A smiling, positive and approachable man with a slight business edge named Luv collects me from Agonda at around 8 am, we head towards Kolhapur where the Vipassana centre is, via North Goa to pick up the other 2 meditators joining the ride. I feel like it’s begun already, the mind with all it’s questions, why am I doing this again? I’m leaving the beach, amazing food and physical asana and exercise for what? I will sit for 10 days in silence and meditate. Vipassana. The mind wants to resist all of the unfamiliar. But I’m already sitting and already starting to feel the still. Taking myself out of the familiar in order to do some deep meditative work. I have intentions but like any deep spiritual work, the attachments to outcomes must go, the soul will take what it needs, we have no control.
Welcome to meditation prison, a white painted metal-gated reception area and haze of noisy Russian students registering is what greets us.
Hand in your phone, all your valuables, money, ipad, and passport. Once you are in you cannot come out. For 10 days you must observe silence, no eye contact with any of the other 70 meditators, no communication. A light breakfast at 0630 is served, lunch the main meal of the day is at 11 am and snack at 5pm is served. I learn how to feel empty and light. No special requests for food will be taken, 11 hours of meditation a day, no talking, and no thinking.
Only I do think, for the first 2 days that’s all I do my mind is exploding, what will I do when this is over, where will I go, what will be my first indulgence when I am out of Vipassana, where will I go after India, what happened in the past, what did he say, she say, I say, oh and back to planning and imagining the future again. I cannot control my thoughts and this method of meditation is new to me, it is challenging. Before I would use a mantra, key words to calm the mind down. It gave my mind focus as the words So & Ham would overwrite every thought. Now with only breath awareness for the first days my mind keeps returning to my thoughts. How do I stop this? Past, future, recalling, Imagining. How do we control that which in a paradox is actually controlling our lives.
The third day brings new hope. We focus on the sensations in the triangular part of our face, starting at the top of the nose and running down the sides to the line of the top lip. This I can work with. Feeling sensations in my body is nothing new to me, I practice this awareness during asana practice, whether it’s yin or a more vigorous Vinyasa flow and I practice when I freedive, it’s a trusted relaxation technique.
This method of meditation brings more comfort to me, and I find it easier to focus my mind as I link the breath to feeling. On the 4th day we start to practice the full vipassana meditation technique which is to scan the body from head to toe feeling each and every sensation as we pass our awareness on each body part.
The reason for this is to become aware of our changing sensations, and whether favorable or not our job is to remain equinomous to each and every sensation which we experience.
After a few days the method becomes monotonous and uncomfortable for me as the mind becomes bored and wants to run free again. Sitting for so many hours is especially uncomfortable, as I am not exercising nearly as much as what I am used to and my body feels stiff and lethargic.
But the method is practical and I’m discovering new truths about life and the involvement of others.
When ever anything happens in our life our body reacts to it and a certain kind of sensation takes place, whether we are aware or not. The sensation will be different to every body and is based on previous habit, conditioning, childhood, experience, samskara or karma. We react to the sensations experienced in our body, whether we are aware or not.
If we become fully aware of our sensations and choose not to react as we normally would then we can start to break our habits, addictions and reactive patterns. Imagine no longer being a slave to your senses. If we can remain equanimous to each and every sensation we will no longer react, become upset, become addicted, become trapped by cravings and aversions. Balance and harmony, sounds pretty sweet right?
But first you must work to become aware, and in one Vipassana experience this is not going to happen, they say every year you should put yourself through the experience to maximize the benefits of the technique. We need to fully learn and practice experiencing our sensations and practice the mindset of equanimity to all sensations whether good or bad. As the buddha (enlightened one ) said, pain is inevitable but suffering is an option. If we are fully aware to the ever changing reality whether we experience old sad patterns or extreme joy we are neither fully up nor fully down, our scales of emotion remain balanced, then we can start to experience peace and remove misery from our lives. Only through practice will one achieve this. Books and intellect is not enough. This is the purpose of the Vipassana center, to give a safe and scheduled practice available to everybody as it runs solely on donation basis and is said to have no religious connection.
Its day 10 and I’m ready to go home. I feel too anxious to even meditate. It’s tiring now and monotonous and I feel that I can work better or practice better in the real world, outside of this meditation “prison”. Perhaps the anxiety is something, which I need to break, I should really be sitting through and experiencing this discomfort. But just being here is now uncomfortable. I share a 3×2 Meter room and toilet with a lady from Istanbul., and I sleep on a thin mattress on the floor. I know my roommate is from Istanbul because we had 15 minutes to talk before the start of silence on the day we all arrived. We cannot even make eye contact in this small confined space. When it comes to an end and when we can start talking again I am satisfied and ready to return to my beach haven. Talking soon becomes frustrating again and I prefer not to share all thoughts and feelings.
Like everything in life there are highs and there are lows, and you can only truly appreciate the one by recognizing the other.
In metta we give unconditional love to everyone, sending love through the heart.
I forgive every one, I forgive the ones who bullied me at school, I forgive the people who spoke bad to me, the ones who intoxicated my life with their unconsciousness and addictions to habit and substance, I forgive myself for any harm I did unto others, but mostly I forgive myself for any negative projections I sent out and so experienced within.
This is energy, thoughts and feelings are energy our projections into and within life.
Maybe that energy and those people chose me, because they knew one day I would forgive, forget and let go, or perhaps I chose this kind of energy so that I would know the precious gift of forgiveness and unconditional love and acceptance. Anything is possible in this world of constant change and exchange of energy.
And so the inner work has begun. I am changing the self image I created for myself in my youth. The past is there but can be viewed more objectively, and so space is created for a true higher potential to be born.
They say it takes around 3 Vipassana sittings to truly reap the benefits. I know the paths are many and truth is one. I don’t believe it to be for everyone, and don’t believe it is a path for me. I have a moving body and feel that in order to feel truly alive I will move it as long as I can or am able to. I find meditation in swimming, walking, yoga, diving, if I feel the need arise again to explore Vipassana so be it, for now I am happy to be exploring forest and Ocean, moving my body while deepening my connection to Nature. My one true guru.