Writings

My first Vipassana


I did my first meditation retreat many years ago, kind of by fluke. I was going to go on my first solo-far away trip and the chosen destination was India, not because of anything yoga related but because it felt like the cool place to visit.
My first Vipassana
I bought the Lonely planet, earmarked all the stops on my journey and decided on a route. And as a part of the whole 'Backpacking Across India Tour' I felt that some sort of ashram experience should be part of the itinerary, to be truthful, not so much because meditation interested me per se, but more for having done it and in the process collect one more exotic anecdote to bring home with me.
One of my closest friends Sita, still had her whole family living in Mumbai so I asked if she could arrange something for me. Sita's mother, the incomparable, incredible Honey Mani got to work and sent me the application for something called Vipassana. Since this was the time before the world wide web became world wide, I had to write an introductory letter and send together with the application for the retreat. I remember that I in reference to why I wanted to attend the training, wrote something like, I was interested in learning more about the Indian traditions and that I was tired and felt that my mind needed a rest. Hmm, a rest for the mind in a meditation retreat, I clearly had absolutely no froggin idea of what it was all about. But I was accepted and felt very pleased that I was going to undertake something so mystical, a, when you add a prestigious work experience to your CV kind of pleased.

I travelled a couple of weeks in the already then too broken vein of the backpacking circuit of the northern part of India, did the Taj, the Paharganj, the camel trekk in Rajhastan, the Himalayas, the bhang lassi...followed pretty much all of the Lonely planets recommendations, bought way too much colourful clothing, met some pretty boys and had a really good time, but by the time I was due to go to the retreat, I was pretty exhausted. Both from the enthusiastic travelling schedule and the many nights spent expulsing foreign digestables in the loo.

When I arrived at the site for the retrat, the impressive Vipassana headquarters in Igatpuri, I was immediately faced with a bit of a conundrum since I appreantly had to check all my belongings in at the door. No books, no Walkman (the portable portable music device of those times for those born in the mp3 era), no money, no passport and the worst thing of all, no cigarettes. At the time I was a heavy smoker, consumed at least 20 and since travelling that number had probably doubled, and the thought of not being able to get my daily intake of nicotin and tar was truly frightening. I debated for a while if I could find a plausible excuse to bail out, but the meditation experience was on the itinerary and I had dragged my ass all the way there so... I had one last glorious drag of a cigarette and went in.

Continue reading tomorrow

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