Last month I spent 10 days in silence learning an ancient meditation tecnique called Vipassana.
It was one of those types of experiences that are so influential you don’t even know where to begin.
It wasn’t impressive just because of the silence, which suprisingly turned into an odd sort of comfort, but it taught me golden lessons which I can carry with me always.
Vipassana in a nut shell:
Nine full days in silence, only speaking to the managers for technique advice and other necessities. Four a.m. wakeup, 9 p.m. bedtime, ten hours of meditation a day, no electronics, no writing, no music, no distraction. I snuck all photos on the last day before packing.
First 3 days you focus on nothing but your breath, how it is, no altering it. This sharpens the mind to notice the small movements and changes occurring within.
The first three days are the hardest, some people drop out and don’t finish the course.
From there you continue to observe the rest of your body while keeping in mind the reality of change. Everything within us and around us is in constant movement, from our cells to the particles of solid objects.
The cause of all misery is craving and distain.
Distain for anything which is impermanent, which everything is impermanent. Craving for the unknown, the unattainable, the past or the impossible. One or both of these things is at the core of all misery, so in the practice of observing the body you are meant to remind yourself of this constant change.
I cheated on one of the rules, I took notes. This was for you lovely people as well as myself. Because this experience was so life changing and in depth, I’ve decided to simply post my notes. Below are my exact notes as I wrote them in the moment.
- Never fully submit. I want to be a strong person, not a submissive one. It’s impossible to have one or 100 teachers to have everything right. Submitting yourself to complete submission of an idea allows little to no room for your inner and innate wisdom to come out.
- How is a person to come up with new innovative ideas if they only follow tradition?
- This is hard.
- Be like Batman.
- Saved the girls by chasing off a black snake with a broom. Maybe they wouldn’t go near it because they knew how dangerous it was.
- Remind self, look up snakes of Cambodia.
- Smuggled a cookie into my room.
- And another girl bites the dust.
- Can’t focus on meditation, daydreaming too much. I wonder if Batman daydreams.
- Found forgotten playing cards in my bag. Solitaire anyone?
- Part of what makes being completely in the present and not in a fantasy daydream so difficult, is because sometimes we don’t like where we currently are.
- Reality of our location and the reality of our minds can be scary to face.
- I missed breakfast today, slept through both bells. So sad when it’s the most exciting thing about the morning.
- I had bed bugs last night. The manager didn’t know what they were and didn’t believe they excisted in Cambodia. Awkward insisting to switch mattresses.
- Sad today, I’m feeling a deep feeling of loneliness. I’m completely alone in Asia, no one here to hold me.
- I’ve just realized that I miss music more than internet or books.
- Just got “scolded” for wearing capri pants in the meditation hall. I thought this wasn’t supposed to be dogmatic?
- Learned today that meditation can make me horny. I might file that away for a rainy day.
- It’s getting easier to sit in one spot for an hour straight; perfect for future movie watching.
- Getting a little more excited for the next five days.
- Broke another rule, killed a bed bug, zero regrets. That sonofabitch will drink my blood no more!
- Got bored playing solitaire, started playing a two person game against my two feet.
- Aaand right foot lays down a king for the win ladies and gentleman! That’s the game, left foot loses.
- … Maybe I should actually use this alone time to meditate…
- It sounds like there is a little dinosaur outside my room.
- I woke up this morning from a series of bad dreams. The freshest one leaving me too scared to fall back to sleep. Meditation helps with misery, what do you do about fear?
- Just realized the majority of these Khmer (Cambodian) women are over 50 years old. They lived through genocide. I don’t know fear…
- With no one else to talk to for 6 days I’ve realized something, I make pretty decent company.
- Back to solitair.
- I heard children singing today while letting the sound of rain enter my ears. People walked past me that weren’t there.
- This morning I watched a little beatle roll a little rat poo around in circles seven times on the pavement. I counted 8 rounds. I wonder if this is how we look to the gods when we go to the gym.
- My deodorant stick has reached its end. Fuckmylife.
- Our emotions and physical bodies are connected. When we feel sad we keep asking the mind why we feel sad. Almost never do we ask our bodies where this emotion, this physical and often painful sensation, comes from within us.
- In a world where a person is encouraged not to talk or even make eye contact with the people around them, it’s fantastic and surprising how a stolen, spontaneous, and knowing flash of a glance can brighten the whole day.
- My god, I miss Del Taco… Why do I miss Del Taco?
- A day for some serious meditation.
- The path of Dhamma, the path of Dhamma, I keep hearing about this great and wonderful path from the Vipassana guy. Yeah, I agree it is great. Yeah I agree that everyone could greatly benefit from knowledge and an experience like this. However, is it THE path? Can there be only one path for everyone? I think not.
- We are all biochemically different, why wouldn’t our paths be?
- During lunch they serve this “drink” of which I’ve dubbed, “cup-o-fish eyes.” An uncreative name because it looks like a cup of little fish eyes, which I assume are actually seeds surrounded by a mucussy membrane. These tasteless goodies glop down smoothly like a cup of gelatinous fish eyes. Being tasteless, they are served with spoonfuls of sugar. Ah, what a joy! Goopy fish eyes- an excuse to drink sugar.
- My addiction to sugar is deep and unsettling.
- I met a bug today that went around collecting particles to put on its sticky back. I watched it for about a half hour.
- I believe myself and I are becoming pretty good friends while we work out this ego thing.
- When did I get so many freckles?
- I’ve reached enlightenment.
- Just kidding.
- One of the men in the meditation hall keeps making this sexual sounding groan in the middle of meditation. In times past I’ve tried ignoring it, but today I looked over to see a group of young guys silently laughing. We made eye contact and the laughter grew to dangerously disruptive levels.
- No words are needed for sex jokes.
- I think a woman just thanked me for the snake incident by using a worm as pantomimed representation. She stopped me as I was making my exercise laps around the garden, not unlike the poo bug.
- Just realized that maybe she was mocking my recent obsession with critters…
- I disagree with Vipassana’s teachings of ridding oneself of passion. Passion is human, passion is beautiful, raw, and yes, sometimes filled with mistakes and sadness. But passion is liveliness and liveliness is life.
- If passion is a flaw, it’s one I’d like to have.
- “Don’t create more sankaras, retain perfect equanimity.” I realized that this advice was making me more upset. I can’t be perfect, I’m upset sometimes, let me be upset!… ah, that’s the teaching. It is what it is.
- Perfection is a silly illusion.
- This morning as the sun rose I looked out at the rice fields and was filled with such joy and beauty that it made me sad. I wish I could box it up and ship it to my friends and family.
- The key to a proper Cambodian toilet flush is to create a swirling vortex of water, only then will the poo go down.
- Today I get to talk!
- I had forgotten that these woman around me don’t speak English. A barrier I felt between myself and them has dissolved, we are all in this together.
It was a difficult but extremely rewarding experience.
In the ten days I spent there I learned about an important connection between mind and body. I rid myself of a few pet peeves, including my distain for smacking. I learned to sit still, observe, and how to better focus my mind and attention. I learned techniques on how to better handle sadness and anger, I worked through many emotional problems and learned the skills to continue to do so.
And something I didn’t expect in this course, I found a best friend in myself.
If anyone is curious to learn more about Vipassana, or would like to take a class, check out the official website for more information.
All classes are by donation only. Yay!
Guess who else took a Vipassana course?
Macklemore. Do take a listen.