A Journey to Panna: My Second Vipassana Retreat…Part 2

Occupy_the_Present_-_Dig_Deep_-_Power_Up.transparentThe last time I wrote, I attested to the awesome power of Vipassana meditation, and my second 10-day retreat there earlier this year. Thinking back to that wonderful week and a half I find myself feeling so blessed beyond measure…wow.

We left off on Day 6. On day 7, I didn’t go to meditate in my assigned cell at the pagoda. Instead, from 4:30-6:30 a.m., I sat in the meditation hall. My body was aching, and I kept resisting the urge to move. I was playing tough, in that I didn’t want to change my position and I was suffering, and that suffering was massive.

What had gone wrong? The day before I had attained my much anticipated, much hoped-for “A-ha” moment, and now I was miserable. Somehow, I needed to figure out a way to apply Goenkaji’s teachings. I started hearing Goenkaji’s voice in my head. The suffering was still there, but his voice instilled an attitude of gratitude. I was grateful for this opportunity, I was grateful for who I am, and everything in my life. As they say: No regrets.

So by sitting there, and observing the unpleasant sensation throughout my body from head to toe and examining how it felt, I decided that from then on my body would be still. My mind is going to be quiet, calm, alert, equanimous, and whatever situation I find myself in it, too, shall pass.

Every time I wanted to scratch an itch, or whatever the case might have been, I knew that, too, would pass. I cannot talk about other people’s sensations, but I know for sure I experienced the sensation of coming and going away from my own body. One minute I was in Cameroon, aged 5, then aged 7, then 15, and the next minute I was in France, aged 20, then one city or another, then before you know it I found my old self in school in New York and then I was back at Dhamma Dara, in my self-imposed prison.

Then another A-ha moment: I do not have to be my thoughts, I can simply be the observer of my thoughts.

Observing our thoughts instead of being them relieves some of our suffering! Whining and complaining about not having enough money will not put money in your pocket. It just creates deeper and deeper sankara, or misery, that robs us of our clarity of mind. And the joke is that when you really let go, it all comes to you. I have witnessed that firsthand.

What you resist persists…It is our resistance that creates suffering.

– Buddha

And the resistance creates more and more resistance.

The rest of my time at the retreat was spent living in the moment, and I began to aspire to doing dishes and cleaning the toilets in the center. That is what older students like me graduate to; being of service to newer students.

I would like to make a small disclaimer to anyone considering a retreat at Dhamma Dara: The Vipassana technique does not work if it is diluted, blended or turned into a frappé. The meditation hall can be like a torture chamber, but it’s a free torture chamber; donations are only accepted after you have tried the course. I always used to hide behind donating money, but there, service is always more meaningful than money. I have to go and donate my most valuable asset – my time – and serve in any capacity I’m assigned to serve, including doing the dishes, wiping and cleaning toilets. That is my next move, and I’ve already signed up to do that this fall.