Meditation, next to birth, was probably the most profound experience I have ever had. Sitting on your a$$ for 10 days, without reading, writing, watching TV, talking on the phone, or any other kind of stimulation has TRANSFORMED my life…
I must admit, going into it, thinking about doing it scared the crap out of me, but I knew I had to do it. So what the heck?
Now, when I talk about meditation, I am speaking of a certain kind. It’s called Vipassana. From the Pali language it means to “see things as they are.” Who wouldn’t want to see things as they really are?
This was the meditation the Buddha actually taught to those who said they could “handle the truth”. And I suppose everyone that came to him said they could, but when it came down to it, only a few could sit with themselves long enough to go there.
Imagine these poor people after being told they’d have to sit for months to get to some enlightenment. Ouch. From my own experience, I would imagine most came away complaining, whimpering about sitting too long, the diet associated with it, the total chaos of emotions that arise, and the nagging mind bugging you to get up and stretch or go for a walk when things get tough.
1999: A rebirth
Rewind to 1999. I learned that I would have to meditate for 10 entire days (not 3 or 6 months), and I was questioning my own manhood. “Ten whole days?! You mean I can’t read at all? No writing? No exercise? From 4 am to 9 pm? I can’t eat past 5 pm either? What about snacks??”
I guess you can imagine my difficulty. It’s not the “normal” lifestyle, in fact, it’s very strict. I don’t want to get into too much detail of the meditation, because you can get all that info here: www.dhamma.org
As for my experience, I’d say those first 3 days were like being in hell. I can’t imagine a time when I was soooo angry for absolutely no reason. Despite all my anger and aggression for those first few days, that was nothing compared to the next three. I swear it felt like torture during meditation, but I noticed the difference when I was out of the meditations.
When I was out of the meditations, I started to feel lighter. Not only that, but my senses were more heightened. I could feel everything more deeply, whether it was a cool draft, the hair on my nose, or the food I was eating, there was a difference in experiencing. Ok, this is good, I thought, let’s keep going deeper.
As I went deeper, I started to relive memories of things I hadn’t thought of in years. Experiences that I had that I totally forgot about resurfaced, and I found some of them quite disturbing, and many of them very enjoyable. So the past made its way in, and as I learned from the teachers, just watch it. Don’t get too caught up in pleasure or the pain in them. Just observe.
Ok, I can observe (it was much harder than I thought), and continued to practice that until I could observe without thoughts interrupting me for longer and longer periods of time. As I went further and further into it, my sensitivity increased, and that led to me feeling sensations in my body, that through normal everyday living, I would never have noticed.
And I began to think this whole meditation thing was a struggle against myself, and did not find it enjoyable AT ALL. And then, all of a sudden…
It seemed like my mind exploded out of nowhere. My thoughts, and especially my dreams became super vivid. Like, virtual TV, except I was producing all the content. Mixing memories with new ideas, I was living an incredibly, creative landscape. A whole new world revealed itself, and I was in AWE.
Besides being entertained by it all, it seemed to solve some problems I had been dealing with all on its own. I didn’t ask it (by “it”, I’m referring to my mind) for help, it just worked on its own. This wonderful tool has been laying dormant inside of me all this time. It finally dawned on me the difference between solving problems in a regular, ho hum way, and the creative, inspirational, and innovative way.
The innovations may not have been much to anyone else, but it was to ME, and that made all the difference.
I could go on and on about my personal account doing Vipassana. Doing that first 10 day meditation retreat saved my life, literally. I would go on to do it three more times, and each time, new revelations, new challenges, and more growth.
As my personal testimonial, I can say that I have become far more creative than ever (compared to how I used to be, that’s saying something), experience less stress, zero anxiety (I used to have panic attacks), I’m more open and expressive, I definitely have more perspective of my life, and am far more insightful and caring.
If you have any questions about my experiences, please drop me a note. I’ll be happy to answer them. And feel free to share your own. We all have meditated at times, and usually an all in one experience like that seems to come upon us when we least expect it. It’s just nice to know that we can initiate the process instead of waiting for it to happen.