What will be your reply if someone asks you about your most memorable memory of life?
Hands down, for me it would be my 10 days Vipassana retreat experience. If you are into reading self-help and spiritual books, a little dig into the pages and everywhere you can read about ‘being grateful’ for little things.
Eckhart Tolle says, “Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.”
However, I could never connect to this feeling. I tried hard to feel grateful, but the miseries would hit my mind saying, ‘Duh! It’s fake! Isin’t it?’ And I would get back to my real world. My world which was full of pain, problems and mental agonies. But Vipassana helped me to see ‘MORE’, to be thankful to my body if not for anything else, for it exits and re-creates itself every moment to help me see everyone and everything I love!
It allowed me to understand that beyond my so called ‘miserable’ life situation, there is ‘LIFE’, which is primary, which is already whole, complete and perfect.
I guess its complicated to put it in words about how I felt, I would still give it a try to put down my day to day feelings about my stay.
So, here you go!!
- Day 0: Husband and I left home at 3:30 in the evening as we had to reach the center before 5 pm and it was about an hour drive. 15 minutes remaining for the destination and suddenly we started moving on the roads surrounded by hills and big bamboo trees on both the sides. Who knew there would be a different world of awareness in between those woods hiding from our eyes! Once we signed in and got into our respective rooms (which was separate for men and women), we gathered in the dining hall where we did some formalities and met our course manager. Husband and I talked for the last time before 10 days silence and gave confidence to each other that we WOULD stay and complete the course. An hour later we gathered in the meditation hall where we met our respective Assistant Teachers. I had a blurred vision of my husband in that dim light standing at one corner on other side. First instruction for meditation was given and we went to sleep at 9:00 pm. (Do you see the gong in the picture?)
- Day 1: The gong at 4:00 am reminded me of my school times. I was so excited to start the course that it didn’t take me time to get up. 4:30 am and I was in the meditation hall. Yuppie!! But then who knew that it would be a roller coaster ride! Two hours passed like two days as my mind couldn’t concentrate on breathing. 6:30 am to 8:00 am was breakfast time. And that we meditated again till 11:00 am. I could feel the anxiety now as my thoughts where dancing boogie-woogie on the floor of my mind. ‘I am screwed up!’. While eating lunch at 11:00 am, I felt like breaking the boundaries and run. ‘But then everyone around is eating silently! Looks like I am an alien to this world. Phew!’ The next meditation spree started at 1:00 pm and continued till 5:00. Now I was super exhausted, more because of my mind. I remember my mind singing a bollywood song ‘kithe chali hai morni banke’ on a repeat mode. 😛 5:00 to 6:00 pm was snack/ dinner and tea time. At 6:00 we came back for another round of meditation and everyday’s Discourse (final thoughts) by Goenka ji (teacher who started this technique in India) where her would talk about next day schedule. I somehow managed to sit till 9:00 pm. Knowing that husband was there going through same mental chaos as mine gave me some relief and strength. My mind was super active with negative thoughts on bed, and I don’t remember when did I sleep.
- Day 2: I had slept just for 4 hours and didn’t realize I have taken a good nap in the hall during morning meditation. ‘What am I doing? I am not here to sleep!’ Throughout the day I kept fighting with my sleep cycle though the mind was less chaotic, and I was able to sleep peacefully at 10:00 am. Strangely, I have started noticing my body sensations too.
- Day 3: Day 3 was even better and it felt like I was enjoying the process. I was trying hard to find a way to know if my husband was doing okay. I was worried, ‘What if he runs away?’ Lol. The feeling of calmness was there throughout the day. With fewer naps than yesterday I managed to meditate almost 11 hours! I was happy I came here! Yaaay!!
- Day 4: It started with the same routine but we would be getting actual meditation technique in the afternoon at 3:00 pm. The teacher said that for the last 3 days we were sharpening our mind AND attention to do Vipassana in a better way. However, I experienced something magical at 11:00 am. I was concentrating on my breath when my right hand started vibrating. It was very intense. I could feel it for 5-6 seconds and then it was gone. ‘What happened just now? It is said that we are made up of frequencies. Did I just experience that?‘ My teacher had an answer to it: ‘Observe it.’ My mind was like, ‘That’s it? Okay!’ In the afternoon we were given Vipassana technique.
