When I signed up for the meditation retreat, I thought that I was going on a vacation. Let me tell you that it was no vacation. It was a lot of work. I guess that shouldn't have been such a surprise to me given the number of times that an applicant is asked whether s/he is prepared to stay through all ten days of the retreat. But, every time I was asked that I just thought that they were making a big deal over nothing. Wrong again! As a matter of fact, I wanted to leave the retreat almost every other day (just like clockwork). Let me give you a quick glimpse of what the ten days were like for me.
Registration day: I arrived late in the afternoon, filled out some paper work, handed over my valuables, brought my things to my room and started my own process of silence. Upon getting ready for bed and preparing to go to sleep it did dawn on me how strange it was going to be to not have contact with Lana for ten days.
Day 1: I had no problem waking up at 4:30 to begin the first meditation. Fortunately, I had set my alarm; they forgot to ring the gong to wake us up. The first day passed uneventfully. And while maintaining silence was a little more unusual than I anticipated, it wasn't a problem. But, when I went to bed that night, I once again had that strange sensation of not having contact with Lana for so many more days.
Day 2: The morning went fine. However, after lunch when it was time to go to the afternoon meditation session, I found that I had to drag myself to the meditation hall. I don't know (and/or can't remember) what I was feeling that made me want to go home at that point. Nonetheless, this was my first time encountering the desire to leave. I think that the issue was the growing realization of just how many days I had left and the routine that I was going to have to maintain during those days. Once I got myself to the meditation hall, I made it through the rest of the day without further resistance.
Day 3: The day went well and I felt like I was starting to get the hang of things.
Day 4: This was "Vipassana Day", the day we were taught the technique of Vipassana meditation. I was really excited. My excitement totally disappeared when I learned that I would be doing a "body scan." I hate doing body scans! I wanted to get up off the mat and run out of the center shouting "This is bogus!" Actually, I want to shout a different "B" word. Regardless, I restrained myself and stayed seated on the mat. I figured that since the way I had been meditating previously was to count 100 breaths, it wouldn't be so terrible to substitute a body scan for counting breaths. I decided to hang in there and give it a try.
Day 5: I was glad that I decided to stay; I was finding the meditation to be quite pleasant.
Day 6: My hamstring muscle started to show signs of wearying. I had injured it in college and had never fully completed the rehabilitation process. So, all the sitting was starting to take its toll. Also, starting on Day 4, we had begun practicing several sessions of "Sittings of strong determination," which meant that we were supposed to hold our posture for one hour without moving. It was extremely unpleasant and challenging to sit through an hour with a hamstring muscle that was just burning with an intense heat that gradually radiated throughout my body during the course of the one hour sitting. Additionally, may back was really tired from working to maintain good posture while sitting. So, I was feeling a sense of deep concern over how I was going to make it through the remaining days. Thus came another time when I was really feeling like I just wanted to go home.
Day 7: I can't remember if it was later in the day on Day 6 or sometime today, but I had adjusted my posture slightly and things seemed to go better. I was enjoying the process once again.
Day 8: Well, my back and hamstring muscles started to complain again and I found myself having an extremely difficult time sitting still. Right on schedule, the desire to leave reappeared. Fortunately, I was able to get a small sitting device that provided me the necessary back support and I hung in there for another day.
Day 9: With my new sitting aid, I found that the day went quite smoothly overall. I still had some issues with my hamstring. But, I was able to use pillows along with the back support to deal with that.
Day 10: I knew that I was in the home stretch now. And, we began the process of reintegration, which meant that we started talking. So, my every-other-day desire to leave did not appear today.
Day 11: We had our final meditation session in the morning and then took care of cleaning the place up and heading back home. I was so thrilled to have gone through the experience.
I have obviously left out so many details of what the retreat was like for me. Besides the fact that there was just too much for me to be able to remember, the truth is that there is no good way for me to put into words what the experience was like. As I wrote in the previous blog, trying to do so is basically contrary to the whole point of Vipassana meditation anyway. One must experience things for oneself, within the framework of one's body to achieve the true wisdom. The main thing that I hoped to convey was that the experience was definitely challenging. I truly believe that it was a valuable part of the growth process I am undertaking on this spiritual journey.
I give thanks to the Universe for the abundance it provides me. I surrender and am open and ready to receive.
Bhavatu sabba mangalam - May all beings be happy.