First days are general shock. I never thought that my beloved meditation would be this hard.
The place seems to be at the end of the world. It is a small village in the north of Bali. Three hours drive from Denpasar. When we get here, everybody is really nice. They give us a small manual of Meditation Retreat, a dark colour sarong and a white shirt. We have to fill in a form and sign an agreement- we promise to practise vipassana with all our effort and do our best to complete the whole 10 day program. Later there is lunch. It is a typical Indonesian food, which I am not a fun of. From 6pm untill late at night we sit in a marble Dhamma hall, listening to all the instructions, the teacher prepared for us. We will be practicing two kinds of meditation: Walking and Sitting meditation. The goal is to develop momentary concentration, work on our minds and learn the nobel path of Dhamma. During the walking meditation we are suppose to walk slowly and mindfully, keep your eyes half closed and concentrate on the movement of our feet. To every step we will add a mental note ‘left, right, left, right, left, right, etc.’. In sitting meditation we will sit with our back straight, our eyes closed and focus on one of the objects:
- touching points- where part of our body touches with other part or with piece of clothing
sitting ‘base’- our legs and the way we sit on the floor
breathing- observing an inhale an an exhale
By observing our mind, every time when the thought comes, we will be aware of it and we will make a mental note- ‘thinking‘.
Easy? Not at all! But we are to realise that later on. Everybody looks excited and their hopes are high. I am kind of scared. I meet my roomate Megan. She is from Australia and did Vipassana retreat before. I am full of admiration how well she is prepared for her travels. She brought all the neccessary medicine, vitamins, nutrition supplements, mosquito sprays, ear plugs, alarm clock, books and guides. She even has two brand new sarongs, which she got for the retreat. After the first official meeting for everybody, the ‘nobel silence’ begins. That means we are not allowed to talk (from now on for ten days), or contact in any other way. We also have to perform our daily activities as quietly as possible and with MINDFULLNESS. To keep that mindfullness, we are adviced to focus on each and every action we perform during the day. This means putting a mental note ‘showering‘ when we shower, ‘left, right‘ when we walk, ‘taking, chewing, swallowing‘ when we eat and so on.
We go to bed early. Tomorrow we are supposed to wake up at 3:45 am.
We wake up late. I mean Megan and me. We did not hear the gong. Actually gong was so quiet that I accidentally missed lunch later that day too. I break the rules and I do yoga.
Dhamma talk- I do not understand a thing. It is because of teacher’s accent.
The first day is a general shock. I never thought my beloved meditation would be this hard.
I am waken up at 4:35 by Lily- one of coordinators. She is holding a flash light shining straight into my eyes and knocking on the door. ‘Wake up. Practice. Meditation.’ I look at her in a total confusion, then after a short time, I understand where I am. I nod with acknowledgement. Megan is still fast asleep…
It is hard. I am tired. I cannot stop myself from thinking about leaving. I have to take a nap after lunch, I feel very weak. After eating I try to practice again. I think about leaving all the time. We have an interview with the teacher. Megan also admits she wants to leave. I am telling the teacher how I keep falling asleep during the meditation, how exhausted and sick I feel and how it all affects my practice. ‘Not enough effort‘- he says smilling. He keeps talking about the same things: being aware, right mindfullness, right concentration, right effort, have faith… It does not make sence to me at all. People around look depressed. I guess it does not make sense to them either…
I do yoga and take a lot of naps.
DAY 3 [THE BREAK DOWN]
That is it. I am leaving.
First time I heard the gong in the morning. Maybe because yesterday I asked politely if by any chance, it could be hit harder… I was practicing meditation since 4am. Right after breakfast at 6am I go back to sleep. For three hours. I am determined about my plan. I am wasting my time here. I miss F. I have thousands other things to do. I am packing my bag. In half an hour I am ready to go.
I tell Megan. We break the ‘nobel silence’. We talk about how she also finds it hard. She says that it could help to have a chat with coordinators, that Vipassana is always hard and I should try not to give up. I start crying.
I go to talk to Frankie. After frist sentence I burst into tears. ‘Are you sad?’ ‘Does meditation seem like a torture?’. He knows everything and he explains. He persuades me not leave and he does it in a gentle, calming way, that really works. He gives me some advise on how not to fall asleep during meditation. ‘Sitting really srtaight and taking deep breaths helps’ he says. He teaches me, that staring around when meditating, is a sign of greed- ‘…we want to absorb and see everything around us, we should be humble and focus on our object instead’. He also talks about all the benefits of meditation. How it can cure illness, mental disorders like anxiety or insomnia. He tells me how meditation cured his cancer. He meditates since 1967. I slowly stop crying. His teaching are interesting and useful.
After this I try to maditate again. Harder, with new energy. I feel like a fighter once more. I also experience this enormous release. I can finaly surrender to the process, fully, knowing I am not leaving anywhere now.
I am staying.