12.14.2007 - 12.25.2007 59 °F
As of Dec 14th I am going to be silent for 10 days. No speaking. No looking at anyone in the eye. No electronics. No music. No cell phone. No journal writing. No computer. No watch. No ipod. 2 meals a day (nothing after 1pm). Probably about 6-8 hours of meditation. Waking up at 4 am to meditate. Then again. And again. Its called Vipassana and its a long story on how I got to do to this, but I will be finishing up on Christmas day (yea! I get to say Merry X-mas!) and will let in on how it went.
You try a couple of hours. Then a day. Then 10!!
I'm nervous. Its going to be hard, but... I'm hoping it will be rewarding in the end. It'll be a good time to sit (what else is there to do?) and reflect on my travels, my life, and everything in between!
(sorry, you need to scroll down a little to get to the "aftermath" part!)
The Vipassana camp is over. While I was there, I was trying to think how to describe this experience. To say that it was the hardest thing I've done in my life, both mentally and physically, would be an understatement. To say that a marathon, 1/2 ironman, any other physical accomplishment I've done, is "hard," I have to smile and almost laugh. Nyet! It doesn't even compare. This was really the hardest thing I've ever done. The silence wasn't actually a big deal, believe it or not. It probably was about 1/10th of the experience. You just get used to it, and if it wasn't for a few instances in the beginning where I wanted to tell Char something stupid, (ew! I swatted a fly and it landed in my dish!) it really wasn't an issue. Before I mentioned the food, or lack thereof, I thought that that would be hard to get adjusted to. But once again, it was about 1/10th of the experience. We actually ate lunch at 11am and then had a snack at 5pm, and that was it. The challenge was this is about you and the power of your mind. Vipassana is about insight and the importance of mental action and seeing things as they really are. Its training your mind to be aware and equanimous of consciousness, perception, sensation and reaction... which leads to being aware of the reality of "now" as your body experiences it. Which ultimately leads to getting rid of suffering and misery. A point which I like that he made is about cravings. Cravings lead to attachment which lead to misery. Think about it. And also about living in the present, not past or future. The goal is to purify the mind, and eliminate tensions and negativites that make us miserable. Who wants to be miserable? I know I don't. And how we can be miserable towards other people and try to change them, when ultimately, we are the ones that are miserable and need to change, and that change has to come from within.
It is also about meditating for 10 hours a day. Observing respiration and then sensations. Mentally working through the many many physical issues (my knees hurt, my back hurts, etc).
This was the schedule:
4:00am: wake up call. Or should I say, wake up dong.
6:30-8:00am: Breakfest. Bucket showers to bathe. Relax.
8:00-9:00am: What I tended to call "power" meditations. It was mandatory to do these group sessions and you had to sit still, NO movement, in the lotus-flower position without moving. Just being aware of sensations in your body. Keeping your eyes closed. Not even wiggling your fingers or feet. It sounds Nazi, I know, but that was where the hardest part of the camp came. The physical pain at times was absolutely unbearable. Sometimes I would try to think about the anatomy of all the places that hurt (hello! I'm a PT!), but then I remembered that I was supposed to be concentrating on my respiration and sensations. That, and I need a major review of thigns! But yes, I soo wanted to cry outloud in pain at times. But throughout the 10 days you train your mind to observe and be aware.... and basically train your mind to get over it "its impermanent. It will go away." At the end, I could sit no problem! Soooooooooooooooooooo rewarding. I really felt, when I got to that point, I could conquer the world. Nothing can stop me now!
2:30-3:30: power meditation (group, no moving, etc)
5:00-6:00: snack time. The girls and boyz were separated by this curtain. We were also on separate sides during meditation and were separated the whole time. No contact allowed.
6:00-7:00: The 3rd and final 1-hour "power" session
7:00-8:30: Video discourse on meditation. These were fun and anxiously awaited for because the dhamma, Mr. Goenka, has an awesome sense of humor, was engaging and empowering to listen to. He was almost a mind-reader to your experiences that day, and after a day of going through soooooo many emotions and challenges and not being able to talk about it with anyone and dealing with it on your own, it was great to hear him almost relive what you felt that day, laugh about it, and just learn about the power of the Vipassana technique. And no, really, its not a cult or sect or ritual or anything. Yes (referring to my 1st "entry" above), I did think about stuff and reflect and analyze, but for the majority of the time I was ssooo concentrated on my mind and my body, that there could have been a horn in my face and I wouldn't even have budged. Hmm... okay, thats a little stretch, but you know what I mean.
9:30: lights out and bedtime.
So yes, 10+ hours of meditation a day.
Here is a pict of the golden stuppa where we meditated all day:
It was non-stop and sometimes I wanted to cry, other times to laugh, other times cry again, then other jump for joy. I think it was the 7th day that I really felt happy. Soooo much going on! The whole experience is a personal experience and what I experienced is what I experienced and not one single person will go through the same thing. Everyone does it for a reason, and gets something different out of it. I really really believe everyone should do something like this. It really really trains you to be the master of your mind... and really get to know yourself (i.e. me always thinking I'm 'tough' because of my athletic endeavors, but then really wanting to cry and quit because I didn't think I could handle it. That was day 2). How many times in your life will you really have no outside stimulation (no talking, reading, writing, music, etc)? Ugh! Its sooooo hard to explain, and I kinda don't want to explain or describe because if even 1 person of the 2 people that is reading this does it, I want them to have their own experience and not be "biased" of my experience!
But honestly, I have never felt so happy in my life. I feel soooo pure, cleansed, detoxed, rejuvenated inside, I can almost burst! I know it sounds crazy, and this probably won't last long, but really! Its how I feel! Like today, so we leave the camp, had a nice X-mas lunch (merry x-mas by the way! I kinda forgot about it sense we were at the camp and there isn't too much going on here for X-mas) with someone we met from the camp, want to go to the train station (heading around Pune) and BAM! How should I put this nicely? An unfortunate and ugly situation with a rickshaw driver. Yes, I was annoyed, but I didn't even flutter with anger or hatred, not even an ounce. My heart rate didn't even raise. I had a calm and clear mind. No anger in me whatsoever. And yes, we moved on. Of course to had to have another 'incident' within about 15 minutes of that, but again, we learned so much about 'misery' and recognizing yourself and your reactions, that again, I didn't even twinge. And honestly, 12 days ago we had a similar incident (umm... in case you can't tell, rickshaws are NOT a foreigners best friend and pretty much everytime you even approach one, nevertheless get in one, there is going to be an unpleasant interaction because of the notorious ripping and scamming). I literally was FUMING when that happened. I turned red, my heart was beating a mile a minute, and I was just LIVID with anger towards these people. LIVID! And LIVID for the next hour or so before I forced myself to let it go. But I was totally miserable for that hour. Why? No reason! What happened happened.
Noww.... well, I'm fresh from this experience, but its kinda cool to not even react to unpleasant situations. I don't want to be miserable, and hopefully will continue to keep up with some practices. By the way, I know whoever is reading this thinks I've become this junkie hippie and have been brainwashed by this whole thing, but I really recommend everyone to do it: www.dhamma.org.
It was the hardest thing I've done EVER, but the best thing I've done. And yea, I did it!!!!!
So go ahead, experience the here and now!
HEre's a pict of a sunset at the camp: