They say that the key role in achieving progress in any sphere is played by the mind. Mind is the forerunner of all that we are. It is the mind that makes and shapes our character and it is the mind that creates our destiny.
Vipassana meditation involves control of mind and mind is most unruly and fickle. This 10 day Vipassana course is designed to master the vagrant tendencies of this mind in a step by step process.
Days 1-3, saw us clearing the mind and sharpening the focus. Through recorded audio, which had chants and step by step instructions, we were to just sit cross legged on the floor (with lots of cushions) and watch ourselves while focussing our mind on an object. Yeah, just that. Sounds easy and simple. But it’s far from that.
On Day 1, I found myself fidgeting a lot and trying hard to find a comfortable position that wouldn’t give me a backache or that tingling sensation in the legs. And when I would be comfortable for a few minutes, and get to the task of focussing on an object, the mind raced in different directions like a wild stallion. It was like kaleidoscope of memories flashing by. But thankfully, we were allowed to let our mind wander, because thoughts will never disappear, we need to let them come and go. So, as soon as the realization hits that the mind had wandered, we were to come back and focus our mind once again on the object. By the end of Day 1, I thought, I wouldn’t be able to calm my agitated mind. But by second half of Day 2, I had better focus and by Day 3, I was happy with my progress.
On Day 4, we learnt the technique. It was an Aha! moment when I experienced the subtle sensations throughout the body. Day 5-9 saw us getting deeper into the meditation technique and refining it with continuous and persistent efforts and practice. During this time, Adhitthana sittings were introduced. It is sitting for one hour with strong determination to not change posture or open the eyes. And this was practiced 3 times a day.
I think this was the toughest part of the course. To keep the eyes closed and to keep the hands and feet in the same position for an hour was pure torture. It was ok to sit still and focus on the mediation technique for the first half an hour or so. The next 15 minutes were sheer hell. Various body parts would be stiff and the urge to give up was so high. During the last 15 minutes, I would believe that the teachers had forgotten that it was time to wind up the session. And then in the last 5 minutes, the chants would start and that was the time of pure bliss, for I knew that my misery is going to get over soon. The theory behind this is to remain equanimous no matter how one feels. So while my knees and back were hurting like hell, I had to observe the pain with my mind but not get attached to the pain.
By Day 8, I got better at Adhitthana sittings and was less fidgety and more at peace. I was no longer waiting for the hour or the pain to end, but rather accepted it. And that had a calming effect.
On Day 10, after the morning sessions, we were allowed to speak and end our noble silence. There were smiles and happy chatter all around, as we introduced ourselves to our silent companions of 10 days (mind you, only women folk… men and women were not allowed to mingle or chat even on Day 10), and shared our experiences, our horror stories and our observations. We laughed so much that day. I called home and spoke to every one at home and skimmed through the hundreds of emails and whatsapp messages. And soon it was time to get back to the afternoon meditation. Oh my, it was so tough to concentrate as the mind was busy responding to mails or thinking about things to do and action plans… so much so that I believed that I had forgotten the technique. But in the evening discourse, we were told that it was a natural outcome and that’s how it would be when we go back to our regular lives.
By the end of Day 10, I had not become enlightened like The Buddha, but yes, realized how misguided I was in many aspects of my life. I understood why I behaved in certain ways. I became aware of the inner monologue and disguised thoughts that kept running in my head. I realized that I had work on many aspects of my life and relationships, and that I have a lot to be thankful…
How did I cope up with No Talking, No Reading rule? Did I break some rules? What did I learn from these 10 days of solitude? All about this and much more in the subsequent chapters of the Vipassana Diary. Stay tuned…
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