Dear os.me family,
On my last post, some of you asked me to write more about my Vipassana retreat experience, so here we are! There is a lot on the internet about daily schedules and five precepts so let’s skip the boring part and jump directly to the juicy stuff. Shall we? 😀
Vipassana means ‘to see things as they really are’ and one of the techniques Buddha used to teach his disciples. Retreats are Buddhist-style silent meditation courses, the beginner one is for 10 days and advanced courses are 20, 30, 45, 60, and 90 days long. They have centers all over the world. You can find the nearest one at https://www.dhamma.org/. I attended my first 10 days course in July 2019 and here are some of the observations from that course:
- The center was picturesque and very clean. On the last day, there was a simple donation box, where you could leave a cheque. There was ZERO pressure to donate. I couldn’t help but wonder about the existence of a higher power which is making these centers run free of cost around the world from many years. At least my logical mind could not comprehend it!
- Practically, few mins into the retreat (Day 0), the initial romance with meditation wore off. I mentally calculated that I am to sit on this 3’X3’ cushion for ~105 hours more. I questioned my sanity. Once. Twice. Hundred times. Then I slightly opened my one eye to check the time. One more minute had passed!
- Einstein said time is relative, oh so true! In the absence of a phone, it really doesn’t pass quickly. With nothing to do, you think and think and then think some more. When you are done thinking about the world, thoughts turn inward. You do get to know more about yourself and your ego gets nice kicks in the backside every now and then. Jokes apart, some of the hidden tendencies will reveal themselves. Some will make you smile and others will make you go “ewww”. For me, that was the whole point of the course, I felt much lighter in the end and started taking myself a little less seriously!
- In retrospect, the silence was not scary. I didn’t miss my phone, office, books or talking. Surprisingly I didn’t miss my family (much). With my husband and parents around, I knew my children were safe and happy.
Though during the retreat, I was hyper-sensitive and teary-eyed for a lot of time. Tears were mostly out of gratitude and love (and boredom of course. hahaha) I was feeling. The place had beautiful vibrations, one could feel the highly charged energy in the meditation hall. Though, one piece of advice, get your affairs in order before you undertake any similar adventure. Pay your bills, set auto-reply on emails, inform your emergency contacts. You do not want to worry about these things during the course!
- Food was lip-smackingly delicious. I had a child-like curiosity about the menu every day. Also, in case you have forgotten what hunger feels like, don’t worry. You will remember the feeling looooong after the course is finished!
- Fortunately, the Vipassana technique came naturally to me. I could sit for a long time without moving. On the last day, when people asked my secret, I joked that with my sprained back, the movement was more painful than being still. But seriously, it was because I was using a meditation bench. If I was only allowed to give one piece of advice, I say take a meditation bench with you in any course you take. You will be able to sit long hours without getting back, knee, or ankle pain. I use it at home too and cannot recommend it enough!
- The sky looks gorgeous at 4:30 AM, especially when you are far away from city lights. Stargazing in the early morning during my walk from my room to the meditation hall was my favorite activity (other than the food). Only if I could write poetry!
- When we regained our ability to speak on the 10th day, many meetings were held to discuss important matters. No, not global warming types. “I love the skirt you wore on day 5”. “That jacket is mindblowing.” “Where did you get those blue elephant pants from?”. You see, life-changing ones!
- The car ride back was super interesting. Two caucasian dudes in their early 20s dropped me off to town next to mine. One was a cancer survivor, avid trekker & pizza delivery person. The second was a sous-chef, art student, and child sexual abuse survivor. Both of them had tons of experience with psychedelic drugs. We laughed too much and ended up learning a lot from each other. I think there was not a single minute of silence in that 3 hours journey. They also generously offered, If I ever want to try any marijuana or mushrooms I just need to make a phone call!
I have mentioned it before, My first Vipassana retreat experience is one of my most treasured experiences so far. I was already planning to attend the next one in my head within minutes of coming out of the first one. Alas, Covid happened soon after!
Well, the retreat was great, but when I saw my husband walking towards me to take me home, the rush of emotions I felt cannot be described in the words. My home is where my man is, and out of all the roles I play, being Home to my boys is the MOST favorite one!
If you made it till here, Thank you!! You may be wondering if there are any long-term “side effects” of the course I am experiencing. Let’s discuss it in the next part. Okay? 😀