I “get it” now, and that I have what I need to continue the practice post-retreat.
Still 3 more days though - aghhhhhh.
By this stage, probably 30% of the group has dropped out - presumably from discomfort or losing their god-damned minds.
Additionally, some people have moved to deck chairs. Ok, so this IS uncomfortable for others too. Good to know.
I’m quite agitated again, and consider bolting. Leave the phone/wallet behind, pack up my things and make a run for the bushes. Feeling very much like a prisoner.
The mumbo-jumbo pseudo-science mixed in with the rationalistic aspects begin to bother me more and more. They are talking about the 4 elements of Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. During one of the presentations, the guru mentions how you can “feel” the Fire element in your body after eating spicy food.
Yea, sure buddy, I too have eaten Thai food and felt next-day effects. That doesn’t evidence the existence of a Fire element. We have a periodic table, thanks.
Super bored of the repetition. Bored bored bored.
Found a new determination. Must stay positive for just 2 more days, and then, I’ll be set gloriously free upon the world.
Decided to megadose coffee during breakfast. Fuck the path, I’m going off-road. My past two experiences with high doses of caffeine ended in disaster, let’s see what we can muster under such drab circumstances. Hope is there - perhaps my only.
The chanting during meditation now sounds like David Hasselhoff humming AC/DC, a welcome change. I’ve completely given up on my meditation, and focus instead on:
I’ve developed lengthy mnemonics for both - to hell with awareness and equanimity. #LivingInThePresent
I’ve begun to look forward to the meditative discomfort, because at least it is something, as opposed to nothing.
In the afternoon, I have the sensation of my face melting away from my head. I decide to sit with it instead of reaching up to confirm the structural integrity of my noggin.
Goenka reminds us all the purpose of practice is equanimity, not the sensations. This is the message I need. I admonish myself for being a weakly human and as per his instructions to “Sttaaaaaaaaarrrt Agaiiiiiiiiiin” in his gleeful Indian accent.
During our 6-7pm meditation, I feel the sudden urge to twist my back, resulting in another resounding crunch as I do, this time between my shoulder blades.
Sensations flood over my body immediately.
Zero sleep that night
Bounce out of bed at 4am, totally pumped despite lack of sleep. High energy, high motivation, and absolutely nothing to do. Mind is absolutely full of ideas not to think about.
I’m the first in the meditation hall and settle in. After 15 minutes, it’s clear my energy is all false bravado. I’m almost asleep sitting. I tip-toe out sheepishly, quietly hoping this doesn’t effect my street cred with the gang. Back in my room, I fall asleep immediately.
I cruise into breakfast at 630. Discover the coffee is decaf. Of course it is. Lord have mercy. Lentil curry has so much sugar in it that it’s just about inedible. Thailand
I’m on cruise control for the day... some decent meditation but really just eager to put a stamp on all of it.
On day 10, we’re allowed to interact with the other humanoids. The crowd is 95% Thai, and speaking Thai, so us few foreigners huddle up to compare experiences.
It becomes immediately clear why talking is prohibited during the retreat, as comparing experiences would be detrimental, perhaps even torturous. To know that others are having more profound experiences to your own would not serve anyone.
It is rewarding to hear that everyone has had their own meaningful experiences, albeit considerably different to the next.
After some chit-chat, someone tells me about how they once heard that someone “left on day 10” and that they couldn’t believe that.
Somehow, that thought takes root in my mind, and I can’t shake it. I really, really don’t want to spend the next 10 hours chit chatting with relative strangers after such profound experiences.
I want to get home, and to get on with life! TO LIVE, for fucks sake. I feel like the bear from the Revenant, just with a hunger for living instead of Leo.
I speak to the teacher to let her know that I would really like to leave. That I’ve gotten more from the retreat than I ever could’ve expected, that I will gladly do another retreat, but at this time, I would really, really, really, like to go.
The teacher asks me if I’ll stay if she asks me to stay. What trickery is this? I say that I will, hoping that she will let me go... no such luck, she asks me to stay.
I fulfill my end, and spend the remainder of the day plotting my write-up and planning my days/weeks ahead.
The next day, we hop in the van and make for Bangkok. Headphones on, 50 Cent at full volume. Music has never sounded so good. YEEEAAAAAAAH.
One thing is for certain - I will continue Vipassana upon return home. Now if only I knew where to find dusty crystals and some sage.
Wow. What an incredible 10 days.
In my mind, attending a Vipassana retreat (or similar) should be prioritized. We spend years of our life being educated, and yet for all our “efforts” we haven’t the slightest semblance of control over our own cognition.
To attend a Vipassana retreat is to be alarmed by and to bear witness to the mania of your own mind. To become far more conscious of your own thoughts, your mental patterns, your own habits, your own escapism, your tendencies for craving and aversion. To experience the healing phenomena from meditative practice that are readily available to all, substance free.
10 days of focus is a pittance relative to the gain.
Completing this article more than a year (yes, I know) since the experience, I can’t wait for Aunty Corona to pass so I can attend another.
Hopefully, this compels at least one of you to sign your ass up. Much love,
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