I have always been fascinated with meditation. Blaise Pascal said “All humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in room alone.” I have heard that for years and was curious if there were any truth to it. People have meditated in one way or another for thousands of years. There must be something to it right? A friend of mine suggested I go to a Vipassana Meditation Center and try a ten day course. Now I don’t know about you but ten days seemed like a long time to me but he seemed to really benefit from it and he had other people around him who loved it too so i thought maybe I could get something out of it. Still it took me over a year to fully commit to going.
When I signed up I found out there were some rules for this course that everyone must follow. One of these rules was that you can’t talk the or communicate non verbally the entire time. I am a talker so that one was a bit hard for me to understand but I figured that there was a reason so I prepared myself to be silent for ten days straight. The other rules were simple. Loose clothing as not to distract others from their meditation. You can’t kill anything meaning spiders and animals and such. Because you can’t kill we also ate a vegetarian diet while we were there. As a life long meat eater I wasn’t stoked about that part but I was pleasantly surprised that I liked a lot of the food. Also you couldn’t take anything to read, a journal to write in or music to listen to because it would not only distract you but others around you. The idea was that you live for ten days with only your mind to keep you company. It allows you to observe how your mind works and the ebbs and flows of thoughts. I genuinely thought that it was going to be a bit boring but not hard. I’m mean come on who cant just chill out for a few days?
You arrive the night before the ten days starts to get settled in and meet your roommate. You also get instructions on how everything will go so that you have no need to speak unless it is very necessary. You could talk to the instructor very quietly if you had any questions but it was to be kept at a minimum so that you could maintain the idea that you are isolated from everyone and everything outside of yourself. Then that night we went for our first group meditation in this big hall. There was a young woman there and just before we went in she said “I’m excited for the no talking part.” Coincidentally that was the last thing any of us said until the end of the course.
So it began and I have to tell you that all of my ideas of what it would be like were quickly proven wrong. I thought not talking would be a bit hard especially if someone sneezed. I mean who doesn’t have the urge to say “Bless you.” But to be honest it was actually a relief. Because you aren’t aloud to communicate in anyway with people you find yourself very aware of your own thoughts and are free to explore them without any obligation to stop and say hi or excuse me or any of the other social graces that we have in our society. These have a proper place in our day to day world but it was nice to just breath and be for a while. We meditated with the whole group together three times per day and then many times throughout the day on our own either in the hall or in our rooms. The silence can sometimes me deafening and I have to tell you that by day three I was plotting ways of sneaking out in the middle of the night with anyone noticing. Your mind is a crazy place and the thoughts that pop up when you don’t have everyday life to distract you are very surprising. I learned quite a lot about myself and the way i deal with things.
We weren’t without a few distractions though. There was an area that we could go walk in between meditations. There were two does and three baby deer that would roam around us all the time. They came far closer to us than I had ever seen before. They would play with each other and eat the apples off of the apple tree by the meditation hall. There were also bunnies that the baby deer would chase and ant hills everywhere. Its fun to now know that ants have a time in the morning that they get up and time the go to bed at night. You couldn’t help but watch the clouds and listen to the wind. It sounds boring but once the rest of the world goes quiet for you nature becomes so vibrant and active. Its amazing the things we ignore when we are so busy all the time.
What this whole experience taught me was that silence is a wonderful thing. We are so concerned with making uncomfortable feelings and thoughts go away that we miss out on a great lesson in the silence. This too shall pass. Everything that we feel whether it be sadness, pain, happiness, boredom or anything else, is all impermanent. The little itches on your skin will go away on their own if you let them. That anxious feeling you get when you have nothing to do or when you want someone to call will go away on its own. You don’t have to react to it if you don’t want. I thought I would learn to relax but instead I learned not to judge any sensation I am feeling whether it be physical or emotional because it will pass.
So my conclusion on meditation is that if you let it the silence of your own mind can teach you far more about patience and understanding the nature of our existence than any book, guru, or holy man. These things have their place and importance but nothing teaches more than your own experience. I am now on a quest to become vegetarian and be more mindful among many other changes in my life because I had this ten day journey. I don’t know what you would get out of it but for me it changed the way I see so many things. Although it was one of the hardest things I have ever done, I think I would do it again just for the lessons it taught me about patience. Which after all is a virtue so they say.