5

Vipassana – A Meditative Transformation

Vipassana – A Meditative transformation

Read the previous part Vipassana – The Sensations here

Day 6:

On sixth day the mind traversal was supposed to be done from tip of the head to the toe and then from toe to the tip of head.

I was starting to feel sensations all throughout my body now and many a times the energy would flow like a stream and would hardly have any resistance. The very moment I would love this feeling the stark grumpy baritone voice of Mr. Goenka would pronounce if you are enjoying the speed with which you are able to feel sensations and are able to traverse throughout the body that means you aren’t learning the technique.

He reminded the basic premise – not to enjoy anything – just observe, become aware, be mindful and maintain equanimity.

Day 7:

Focus was now on moving through multiple parts of the body simultaneously. For example – Earlier you were focusing on right arm and left arm one at a time now you were supposed to move through both the arms simultaneously. Continue doing so while moving from head to toe and toe to head. Just in case if you feel any of the part is left, comeback to it and try to concentrate on it individually.

By seventh I noticed that I was sleeping for more than three hours. In fact it didn’t feel like I require it more than that. In the mornings I was all refreshed inspite of less sleep. It was because my mind was getting calm and relaxed.

The critical part of sleep is to do physical and mental repair. By meditating for 11 hours a day for the past six days, the mental repair part was already done. Mr. Goenka even tells in one of the discourses that if you are practicing properly your subconscious mind is well rested and hence will require less sleep.

Photo by Mattia Faloretti on Unsplash

Day 8:

Eighth day you continue doing the same thing from the previous day but alternating between faster traversal and part-by-part movement from head to toe and toe to head. By now you would be able to pass through multiple organs together, even if you don’t feel it that is completely normal. The moments you feel it isn’t free flowing go back to doing part-by-part till the time you cover each part of the body.

I categorically remember during my morning session at 8:00 am I felt something burst internally right in the center of the chest. I felt it all throughout my body in a single go. It lasted for only a couple of seconds but it was so strong that I still remember it.

I discussed the same with the teacher in the afternoon, he told that is completely normal if you are practicing as per the instructions, but he cautioned me of not to be joyous about it and not to begin seeking it. Not every session is same. You might not get the same feel again ever. Some sessions are good compared to others but the learning was to be mindful of each and every one of them with the same perspective.

One more thing I noticed that I was beginning to feel no pain. I was able to sit through every session without any movement of any part. The urge to take a peek at the wall clock was also long gone.

Day 9:

The instructions in the morning session were to try to concentrate and observe sensations internally. If you were experiencing free-flow then you might be able to do internal scans. You could penetrate your body through your chest and exit from back or from left to right and right to left.

Try to control the mind and try different permutations and combinations. Then back again from head to toe and toe to head and then part-by-part.

The best news came during the discourse at the end of the day. Mr. Goenka informed everyone that we have successfully learnt Vipassana and it ends today. For the tenth he said we would be taught the third part of the ten-day Vipassana course. During the tenth we would be allowed to speak to each other…yeah you read it right we would be allowed to interact with each other.

All the dull mimosa pudica (Chui mui plant) faces immediately started glowing like morning sunflowers.

The Tranquil way

Day 10:

‘Mangal Maitri’ – was the last and third part of Vipassana. This day is also referred to as ‘Metta’ day. In the morning session Mr. Goenka teaches us how after learning Vipassana you are full of peace, compassion, love and kindness and why it is necessary that you don’t stop here and try to impart and spread it.

Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t mean to get more people to sign up for the course. It simply meant at the energy level. Simply pray that there is peace, love and kindness throughout your neighborhood and the world.

After that session at around 11:00 am the ‘Noble Silence’ officially ended.

For the first time in my life I didn’t feel like talking to anyone. I was too overwhelmed by the feeling of surviving the whole ten days.

Our belongings were returned post lunch on the same day.

I placed my first call to mom. Since birth this was the only time I had not spoken to mom for ten straight days.

Day 11:

After the early morning session and breakfast we were allowed to leave for our places.

I felt refreshed, calm and at peace. With renewed energy I headed home.

For all those who are calm,

For all those who are kind,

For all those who are at peace,

And,

For all those who have successfully completed Vipassana course…

It’s not a Goodbye,

but It’s a GOOD BYE.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

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4

Vipassana – The Sensations

Vipassana – The Sensations

Featured post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

Read the previous part – Vipassana – My Experience here

Mind is the most mischievous of them all. When one is trying to concentrate on a particular thing, it will get distracted and run away to every nook and corner of the world rather than focusing on the task at hand. I wasn’t able to focus on breathing for more than ten seconds in a go. I decided to discuss it with the instructor.

