Remember when you were a kid playing jump rope? For those of us who loved jumping rope & spent hours & hours getting really good at it, we considered it a challenge to jump in while two of our friends swung the rope. As the rope went round & round we'd stand there waiting for just the right time to jump in without tripping in the rope & stumbling or falling on our butts. Imagine standing there, one foot firmly planted just slightly in front of the other while your body slightly moved back & forth as you watched carefully & waited for just the right moment, then you'd jump in! YES! You made it & your friends would continue singing "how many kisses did she receive, one, two, three, etc." It was SO much fun to actually jump in without stumbling & falling.
That is just how I felt two weeks ago after returning from a 10-day Vipassana Meditation course. This was a course in self-observation, mental purification and self-discipline that I will never forget. It was hard, intense, frustrating and painful - physically, mentally and spiritually. It was also insightful, exhilarating and liberating.
We spent ten days devoting up to 11 hours a day sitting, learning and practicing the Vipassana mediation technique. We spent nine of the ten days in silence; yup, no talking to our fellow students, no gestures, no eye contact, no sign language, no written notes. No contact with anyone outside of the course either (cellphones and keys were kept safe until the course was over). My husband found that especially challenging and was concerned, but I assured him that all would be well, even though my knowledge of where I was headed on this little adventure was slim to none.
After being away for ten days, not talking, not reading, not writing, just being and learning the technique, something shifted. I had a lot of time to think, especially during my daily walks. Of course, we were instructed to gently guide our focus back to our normal breathing pattern and body sensations while meditating, but "monkey mind" is common for all of us - when your mind jumps from one thought to another, whether it's dwelling on the past or catapulting into the future.
I was immersed in an environment where I had no choice but to take a really good look inside, the most intimate look into who I am that I've ever experienced. Some of what I observed wasn't pretty - some recurring issues with acceptance and judgement surfaced, even though I've devoted a lot of time and effort working on these over the years. Some of the residue just seems to hold on..
I certainly have a greater appreciation for communication and silence. Surprisingly, I REALLY enjoyed being free from the pressures of communication for those nine days. You know how it goes - our conversations are riddled with thoughts about whether we said the right thing, did it sound stupid, did we offend someone, comparing ourselves with others, the competitive nature of conversation, etc. - it's a lot of pressure. That was all gone in the silence. I learned how powerful silence can be!
I'm also very aware of my normal breathing pattern and a lot more sensitive to my body and it's messages. And, I am more connected to my inner voice - my intuition and perception. Self-observation also taught me a lot about impermanence, detachment, craving, aversion and misery, and how each one affects me.
When it was time to jump back into the flow of life after returning home after the retreat, it was very difficult. I was so hesitant to look at my cell phone, check email, interact with others, get back into the pace of my life; it was all so overwhelming. I was also afraid that I would get sucked back into all of the noise. It felt just like when I was a kid jumping rope, waiting for the right moment to jump back in without stumbling. I tried over and over again to jump in, but kept feeling overwhelmed until I finally just quit pressuring myself to jump back in so quickly. I took my time, treated myself gently and jumped in when I was ready. It took me about three or four days to really get back into the flow, but it wasn't the same. I entered with heightened awareness and a deeper appreciation for my journey. I was hungering for an introspective experience. I got what I desired and so much more.
There are no words to capture this experience, it is one of those activities you have to participate in yourself to fully appreciate the impact. It has definitely taken it's place among my top five most challenging experiences in life!
Aspiring Sage, Creative Maven, Fancier of Books, Guardian of Student Experiences, Inner Explorer, Lover of Living & Learning, Partisan of Play, Princess of Joy, Purveyor of Possibility, Vibrational Recalibrator.