The Home Stretch
On Day 7 we were told that Days 8 and 9 would be slightly different. Usually during our breaks we were left to our own devices; free to think and feel as we wished. On Days 8 and 9 we were instructed to spend our breaks paying close attention to the sensations of our bodies, as we did during meditation.
Naturally my mind was not pleased. It wanted to daydream during breaks. Create new plot ideas and characters for novels I had yet to write. It wanted to replay TV shows or movies. It wanted to be entertained. It DID NOT want to spend more time noticing and ignoring itches. (My mind was quite snarky by this time.)
I fought long and hard with my brain. Sometimes it won and I’d find myself focused on worlds that don’t exist. Other times I won and my mind yielded to my wishes. Now combine that with the anticipation of seeing my husband and going home to sleep in my comfy bed. They were difficult days but I survived.
Day 10 – Let There be Noise
I woke up on Day 10 with the anticipation of a child waking up to Christmas morning. Today I would be allowed to talk! I could finally discuss my experiences with my friend. I could tell her how my Sankhara always seemed to leave my butt, or when I had caught her eye once I nearly burst out laughing. Or how on the very first day when Goenka started chanting I had this strange urge to either laugh or cry but not really sure which.
I wanted to tell her how much I struggled on the first three days and that sitting beside her at lunch was the only thing that made me feel calm. I wanted to tell her how much I missed Brandon and sleeping in my comfy bed and that one of my roommates talked in her sleep…in Russian.
I had a never-ending list of things I wanted to talk about and yet when it came time to speak after our morning meditation it felt strange to use my voice. In fact my voice literally wasn’t there. It was all croaky like I had been sick but without the pain. I had to work my way back to talking.
There were two types of people on this course: the ones that left the meditation hall still unsure how to use their voice. Still wanting to keep it quiet. These people wanted to seek out the company of perhaps another person or two and have a quiet discussion on how they were feeling. I fell into this group.
The other group left the meditation hall like they had just entered a huge rowdy party. They were hooting and hollering. Jumping around and laughing and letting everyone know that they had no trouble using their voice. These people caused me great anxiety.
It felt strange to hear all the noise. I felt my anxiety rise and my back immediately started to hurt. I was tense and uncomfortable. Those of us that were in the ‘lets-keep-it-quiet’ group fled. We scurried back to our rooms or bolted outside away from the noise. It felt too crowded with everyone talking. All I could think was How did we ever all fit in this place?
Our schedule for the day had changed. Day 10 is transition day and incredibly important day to find your way back to “normal” life. Without the routine I wandered aimlessly around the centre like a lost puppy. I didn’t know what to do. I was so used to spending 11 hours meditating that free time just felt so foreign. Almost kinda wrong.
Speaking of wrong…when we began speaking again I found all those social niceties – saying excuse me, smiling, making eye contact etc – came rushing back. And with that came the burden of other people’s opinions. Let me explain.
When we weren’t talking I didn’t care what others thought of me. No that’s not the right word. It’s not that I didn’t care, it’s that it never crossed my mind to think about it. I was indifferent to how I appeared on the outside. Obviously others were forming their own opinions of me in silence. I know this because a couple people came up to me to make comments about how I dressed or how I carried myself. But it’s like it never crossed my mind to be self conscious of it.
Speaking brought that back and I felt overly aware of it. I started wondering what others thought of me. I paid attention to what I looked like. It was a subtle change but I felt it. It’s not like I normally spend my life wondering or worrying about what others think of me. But I realized that at some level we all do that. That’s why we pick out clothes that we think we look nice in. We do our hair. We bathe. We brush our teeth etc. We are wanting to making a good impression. It was just interesting for me how it’s attached to our voice.
Day 11 – Going Home
The course ended first thing in the morning and Brandon was due to pick us up at 9:30 am. I was excited to see him. Okay I was ecstatic to see him. We packed up our gear, helped clean up the centre and waited to leave. My friend and I talked about the experience and how we’d apply it to our daily life. Our teacher recommended that we keep up our practice with two hours of meditation a day. An hour in the morning and another at night. Like most people at the course we talked about how that would play out in the ‘real world’. The value in being away for ten days is that you aren’t distracted by daily life. You’re able to get some serious work done and it’s really amazing.
I thought about what I would say to someone that asked me if I’d sit the course again. During those first few days I would have said no. In fact I probably would have shouted it. By the end my answered had changed from no to yes. Yes, I would sit the ten day course again but no it wouldn’t be any time soon. Would I recommend the course to others? Absolutely! Everyone would benefit from an experience such as this. Everyone would benefit from learning how to be more patient, kinder and forgiving. I wish this teaching was mandatory for everyone. The world would be a much better place to live.
I’m not going to lie, I’ve struggled to keep my practice up. I make excuses just like everyone else. I focus attention in areas that aren’t nearly as beneficial. I’m not perfect. Ten days of meditation doesn’t do that. But I can say that I see life differently. I’m more understanding. I’m catching myself quicker when I fall into old habits. I have a long way to go. Long, long way. But bettering yourself isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon and we all need to remember that.
So that’s it folks; my ten days learning and practicing Vipassana. I hope you’ve enjoyed these posts. Thank you to everyone who has been commenting and giving me feedback. I love hearing from you! I wish you all the very best and hope that these post have inspired you in some way.
I’m off to Winnipeg for a visit next week so I’ll be going silent for awhile. When I return I’ll have lots of art news for you including classes and new pieces!