He told, “Its completely normal. People don’t get sensations at all; at least you are getting them for ten seconds. More importantly this technique isn’t about anticipating, just be aware about the present…what you can feel. Everything will come at it’s own pace.”

Day 3:

The focus on third day shifted to sensations on the moustache area – the rectangular area just above the upper lip and below the nostrils.

Sensation was defined as anything you felt like, an itch, perspiration, coolness, dryness, touch of air from breathing, heat and any physical impression you can feel. You were not supposed to create any liking or disliking for any of them. One had to become mindful and aware of them and let it pass.

By third day I realized that there wasn’t any particular need to over stuff oneself with food as the breakfasts and lunches were decent veg food, which was sufficiently nutritious to survive. On the previous two days because of over-eating I was feeling too sleepy and was barely managing through the meditation sessions.

I would slightly open an eye, watch everyone…many of them with an annoyed expression while some of them into deep meditation, keep checking the wall clock and wait for the sessions to get over.

Who would have thought that meditation can also cause sore legs, numb hips, strained back and pain at unmentionable places.

Main Meditation Hall at Pune Vipassana Center

Day 4:

We learnt about the technique of Vipassana. Earlier we were only focusing on breathing and sensations in the upper lip area but in Vipassana one is supposed to traverse the whole body. You are supposed to be mindful of the sensations on your head, face, ear, neck, shoulders, chest, back and so on.

Focus on one part of the body and try to feel the sensation there. Trying concentrating till the time you actually observe something but the trick is not to anticipate. If it happens then great otherwise witness it for a minute and then move on to next part of the body till each and every body part is covered. Come back to the part which was left and you didn’t feel any sensation.

Pain and numbness are also sensations and that was all I could observe. No matter how much Mr. Goenka voice told not to develop any aversions for any sensation; the human instinct would still take over. You would slightly move your cushion, sometimes remove the pillow, change the legs while sitting cross-legged, do everything but the pain would find its way and so would the aversion.

With each passing day more and more cushions were becoming blue and vacant. It was good enough to increase your self-doubt and derail your motivation.

Day 5:

On this day you would scan from the top of your head – the tip of your scalp and traverse through whole body, part by part but in a systematic order till you reach the tip of toe. Try to concentrate and become aware about sensations in this order, wait at the part of body where you aren’t feeling anything and then proceed. Remember not to create any aversion or craving for any sensation.

Then comes the session at 2:30 pm. The session of self-actualization as to what extent you could push yourself. I was just sitting but never knew that sitting alone can cause so much discomfort.

In this session you learn the art of ‘Adhisthana or Additthana’ – ‘Strong Self-Determination’. This means you aren’t supposed to move even slightly or shift your position or open your eyes. You need to continuously sit in a posture for long durations of 60-90 minutes.

It was really excruciating. I was sweating profusely with no sense of any part of my body at the end of it. It took me literally two minutes to unfold my legs and properly stand up.

Now I understood why most people ran away on the sixth day.

By the end of fifth day during the QA session I saw my roommate waiting for his turn to come. I feared the worse. I knew I wasn’t supposed to interact with him in any form but his mere presence was kind of encouraging for both of us to keep going till the end.

Day 6:

My roommate didn’t come for the early morning session. I knew something was amiss. I contacted a dhamma sevak, he told my roommate couldn’t take it anymore especially after yesterday’s Adhitthana session and he too ran away.

For a moment I was heartbroken. He made it till the sixth day and still went away. But then I read on the notice board – no aversion and no craving.

I headed for the next session.

For all those who can concentrate,

For all those who have aversions,

For all those who have cravings,

And

For all those who can control their mind…

It’s not a Goodbye,

but it’s a GOOD BYE.

Read the next post for day 6-10 – Vipassana – A Meditative Transformation here.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

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6

Vipassana – My Experience

Vipassana – My Experience

Read the previous part – Vipassana – My Inhibitions here

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

I was still lost in my thoughts when a volunteer approached me and informed me to take a bed sheet, pillow and blanket from the shelf and head towards my room. (I was given a room number at the time of registration). He also informed about a small session that would take place, right after tea is served at 5:30 pm, in the meditation hall.

I noticed that the whole center was divided into two sections by a fence consisting of plants. To my disappointment there was completely different area for male and female including the dining area. The main meditation was the only place where both of them were allowed together. My dreams of somehow surviving these days by bird-watching (girl-watching) too were shattered and I wasn’t even allowed to scream…or cry…or run away.

Fence separating the two sections

I reached my room; it was pretty basic but neat and clean, and placed my luggage under the bed or the shelf that I was supposed to sleep on. It was a huge stone sheet with an old battered hard thin mattress on top of it. I was already exhausted from the travel and the constant battering of my mind. It was a depressing feeling and felt prison like. It was 3:00 pm and I made my bed and decided to take a nap.

