When I signed up for my first 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat, I don’t know what I was expecting. Ideally, I just wanted to learn a way to relax and slow down my mind when it starts getting a little too overwhelming. I would have been happy to walk away from the retreat with that knowledge and nothing else.
My heart just about stopped on the first night when Guru-ji started talking about taking our first steps toward enlightenment and liberation. Enlightenment? Liberation? WHOA! I’m completely in over my head! I just came to learn how to sit still for an hour and relax, but I’m going to be taught how to be enlightened? Okay, COOL! Very quickly I started having images of me leaving the ashram in a state of pure bliss, with rays of light literally beaming out of my pores as I showered every person and every thing in my path with happiness, love, and compassion.
Clearly, the road to enlightenment is not an easy one and certainly not one that can be reached at the end of ten days. But it’s hard to not think that maybe, just maybe, you’d be the exception.
I will be honest in saying that the ten days were the furthest thing from easy and there were a few moments when I thought that either I couldn’t go on or that I didn’t belong in such an intense course. Sitting still in one position with my eyes closed for an hour at a time proved to be very difficult for me, but by the end, I managed to maintain aditthana, strong determination, during my meditation sessions and I lasted through the hour-long sessions without moving.
One thing that caused me frequent frustration was that I would quite literally spend half of my meditation sessions thinking about the most random things and not focus on my actual meditation. I grew to learn to accept my mind was where it was and that that was okay, but in the beginning, it really bothered me that I very obviously wasn’t going to be on the “fast track” to enlightenment.
Observing “noble silence” for ten days was the surprisingly easy part. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to NOT communicate with anyone (both verbally and bodily), but after the initial day, it was FANTASTIC be able to really focus on myself and my meditation. In fact, when we were able to talk again at the end of the course, it was nerve-racking just thinking about what I would say to people and how I was going to interact with them!
As soon as we were talking, my “Dhamma Sisters” and I immediately felt a close bond and connection to one another. We had survived such an intense experience together and although we hadn’t spoken to one another, much less acknowledged each other’s presence for the last ten days, it was as if we had known each other for years. It was an incredible bonus in an already rewarding experience to share, bond, and connect with these women over our experiences together at the retreat.
I don’t know how much of the actual theory and technique I believe in, but I know that I gained a lot from the experience and I’m really glad that I did it. I’m interested in continuing my meditation practices and have been doing my best to meditate for at least one hour a day. I see some benefits and think that as I progress on the “road to enlightenment,” I will slowly get closer and closer to a better understanding of myself at the very least.
That’s not too bad for someone who went in just wanting to sit still for an hour.
Bhavatu sabba mangalam!