2 weeks ago the longest I had meditated was for about 20 minutes. And by meditation, I mean... If I had an itch or a limb fell asleep, I dealt with it! So perhaps it was a little presumptuous to assume I would be an All Star Meditator for 10 days of silence at Vipassana...
But here I was. Technology free, meditating for 10+ hours each day and cutoff from all things civilization with 30 others, our teacher from India and a handful of volunteers. Not allowed? Speaking, except to the teacher in regards to meditation. Writing materials. Killing. Stealing. Lies. Intoxicants. Yoga. And Sexual Activity, which I took to mean also with one's self. I adhered to all of the rules. Kinda.
Cast of Notable Characters
- Charlotte (#1-4): My roommates with 8 legs, constantly watching me, specifically in the bathroom. Remember, no killing...
- Rat 1 & 2: Female students who I had an unsavory feeling towards. I was trying not to have aversions to both and ironically they were friends from beforehand, something I was unaware of whilst naming them
- Thomas the Tank Engine: Male student who graced us with a hefty yoga breath every 5-10 minutes in the meditation hall
- New Bestie: Another female student was totally amazing. I could sense her wildness and energy bursting thru the seams of her fancy maxi dresses and shimmery hair wraps, even in the silence. I knew we must be friends
Noble Silence: Silence of body, speech and mind - no forms of communication, not even writing notes or gestures
Aversions: Things you are keen to avoid in life and during meditation, examples include thoughts of certain Rats or a throbbing numbness in your hip. The idea is, by thinking of these things you give them power to take over a larger part of your brain and experience, ultimately leading to greater misery
Cravings: The flip side of Aversions. Things you relish in and give great attachment and positive feelings to in your brain. By holding onto these, you also set yourself up for misery because in their absence you will be miserable
Sankaras: The best example for this is seen when the black hornet-like swarm explodes out of the big guy's mouth in The Green Mile. Sankaras are the source of misery in a person - each one is created when we have an Aversion or a Craving for something and we don't remain equanimous (calm and impartial) about it. If we allow it to take root it settles in and sets us up for future miseries, ultimately multiplying as more and more Sankaras are let in. The beauty though, is that through meditation we can start letting go of old Sankaras that have hijacked the ship
My Brain On Noble Silence
Remember, for the duration you're not allowed contact with the outside world nor are you allowed to document your thoughts. This creates a certain brand of freak-out in one's brain that one might lose these Very Important thoughts and that they might be lost Forever. Another thing to realize is that when you give yourself this degree of silence and space, powerful memories are allowed to resurface as well as details you haven't experienced in decades... Like the name of the kid next to you in 2nd grade and his haircut (hi Jeremy Andrzejewski, nice lightning bolt fade). As it turns out, some of my experience was not lost Forever. Here you go:
Days 1-3: Ow. This position does not work. My legs asleep. My muscles in between my ribs are having shooting pains. On the left. On the right. Ok, more cushions. Hm. More pain. Hold still, no moving. There is a spider on me. Oh shit I just scratched it, there was no spider. Nice, the pain is numb I am bored. This is only the beginning? I wonder if I will make it. I wonder if anyone is thinking of me? What happens if someone dies? I hope they don't tell me til the end. I'm pretty sure self pleasures are not allowed, right? The landscape is goddamn beautiful. Seriously, my hip is on fire. That girl is unfortunately so Rat-like that I can't name her anything else, I'll do it with love. Rats aren't so bad.
Day 4: OMG. Full body scans. Are. Amazing. And they're umm, intimate? You can pinpoint every single sensation from top to bottom and back up in your body. It's like ___ is here with me. Holy. Wow. This wooden stool. Is hard. And amazing. I can feel the pain in my hips oozing out as I hold still on the plank. This hurts. Not thinking about it hurts. But it's getting better. Rat just spoke to me, I smiled, don't talk to me bitch. I'm in Noble Silence. That other girl, she is so rat-like as well, Rat 2 is thee. I haven't had my period in 2 months. Stupid polyp on my uterus. Maybe I can meditate it away or at least meditate my period to come. Beautiful, wonderful, fertile and luscious uterus you willllllll bleed and it will be magical.
Day 5: Holy. Fucking. Shit. My period came. I have magical thinking. No really. My brain is magic and I am making things happen with it. Rat 1 & Rat 2 just freaked out over lactose in some food thing and THEY LEFT! Additionally, I am pretty sure I willed this chickpea curry dish to appear, I envisioned it yesterday at lunch and it is here. I am magic. I am dying. I have the worst cramps in the entire world, why oh why did I will my period to come, oh god, I can't sit this way anymore and I am dying, I am grimacing, how many Sankaras am I building, but this is real physical pain. Alright, body scanning to other areas makes it a tiny better. No it doesn't I'm dead. [8 hours later] I am a lioness and I want to roar to the moon right now. I can do anything. ROAAARRR!
Day 6: I am in less pain. I am magical. I am tired. What's the point in this? I am bored and ineffective. My body scans aren't as intimate anymore. I am creating Sankaras with all that craving, time to scan these atomic bodies with equanimity. Borrrriiinnnggg. I've worn flat patches into my ass from this wooden plank. Ah well persist on. I wonder if anyone is thinking of me.
Day 7: Full body scans have become less sensational now that I am not feeling every tingle. Ah well, time to settle into monk-dom. "Control yourself - take only what you need from it - a family of trees wanting to be haunted" - could be a worse song in my head. I love this song. Everyone I know needs to do Vipassana. I don't think I could possibly ever convince my dad...
Day 9: Did I just time travel? I had this same sensation when I was 8, like I am incredibly heavy and immobile, and floating inside myself with really loud voices coming through the loudspeaker that I can't understand. Shit. I am those loud voices. I am with myself back then right now. "It's going to be OK Lu, you are so good and it will all be so beautiful even though there are some really tough things, but you will get through them, you are so very loved." Holy shit. I am crying and I love myself. Fuck.
Day 10: "Why were you crying so much?" My teacher asked me this when I was about to leave on the final day. There were only two instances of this. Once when I was dealing with my magical period and the obscene cramps and the other when I time traveled. I let him know and he clarified for me. When we are young, typically under 9 years old, we are able to sense past lives and have almost a 6th sense that we tune out as we get older. The 8 year old experience could have been this, in turn, meditating in silence was able to bring me back to past experiences with powerful clarity. I buy it.
Hm. The world moves seamlessly when I'm not in it. Like, it's actually totally fine. I hope I can remember to play my part in it a little more slowly. The day after we finished I could feel the change. I work with more focus and clarity and I'm taking note of my negative emotions and watching them pass rather than getting sucked into their vortex.
I met with New Bestie and New Bestie 2 (another beautiful, peaceful soul from the course), we had margaritas and buried ourselves in blankets in the sand for sunset and laughed for hours about our shared greatest Sankara, boys. I am so loved. I love so much.