Vipassana – 10 days in silence and meditation

So it happened I survived Vipassana! Since my trip to India I have heard a lot about it and many of my colleges in the Yoga Teacher Training had made it, so I was also very curious to try. To be honest before I got there I had no clue of Vipassana meditation itself, I knew I was gonna spend 10 days in silence and meditating and that I should follow a code of discipline which is quite basic on places of spiritual practice, but apart from that I wasn’t so sure what to expect.

After a few tries I managed to get a spot at the Dhamma Dara centre in Germany, which is the closest to Berlin. I waited about three months and when the date arrived I was very motivated. I couldn’t wait to spend 10 days out of the city; I had worked so much the past month I was just looking forward to have some time to myself.

On the way there I was already trying to be more silent and setting up my mind for what I thought it would come. I was never afraid of being in silence for 10 days, I actually love a bit o solitude but always with a distraction like my phone, some music or a book so is not actual loneliness. During Vipassana you hand in your phone on the first day and only get it back on the last, you are not even allowed to read, write, practice Yoga or any other physical activity apart from walking, so basically you are just in contact with yourself all the time. That was a bit scary but either way I was pretty determined.

Regarding my early motivation, it practically went all away in the first 3 days, where we meditate only focusing on the breath. This days felt like torture to me and I was feeling very unstable, my mind was going crazy and my body was just not coping with more then 10 hours a day of meditation. I was so impatient and couldn’t find a comfortable position to stick with during the long periods sitting. The weather was also not helping and during my resting times I was always in my room feeling very depressed and questioning if I would ever be able to meditate properly. Even though I was feeling like shit, there was still the evening video discuses with Goenka which gave me some hope and inspired me to try to master my monkey mind.

On the forth day there was a change on the plan and we learned the actual Vipassana technic, which consists in scanning the body observing the sensations without reacting on them. This also included the beginning of the ‘Strong Determination Sitting’ where you are not suppose to move. Even though concentrating on the body helped my mind to relax a bit, the sitting was just making me go nuts, I just couldn’t stay sat for longer than 30 mim without moving, I felt my knees were gonna explode. I started thinking insane things like I was in the film ‘SAW’ and if I moved I was gonna loose a limb or something, this clearly did not help and I kept trying to make my thoughts going away and concentrate back on what I was supposed to be doing there. Later on I could feel I was getting calmer and happier at every meditation that passed and was being able to sit for longer and longer, finally some equanimity was being developed! The change on the weather also helped as now I was enjoying some bare foot walks on the fields and relaxing moments by the trees during the resting times.

By day 6 I managed to sit for the first time for the whole hour without moving, and that was a turning point on everything. I felt so accomplished I almost cried when the mantra marking the end of the meditation started. It was a total bliss!

I still had a lot to work but I had the feeling that I was finally starting to understand the technic and being able to control my reactions. However just after that I learned from experience the foundation of all – the impermanence, as the following sitting I was not able to stick the whole hour again. That was actually very valuable cuz it made me experience that although the painful sensations go away the pleasure sensations also go away, so there is absolutely no reason to react to it, everything passes, good or bad. The only option is to live every sensation at the moment they happen, no attachments, no cravings, no aversions, simply be in the present, the hard part is just making your mind do so, but I guess with practice everything is possible.

On day 7 or 8 I had a small glimpse of what perhaps was the free flow, feeling the wholeness and connection to myself and all, almost like the full realization that you are not your mind or your body, you are much more than that. Clearly this amazing moment passed very quickly and I was again thinking and feeling pain here or there, but that short moment was definitely the highlight of my meditation practice. Apart from that I had many other precious moments, some insights and inspiration which definitely made the whole experience worth it. I never thought of giving up as some people do but it was for sure not an easy practice. By the end of it I was feeling so good I was just scared of the last day when then noble silence finishes, you are then able to talk to people again to get prepared to face the world the next day. Already in my first few talks I notice my ego taking place on my interactions, and it felt very weird, but overall was quite nice to connect with the people and share the experiences.

It was funny to notice how we can be so complete on our own and without any distraction of our true self apart from our interaction with the nature surrounding us, that talking is not a necessity and our perception of others is just a reflection of ourselves and how we see the world. Coming back to Berlin was a total shock, I really felt a heavy energy when getting out of the bus, like a slap on the face by reality. That moment I just wished I could live in a meditation retreat forever.

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