Takeaways From A 10 Day Leave From the World

“Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead, let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?” (Forty Rules of Love- Elif Safak)

Living in the spiritual (and also very particular) country India, sometimes it seems like all your thoughts in your mind gradually come real, like an old saying: take care of our thoughts, it will be real, just a matter of time.

I came to know about Vipassana meditation from my yoga teacher who has a PhD in yoga therapy, he said it is the ultimate experience.

I lean toward things with simplicity and balance, so the introduction of the course convinced me straight away.

“What Vipassana is not:

. It is not a rite or ritual based on blind faith.

. It is neither an intellectual nor a philosophical entertainment.

. It is not a rest cure, a holiday, or an opportunity for socializing.

. It is not an escape from the trials and tribulations of everyday life.

What Vipassana is:

. It is a technique that will eradicate suffering.

. It is a method of mental purification which allows one to face life’s tensions and problems in a calm, balanced way.

. It is an art of living that one can use to make positive contributions to society.”

The meditation is to observe your sensations to come to your own realization by your own efforts, no one else can do that for you.

If you know something is good or you really want to do it. Do it now.

I use up all of my holidays at work to pack and go, leaving behind all things and people for 10 days.

 The journey to my inner self starts… with a lot of people.

I decided to take a local bus. How can I know that I am modest if I don’t take a heated crowded local bus, right! Though when I saw a flow of people running to my bus in the station like it is the only target in our life, I opened wide. 45km from Bangalore, the meditation centre is located in the city border, quiet, green and simple.

The men's lodges

The men's lodges

All rules are your rules

I agreed with my self to follow any given rule or instruction as I was advised by one friend who has done this course. Thanks to her I followed all rules which most of the time I thought existed to be changed.

I agreed with myself to keep a strict silence which we call “noble silence” for the whole 10 days, not any “hi”, “thanks”, “sorry”, no eye contact, no writing or reading, no gestures as a way to communicate. I thought, finally, there is a place allowing people not to talk. Feel free not to talk. Great! Welcome to my world. Still I remember even now when I accidently spilt my cup of water on a young lady without saying a real sorry, a new experience to me.

We were taught that you are the only one in the world during the 10 days. Yes! I was free from my glasses. I did not need to look outside rather than looking inside, for once to miss out information from outside to be a self observer.

We submitted all electronic devices from the first day. No mobile is not really a new thing to me. Every place I have been living in, I am without mobile for some months. It gave me more nice experiences than the inconvenience it may sometimes cause. Lately, under “social and family pressure” I bought my first smart phone in 2016 (because it installed dictionaries!? How can we live without dictionaries.)

No books and no writing are the most noticeable parts to me. The purpose behind is to purify your thoughts because it has been accumulating outside material for years, it is time not to add more but to cleanse your mind and make it alert. Like the teacher said “it will work wonders”.

Only when I involve myself fully in the things I do, accept the rules, I can enjoy doing it. The “game” starts and I am in it, all of the ups and downs are its rules. 

 What I am searching for:

In the balanced state of my life, I came there with 2 targets to learn.

First, I want to be a true Zen. No. Not really. I just want to be a bit calmer. If I am angry once for any reason, I realize it is the time to work with my self.

Second, I am attached to a lot of memories and miss people. If I missed people so much like this in my 20s, I wonder how older people can deal with their lives, where do they put their memories? Everything has limitation even memories. I agree to give myself one new try.

Here are some lessons I took from the technique and the 10 intensive days working with myself:

1.     Everything or at least most of the things change

Everything is temporary. It comes to ensure that it will go. I accept to live here and now, see it and accept it as it is, not as how I want it to be. All aversion and craving or ignorance brings misery in life.

The technique teaches us to understand this in experiencing level by reading my own sensation in every centimeter from top to toe in my body. We are not our mind or our body. Don’t identify ourselves with our sensation, seeing it with perfect equanimity.

There is only breakfast and lunch and no dinner. The first 6 days, I think the provided meals were really amazing. I even thought it was the most delicious dishes I have tasted in India, plus it was very nutritious. I tasted every drop juice of the banana, watermelon and papaya.

The 7th and 8th day I thought how come people eat the same food almost everyday and I skipped some. Until the 9th day, the food became good again, like the sun always come back again. Isn’t it interesting like this life?

The first 3 days I thought why only 10 days, why not 30 days, and I would tell everyone I know to go to do this meditation. Until the 6th, 7th day I really wonder how I can survive here another 3 days, wake up at 4am another 3 times and head straight to meditation hall until 9pm; And the only hard work is to read your sensation and to wait with every breath for the prayer raised up and for the bell to ring as the signs to finish the session.

2. I realize I am calmer and more balanced

During the first 2 days, the technique made me so calm that I felt sleepy right after the first 5 minute meditation. I remembered my friend who interestingly pointed out that she realized when she was talking with me she felt sleepy and it is because of my calmness. Now I understand.

But I don’t come here to sleep, it is good to feel calm but if I sleep I will not learn what I came for.

I complained about this to teachers several times, she told me I had to overcome it in order to learn.

