This post is about my second Vipassana course experience. It contains no words of wisdom, of which I have none. It contains no insights, because I can't differentiate between an insight and a distraction. For a wonderful introduction to Vipassana, read this lovely post by Steve here.
one day before heading out to Dhamma Khetta, the Vipassana center in Hyderabad, I rode my bicycle for 75 kms, without having ridden bike for that long distance in 2 years or so. That means, I started the Vipassana with quite a bit of physical fatigue and pain, especially on legs, bum and shoulders. Yes, I am an idiot.
Here are few battles that took place between mind, body, and rest of the world during those 100 hours of meditation in 10 days, in the order of decreasing difficulty.
Battle of butt-pain:
On 5th day, during one of the 'strong determination' sitting, where we are asked not to move legs, hands and keep eyes closed for entire one hour sit, the pain at the right sit bone started hitting high notes early on. I initially ignored, then tried to deal it with equanimity. But, pain kept on getting intense minutes after minutes.
I knew soon body would just involuntarily give up and change the sitting posture. [I learnt this while running long distances in the past]. So I had to really decide immediately if I am going to hold on to my wow to not move or not. Then I told myself in my best impression of Red [from Shawshank Redemption] "At that defining moment, Harsha decided he won't move no matter what."
I located the center point of the pain and stayed there. Soon pain hit levels where body started to give up, with strong urge to move my posture. Mind wouldn't have any of it. I had lost equanimity, body tensed up from neck to heel in order to contain the urge to move. When pain hit the intense level, my whole body started shaking, involuntarily. Pain came in waves, and for every new high, body would shake uncontrollably. At those moments I might have looked like possessed by a demon. These shakings perhaps changed my posture just enough, that after a while pain remained unbearable, but did not increase. There were moments where rest of the world didn't exist, rest of the body didn't exist, just the center point of pain and my awareness. I was distraction free. I had very high level of concentration out of the fear that body would just force out itself. Those moments were glorious. I managed to remain still for rest of the hour. I managed to keep my 'strong determination' for rest of such sits, although never had such intense pain again.
Mind - 1, Pain - 0.
Battle of 'ticking clock':
There was a big clock in the meditation cell hall, which made loud 'tick' sound for every second. I have strong aversion to sounds with rhythms while meditating, because my breath would automatically sync up to the rhythm and I'll lose my subtle, calm breathing. But, I like meditating in these small 3X6 feet cell because it is fairly quieter than the meditation hall. Like any other distractions, for first few days, I tried ignoring the tick tick tick sounds, later tried reasoning with in myself, but no avail. My breathing just would end up in 2 seconds of inhales, 2 seconds of exhale. I had to do something!
So, in once such sit in the meditation cell, I intentionally picked up a half developed day dream and actively started building it, with all my attention. After few minutes of building the story, I noticed that I wasn't hearing the tick tick tick sound at all, and my breathing was fairly subtle with out syncing up to the clock. That means, my attention to breathing during meditation was way weaker than my attention to building a interesting day dream. Bummer. Then onwards, I gave up meditating in cells, and completely moved to meditation hall. All the noises of the fellow meditators yawning, coughing, and farting was tolerable than that clock.
Mind - 0, ticking clock - 1
Battle of 'Internal commentary' :
I've had internal chatter, monologues, and narration during meditation ever since I've tried. It just won't go away. But, during first 3 days, though I had distractions of pain, and other usual suspects, there were long durations in the meditation where these internal chatter kept quiet. I thought I achieved some sort of milestone! But, they came back in full force 4th day onwards. These internal commentary during the course has led to creating one full story for a feature length movie, two more small stories, many poems. Meh.
'It's all vibrations, man' would pop up in mind every now and then, bring out a smile on my face!
Mind - 0, internal chatter - 1
Battle of 'Bird calls' :
The vipassana center has many trees with small fruits, which attracts many birds. I identified at least 10-12 various birds. During meditation, I would hear a bird call and invariably try to name the bird species, which would trigger many pleasant memories from my 'Wild Gundmi' project, and I would get lost for many minutes. This happened through out the course. On the 11th day, a fellow student mentioned that she had same problem with many small planes that were flying overhead everyday. She would end up guessing the model of planes and thus get lost in the game!
Mind - 0, birds - 1
There were many more smaller interesting events which made the time at the center quite a learning experience. I am glad that I went for 2nd course, glad that I had these intense pains, glad that I made it through. A friend quoted Neitze 'What doesn't kill you, simply makes to stronger', I absolutely understand it now.