WOW! I have just returned from my 10-day Vispassana Meditation and Silence Retreat in the Blue Mountains and tomorrow I’ll be in Bali for another 10 days of meditation and fasting. A short update to tell you: DO IT! It will change your life!
It was not easy, which is an understatement, and at times it felt like giving birth for 9 days. There are times of respite and great Vegetarian food, stunning bird life and kangaroos grazing peacefully just in front of you. But most of the time the pain of sitting cross-legged on a cushion and meditating (a total of 10 hours a day, starting at 4.30 am) by becoming aware of sensations in or on your body with total peace, calm and equanimity (my new favorite word, which I must have heard a million times in the evening discourses, the only time you hear a voice) is excruciatingly painful. Equanimity or being equanimous means that your mind is totally balanced, neither avoiding pain nor seeking pleasure. Equanimity is one of the most sublime emotions of Buddhist practice.
For three of the ten nights I could hardly sleep at all; my mind felt like being wired, the body like being buried alive. In those times of meditation I have also become painfully aware of the mind chatter and how over-active my thinking is! In times of movement (short bush walks), it calmed down, but as soon as I was immobile, it started torturing me with really irrelevant thoughts. Firstly past experiences, movies I had seen or people from the past I hadn’t even thought of in years. Then future ideas, books I want to write or courses I want to run came uninvited and with unwelcome frequency into my mind next.
One of my biggest break-through moments came on Day 6, when I became aware of my obsession with cancer. The only visible sign of the lymphoma is the enlarged belly and spleen (the shape of a croissant on the left side of my abdomen) – and it had become an obsession of mine to trace its physical appearance, craving for its departure or at least reduction. Noticing this unhealthy pattern more and more, I have been able to completely let got of my attachment to that. Lovingly I can now observe with equanimity and joy.
Only towards the last couple of days, real progress started to creep in and it’s only now – back home in Sydney for one night – that I am enjoying a serenity, happiness and calm that I cannot describe or explain.
I have been the midwife, the one giving birth and also the baby: Now I am the baby starting to make this a real experience in my daily life.