Heading to a 10 day Vipassana silent meditation course I was told by a friend,’That’s so very Eat Pray Love of you’. That being the case why hadn’t I fallen in love with Javier Bardem in Bali? Where were my fat royalty cheques from my bestselling book? Hey I’ve got Myhibi.com, this blog and some great friends and as for the rest of it.. well que sera.
Why Vipassana? Curiosity and need. Friends had taken the course over the last few years and suggested I try it. I couldn’t wait to offload an accumulative ton of swelling flotsam in my mind. In truth having dived in and marched on regardless over the last couple of years with no guarantees of success, part planning, part risk taking, part trust in the future, some profound reflection would be a good and necessary thing right now. I knew the basic mind set needed for any entreprenurial undertaking required stability and substantial determination. Yeah, I’ve got all that, I just needed a refresher course and instinctively I felt Vipassana was the way ahead. I’m only human afterall.
After a lovely lunch with my friend Florence who armed me with a bag of biscuits and a hug, Abbu my driver delivered me to the Dhamma Thali Vipassana centre in the hills half an hour’s drive outside of Jaipur. Wrestling my bag out of the rickshaw Abbu surrepticiously handed me his alarmingly big hunting knife in a leather sheath to add to my luggage. ‘Boss, take my knife, if you go walking outside here at night you might meet leopard, snake or something else bad’. Strewth. I hadn’t built that into my vision of the silent retreat orginally taught by Buddha… ‘C’mon Abbu, I’m not taking that in there!’, ‘No boss take it’, he wasn’t budging and not wanting to be caught by the Vipassana staff in a standoff about a lethal weapon in the carpark before having even entered the centre I relented and slid the bloody thing in my bag hoping to God my belongings wouldn’t be frisked on arrival for banned items such as mobile phones, any kind of reading materials, laptops, talismans, rosaries, any religious spiritual objects, intoxicants, radios and cameras etc.
I was allocated G17, a small, basic monastic room, with a rock hard bed, 2 taps and a bucket in the bathroom, a fan and a shelf. Soon after, (at a guess) 80 women and 80 men, 3 quarters Indian, gathered in the hall for a ‘Hearty welcome to come and give this meditation a fair try’.
For the next ten days I had promised to observe the following Precepts:
1. Abstentation from killing
2. Abstentation from stealing
3. Abstentation all sexual activities
4. Abstentation from telling lies
5. Abstenation from all intoxicants
Early evening we sat outside the Dhamma hall (men and women in strictly segregated areas) waiting to go in for our first meditation sesssion where we were asked to now observe noble silence; Noble Silence being the silence of body, speech and mind. No communication whether it be physical gestures, written notes or sign languages were allowed except with the teacher or assistant teachers – and absolutely no guesturing with large borrowed knives!
The task of training the ‘wild mind’ according to the ancient Vipassana method began via the teachings of the charming and charismatic S N Goenka who had reintroduced this meditation back into India after 2500 years. Read HERE for further information on the technique. Our daily timetable included 10 hours of meditation a day starting at 4.30am.
Watching the monkeys and peacocks in the gardens, especially at night, their silhouettes nestled asleep often sharing the same tree. So adorable, like an illustration from a children’s story book.
On day 5 getting my own meditation cell in the pagoda, a very simple white chamber, like a mini chapel with a small circular window and cushions on the floor. Total peace and a welcome break from the no holds barred farting, belching and nasal clearing from the Indian men.
The fecking relief of the last day, knowing I’d be sleeping in a comfortable bed after eating food of my choice.
Watching the smiles break out on everyone’s faces when the course finished.
Day 2 waking at 12.30 am disorientated with leg cramps and diarrhœa in my dark hot room thinking ‘This better bloody be worth it’.
Spending 30 hours concentrating on the breath coming out of my nostrils. That’s 3 whole days! Sore back, legs and neck – I did get a chair with a back rest but it was the last one left with a broken panel, only a metal bar.
The dreaded gungy porridge served at tea time with pointless spicy rice crispies stuff, found it better not to eat in the evenings at all.
Relentless 4 am alarm calls.
I’m back at the Diggi Palace hotel in my room having had the weekend to acclimatise to outside life again. I have the tools to calm my mind and observe my hard wired reactions to certain situations, I’m not saying I’ll be 100% effective but I’m certainly prepared to give it a try. I feel so much calmer and ready for the UK but first there are loose ends to be tied up and life to be enjoyed here in amazing India this next fortnight.
BE HAPPY! 🙂