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LAUNDRY FOR THE SOUL

Written on: Sunday March 9th, 2008

A journal entry from: ASIA PART II

Igatpuri, Maharashtra 

Vipassana International Academy

Block H-31

Vipassana. It is one of India?s most ancient techniques of meditation, a Pali word meaning insight, seeing things as they really are. It is not blind faith or philosophy, and has nothing to do with sectarian religion. Its goal is to purify the mind, to eliminate the tensions and negativities that make us miserable.                                                               

SHRI S.N. GOENKA  

Read below about my ten day meditation course at the Dhamma Giri in Igatpuri.  

Timetable 

Morning Wake-Up Bell                             4:00

Meditation                                             4:30 - 6:30

Breakfast                                               6:30 - 7:15

Bath/Rest Etc.                                        7:15 - 8:00 

Group Meditation In Hall                          8:00 - 9:00

Meditation As Per Instructions                  9:00 - 11:00

Lunch                                                   11:00 - 1145

Rest                                                     11:45 - 1:00

Meditation                                             1:00 - 2:30

Group Meditation In Hall                          2:30 - 3:30

Meditation As Per Instruction                    3:30 - 5:00

Teabreak                                                5:00 - 6:00

Group Meditation In Hall                           6:00 - 7:00

Teacher's Discourse in Hall                        7:00 - 9:00

Retire To Own Room                                 9:00 

 

The afternoons devoured me. It felt like I was drowning in quicksand. Everyone was restless and uncomfortable. Restless from the extra serving of lunch they helped themselves to knowing that we would not have dinner served later that day. The Dhamma Hall was hot. The air motionless. Our focus was awful, easily distracted by every sigh, every grunt, each pass of gas and even the slightest shift of movement from across the room. My mind was a million miles away and the minutes seemed like hours. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tick. Tick. I could hear the train whistle in the distance and every time I would devise a new plan to escape this misery. But this was my challenge for ten days straight.  

I enjoyed the morning meditation sessions, despite the early rise and the wake-up gong at four a.m. Our minds were quiet. Rested. Perhaps many of us still half-asleep. It was a new day. A fresh start. Breakfast finished just before dawn and the walk along the Shanti pathar was so serene. The air was crisp and the birds chirped loudly. As the sun crept it's way up from behind the mountains we could hear the morning hymn faded in the background from the pagoda's loudspeakers and we could savor this moment, but just for a moment, before the Dhamma Seivka (server) would motion us along our way, fearing that this particular location was prime temptation to interact with the males on the opposite side of the hedge. By the time five p.m. rolled around we were all so drained. What a tiresome day! Our cup of chai lended us enough zing to make it through our evening instruction. I looked forward to the discourse every night, it helped give me the motivation to continue on.  

Our code of conduct was straightforward. The rules in place for our own benefit. But it wasn't the noble silence or the absence of reading or writing materials that I initially thought would be challenging, it was the countless hours sitting on your meditation pillow that I struggled with. It has been an extremely difficult past ten days. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. Spiritually. I recall being so completely faded that it felt like the earth beneath me could not hold me up. But you must learn to completely surrender and develop no resistance otherwise your aversions make your practice that much harder.  

On day seven/eight they provide you with your own meditation cell in the pagoda. There is nothing louder than being in complete solitude with your own thoughts. But it was those moments that I found refuge from the dreadful afternoons. I'm writing this entry on our last night at the meditation centre as we were given the privilege to break our vow of silence and collect our belongings earlier this morning. The 200+ students that filed out of the meditation hall every night in a zombie-like state immediately came to life this morning and their smiles, glowing faces and tears indicate that we may have all shared a very moving experience. It has been non-stop chatter in between the final meditation sessions and for the majority the past ten days have been embraced with overwhelming positivity.    

So did I attain enlightenment? Find my inner peace and harmony? Well... not quite. But the teachings have such profound meanings and the lessons that I will take away from my time here at Dhamma Giri are so extremely valuable that they will have lifelong reverberations. It was a step in the direction towards discovering myself and developing a keen awareness of our mortality. Goenka sums it up perfectly as uncovering the reality that exists within the framework of the body. It is, simply, another lesson in learning what we know as the art of living.

 

  "Observing breath after breath the mind becomes still. Unwavering, the mind becomes pure and naturally finds liberation."       Unknown.