The longest 10 days of my life Vipassana Meditiation and the start of my spiritual journey
No talking, no cell phone, no book, no pen … no form of any communication, absolutely no distraction. Only me and my mind. Sounds exciting and a little scary at the same time, but what are 10 days? It’ll go by in a flash. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case! I never expected it to be so hard.
Since I read the book “Eat, Pray, Love”, which by the way is a lot better than the movie, I was fascinated by meditation. However, despite books, meditation group and a beautiful meditation cushion, I have never been able to really get into mediation. Until I heard about the 10-day Vipassana courses on one of my trips. Vipassana means recognizing and accepting reality and seeing things as they really are. It is one of the oldest meditation techniques in the world and universally valid, meaning anyone can participate in the courses and integrate this form of meditation into their lives, regardless of their origin, religion or belief. The courses are donation-based (after successful completion of the 10 days) and there are meditation centers all over the world.
I was hoping mediation would help me to form a stronger connection to my emotional life, more understanding for myself and clarity about who I am and where I want to go. I wanted to find out why I was not happy and what I was missing. I wanted to be more balanced, patient and understanding and I was curious and scared about what else would come up while spending so much time with myself. In addition, I was looking forward to a little rest. Traveling can be quite exhausting and just doing nothing for 10 days and process the last weeks and my experiences sounded very tempting. I was really looking forward to it.
This joy was quickly replaced by doubts and aggression. I already had enough on the first evening. This day felt like eternity, because I spent 12 hours sitting cross-legged on a pillow in the meditation hall, along with about 90 other participants, divided into men on the left and women on the right. My legs and back hurt, my feet are numb and I wouldn’t call it meditation what I’ve done so far, because too many thoughts are buzzing around in my head and keep me from concentrating on my breath. And I’m hungry, because instead of dinner, we only get tea, a mini banana, half an apple and a tiny bowl of puffed rice with two peanuts in it. Altogether more than frustrating and absolutely not what I had imagined. I am suffering and feeling like I am in prison, I am angry and try to remember why I do this to myself. I can’t, but giving up is not an option. I would hate meditation for the rest of my life and always wonder what would have been if…?
Thoughts like “What am I doing here?”, “Meditation is not for me”, “I’m fine, I do not need that, it’s not worth the suffering”, “I’m bored, I’m wasting my time”, ” In the time I sit here I could do so many productive things. “And so on, are killing me and fighting against it is hard work and requires perseverance, which unfortunately I’m not very generously equipped with. The sitting is driving me crazy, I’m restless, I want to move, I miss laughter and music and I’m homesick. Sometimes I get panick attacks, I hyperventilate and have to get out. Meditation has become secondary to me, it’s all about surviving the ten days.
I really try, but I just can’t meditate. Too much distraction in my head. Surprisingly, memories of experiences and situations come up, which were long gone or even suppressed and forgotten. I’m suddenly thinking of things, conversations, people, or events from my childhood that I have actually never or at least not thought about for years. I came to some amazing insights about myself, my behavior and why certain things in my life have developed in a certain direction. Sometimes it gets too much for me and I can not stop the tears. I often leave the meditation hall. In case you need someone to talk to, the teachers are always available. I have taken this offer a few times when I was about to give up.
I keep on trying to get that meditiation thing right and after suffering for four full days, I start to calm down on day five. I slowly manage to fade out the thoughts and I begin to understand the meditation. The aggression gets replaced by a pleasant tranquility and I suddenly remember why I am here. My mind is perfectly clear and I feel that warmth inside me. That’s a crazy, incredible feeling. I’m just happy to be here and I can’t wait to finally get to know all those people with whom I spend so much time, but of whom I know nothing. From now on, I see each walk into the hall as a chance to drift deeper into the meditation, and I feel that the meditation is giving me strength and energy. Apparently, the struggles in the first few days were necessary to cleanse my mind and prepare it for the meditation.
If only this pain in the back would leave me alone. According to the teachers, it’ll pass and it’s not worth thinking about it, because it’s impermanent and when we complain and wish to get rid of it, we just multiply it in our heads and make it worse than it is. The idea is to passively observe and accept. Not easy. I start talking to the pain, I welcome it and tell it to feel at home and stay as long as it wants. I feel a little stupid, but it works. On day seven I do not feel it anymore. It’s there, but I have deprived him of his power. That’s an incredible feeling.
The last days are incredibly beautiful and liberating. I enjoy the meditation and finally manage to put myself in the desired state of full presence in the present moment, aware of my mental, emotional and physical phenomena and free of thoughts.
After ten days, I feel reborn. I see everything a lot clearer and I’m so proud that I’ve made it. I feel connected to myself and the other participants. I have more understanding and patience for others and it is easier for me to empathize with them. I feel that this is the beginning of my spiritual journey and a wonderful change.
Curious? Further information here: www.dhamma.org