The hours were long, the rules were strict, the bush was gorgeous, the resistance was real, the feelings were raw.
Anitcha (impermanence) & Equanimity…2 words that have been imprinted in my memory and experience over the course of 10 quiet days in the Blue Mountains.
I’ve thought and thought and edited and thought to work out what would be useful to share… as my experience was personal. What is the purpose of sharing such a deep personal process? I’m unsure of the answer, however I do know that I have gained enormously throughout my health journey when reading others personal transformation experiences. Some I have wanted to replicate; some I have simply learnt from externally.
So here goes…I recently undertook a 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat in the Blue Mountains, NSW. It was challenging – I wanted to leave many times. It was my second ‘sit’. My first being 3 years ago. This experience was with a much larger group this time – both men and women (previously with only 35 women). Perhaps a greater challenge with more people (and their energy) around me? Perhaps a greater challenge than the first with what I was processing after the end and beginning of close relationships? Either way, the wannabe rebel inside me came out to play and I observed all kinds of interesting resistance during the 10 days.
I felt many things during the 10 days – bored, grateful, at peace, turbulent, rebellious, teary, happy and all the things in between.
Vipassana is a style of mediation that allows a complete inward reflection. One that is deep for 10 days. No talking, no eye contact, no reading, no writing, just you and your thoughts…your breath…your sensations. Or should I say – just me and my thoughts, breath and sensations. This is known as Noble Silence. Most of this I followed… apart from the book I snuck in…
Vipassana focuses on observing one’s breath to begin with and then moves on to scanning the body for sensations, once this initial breath technique is mastered or understood. It is taught that any sensations that arise must be looked at with equanimity and anitcha (impermanence). These two things encourage us to view our ‘sensations’ (positive or negative) with no charge. No judgement…knowing they will pass – they are impermanent. This experience over the course of 10 days deepens a trust and knowing that everything is impermanent. This practice is brilliant for releasing ‘hooks’ in the mind, depression, addictions as well as so many physical ailments as our emotions create dis-ease in our body.
After a few days of following the rules, I was searching for joy. I wanted out. I didn’t want to feel confined to the property, doing the same as 99 other people. I wanted to sit in the sun. I wanted to soften and sleep and rest as needed. I wanted a break from the endless hours of my chatty mind. At times, I questioned if I remembered how to meditate? Aside from the 4:30-6:30am morning meditation, my mind felt like it was on speed for the rest of the day. Never resting for a breath, to find space. I questioned if it was because I was sharing a meditation room with 99 other people (as I feel other’s energy easily)? Or if I was simply needing to be in the depths of this process as a way of transitioning through it? My thoughts became cyclic. I wanted some space from them. I wanted to go for a run. I wanted to throw my togs on and bathe in the sunshine. I wanted to walk to the beat of my own drum. Basically, I was resisting what I felt was a military like environment. Occasionally I found peace in my bedroom looking out to the bush - enjoying the bird life, southern flora and rays of sunlight.
The days would run as so… waking at 4am, followed by a mix of 3x 1 hour group sits, 3x 2 hour sits either in the main hall or my own shared room, breakfast and lunch thrown in there and an evening discourse and group meditation before lights out at 9:30pm most nights. As I said, I savoured the 2-hour meditation before the sun came up as my mind was most quiet. Feeling like I had forgotten how to meditate I became frustrated at times, laughed other times and sat with the inspiration during moments. Knowing that this was the perfect time to put into practice the knowing that everything is impermanent (anitcha) and needs to be observed with equanimity… Lol...I just went with it.
Knowing and trusting the process, having faith that transitions are not always smooth, enjoyable or easy… I didn’t escape the property lol. I knew there was a golden nugget of some shape or size at the other end…there always is after such deep processing. Surely? My largest golden nugget was that I found compassion and released anger for a significant chapter that had ended in my life. This came out of the blue one night at the end of an hour-long meditation – with the same cyclic thoughts that I felt would never end. This gave me a sense of understanding that the body is processing at such a deep level - recalibrating all the time and releasing when ready.
Keep your eyes open for my post Vipassana feels…