- Day 5: It was just half day that I had been practicing Vipassana, and I could feel my body getting heated up. My chest area, belly and pelvic area, hands, thighs, every part was burning. But the technique said that we had to observe our sensations! Lol. Okay. By 7 pm my body was a coal mine. The heat made me feel like I would vomit and cry. Did I say that we were not allowed to move our body too. Ouch! Eckhart Tolle says that ‘every emotional pain we experience leaves behind a residue of pain which lives on in our body in dormant state. The moment you observe it with your presence, the identification is broken.’ (‘Read Power of NOW.) I could relate. I guess I was holding too much of anger. While returning back to my room at 9:00 pm I noticed that I had a back pain 3 years ago (which I thought was gone) had resurfaced! Day 5 ended as a painful day. Though I was still going strong!
- Day 6: I expected that my morning would begin with same heat in my body, but it was different. The heat had subsided a little. It had now localized to some areas and was less intense. ‘When you become a watcher, pain-body or negative energy will continue to operate for a while. Since it has certain momentum, it would keep turning for a while and may create physical aches and pains. Be present. It will go away- Eckhart Tolle’. Now I could relate to what I had read in his book. By afternoon, many other body parts started paining again. When I asked my teacher about it, she had same answer for every question I had, ‘Observe it’. Urgh!
- Day 7: Oh! My teacher was so true! The shoulder pain got less intense! However, my whole body was sore. Day went by and I kept meditating. But at 9:00 pm when I went to bed I had some weird experience. I was trying to sleep observing my sensations when I felt a sudden surge of energy. It felt like there was a part in my body (lung area) where there was no blood flow for many years, and suddenly energy started flowing there after ages. I felt good for sometime, but as soon as the mind got into action, the sudden flow of energy made me scared. I suddenly switched on the light out of fear. ‘What was that? Something supernatural? I want to run. Should I bang manager’s door? Is there a way to escape?’ I was scared, scared of the experience, scared to quietness, scared of myself. The whole hostel was quiet. It felt like it was just me and my mind screaming and daunting. ‘I am not meditating for remaining 3 days. I will just walk in the woods, and stay in the room. God! Please help me.’
- Day 8: I skipped morning meditation at 4:30 am but then there was this breakfast thing at 6:30 am. The morning felt a bit lighter and better. The mood made me go to the meditation hall once again. ‘Oh! Today is not as bad as expected!’. Accepting all my negative thoughts and emotions, I kept meditating. However, today I took more breaks, walked in woods, soaked the sun and drank the wind. I guess that’s what they mean to say when they say that nature heals. The environment made me calm, and I geared up to start my practice again. I was back on the mat and realized being much lighter. The body was still heated and soared but it was less painful as compared to day 5. My back pain too was almost gone, and it felt like I had released some weight I was carrying on my shoulders.
- Day 9: There were so many ‘Go to home’, and ‘Stay here’ moments. The feeling continued throughout the day. One hour I was miserable and another hour, I was Okay. But then somewhere I knew, ‘I can’t do this anymore’. It was good that course was coming to an end else I would have a mental breakdown.
- Day 10: Hurrah! We could talk today! Just after morning meditation session from 8-9 am, we were allowed to talk to each other. Everyone started chatting like anything! But I was still in the mood of quietness. I took my lunch plate and sat in the corner alone without talking to anyone. Suddenly a girl passed by and said, ‘Looks like you still want to enjoy the serenity’. ‘Yes, I am just sinking in the feeling’. ‘Please go! I don’t want to extend the communication’, my mind said. Few minutes of conversation with my husband in the dining area, and I felt like pouring my heart and crying. Any ways, we had to maintain the separation of men and women till day 11 when the course was about the end. I couldn’t sleep at night. There was a mixed feeling. I wanted to go/I wanted to stay. But the fact is that this experience was life changing. I thanked everyone around mentally for being a part of this thrilling experience and slept peacefully.
- Day 11: We all gathered in the meditation hall in the morning. The final lecture with Goenka ji, and I bowed down in front of meditation hall for everything it had given me in last few days. I now knew I was tough. I now knew I could endure pain with a happy face. There was a feeling of exaltation and heightened awareness, as if something within me said, ‘This too shall pass. Stay present! Enjoy till it lasts!’ Funny enough, my 3 years of meditation experience was nothing as compared to what I had experienced in these 10 days, and still it was just the beginning. And I owed everything to this place!
I remember leaving my room with my bag when I saw two girls standing outside. We smiled looking at each other and suddenly I said, ‘Thank you guys for being a wonderful companion in my 10 days journey. I hope to see you all soon.’ And this time I really felt grateful saying this!
As I listened to my inner voice, it whispered, ‘Dhamma Torana ! I will be back again! ‘
Much love and peace on your ways…