Days 5-9: Vipassana and the Law of Impermanence
In this phase of the technique, we were to survey the sensations of the entire body, from head to toe. This is soooooo much easier said than done. To mentally make your mind focus on your body inch by inch is just not in its nature. It took me days and days, about 20 hours of meditation in different sittings, to finally get it down. But once again, at the point I felt a little more confident in the technique, another challenge was thrown as us.
Ordinarily in our group sittings, while we meditated, we were allowed to move around. If your butt got numb, you could shift positions or grab a different mediation cushion. If you wanted to open your eyes every now and again, you could. If you got cold, you could grab a blanket or shawl. But on day five, we were to observe a new technique of Strong Determination where, for an entire hour we wouldn't move an inch. So, if you felt an itch, you wouldn't scratch it. If your back hurt, you wouldn't change your posture. The point was to sit in the same position for a full hour, no matter how uncomfortable you felt. No matter what unpleasant sensations arose. You were to remain equanimous the entire time and not react to anything.
Before I get too deep into this part of the technique, I think I should give a little more background about it. Once we got to this point, I definitely went through a period of frustration. After 45 minutes of sitting in the same spot, you're body is just going to get tired. You're back and shoulder hurts, your butt hurts, and every area that has been in contact with a hard surface will be numb. I couldn't understand the point of sitting there in pain for an hour, so when we first started this part of the technique, I was a little rebellious. I'd stretch and scratch, and move as much as I pleased. It wasn't until after the instructor gave his discourse at the end of the day, that I understood the purpose of the practice and how it relates to life.
By nature, human beings are a very ego-centered, self-indulgent species. Our lives are centered around craving and aversion: I want this, I don't want that. We love things to go our way, and when they don't, which is quite often in life, we become very agitated and unhappy. All addictions are born of craving, and disappointments are born of aversion. We're constantly trying to satisfy something, constantly searching for some type of pacification or elimination. We get so attached to wanting or not wanting something, that when we don't get it, we fall apart. For instance, I wanted Ex to "choose" me so bad. When he didn't, it broke my heart. It made me crave him even more and I fought like mad to get him back. Every time he rejected me, it broke me down but I'd keep going back. My desire for him multiplied and I was addicted to him. I craved his affection and acceptance, and because I didn't get it, I was miserable.
In the same way, I was miserable during these meditations. In this one hour sitting, all you want to do is move. You're uncomfortable and you want to be comfortable. When you have the desire to move, and you can't, you become miserable in that moment. The purpose of not reacting to a pain in your back or a numbness on your butt, or an itch on your leg, is to deny body of what it wants. Instead of giving in to a craving, you're silently observing what you feel without showing any aversion to it. There are times too, when meditatimg, that you feel a subtle, pleasant vibrating sensation throughout the body. In these instances, you keep your poker face as well, and don't react. If something feels bad, you don't react. If it feels good, you don't react. You're training your mind to just remain cool, calm, and collected. Once while meditating, I had this killer itch on my back that I was certain I'd die from. But I never scratched it and, to my amazement, it eventually went away. After a while, this you start to realize that every sensation you feel is impermanent. Everything--the good and the bad.
In the context of Vipassana, the body is a metaphor for life. You realize that nothing in life is permanent. Everything passes. It's the Law of Nature. Everything that begins has an end. When I was able to accept this fact, things became so much easier, not just in the technique, but in life. You just realize that nothing is worth getting bent out of shape over. Nothing is worth getting so invested in that you lose yourself when things don't go your way. When you practice the technique of equanimity and non-reaction, you're automatically a lot calmer in handling things. You don't have to tell yourself to keep your cool, you just do. It's natural to.
I definitely had my moments when I was skeptical. Does this mean I can't enjoy things? That I can't even want or not things??? But soon, I realized that it's not about eliminating desire. It's about just squashing whatever makes us get so attached to things in life. But who wants to live a detached life, right? It's not detachment to the point of becoming a sociopathic zombie. It's just a detachment where, you dictate how you feel, not something external. By reaching inside yourself, you discover the ability to control your own happiness. It's never anyone else's fault. No one and nothing has power over us. We're the masters of our own fate. Once we learn how to react to the curve balls that life throws at us, with a calm unaffected mind, we can think clearly. And times when you do get flustered and upset, the agitation passes quicker. It's all because you realize that it's all impermenant and there's no use getting stressed about something that won't matter in another ten minutes.Days 5-9 were days of a lot of revelations, epiphanies, and just becoming stronger in the technique. By the 10th day, I definitely felt the benefits of the meditation because I felt genuinely happy. Alot of the baggage and pain that I've harbored for so many people and situations had resolved themselves, and I just felt good.
As it was the last day before going back into the real world, on Day 10 the Noble Silence was lifted. We were finally able to each other about what we were experiencing. Day 10 was just as important as Days 1-9, but I want go in depth because of how long this already is. But it's was just pretty amazing to see how much it did for people, and how much it help people move on from pains they'd be holding on to.
Day 11: Back to Reality
I hadn't realized how different it would be coming back to the real world. While I was there, I felt so happy, positive, and self-assured. And then I left the center and realized just how negative the world is. At first I held my bearing and was able to retain my peace of mind, but by the end of the day I was exhausted and a little disheartened. There really is so much negativity and hostility out there, and just because I've come out of my misery doesn't mean the world has. It just made me realize that I'll really have to continue the practice in order to not let the negativity of others get me down.