Writings

My first Vipassana-part 3


Vipassana meditation as it is taught in this tradition is very simple, but far from easy. It's breath and body awareness, that's all. It's transferring attention from thinking to feeling.
My first Vipassana-part 3
Naturally when you train 10 hours a day to feel, you feel more. And when your feeling-training is undertaken in silence, awareness of breath and sensation gets even more heightened. Your body, that you are observing from a feeling perspective, is your history. Every little action taken from your conscious or unconscious mind is written there. And all the painful stuff that you've done your best to bury or forget, gets hidden deep within the layers of your being. When you start paying attention to what you feel, and you spend genrous time doing so, you slowly start to penetrate your feelings, experience yourself more at depth and what is hidden underneath starts to arise to the surface of your consciousness. This means, for most of us, that those first initial times you try to meditate, you are rarely at ease, discomfort in one way or another is always present.

The next three days of the retreat, after the elusive promise that there was at least a slight possibility that I could get out of there, were nothing less than excruciating. I missed everything that wasn't there, ice cream, books, my walkman, my journal, being free to choose, my cigarettes...but besides just the missing, I was feeling miserable and in great pain. The hours of sitting were so long, the pain in my knee, hips, back neck and jaws were overwhelming and during the three daily sittings when we were supposed to use strong determination to not move, I felt like such a wuss. I just couldn't, the pain scared me so. Also, the voices in my head had grown even louder and were sometimes outright nasty, so there was really no rest. Not even at night when I would lie awake thinking until the morning gong rang at 4 am. Day 6 I started feeling feverish and after the Dhamma talk that evening I had a proper temperature, almost not being able to walk back to the little cottage I shared with another girl. At some point during the night, my roomate must have gotten worried for me, she went to fetch the female manager who put a cold cloth on my forehead, pulled up a chair and proceeded to keep watch over me.
The night was a revelation, My body was exhausted and in pain and I just wanted to sleep or at least rest, but the minute I closed my eyes, my whole life came back to me in vivid images. Starting from that very moment, it rolled like a movie playing backwards, showing me memories and feelings I had no recollection of. Some just mildly embarrasing stuff that I had conveniently forgotten, and some really painful images that made my fever rise. Once in a while I managed to open my eyes, the movie disappeared and instead there were tears, masses of tears, just streaming down my face for no particular reason at all, but for all the reasons that had caused pain in my life, some small details that when reliving them clarified some things. Like a 50 day marathon session of therapy, compressed in to one night.
The movie and my crying lasted all night, towards the morning hours I finally fell asleep and when I woke up the next day I felt free. The fever was gone and so was my misery, I had barely any thoughts at all, except those I chose to have and the three remaining days I actually started enjoying meditation.
I have always wondered if she knew something, that Female manager. If she was so gifted that she could pinpoint exactly when I would crack open, why would she otherwise have told me that I could come back and see her day 7, the day I woke up for the first time feeling happy? I guess I will never know, but regardelss of what magic she posessed or didn't, I am so thankful she made me stay.
On day eleven, D-day, I walked out of the retreat, light as a feather in body and mind, feeling like a new person and truly rested, but the minute I was outside the gates of the property I lit up a cigarette. Aahhh, damn that was a good one. I had decided, on that day of freedom, that whatever I had experienced, and however opening the experience had been. It would stay there, as a back up, for when I felt ready to change my high octane lifestyle, for whenever I had milked the experience of experience for all it was worth. It was not the time yet, to dive in to the mysteries of the unknown, I first had to figure out what to do with the now known, and I didn't return to that depth of enquiry for almost 10 years.

I have since that first mind breaking time returned to the cushion and the vipassana retreats many times, sat through numerous of those strong determination sittings without much drama, and now when I manage to go, it truly feels like going on retreat to rest. I suppose my mind has become more at ease with the chaos that resides in there, and my heart has beome more open to with a sense of humor and tenderness treat the pain, which is still very much part of my meditation experience. and to deal with myself and life with a little more compassion. So to SN Goenka and all those committed souls that keep the retreats running I say: Thank you for the opportunity you provided and keep on providing and for igniting my engine. I bow down and declare in my softest voice: Sadhu, Sadhu Sadhu...

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