Think about one day of total silence. No music. No talking. No TV. Now add to that: no reading and no writing. Now multiply by 10. I did that once and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
Of all the off-the-wall things I’ve decided to do, this silent, 10-day meditation in Onalaska, Washington is the one met with the most incredulous stares, followed by a whole lot of questions. Called Vipassana Meditation, the focus was not on chanting, gurus and wishing that the hocus pocus of The Secret would bring me that convertible BMW I always wanted. This get-away placed you firmly inside your babbling, incessant, doesn’t know how to shut-up brain.
The goal? To learn how to listen to what your body has to say (instead of your brain) and to learn that your body’s sensations can be taught to understand that everything, even that pesky itch behind your right knee, is impermanent.
It may be hard to understand why people decide to do things so drastic. I actually figured I could do this since I am an introvert anyway. But, don’t get me wrong: the first couple of days were a test of sainthood. You learn to do anapana, which is basically paying attention to the feeling of the breath escaping your nostrils. I kid you not.
What happens is when your brain is deprived of interactions, you’d be amazed at what comes up—and for each person it’s different, yet I believe utterly entertaining. As for me, I actually wrote this whole article in my head while I was there. And fully edited it too. I bolted awake one night in my dorm to realize that someone across the room was talking in her sleep. It’s startling when you haven’t heard anyone talk for days. I also sang the entire Grease soundtrack in my head (where was THAT stored?!?) Wella, wella, wella, hunh!
I remodeled the kitchen of my 1918 bungalow completely. I dreamed of my first meal with meat in 10 days (it was going to consist primarily of bacon). I had some thoughts that would just. Not. Stop. And it was all part of the experience to know yourself better.
But when my mind was able to be quiet (and I had no choice, because sitting and meditating 10 hours every day, you need a break from yourself at some point), what I experienced was the stuff of legends. I learned to perform a full body scan, from the top of my crown to the tips of my little toes in a few minutes flat, feeling every twitch, nuance and inch of my body. I experienced that sensation you hear about, but doesn’t seem possible: I couldn’t tell where I ended and the air around me began. If you asked me where my arm was located in space, I would have been hard-pressed to tell you. During our vegetarian meal breaks (light breakfast with no coffee, mid-day meal and dinner of tea and a piece of fruit) I was overwhelmingly grateful for the people who prepared each delectable meal. And the day we were treated to tasty chocolate-laced dessert bars after a hard day of meditation was in itself like an out of body experience.
But when the moment came for us to ease back into the world and talk to our fellow mediators, I couldn’t do it. I ran to my bed and cried my eyes out. The thought of the interaction was too much. Obviously, I got over it and all I can say is the drive home was filled with spectacular sensations.
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