From a small nap it got transformed into a deep slumber and I got up at 5:45 pm in a rush. To my surprise there was another guy sleeping on the other side of the room on another stone sheet. I was immediately pissed off at them for giving me a roommate for ten days and I am not even allowed to ask his name.

I shook him and signalled him the time. We hurriedly reached the mess where we were the last two guys to reach. Everybody had had his tea and left. To my happy surprise there was some husked rice (poha) along with tea. I knew there wasn’t going to be any dinner and hence I decided to hog on it.

At 6 pm the session began and it was in a presentation format. The discourse was to be in delivered in audio and video format. These were recordings of Late Mr. S. N. Goenka – the man responsible for bringing Vipassana back to India. The main thing that was highlighted was the five main precepts to observe and the timetable for the coming ten days.

My room in Pune Vipassana center

The Five precepts:

1. To abstain from killing any being,
2. To abstain from stealing,
3. To abstain from all sexual activity,
4. To abstain from telling lies,
5. To abstain from all intoxicants.

The very strict and difficult timetable – the school timetable felt nothing in comparison to this:

4:00 am            Morning wake-up bell
4:30-6:30 am    Meditate in the hall or in your room
6:30-8:00 am    Breakfast break
8:00-9:00 am    Group meditation in the hall
9:00-11:00 am   Meditate in the hall or in your room according to the teacher’s instructions
11:00-12:00 noon Lunch break
12 noon-1:00 pm Rest and interviews with the teacher
1:00-2:30 pm    Meditate in the hall or in your room
2:30-3:30 pm    Group meditation in the hall
3:30-5:00 pm    Meditate in the hall or in your own room according to the teacher’s instructions
5:00-6:00 pm    Tea break
6:00-7:00 pm    Group meditation in the hall
7:00-8:15 pm    Teacher’s Discourse in the hall
8:15-9:00 pm    Group meditation in the hall
9:00-9:30 pm    Question time in the hall
9:30 pm            Retire to your own room–Lights out

That’s nearly 11 hours of meditation alone and people think that it’s a vacation or retreat. No it is not.

The ‘Noble Silence’ was to be observed from here on. It means the silence of body, speech and mind.

After the session I walked about in the open green space and then retired for the day. Walking was the only exercise that was permitted. I kept shifting and turning in that harsh bed and sleep decided not to pay me a visit that night and before I realized a huge gong like bell rang.

Day 1:

It was already 4:00 am and the time to get up and ready for the 4:30 am meditation session in the hall. I convinced my mind that it’s a new morning and I am here to learn something. All excited I reached the main meditation hall. The hall was filled with blue colored cushions properly spaced out, accompanied by a pillow with registration numbers on it. I found mine and adjusted my cushion and sat down.

There were about 120 students (I counted the cushions), two male instructors and one female. It was evident by looking at others that they barely managed it to the hall still half asleep and constantly yawning. There were three dhamma sevaks also – a dhamma sevak is a volunteer who helps the instructors and the students in case if anything of importance arises.

The course began. We were supposed to close our eyes throughout the process. The voice of Mr. Goenka soothed through the speakers. He told that the first three days would be all about ‘Anapanasati’ – ‘mindfulness of breathing’.

It was just about focusing on your breathing.

I was ecstatic to see the evening tea accompanied by a banana and some puffed rice. This was only made available for the first timers. I went in with the expectation that I would get none but here I was getting some.

The 7:00 pm discourse was a video played out on a projector. We saw Mr. Goenka for the first time. These were all recorded from his previous sessions before his demise in 2013. I was too tired and spent to focus on anything anymore. The only thing that caught my attention was, he mentioned, “Maximum people run away on the 2nd and 6th day.”

For some reason it made me more determined. I knew about the bets that would be already making rounds outside placed by my sister and cousins. I made a mental note of it to survive these two major days.

Day 2:

Same routine. Gong at 4 am…lethargic walk to the meditation hall and then the session begins.

The main focus on this day was on exhaling and inhaling. If someone doesn’t feel it, they can take a couple of deep breathes and then back to regular breathing. Just be mindful of the breath going in and out.

Everyday I would come up with stupid questions in my mind to put across to teachers and at least speak a word in the whole day but ironically all of them were answered at the end of the day during the discourse leaving me smiling and more importantly quiet.

At the end of second day the guys in my neighboring room went absconding – they simply ran away.

Day 3:

I ran away…

Naaahhhh…

For all those who are early risers,

For all those who love meditation,

For all those who can observe breathing,

and

For all those who knew I won’t run away…

It’s not a Goodbye…

But It’s a GOOD BYE.

Read the next one for Day 3-10 – Vipassana – The Sensations here.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

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