Vipassana – to see things as they really are.

I sit on a cushion in a low lit room with my eyes closed. My whole body tingles and I am weightless, completely unaware of the outside world, and even the other 30 something people sitting around me. What am I feeling? Change. Everything changes, constantly. I feel the particles my body is made up of change every second, my thoughts change, my feelings change. Non attachment and equanimity is what I’m seeking. Equanimity with every sensation I feel, not attaching to it, not avoiding it.

This is crazy, but I chose this – my silent mantra to myself as I check in to what feels like meditation rehab. Ten days of isolation, ten hours of meditation a day. This is extreme, impossible – normal people don’t meditate for ten hours a day. You can just leave now, you don’t have to tell anyone you left. But I stay, against the acute urges to run, I sit, I meditate, despite the shooting pain in my back, my rebellious and wandering mind, my doubt and hesitation about what I’m doing. This sounded like a good idea when I was in South Africa, but entertaining ideas are quite different from actually doing something.

I wake up a 4am everyday, okay, so I sleep in until the second gong at 4:30am, and go at it again, silently and withdrawn. Not having a phone isn’t hard for me, not talking isn’t hard for me, it’s just the ten hours of meditation a day that’s challenging. Every time the instructor says start again, I fuck you in my mind. I start out observing my breath, no mantras – just me, my mind, my natural breath. Then I go deeper and narrow down my focus until I’m scanning my entire body for sensations. I discover when I randomly show up to this thing, that this was the technique passed down from the Buddha to achieve enlightenment centuries ago. If it’s that old, it has to be legit, right?

Foolishly, I totally thought I’d be enlightened by the end of ten days and was slightly disappointed when I realized that wouldn’t happen, again me not seeing things as they are. What I know about myself: I have an analytical mind and I try to figure everything out. Once I stopped trying to figure everything out, I accepted the practice and actually started to enjoy it. By day seven I stopped counting the hours, counting down the days and embraced the technique, the sensations I was feeling, the free flow of energy throughout my physical body.

Am I enlightened? Absolutely not, but I am very clear on some behavioural patterns I’ve been blindly acting out on over many years. I’m less reactive and I actually want to meditate for at least an hour each day. Many people have asked, so how was it? My response is I don’t know – everyone has such a different experience with this and I had so many ups and downs throughout the ten days. I both hated it and loved it, but ultimately, I’m glad I stayed. I’ll continue to use the technique with a deeper understanding of impermanence. To see things as they really are is to understand that everything changes, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, but all feelings and sensations are impermanent, meant to be observed and not attached to. How much happier would I be if I could observe my feelings with the calm awareness they will change?

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