I’ve finally returned from my Vipassana meditation course, and have had a chance to settle back into normal life. It was definitely one of the hardest things I have ever done, but also one of the most beneficial.
I had a few reasons for wanting to take some time out and do a meditation course. My frustration at not having enough time to myself had been building for some time, and consequently I was beginning to feel more and more disconnected from my friends and family. My work wasn’t motivating me like it used to. I was having trouble sleeping, often lying in bed for up to three hours before drifting off. Most of the time, all I really wanted was just to be left alone.
This has happened to me a couple of times in my life. I know from past experience that when those feelings start, I need to do something drastic to break out of my self-imposed rut. A weekend at the coast or a big night out just won’t cut it – I need to isolate myself completely, connect with my inner introvert, and do some serious introspection.
I am quite an introspective person naturally, so I was a little surprised at some of the emotions that came to the surface during my course. I should clarify before I continue that the course requires students to abide by strict rules: you are not permitted to communicate with other students or anyone from the outside world in any way, shape or form. This means no talking, physical contact, eye contact, sign language, gestures, writing, use of mobile phones, internet, music, etc. It is literally just you and your thoughts for ten days.
I was very sad during the first two days of the course. I missed my family, the person I was dating, and my friends terribly. This was odd for me, and came as a big surprise. I’ve been away from home for long periods of time, and been in long distance relationships for years. Under normal circumstances, physical separation from people for ten days would be no big deal for me. At the course however, there was nothing to distract me from my isolation. I became very distressed at not being able to reach out and connect with the other people in the course, and for a short time I actually regressed into the emotional state I was in when I first left my abusive relationship. Feelings of intense loneliness and isolation, borderline depression, and general negativity bubbled to the surface. On top of that, I was in physical pain from all the meditating. Physical and emotional despair describe my first two days perfectly.
During day three and four I was experiencing physical discomfort. I wanted to be anywhere but stuck on the course, and I was seriously questioning myself as to what on earth I had gotten myself into. The thought of enduring the course for another week was really stressing me out. Contrary to the first two days, I now had no desire to be anywhere near people. I would congregate with the other students at the necessary times, but would break away to be alone as quickly possible. I took long walks around the bush land to keep the maximum distance I could from everyone.
Mother Nature really pushed her luck with me this week. I got bitten by two spiders and six ticks. I was thoroughly unimpressed.
By halfway through the course I had resigned myself to the fact that I was on this course for ten days whether I liked it or not, and I should make the best of it. My awareness of colours and intricacy of patterns in the world around me increased after one of my meditations. I found myself contemplating everyone who had ever hurt me in my life, and felt I held no anger, resentment, jealousy, or animosity towards them. I felt love, goodwill, and peace towards everyone. I also became more aware of how my physiology reacted to my thoughts. I could feel waves of sensation coursing through my body in response to my emotional state, rather than just general feelings such as happy or fearful.
In retrospect, the course was a very beneficial experience for me. I’ll admit that I wanted to go home for nearly the entire time I was on the course, but I’m glad I stayed. I came out of it with a renewed motivation to achieve my personal goals, develop a positive routine, and get back into my work. It gave me some much needed mental clarity in a few areas of my life, my sleeping pattern is more stable, and my desire to connect with the people close to me has been rekindled. I couldn’t wait to tell everyone how much I loved and appreciated them when I got home!
If you are interested in completing a Vipassana course yourself, you can find out more about it on the dhamma.org website.
Oh, and just quietly, the food is fantastic! 😉
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