My story is dark and barbaric, some parts a bit devil(ish) but still I am sharing it here because maybe people like me need more grace.
Let me take you three years back, when for the first time in my life I went for a Vipassana meditation retreat. The hall was filled with thick silence. Around 42 people more like statues, including me, sitting together in neat rows congruously distanced. I say statues because that’s how still everybody was. There was hardly any movement. Stillness and silence together is said to iron out the ripples in your Chitta (consciousness).
Seeped in stillness we were asked to maintain absolute awareness. Awareness about the movement of breath. “Concentrate on your breath”, my teacher instructed. Like 42 idols of Buddha we sat. Alas! the other men and women appeared so, to my squinting eye. I couldn’t resist the temptation of stealing a narrow eyelash shaded view at the fellow performers. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized how challenging such a seemingly easy task of observing one’s own breath could be.
Mind has its own way of not doing what it has been asked to do. With closed eyes, sitting cross-legged on a cushion covered with soft Egyptian cotton blue coloured sheet my attention went all over the place. Never in my life, I craved action as I did in those moments. The uncrowned queen of procrastination and laziness finally awakened to the thought that how sitting here, idling away these moments to observe the breath can be put to a more productive work.
So, I sat there slaving under my unruly, hostile, and defiant mind who refused to do what it was asked to do. Instead of my breath, my awareness went to the large rectangular hall painted in cream. Six fans with regulated speed gently slicing through the air. They were, as if conniving to play their part in maintaining the congenial silence which was rarely and unwillingly broken only by the sounds of clearing of throats or repressed coughs.
I found it impossible to sit still, I was dying to change my posture so as to ease the pain that was holding its own congregation in the joints of my limbs. It broke my heart to see everyone equipoised in absolute stillness. “Oh, you are good for nothing!”, I reprimanded myself and resolved to put my heart and soul into this most simple movement of inhalation and exhalation.
In out in out…in out…”I’m not breathing now! Have I lost my breath? There it is! Oh is it becoming subtle? Ah my legs, I can’t feel them. Come back to your breath!”, I sternly whipped my spirit. Efforts never go vain! With fifteen minutes of intense effort, the radius of my concentration reduced significantly. I could feel my ears and left eye twitching along with my breath. “Why am I breathing only through one nostril? The right one seems to be blocked”, I thought. I tried to suck in air forcibly through it but was reminded of the words of the teacher, “Observe your breath, as it is.” Without manipulating, without maneuvering, the breathing pattern was to be observed: “as it is”. Without letting my sincerity and intensity dip, I continued doing so.
A few moments later, some mental pictures spontaneously floated by. I saw my white embroidered frock which I wore when I was nine years old. I could see my strolling self on the terrace of my rented house and my little dog, Muffin, frolicking around me. Introspecting the past as an observer now, I was pacing along with my irate self on that terrace.
I could observe the thoughts that I had on that evening while walking. And as an observer, I could clearly see that in the movement of uncontrollable fury that self of mine had felt the sudden urge to grab that scrawny helpless puppy and hurl her down the railing. And not even look back at that white blood oozing squashed pulp, which would have been lying there on the grey road. It would have happened had I acted on my impulse. Startled, I opened my eyes gasping for breath. I knew why I was here, the awareness of a morbid evil that was developing in me lately had induced me to take this meditation course. “You have a great love for nature and animals”, the often repeated words of my father came as a vindicating whisper in my ear.
The consciousness of being a victim of things beyond my control ran through my body. The Devil himself sat gaping to swallow me. I knew, that only a tamed mind can take the leap to deliver me beyond it. With a resolve to take charge of my consciousness, I gently closed my eyes again and brought my attention back to my breath.
(And how am I on this page and how did I get to meet Swamiji is another story… for next time !! 🙂