Challenge #5: mind challenge, Vipassana
Can you believe that you actually can shut your mind? Can you believe that you can actually look inside you and see your real self. Can you believe that you can seat in calm position for hours with no sense of time or bare the pain of uncomfortable crossed legs position?Can you imagine walking for 50mn in a 1m by 1m room and not able to finish one loop.Can you imagine that you can create a borderline that blocks the thoughts and the feelings that would eat you every time you stay by yourself?
It sounds like a dream, I wouldn’t even had that dream.If I was told that it’s possible, I would’ve laughed and said my machine is a none stoppable one, may be it happens to others but not me, emptiness never been my friend and never visited me.
Vipassana retreat in Watrampoeng goes for at least 10 days and up to 36 days. I signed up for the 10 days retreat instead of adventuring into the 26 days course and not be able to finish. They both are similar in the technique taught and practiced, the difference is on the hours of sleep, in the 26 days course meditator get to sleep 4 hours instead of 6 for the 10 days retreat and also, towards the end, meditator is suppose to do 3 days none sleep and 24 hours meditation a day (he people I talked with who did it they said it’s doable. I still don’t know how but it must be interesting, but I will keep that challenge for next time) At the opening ceremony I was told Mindfulness is the essence of meditation and that’s what I will learn. I thought it was focus? but ok! Different school of thought from what it’s always said about meditation.
Besides, what I will learn and what mindfulness means is simple: it is about contemplation of my body, my feelings, my thoughts and object’s of the mind as well as their acknowledgment. I still didn’t understand what acknowledging of all this means. Sure I know the dictionary meaning of it but did I know the feeling of it or did I thoughtfully ever observed any of it? Not that I remember! I remember when I get angry or super excited or disappointed or feel pain in my body or pissed when I loose any of my belonging, even the tiny small meaningless one, I get observed by the feeling, I spend good time thinking about, fighting pain or suffer, or thinking on putting the blame on someone else….but acknowledging any of those feelings? Contemplate it as it come? Accept it? I don’t remember any of it, I don’t even know how? I never thought accepting it will make me feel better, I rather fought it, showing my pain that I’m tougher, or merge myself with the excitement and the joy with no thoughtful look at the feeling itself.
The instruction to meditation were easy: with mindfulness of the Body, of One’s Feelings,of the Mind (Thought) and of the Objects of the Mind I need to walk and sit for 15 mn each for at least 7 hours a day with alternation. I first went to the meditation room. In this huge quiet room there were meditators who have been there, 1 day, 5 days or even 20 days already meditating. I saw people sitting for 1/2h and walking 0.01m/1mn, I thought, that will never happen to me! no way!
Because when I started, and I only had to alternate between both every 15mn, I found myself looking at the clock every 2 mn and also my mind was fluctuating here and there between thoughts, dreams, feeling of pain, frustration and impatient. How on earth acknowledgment will do any good to me? Between trying to focus on my exercises, fighting all the thoughts and feelings I was just getting more and more impatient and frustrated. I ended up doing 10 hours in my first day. But suffering was the main outcome. At the end of the day walked in to see the teacher and I was like, I don’t know what I am doing right? I was feeling the pain in my legs when I cross them, the pain of my mind that doesn’t want to stop thinking. The 15mn seemed hours to me.
His reply was: it all depends on what do you want to realize, either keep following desire in life or elevate your mind to higher level? You can train your mind to understand the nature of life and its characteristic to overcome it suffering.
Accept the pain as a friend that will keep visiting you along your life and you can’t avoid it, accept and acknowledge thoughts by just saying “ thinking, thinking, thinking” and acknowledge any feeling any emotion or suffering or pain. They’re part of life and life is imperfect and whatever stage you go through: happiness or sadness is not permanent, and nothing in life is permanent. Don’t try to focus, meditation is not about focus it’s about living the moment. The moment in what ever shape it comes. Don’t fight or try to push away any emotion or thought that comes to you. Look inside! everything is inside you!”
It took me about 30 hours of practice to start realizing and understanding what all that meant and another 3 reporting and hundreds of other stages I’ve gone through.
The first hours starting from 4am, are the worst, my brain is absolutely dreaming, thinking about the minute as if it was 1 hour. After breakfast, 6:30am, all I think about is I need coffee, rice soup is not for me. I counted the hours to lunch, although I knew it was going to be rice also, and a tasteless one. After lunch, in fact, my mind is busy thinking about when I leave? I want eat this dish and the other… and million other thought.
After 2 hours from lunch, I start counting how many hours I’ve done, how many hours I can still do until reporting, what will I say to my teacher about my day. How did I feel? The more I sit the more I feel frustrated, the more I walk the more my mind is active. That’s how I was in my first 3 days of practice.
After the 4th day, I started to occupy my mind with observing my movements when I walk, observing and feeling raise and fall of my stomach when I’m sitting. The more I bring attention to them, the less distracted I become. A bit by bit, my mind was preoccupied by the moment, the more I sit and the longer I sit, the more patient and painless my body becomes, in fact I started enjoying sitting more than walking: impermanence. Impermanence of life that I accepted a bit by bit, smiled at and acknowledged. On the 6th day a solid umbrella was created on top of my head blocking any though that came from the past or the future to stop me from living the moment. I saw thoughts so far away that I was laughing and I knew even content I had to acknowledge my contentment so it won’t take me away with excitement and joy that might drift me away from the moment.
Walking I never thought or even imagined that I could walk that slow. Slow as a turtle or even slower. The distance the time didn’t matter, my attention was all oriented to my movements. The my steps, to how my weight is lifted and put on the floor with each step taking.
A new timing was created in my mind: THE INSTANT, THE MOMENT. With no 1000 ideas about the future, I felt focused. A new term was present in my brain: ACCEPTANCE. I was acknowledging any thought that jumped in my head: about the past or the future, any feeling be it anger or happiness and everything was just flying away leaving my head empty and fully occupied by what is happening to me at the moment.
10 days and over 100 hours of practice passed, I felt re-born with an empty head with no notion for past or future. I was walking and observing everything I see and feel without getting destructed but rather acknowledging and accepting. The meditation technique I practiced at Watram Poeng, is brought up by a student of Mahasi Sayadaw from Burma, the meditation master who had a significant impact on the teaching of Vipassana.
I had the opportunity to talk with one of the meditator who’s been practicing for 26 years, but with slightly different technique, he said his practice and retreat of 40 days from the other practice never got him to the result that he got after practicing for 10 days with Mahasi Sayadaw’s techniques. I highly recommend. http://www.watrampoeng.net/map.html