It is quite a proud feeling to keep announcing that I pulled off my first Vipassana camp! Something that I have been wanting to try since nearly 6 years, is now finally ticked off the list.

Vipassana is a time to turn inwards. You live in a secluded space with fellow meditation-ers. You live without a phone. You live without a laptop. You live without internet. You live without books. You live without a pen and paper. You live without newspapers. You live without talking to anyone around (except your guide, of course). I had wondered when I went in – if I have to live without all of these tools, what do I do for 10 days!

I figured the answer the tough way. You simply live (there is of course the meditation, but I shall come back to it in a bit).

Easy as it is to write it here, simply living is something I haven’t done in a long while now. The last I checked, I remember myself running from one thing in life to another. And I am guessing while I write this here, that many of us fall prey to this pattern. Especially, with the omnipresence of technology and ease of access. We are on the go most of the times.

Now with the difficulty of having to deal with the nothingness, comes the part of introspection. About twelve hours per day, you sit and meditate. You gradually learn the technique over the first 5 days and then spend the other half in honing the skill. The fourth day is the highlight because you learn the Vipassana technique. Thereon it is supposed to become a little more interesting. At least compared to the first three days.

The fourth day was a personal highlight as well. I had my major break down during the evening rest time. This needs a little bit of romanticizing. Ever since I decided and actually made it to the centre on zero day, I had been anticipating a flood of tears. I am one of those who gets teary eyed even when I see someone cry on TV. Hence, this intense journey with myself was expected to lead to some melodramatic moments. So while I cried and wailed, something within me also went ‘finally!’ at the break down. Anticipations go a long way, especially in the absence of authentic information. So I kept hoping for that one metamorphic cry out. I had had moments of anguish and tears on the previous day as well. That was however, not as intense.

So as I sat and cried and cried and cried and cried some more, I kept hoping that this was the healing I was looking out for. Maybe in the rush of daily life and the work load, I hadn’t given myself enough time to relax and cry. So this should ideally work. Seclude yourself, go down deep into your demons and let it all out. But oh well. Since when has life played out just the way you liked it.

The tears didn’t stop there. The struggle didn’t miraculously end there. I cursed all those who had said “its just the first three days, then you’ll simply love it there”. I cursed myself for foolishly waiting for that watermark moment. I felt like Harry as he waits for his father to magically appear from somewhere and spell out the life-saving Patronus charm. And then just as he realizes right at the end, that there is not father, it was him all along, so did I make it to my realization as well.

Through the tears, through the turmoil, through the dark and morbid feeling, I kept waiting for that sudden eureka moment. It had to be my moment of realization and enlightenment. No surprises, it never came in that package. For me, there was no defining moment beyond which it all fell into place; beyond which came a complete surrender to the process.

I struggled daily, right uptil the 10th day. I questioned my decision. I questioned myself. I questioned my sanity for having chosen to do this. I questioned the sanity of the hundreds of people who praise the technique. I had the darkest of thoughts possible regarding this whole process. And they went on right till the end. And that I believe is what I understood only after the dramatic vent.

I realized that coaxing myself into the work was going to be an ongoing struggle. Allowing myself those few tears as I sat in the dining hall, listening to nothing but the clink of vessels, was something I owed to myself. The discomfort with sitting in that small cubicle of a room was something that did not necessarily have to be resolved by the end. The persistent fear of insects attacking me, invading into my room at night was something I had to deal with each time it happened. Being unable to focus while meditating, creating check lists mentally, talking to myself in my head, having pseudo-conversations in my sleep, waking up with the sound of my own laughter in the middle of the night, and being a witness to the extremely strong sense of restlessness coming from the prisoner-like perception, were the few struggles I have dealt with at different points in time in the ten days, in different intensities.

There were however, times when I enjoyed every bit of what I was doing. Early in the mornings as I sat amidst the trees, a soft breeze rustling the leaves around, and birds chirping all around, I knew deep within that what I was doing made sense. As I sat in the meditation hall with those erratic moments of an intense focus and felt my body heat up with the concentration, I knew I was doing something good for myself. When on the last day, I had all the rights and permission to talk, and I still preferred to walk about on my own, gaze lowered, I realized how I had finally begun to enjoy the process.

On the tenth day, when the noble silence is finally called off, people slowly trudge outside the meditation hall. Everyone walked, heads bowed, away from the hall where we could talk and just stood awkwardly. And for once, it wasn’t just me who was choked with tears. It is a powerful moment. It is overwhelming. It hits you all at once that there a hundred others who were going through their own share of the shit, who were fighting their own demons. The bond that you feel within that moment with each one of those hundred people is a magical feeling. Magical, for the want of a better-suited word. I felt so humble in the larger scheme of things. I felt like that sense of ‘I’ had vanished for a brief period. It felt like I was a minute creature, lucky to be existing in this particular form on Earth. In that moment, all I felt was love and compassion. I wanted to hug those around me and smile. I wanted to congratulate each one of us for having sailed through.

Gradually then people began to talk and that spell weakened. I finally joined in too and began to talk. The spell broke entirely at that point.

That sense of awe, the feeling of being humbled right till the tiniest level of existence is still palpable within. All I need is to close my eyes, remember that moment and the tears flow out almost instantly. But then somewhere within me I also know that this sensation will fade slowly with time. As with most memories, the intensity fades and then gradually simply remains as an idea in your head. You stop feeling it somewhere along the line. That’s fine. I am okay with that. The sense of attachment does weaken a little after ten days of learning how do to that.

Vipassana for me has not been a full process yet. It is just a start. It has been one of those experiences that leave you unsettled. Highly unsettled. Thereon, you would either conveniently ignore the discomfort and move on with life OR do something about it and change. I am hoping I choose the latter over time. I am yet to find out.

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