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The author talks about her introduction to and first ever experience of 10 days of meditation, Vipassana, at a time when even doing it for 20 mins was unthinkable to her.
“Mind is a drunken monkey bitten by a scorpion”
This is how an unsettled, restless mind behaves when it is continuously attacked by countless random thoughts. Everyone wants to tame this monkey, but only if it were that easy.
And this was my exact state of mind when I stepped inside the Vipassana centre in Jaipur. I had quit my job, had had a fallout with one of my closest friends, and absolutely had no idea where life was heading; basically I was the quintessential example of quarter life crisis. To seek answers, I embarked on a 10 day meditation journey.
So all I knew before setting on this journey was
a) you have to maintain a ‘noble’ silence (the introvert inside me was relieved as there would be no unnecessary pressure of socializing with strangers), and
b) the last meal of the day is served at noontime – yes you read it right! That would be our last full meal in the day, with some chai and puffed rice at 5 pm.
This was my biggest concern until then.
The Dhamma Thali in Jaipur is located on the city outskirts, ahead of the revered Galta ji temple, and it is bounded by idyllic hills. The view of the campus is breathtaking. It is lush green and serene, with peacocks, langoors and squirrels galore.
Upon reaching, our first task was to fill out some forms and after accepting all the rules and regulations and promising to abide by them, we were given our schedule printed on a paper, fixed for the next 10 days. I almost fainted when I read it.
Every day we would have to wake up at 4 AM and meditate for approximately 12 hours a day. I vaguely remembered visiting a meditation center once with a friend where the attendees were asked to sit and meditate for at least 20 minutes. We both closed our eyes, opened them and were out of the center in 2 minutes. End of the story!
I started questioning my decision of arriving there but I didn’t want to give up. My friends who had attended the course earlier had warned me that all these doubts would surely cross my mind, and I just had to hold on to my decision.
It was a schedule comprising meditating almost the whole day, with 2 proper meals a day followed by tea and snacks in the evening. Rules included no talking, no visual communication, no workouts or yoga (only walks), no books, no phones (internet was out of question), no writing, basically not doing anything that would distract us and make us think about something else other than ourselves. The only thing we were left with, was our consciousness which would slowly start to bare itself in the days to come.
I got up at 4 AM with not much difficulty. I am a person who generally sleeps at 4 AM, not wake up at this time, but as it was the first day, the excitement coupled with a well-rested feeling, waking up in the wee hours seemed manageable.
The first day was the most difficult of all days. Suddenly, putting your untamed mind and body into a controlled environment wasn’t easy.
It became extremely difficult for my body to sit on cushioned seats on the floor the whole day, with minimal breaks. And more than the body, my mind went completely bananas. The moment I would close my eyes, it started to drift away. With closed eyes, I could hear the fidgeting bodies of other meditators around me. It was a solace to know that I wasn’t the only restless soul here.
With a mind that has run wild for so many years and nothing done till now to control it, to tame and train it was the most difficult part. It started showing resistance. The moment I started focusing it on one thing, it bombarded me with random thoughts. Some pleasant, but most of them unpleasant. But oh boy, that night I slept like a log.
Second day fared better than the first but still not easy. Mind remained the same but body got steadier. Fidgeting reduced to some extent.
One thing that I discovered about my eating habits was that before joining Vipassana I always felt hungry even when my body didn’t need more food but here with mindful eating, my satiety was improved and my mind didn’t demand the food until my body needed it. I believe that’s the difference between emotional and mindful eating.
As the days were proceeding, I was able to reduce the wanderlust of my mind. I became more aware of my thoughts. As and when the mind would start to wander, I brought it back to where it was supposed to be.
The whole objective of Vipassana is to cut you off from the external world and to turn you from extroversion to introversion so that you start looking inward at what’s there inside you. Focusing on the conscious as well as the subconscious thoughts, and just being aware of them without getting too joyful or too grieved because every moment (pleasant or unpleasant) in your life in impermanent. You lose sometimes, you gain sometimes but nothing stays. This too shall pass.
This concept has been beautifully explained in the videos by the founder of the Vipassana center, Late Shri SN Goenka, which later on was experienced by me.
By the end of the course, body was able to sit for longer hours without any external pain or irritation, mind became less agitated and more focused, the urge for phone/internet/ Netflix/ social media reduced and I felt unburdened.
On our 10th day, we were asked to break our silence. There had been times in the 10 days when I desperately wanted to talk or listen to someone, but by the 10th day I wished that the silence could just be extended to a few more hours or days. It felt so comfortable.
We started talking and I could observe so much of difference in not just me, but many people around who on the first day entered with an anxious look and frown on face. I could see the contentment on their faces. It was also nice to see people travelling from different corners of the world, attending this course and having faith in it.
Vipassana doesn’t change one. It just helps one to deal with issues in a way that one personally doesn’t get affected by them.
I went inside myself seeking for answers where they had been lying all the while, however burrowed deep under the layers of anxiety, doubts, and fear in the sub conscious mind. Vipassana helped me dig them out and taught me how to deal with them.
I am still questioning, still seeking answers, and know that I have a long way to go. But all feels possible with awareness and acceptance.
Author’s disclaimer – This article is purely based on my personal experience, and does not intend to officially promote Vipassana Meditation.
Image source: pixabay
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Hailing from the foothills of Himalayas, Isha presently works in an advertising agency in Mumbai.
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