If you have not read the Before Vipassana blog then you might want to read that before reading this one,
Ten days at Dhammapafulla started peacefully. My son- Kabir was in Kolkata for the Guitar Festival and Vinay was at home. I sent the last messages and without waiting for their replies I surrendered my phone and purse. It felt like I am surrendering to police and entering a prison. Why was I doing it? No one forced me to do this! Should i quit and go back? My mind was confused.
However, i saw around 31 other ladies in somewhat similar thoughts and told myself to be patient. They explained us the schedule which included almost 10 hours of sitting for meditation and around one and half hour of discourse every evening. I knew that I would enjoy the discourse but I had never done any meditation beyond a few minutes. Generally, when courses are taught in schools and colleges you have several hours of lectures and only a few hours are given for experimentation. Here it was exactly the reverse. Vipassana means seeing clearly without living in an illusion. So I was here to see things clearly. I started brushing away the thoughts of calling home or quitting.
Although, I had deposited my phone without much feeling, withdrawal symptoms started in the night. As I entered my cell I stopped making eye contact with my room partner. It was exciting to have escaped from household chores and school work. I started a feeling of liberation already. I did not have to cook/clean or mark papers/prepare slides for next class. It was as if the time had slowed down and I had a lot of time for myself. But there was no internet/ TV. In fact, not even a pen and paper for me to write down my thoughts. Was i in Vipassana jail or was my regular life was in a self-made prison?
The moments of “AAA”
During meditation and even at night the thoughts of Kabir and Vinay would haunt me. I would visualize worse things and shudder in my own thoughts. A painful wave would pass through my spine. Thoughts would cloud my mind and eyes would well up. I started focusing my attention on the tip of the nostrils. AWARENESS was the first lesson. Somehow, the wild thoughts started stopping momentarily. I started asking myself; “Is there anything you can do to find out the condition of your family?” The reply would come from somewhere: “Nothing! Just focus on the nostrils….” The cycle of awareness of the present moment and drift would keep whirling. At times I felt that this was not a prison as I had thought before. Although, I was sitting in the hall, I would start feeling completely free like the parakeets chirping outside. The worries started evaporating partially. But this was not going to be permanent!
As the days passed in silence, the silence was only outwardly. The mind would become ultra-active and turbulent instead of focusing. On the 6th or 7th day I realized that all the situations of anger, worries, hatred, and agonies were surfacing due to ATTACHMENT TO ONESELF. As soon as a painful thought arose I started evaluating the causes and started watching it. I realized that this process would defuse the mental bomb. At times for some unexplained reasons or out of realization of my own innumerable mistakes over the years tears would start rolling down. I started carrying a kerchief to the meditation sessions.
I managed to control weeping using the two ‘A’ s- AWARENSS and ATTACHMENT.
The third and the most important ‘A’ that I learnt and experienced was ‘ANICCA’. The Pali word literally means “inconstant” or "impermanent". It relates to the impermanence of everything. During long sessions of meditation what was called as Adhitthana (sitting with a strong determination without opening eyes or changing posture as far as possible) there were several moments of excruciating pain. When the concept of realizing that the pain is impermanent or ANICCA was applied to the pain in my knees and back it worked.
Slowly I started applying the concept of AWARENESS, ATTACHMENT and ANICCA to every physical and mental pain (and pleasure at times!). The focus on awareness of sensation, realization of attachment and implementing the idea of Anicca started getting into my head slowly. The physical pain started reducing first. Someone may argue that this could be due to practice. One session of Adhitthana would go undisturbed and I would think that “I did it!” and in the next session the pain would come just at the 15th minute! Pain was still there however, I was reacting differently.
Nothing is permanent…so was my stay at Vipassana centre! The formula of AAA worked and gave me a lot of strength in those 10 days. But this was just a controlled experiment and I managed it. The real examination will be when I am in the outside world. As the New Year 2015 rolls in and I interact with my family, friends and enemies, at home or on streets of Bengaluru….whenever difficult situations arise will I be able to apply this formula? Time will only tell the answer. I did find some peace within me. However, this is just a first step on a long journey that will last till my last breath.
Bhavatu Savva Mangalam!