My inner MC Hammer was back in his box and I decided today I wouldn’t dress like an absolute tosser .
After nine days of silence, of mental torture, of ups and downs, of Dhamma Diaries and all sorts of lyrical lunacy, I really wanted to give my penultimate day everything I had in terms of focus.
It was going to be all about Dhamma dedication.
VIPSASSANA DAY 9
Vipassana meditation is not like any other. Most meditations will have you concentrating the mind by visualising an object, repeating a mantra or focusing on the breath, whereas vipassana has you purifying the mind.
Despite all the mischief, I had actually applied myself to the vast majority of my meditation sessions and adopted the vipassana technique as Goenka had told us to.
Each practice, it took me no more than a couple of minutes before I’d find myself feeling the intended affects; I was having direct experience with the impermenant state of my physical body.
It came alive with pulses, tingles, zapping feelings, heaviness, lightness, heat, coldness, aches, pains, throbbing, itchyness and tickles. None of it was permanent. It was there one minute, gone the next, and I was learning the fundamentals of The Law Of Nature with every sensation.
But something was missing.
I hadn’t yet really felt what Goenka had been talking about this whole time; having my deep-rooted negativities of the mind float to the surface.
Others had, I could tell by the energy in the room and I could almost feel the vibrations of tears before I heard them. Then, as soon as we were sat alone in our cells, the shuffling shoulders and silent sobs of the meditation hall turned into loud wails of isolated anguish.
One after the other, my meditating inmates in the cells around me broke down uncontrollably until the whole of The Cake pagoda was blubbering in unison. It was a little bit heartbreaking and a little bit enviable at the same time.
I wanted to be joining the chorus of cries.
I wanted to be feeling my deep suffering surface.
But instead, all I could do sit there and feel my body twinkling like twenty five trillion miniature lightbulbs with some intermittent pauses for a big smile and my own rendition of ‘Locked Up’ by Akon.
MY TEARS DRY ON THEIR OWN
On my ninth day’s laps of levitation I devoted my Power Thoughts sessions to letting my mind drill into the reasons why.
Was it because I was too much of a menace and not willing to do it properly? Was it because I’ve actually done a pretty good job of digging up these impurities of the mind already and the natural state of my mind is actually a lot cleaner than I realise? Or was this just the start of it all; toxic thoughts were on the rise and soon to surface?
I concluded it’s a bit of all three.
Firstly, before the 10 day Vipassana course I hadn’t done my usual habit of getting fifteen thousand Google tabs on the go and researching what I was about to take part in. Instead, I’d just rocked to Mandalay not really having a clue what to expect.
With this approach my intentions were never going to be to have the ultimate deep vipassana experience.
I went with a curious, open mind, one that believes in meditation and wanted to try out a new and reputably intense technique. I wanted to challenge myself both mentally and physically and I wanted to do it in Burma, home of Vipassana, over a period that is stereotypically full of hedonistic highs, overindulgence and mindless consumerism.
Intention was set and expectations were met – another recurring and hugely valuable lesson in life.
Secondly, timing is everything.
Had I of done this retreat two years ago, it would have been a radically different experience, in fact eighteen months, twelve months, six or even three. And if I do it again in the future, or rather when I do it again, it will be radically different again.
I realised that right now, in the present moment, my body didn’t feel like crying. I’ve cried oceans of tears, I know what misery feels like but I was bored of it and sick of looking like the Elephant man. Instead I felt like smiling and joking, and making up stories and raps and so that’s exactly what I did.
And thirdly, what I did notice was that maybe things were surfacing in less obvious ways. From day one in those few hours of sleep on a rock hard bed in an ice cold chalet, I’d had vivid, fast-paced thriller-esque dreams and nightmares that woke me up with my heart beating fast.
Also, at random times throughout the day, or in the middle of an intensely focused meditation, not-so-good memories were flashing before my eyes like snipets of scenes from a horror film.
SUCCESS & FAILURE OF VIPASSANA
So maybe it was working and maybe I was doing it right.
Maybe I wasn’t supposed to have this big theatrical performance of trauma dance around the stage of my mind.
Maybe it wasn’t a tickbox exercise where I’d do as I was told and succeed in cleansing my thoughts of all defilements in one go then live a happy ever after.
Success and failure are never black and white and my vipassana experience was a complete rainbow of learnings. I’m not sure I found the pot of gold at the end of it yet, maybe I just found a few coins that are leading me there.
It’s going to take dedication, daily reminders, creating new habits and new thought patterns. It’s about being the observer of your thoughts like Eckhart Tolle says to in The Power Of Now.
It’s about doing good stuff to be a better you.