What really happened at Vipassana
We were informed that we had to wear loose clothing, with tops that came down over our knees when we were sitting. That meant some new wardrobe purchases that I wasn’t really up for. And what’s with the clothing code? I wasn’t planning to enter into service!
Don’t bring any reading or writing material. Did that include leaving my reading glasses at home?
Registrations were a couple of hours before the course began.
“You do really want to do this course, don’t you?” Yeeeees!
“You do think you can stick out the 10 days?” Yeeeees!
“Please hand over your phone and your car-keys.” Right!
I was beginning to wonder what I had let myself in for.
THE CODE OF MISCONDUCT
We were introduced to the code of conduct: No stealing, no lying, no killing, no intoxicants, no sexual misconduct and no talking for the next 10 days. Immediately followed by someone stealing my umbrella and telling me it was her room number on the tag! Dah!
I was lucky. It helped that I had grey hair, and maybe, they thought, a weak bladder and a poor back. I was allocated a single room with an ensuite bathroom, and a meditation spot in the meditation hall, up against the wall.
Well-meaning friends had warned me about the 3rd day. This is when everyone hits the wall. I was ready. I was keen. Let’s get this challenge underway.
And so the course began. 10 hours per day of meditation, punctuated by lengthy rest period, for the next 10 days.
The gong was struck outside my door at 4.00 am. Meditation was to begin at 4.30am. I scrambled my weary bones up the rain-sodden path to the meditation hall and promptly fell asleep. I was in good company.
The first day as I focused my entire attention to the area of my nose, my body began resisting… my head was imploding.
My mind was bringing in thoughts that were so far removed from anything I would ever consciously consider. Fascinating thoughts had I had time to explore them, but mostly rubbish that had no meaning to me.
MY FIRST INSIGHT
When the teacher said “take rest”, he meant it! Like, go to sleep between meditation sessions! I’d read somewhere that the glial cells that reshape our neurological pathways do their work when the brain is resting at night. So I slept. At breakfast break from 8 .00 am – 9.00 am, at lunch break from 1.30 – 2.30 pm, and at dinner break from 5.00 pm until 6.00 pm.
MY SECOND INSIGHT
Those thoughts are not my thoughts! WTF!
The collective mind entity was well and truly plugged in. (I blame social media for that as I had it pretty well handled until I started business online!).
I quickly relegated the collective mind to a milking stool in the corner of my mind and told it to hang there until the 10 days were done.
My lotus position proudly stood the test of the first 3 days. I now had an intimate knowledge of my breathing patterns as they express themselves at the end of my nose. And I’d figured out how to tell if the many wandering thoughts were mine or from somewhere else. Progress!
Day 3 merged into day 4, and apart from slipping into a brief hallucinogenic state which I was able to quickly correct, things were going ok.
There was a time when I couldn’t tell if it was my nose or my neighbour’s that I was observing, which could have been embarrassing had I not snapped out of it.
BREAKING THE RULES
I began to realize that I was breaking a few rules. Those glasses would have helped. The place was littered with little signs of which I took no notice because I couldn’t read them. Well, in truth I didn’t even recognize them as notes until I got up close and personal with one.
“No drink bottles in the meditation hall”. Crap, okay! No problem. I'd been happily slurping away for 4 days!
“No sitting with legs stretched out in front of you towards the front where the teacher sits”. Bloody hell, the problem with not speaking is that no one can tell you you’re doing the wrong thing! I did wonder why nobody else was stretching out for comfort during the discourses.
After some consideration I concluded that this rule I would break. Discourse was between the 9th and 10th hour of mediation at the end of each day. I was sitting at the back so the teacher couldn't be offended by my not-so-well concealed yoni regions, (the loose clothing did have a purpose after all), so I decided to celebrate being there by going for comfort at that time, with a slight adjustment to point the legs off centre. By the end of the 10 days, so was everyone else!
THE SERIOUS WORK BEGINS
On day 4 another 2 challenges were introduced.
The first challenge: Sit in absolute stillness for 3 periods of one hour each day. That’s no scratching, no stretching, no sneezing, in short, no reacting. Where a sneeze goes when it is not expressed is quite an exquisite experience!
INSIGHT NUMBER 3
“Start again…. with a calm and quiet mind, a still and equanimous mind.”
Yeah, not happening! In the second of those 1-hour periods of stillness, there was absolute mayhem going on in the now empty void that had previously been occupied by my monkey mind!
Enter the ego! “What the fuck am I doing here? This is bullshit!”
Another voice was screaming at me to MOVE, to WALK, to STRETCH, to SCRATCH.
CRAVINGS! They had mentioned CRAVINGS! Far out!
AND THEY HADN’T MENTIONED DURING THAT INTERROGATION AT REGISTRATION THAT THEY WOULDN’T BE SERVING DINNER!
Another 2 milking stools and “ego” and “cravings” were marched to the now crowded corner of my mind to sit and... “Shut the fuck up – I don’t want to hear from you until the course is DONE!”
The second challenge: To take my focus to the sensations on every part of my body, to feel sensations everywhere, on every square inch, (well, square centimeter in today’s measurement standard).
The right side of my face started exploding! I was confused. It felt like thick bubbles of custard plopping out onto my face. NO TOUCHING! NO MOVING! Aaaagh!?
I had to check in the mirror several times over the next few days to see if my face was as bruised and battered as it felt. No sign of the pain and trauma that I was experiencing was showing in that mirror.
INSIGHT NUMBER 4
Releasing those emotional and protective masks, and a ton of other emotional crap that was clearly waiting to be expunged via what I can only think was a meridian, emptying its contents onto my face, was an exercise in observing the body healing itself by releasing low frequency, dense quantum vibration.
Our body IS always trying to heal, to thrive. This was the physical evidence. I knew it!
From pain and bruising, to aching similar to a toothache, to finally being quite numb. My right eye, which had been receding in recent years popped back out, I was literally seeing double for a few days - there were clearly 2 moons each night - until it adjusted.
By day 6 the neural pathways were clearly being established and I needed less sleep! I could enjoy a walk in the garden instead, ankle deep in kangaroo doo but who cared, it was sunny, and I had shoes.
I have to tell you that “noble silence” is anything but noble as a rookie. You soon get a good look at yourself and the constant stream of judgments that were coming thick and fast.
Look at her, she’s breaking the rules, she’s not wearing loose clothing!
And what about her, she could have left the door open when she saw me coming.
That bloody burping going on during meditation – what is that woman eating! And that little minx that stole my umbrella! Karma is going to get her!
All this mastering of the mind renders the senses very acute. The whiff of alcohol hadn’t escaped my notice on a couple of occasions – someone else breaking the rules!
Day 6 merged into day 7, then 8, and then… who’s counting.
10O HOURS IN THE LOTUS POSITION
I became quite comfortable in my lotus position, both in my room and in the meditation hall.
On day 9 I decided to give that wall behind me a test-drive. I slowly lowered my back into a soft cushion placed between that and my strong, upright spine. The overwhelmingly, deliriously delicious sensation of that back support was the closest I’d come to breaking that sexual misconduct rule.
On day 10, noble silence was lifted. It took a while to find my voice. We compared notes, we laughed, we cried. It was done.
A skill for life.