What if my mind takes me to a place I can’t come back from? …
Standing in line waiting to register, I strained to recollect the mandatory agreements for enrollment. Once it was my turn, the registrar took my information and reinforced what I was signing up for. I was to commit to the entire 10 days adhering to the 5 precepts without exception. I’d travelled 10 hours for my peace of mind- how ironic would it be if I’d lost it?
The 5 Precepts and the Questions In My Mind:
- Abstain from killing or harming any being– Aren’t all creatures considered sentient beings? What about the flies and mosquitoes I’d intentionally killed…the animals I’d eaten?
- Abstain from stealing- Is inspiration from someone else’s idea stealing?
- Abstain from sexual misconduct and all sexual activity during the course- What about after the course…if I want to keep practicing Vipassana meditation? Is vowing celibacy a necessary sacrifice on the road to enlightenment?
- Abstain from telling lies (this includes exaggerating)- I’ve exaggerated to make myself more interesting…call it a self-preservation tactic for a gal with a devaluation conflict. It will be a good practice to form an alliance with silence...
- Abstain from all intoxicants- Escape from reality with any substance went out the window the day I got my diagnosis. I’m golden.
I had more questions but I set them aside. My stomach lunged into my throat as I signed the document sealing the deal.
We were to renounce all forms of prayers, talismans, religious objects, mantras, and devotional practices. Yoga and exercise were discouraged. Music, reading, writing and other forms of mind stimulants were prohibited. I reluctantly discarded the crutches I clung to when shit hits the fan…
To ensure that our environment was Vipassana friendly we were to wear modest clothes, and hand over our car keys along with all our devices. “Noble Silence” commenced and would continue for 9.5 of the 10 days. There would be no physical contact, no eye contact, no gestures, nor any form of communication between students. Men and women were segregated. Dread hit home like a punch in the gut.
I was assigned room C125. Peering into the room, I was relieved to see that it was a single. Relief was replaced by guilt for playing the cancer card to attain my solitude. It was the first and only time that I’d mentioned the cellular dysfunction in my body to my advantage. I quickly recognized my old program and cancelled my guilt. I’d put myself first, something I was incapable of doing prior to life with my Lump. I was making progress.
Sitting still for 10 days with my insides in a Gordian Knot was risky. I was prepared for an encounter with the Beast- the creature of many faces residing in my mind. It grabs me by the scruff of the neck and drags me down to its formidable lair. In the past it had held me captive with my bones rattling until I could fathom my way back up to the surface.
DAY 1 THE OMG FACTOR
The morning gong went off at 4 am. I implemented daily skin brushing to my monastic life at Vipassana. I brushed right over Lump thus stimulating blood flow to the stagnant area that had become the focal point of my life. That morning it was the size of a walnut. Being hormonally influenced it had a life of its own. That meant it morphed in shape, size, and texture depending on what signals were firing in my body at any given time. Even though I knew it was a shapeshifter, the big days still did a number on me.
4:30 am: The gong rang again to initiate meditation. We were given the choice to sit in our rooms or to convene in Dhamma Hall. I left my room since the potential for giving up would be too easy in private. I carried the familiar heavy feeling fastened to the now largest version of my lump down the dark hallway.
My piece of real estate in the hall for the rest of the program was in the last row. I patted myself on the back for having the foresight to bring my buckwheat meditation cushion. I used it as a moldable base on top of 2 pillows. As a result my hips were higher than my knees in a cross-legged position on my metaphorical throne. Thankfully as an avid yogi, I knew just where to place my props to sit comfortably. Suffice it to say, I’d never sat still in one position for 2 hrs. so I had a back up kneeling stool and an arsenal of more props to get me through the first long sit of the day.
Imagine this: You are naked and bound tightly against a tree. A mass of crawling, skipping, pinching insects traverse your bare skin. The tidal wave of millions of rapid, tripedal gaits overwhelms you but you can not escape. The struggle to get away is all consuming. That is the best comparison I can imagine to what I endured that morning.
The instruction given to us was simple. Use the Anapana breath to solely observe the air moving in and out of the nose. The focus is on the very limited space between the upper lip and the wings of the nostrils. The little triangular space was to be the entire focus of the meditation. We were to objectively feel the sensation of every breath without changing its natural flow. Thus, began the training of the untamed mind. The focus it entailed literally blew my mind.
My thoughts were like leaves wildly swirling in a storm. They lured me into the manifold vortex of internal babblings. The moment I recognized my attention was away with my thoughts, self sabotage would take over.
Get it together, focus on your breath. You’re wasting meditation time on stupid thoughts. Do it right! No, don’t give yourself a hard time… Just let them go… No judgement… Just observe… How long? How much longer? When’s the fucking gong going to go off? GOD, I AM IN AGONY!
No, no, hone the mind…equanimous mind! Just fucking breathe for fucksakes! I’m breathing too loud...Fuck this, fuck, fuck, fuck! Why the hell am I doing this? Why do I make things so hard on myself? Am I a masochist? What is wrong with me? Right…I have fucking cancer…cancer…cancer. 10 hours a day for 10 days…OMG I can’t do this… How long? How much longer? How long? How much longer?
Big exhale. Then the pain! My folded up legs felt like they were between vice grips, both feet throbbed, my neck and shoulders buckled under the dense weight of my head, and my hips cramped struggling to maintain my faltering body structure.
That first sit knocked me flat out. There was not a sliver of peace-only a wild and raving rebellion. Every moment was an eternal longing to abort. There was no clock in the room and the anticipation of the gong ringing to finish was unbearable. When it finally rang, it took the greatest self restraint not to cry out. I painfully unravelled my rigid body and dragged my defeated self into the dining hall for breakfast.
Who gives a rats ass about enlightenment? I’d happily run with ignorance into bliss. That’s where I was at whilst slowly consuming stewed prunes on porridge. Listening to the symphony of food munching around me, I convinced myself I would be just as dedicated if I sat through the next session in my room. Ignorance is surely wonderful. I filled my bowl with another round of deliciousness and savoured every bite. It was a delectable intermission before my next round with the Beast.
LESSON: “The most difficult times for many of us are the ones we give ourselves.”- Pema Chödrön
Sitting to find a seat in myself.
3 thoughts on “Vipassana – Part 1”
Meditation is not about succeeding to focus our mind but just trying to.
It is kind of shifting our goals from reaching somewhere to walk the path.
A subtle shift that makes a huge difference…
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Yes, agreed. I’ll be diving more into the subject in posts to come. I’ve been experimenting with various meditation methods. Watching, focusing, letting be…I’m very excited to learn TM next:) Thanks for reading.
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