So I find some little ways to deal with this, like washing my face whenever we have 5 minute break. I straighten my position right away when I may feel sleepy. Until the 3rd day, I am awake to start learning the technique properly and aware of my sensation. We look forward to what else we can do, not what has gone or what we have missed.

Others have their own challenges, like neck, back or leg pain, headache, some even feel angry (while this technique supposes to teach you how to be calm :D) and each works on that in our own way.

We can always find solutions for everything. “You are bound to be successful” as the way the lecture always ended the talks.

I improve day by day and feel the calmness by being alert to read my natural sensation with equanimity, no generating feeling, no craving for good feelings or adversity to uncomfortable sensations.

3. I confirm with my self that I have a lot of mental strength

Since the 4th day, we have the session to measure or strengthen your mind. I know right away I can do it without knowing exactly what it is. You know yourself.

We were required to sit still for one whole hour in three different times everyday, almost like a statue. Not any movement to change position. I moved one time during these sections. My “secret” is to find my own way to deal with it and to keep the word with my self.

Even though there are many little voices in my head like, “who are you to tell me to sit still”, “my leg became numb and the feeling was extremely horrible”, “if I move, life is still moving on, ok…”

The teacher told me to read the sensation, numb or pain is also sensation. Fine!

I concentrated to find out exactly why I felt pain in my leg. Instead of waiting for the pain to come the next time, in the next morning, at 4am when I heard the bell to wake up, I went to the hall like everyone else and chose to take some more pillows to put under my leg. Finally I was alive and awake and gradually reach to the point that I like to sit still to meditate.

Do not wait for the pain or any type of failure, discomfort to come, if you realize the signal of it, protect your self in your way. If it must come in your notice, it will, but avoid unnecessary pain in your life.

4.     I am really grateful for this life, everyone who comes and stays, who walked out and who will come.

In the evening, we listen to the video of the founder Goenka, who came to know the technique and spread it all over the world. I feel so grateful. How long I wished to listen to someone talking about life like this. He also had good humor, and his talk became the moment we looked forward to each day.

From his talk, I feel detached slowly from what belongs to the past. Sometimes we are the artist who paints portraits and lives in his own illusion. I also learned that we are completely 100% responsible for any of our sensations, no one involves in it, because we are able to respond to everything.

5. I am more aware to be free from ego.

The course is based on free contribution. The founder believed that it is the way people can learn. If we pay to learn, our ego will generate some expectation, requirement and keep us from learning. I've learned that just because someone doesn't love you the way you want them to, doesn't mean they don't love you with all they have.

We learnt it by the generosity of previous meditators and now pay it forward so the coming people can also benefit. I also understood why Buddhist monks walking barefoot to knock every door and to ask for food. It is to clean their ego.

In the centre, all the volunteers are very caring and decent. I think if by any chance I could ever cook for a village of people like that, or wake up before any one every day and before 4am to ring the bell, I would put somewhere significant in my life note and once in a while remind societies about this. Even though my attitude to be free from ego is still there. It counts.

6.     I learned we should never be mechanic

We should find the way to make same things become more exciting and interesting to us. Reading my sensation more than 10 hrs/day for 10 days is not the most typical exciting thing I have done so I tried to find ways to live with it.

Since we do meditation from 4am, we have the chance to see the sun rise almost everyday after the first session in the morning. I wish that everyone could see what I saw. I think heaven will look somehow like that. The feeling of waiting for the sun to slowly wake up is like living my childhood a second time, a kid who is overwhelmingly excited to see some little things that we sometimes take for granted.

7.     First comes health, the rest is secondary.

When my roommate- an old woman in Vipassana centre, felt sick and vomited the whole night. I realize finally I should open my mouth, I told her to go home and take a rest. I always think that there is absolutely no magic or nothing that important any more if we are not healthy, so no reason to stay learning things or gaining any magic if it exists when we are sick.

8.     People recognize your departure and your return, isn’t it happiness.

The day I came back, the watch man put my name in the list as a recognition of my coming back home. My flat mate said the house became so quiet and there is no one to talk with. At work, from the chai boy (a boy who brings tea for us), the admin guy, HR, receptionist, colleagues, my supervisors, everyone came to ask where I have been.

There is still much more to tell about the warming and honest Indian.

9.    The afterthought

The last day when we broke silence, we shared our thoughts eagerly. Every hour of meditation, the bell and the prayer in the end in each session are the very things every one was longing for during the technique which taught you no craving or aversion.

Interestingly, I thought everyone was closing their eyes during meditation as I did, but it turns out that people notice each other, they also realize my stillness and my one time movement and told me that I am the most into the meditation. I did not know I became my “neighbor’s” motivation to not move, and others were very happy because I also moved, finally

The last night, we broke the rule, a girl came to my room, we talked about our spiritual experience till 3am. She gave me 2 books as a gift and didn’t forget to tell me to give it to others when I finish.

All in all, Vipassana meditation, to some it will change their lives, and to others like me, we will learn more or less some valuable things from it.

We were walking out from the centre, the sun was rising up. We could have sung something like “And I have found the dream that must come true”. I missed the world with all its good and bad, and I missed my own voice in the 10 day living a nun life.

“Your destiny is the level where you will play your tune. You might not change your instrument but how well to play is entirely in your hands.” (Forty Rules of Love- Elif Safak)