The silence was the easy part. In fact on day 9, I thought tommorow when we can talk, I’ll be silent still or atleast somewhat more quiet… ya that didn’t last very long.
Everyday I felt as I prepared to take rest that my mind was journaling, mentally writing stuff down. I tried repeating some stuff to myself, thinking that if I repeat it, I’ll remember it for when I can actually write again (in addition to not speaking, you cannot read or write and really do anything to distract your mind). Now as I sit to write, some distinct ideas and emotions remain, but many of the details have faded, which is perfectly okay.
oh the agitation. I knew it yet was amazed as the speed and impermance of the thoughts and memories as they raced through my mind. Surely though, the progression was fairly rapid actually, the amount of time it took before I noticed that my mind wandered decreased as I focused my attention and concentrated my mind on the respiration. (Side: I smile as I write some of these words as I hear Goenkaji’s voice saying them).
Midway through Day 2. Silence. Nothingness.
My mind was blank. There were no thoughts, there were no ideas, there was nothing. Where did the whirlwind go? I felt my mind shutting me out. Saying no you cannot come in. You have observed what you have so far, purged yourself of the attachment to those recent memories, but no more. Slowly I developed patience, very slowly.
I experienced that day, what I would experience again: my inability to be in the present. I was bored. The assistant teacher spelled it out more clearly. Boredom is really not appreciating the present moment. I was running from what was the reality of the moment. It was the old memories or thoughts of what I should do (I was trying to find ways to stay “entertained), but my breath that was the reality in that moment. This moment is reality, not the past or present.
The mind began to open again and the battle raged on. I found myself sucked into the memory of leaving school, saying goodbye to my friends and while I knew in some part of my mind that I should go back to my breath, I wanted to relive the moments and in this reliving I began to experience my attachment to my friends. After the tears were shed and the sitting was over as I stood up, a sense of relief of lightening was felt everywhere. I had begun to let go.
Day 10 was interesting.
Lunch time was sensory overload. The silence of the dining commons was no existent, you couldn’t hear the clatter of utensils over the chatter, but what conversations. They were no ordinary ones. I understood the value of the silence, the importance of it and at the same time was SO grateful that we had the day to talk. Every single person’s experience was difference. Every person’s background was different. Every person had their own tale of their life and course and in addition to learning from the meditation I learned from the women around me. I ended up in one person’s room talking until 2am (and this is when we’d be going to sleep at 930pm each night and still had to be up at 4:15am to meditate) with a woman in her 20’s who had done EVERYTHING you would do in your 20’s, tried it all, a women who had made it through such a difficult period in her life and was still alive and simply and had these two great kids (people thought we were sisters, which was amusing, but it felt true in the connection I felt with her), and this person who turned 50 had the most ridiculous experiences in her life and was at the point where she was ready to cleanse. So someone really “starting” their life (me), someone passed the one big phase of, another at the prime of her adult life and another “settling” down and the latter stages. It sounds cliches and i cringed as I wrote these last words, but they are both true and false. For we all are living and the stages are merely stereotypes and ways we try to categorize our life and make it more manageable. But nonetheless, so much energy, wisdom and positive vibrations were being generated in that room, in the entire space. The next morning and all today, all I can really feel in peace.
The lessons learned:
1) I am running and have been running from reality. My mind is so agitated. Going from activity to activity, project to project. I used to think that the quote that best summarized me was: Doing nothing is the most tiresome job in the world because you can’t stop and rest. And it was, it did characterize me, but over the course of the retreat, I had to face reality head on. In those sessions, especially you had to meditate in the hall for an hour and not open your eyes, I had to face reality. There was only so much I could do to think about what else I could be doing or thinking of the past, but the reality was that moment not the past or present. I by no means have gotten completely over the fact, but I have begun the process and I def have come to appreciate silence. Two weeks ago, I actually thought when is the last time that I sat and just thought and I couldnt recall a moment. I’m always thinking on the go, mind moving at the a thousand miles a minute. It’s where my frustrations would come from with people who didn’t follow my thoughts. In meetings, etc, I’d be saying one thing and my mind has moved on to 10 steps down the line. So i’m learning to slow down. And hey now I have a way of dealing with having “nothing to do” I can meditate (dunno if I could do that for extended periods of time randomly when I have not stopped my activities when the intention of sitting, but its a start).
2) My actions, my sentiments and attachment to people and the things I do are very intimately related to the image that I want to create of myself in those around me. I act and verbalize things to maintain or enlargen that image and many of my attachments to people are not because of the person, but because of the image they have of me and the reflection of myself that I see when I look at them. Sounds really egocentric and it is. So learning to be more true to myself and what is the reality. I could see small changes already manifesting on the last day. When we would meet and talk, many spoke of how they want to keep in the touch and understandably so, I mean the sense of community you get when you are meditating with 45 other individuals and do not care about crying or bodily noises (believe me there were plenty) is incredible. We are were sending out vibrations to each other supporting each other, without realizing it and without saying a word. But typically in such a situation, which has come up countless times at conferences, etc, particularly overnight ones Ive attended, you say we should for sure keep in touch, etc, etc. But I had an awareness that this was not going to be the reality with a lot of the people that I sat the course with. And this time I found myself not saying those words because I knew was aware of the reality and was not going to verbalize it to be something else. Baby steps in change.
Funny thing, is as I write this and as I spoke to my sister I’m realizing how much I’m talking like the people I met. Some of the sentence structure of the stuff Im writing sounds like that of Goenkaji (makes sense, he was the only voice I heard for 10 days). random observation.
So now, I am my own master. It is up to me to maintain the discipline, which I know is goign to be an INCREDIBLE struggle, to practice regularly. For all you Vipassana meditators, send some metta this way. All else, positive energy will be needed and is appreciated =)