10-Days of Silence
In 24-hours I'll begin a 10-day Vipassana course on the outskirts of Varanasi, India.
During these 10-days I'll be silent. All meditators must adhere to the following rules: No technology, no entertainment/stimulation, no eye contact with others, a strict vegetarian diet with no spices, sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. Two meals a day – breakfast and lunch. I won't be able to engage in any physical activity. And I'll spend 10 hours every day meditating.
Each day will start at 4:00am and end at 9:30pm.
Why am I doing this? Because it's the most intense experience I believe I can put my physical and mental self through without the use of any mood-altering substances. Also, a very dear girl friend of mine did the course a few years ago in Vietnam, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about her experience since she completed it.
What also appeals to me is the idea of letting go of all control and being guided through a strict routine that is entirely based on focusing inwards on your own mind. It’s scary and invigorating all at the same time. I am a believer that the mind is our most powerful tool and I am ready to dig deep into my subconscious and gain greater awareness and understanding. A Polish girl I met recently said that Vipassana feels like taking off shoes that are too small for you.
Through yoga teacher training, meditation was an area of study, but I feel the exposure to it in the course was only the tip of the iceberg. The town of Varanasi is considered one of the most spiritual and holiest places in the entire world, and Vipassana originated in India, so why not embark on this journey while I’m here! I told myself that if I was going to do any sort of mindfulness course while I was in this country, that it was going to be authentic and raw as fuck.
There are meditative moments in my daily life where I am able to tap into a blissful and surreal state which usually last a few minutes before passing. It feels as though I’m not asleep but I’m also not awake. A middle plane amongst these two states in a way. I would compare it to sleeping with your eyes open but your eyes are closed. In these moments, I feel a warm sun touching every inch of my body – even if the room is cold and dark. It’s quite magical come to think of it.
I imagine how wonderful life would be if I’m able to pop in and out of this state whenever it’s needed most. My hope is that Vipassana will help to give me the tools to create this feeling more frequently.
Perhaps the mental preparation leading up to the course is part of the overall experience to some degree, because for the past few days I’ve started to notice myself stepping back from social settings and spending more time alone. Over a breakfast I had in Rishikesh recently, the topic of the Vipassana course came up. It was mentioned that some attendees have experienced a wave of history arise during the course that pertains to their earlier life. Typically, this history has been suppressed and is not easily remembered. As we started to talk about this concept, a light in a room went off in an area of my brain that hasn’t ever seen light – or at least that I can recall.
In that moment, I remembered being no more than 5 years of age and playing with family and family friends – usually at a dinner party my parents were hosting or at my grandmothers for a family get together, and being tickled. Seems normal right because as a child it’s considered a form of play. Nothing typically inappropriate was associated with this memory looking back on it now, as the intention of the adult at the time was just harmless fun. I even remember times where I enjoyed it and it was a game to me. But then I remembered something else…
I started to think more about why this particular memory came to me in this moment when I hadn’t ever thought about it previously. Right then and there another light went off and I burst into tears in front of the whole restaurant. I remembered a few times where I’d be in the middle of a tickle match and I was pinned down so I couldn’t escape. Usually the match was between someone much bigger and strong than me. In these moments, I was completely powerless and I remember feeling hopeless because of my size and strength being 5 years old. Tapping into those moments now, it almost felt like a form of torture because I couldn’t make the tickling stop even if I yelled “stop”. It wasn’t until I started crying hysterically that the other person would realize that this was no longer fun for me and would stop. When I realized that crying gave me a tool of control in these situations, moving forward I would start to cry even before I felt that moment of being powerless. It was the only form of control I knew how to have over myself at that age.
It’s no question today that having control over every area of my life is vitally important to me or I start to become extremely uncomfortable and anxious. It’s a vulnerability that I choose not to tap into because of the risk of feeling hopeless. When I put two and two together, I realize that maybe this tickling experience had greater impact on me than I could imagine. Even today there are times when someone approaches me from behind and touches my back or tries to hold me and not let me go that I move into a panic mode – probably similar to the feelings I had when I was five. In a way those playful harmless childhood moments may have been a form of trauma that has followed me into my adult years.
The fact that I burst into tears at breakfast when these memories came to mind, and the fact that there are tears streaming down my face as I write this now, means something inside of me needs to be worked out. Anything that makes you emotional needs to be explored further and massaged. I believe that all emotion is triggered by something, and that something can be good or bad but if I feel emotionally provoked to the point it’s uncontrollable, I’m going to choose to sit in the middle of that emotion and feel where it takes me.
So how do I feel about going into Vipassana in a less than 24 hours? I’m scared. I’m nervous. Especially for someone who harnesses control in every aspect of her life. But I also feel a sense of relief. A relief because for the first time in in my life, I will not be connected to anyone but myself. I won’t open my laptop or check my cell phone, or have to be “on” or a particular version of myself because it’s what others expect of me.
I’m scared because I don’t know what I’m going to experience and how I’m going to feel. But I’m choosing to surrender to the process and surrendering is hard for me. Perhaps it’s why I hold on to so much control in every aspect of my life. Holding on may be tough for some people but letting go is even harder for me. It’s tiring. I’m ready to take off the shoes that are too small to fit my feet.