Number one comment I received upon my return: You’re glowing.
Was it hard to not talk for ten days?
No, that was the least difficult thing. Everyone was silent together; it’s called Noble Silence. We were not to communicate in any way with other students. It wasn’t a punishment to be silent–it’s just what was needed for a conducive environment to learn the technique.
“We’re all alone in this together.” Ironically I heard this song by Anna Star and the Laughing Dogs for the first time a few days before going to the Vipassana center. It popped in my head during the retreat and listening to it after–the lyrics are very appropriate. We were all alone in it, together. Isn’t it the same in everyday life too?
At the course: the women on one side, the men on the other, walking past people, sharing a room with someone, getting breakfast together. We must of looked like a bunch of contemplative zombies. It was kind of funny at times, especially when I started mentally remixing “Gangsters Paradise” by Coolio into something called “Introverts Paradise,” can’t remember how it went now.
Days were long, waking hours were from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. We shared the land with non-skittish deer, could hear roosters in the morning, cows in the afternoon and sometimes at night–coyotes. On clear days and nights, a view of mountains along with the snow covered Mt. Rainier or a sky full of stars blessed us with its presence.
In all honesty, silence is not hard. Silence is beauty. Silence is in the trees, the deer, the freezing volcanic mountain, a clear night’s sky, silence is the peace within us that many of us are so removed from. The hard part was facing the noisy “demons” within that surround our true nature.
Surprisingly, nobody has actually asked me what the technique is per se, which I’m glad about because it’s impossible for me to really explain right now – it should be experienced thoroughly. Every night at our closing group meditation, our teacher, Mr. S.N Goenka would come on the big TV and give a dissertation talk for about an hour or so.
These talks were filled with theory, explanation, science, humor, stories, real peace, real harmony and real happiness. What an amazing teacher he is, just amazing and so down to earth. We all fell in pure love with him a bit. It definitely was a very enjoyable experience, those dissertations, not just because it was the one form of solid outside stimulation (aside from the two very yummy meals), but because it was always exactly what I needed. There were some days when I thought, “he better talk about this tonight or I’m going to go crazy” sure enough, he would cover it. This course is designed and timed so appropriately to what the students need and are ready for.
I trusted the process. That is essential to prevent any unnecessary struggling.
It is stressed that Vipassana is a Universal practice. There is no dogma, or awkward rituals and rites of passage, it doesn’t matter what religion you are – it’s a practice and understanding of self that anyone who is still seeking (anything!) could (and should!) get familiar with. It is asked that during the course one completely abandon everything they already practice and know. This means no prayer, no crystals, no other techniques, no mantras–nothing. This is to become a vessel for the teachings and properly learn what is being taught, otherwise, it’s a waste of time.
The assistant teachers (appointed by S.N. Goenka) were a lovely and particularly young couple. I felt lucky to have spent my Christmas and New Years with them, because they were downright cool and highly admirable. If students had any questions there were time slots mid-day and after our final meditation when we could talk to those teachers, so we could speak and communicate with them only.
In the evenings it was a public event, you could stick around and hear other people’s questions and their answers. This was enjoyable, and I found that if I had the slightest question it usually was conveniently asked by someone. There was only one occasion that I felt compelled enough to have a private meeting. On another occasion, the female teacher requested to have a private meeting with me, to check up on something that I mentioned in a small group that we had with her every few days; it was very kind.
There were ups and downs during those ten days. I learned so much about myself, my psychology and the body-mind connection. I reached my inner child state and found it’s still there, these things just happened. Some days were particularly emotional. I felt angry and frustrated. I also reached–and confronted–my inner bitch. Oh boy, she’s a judgmental jerk! There was one point that I got annoyed at a tree. Yes, a tree. We had a relationship, so I hoped, but the tree really didn’t want to participate. One day I walked by it and telepathically taunted it, “you’re just jealous ’cause you can’t walk.” Yep, that happened. By the last couple days I easily and lovingly made mental peace with that tree.
So not everyone who goes to these things talks to trees, meets their inner-child and bitch, and has an eye opening first hand conversation between their mind and their body-mind. Those are just parts of my experience. It’s safe to say that my real-life roommate went to a Vipassana course a couple years ago and ended up crying a ton. (Actually, that was something I was hoping for. I’m currently in a tear drought. What’s up with that, anyone?)
Memories surface, visions arise and I understand psychological projection in whole new way. Pain and pleasure happens. We are there to change the deep unconscious habit patterns of the mind, the roots of our sufferings. To understand our cravings and aversions while developing our equanimity and awareness. The end-goal is enlightenment but the path entails living a life filled with real peace, love and happiness (To whom it may concern: learn to get over the hippie-stereotype-hang-ups, it’s egotistical and it’s holding you back!)
The lightness and deep inner peace I experienced on that last day of the Vipassana course, January 1st 2012, was extraordinary and real. I’ll never fail to remember the way the stars looked and the meditation/communication bell sang through the atmosphere early in the morning on the first day of this monumental year. Since being back, I’m working on practicing two hours a day–so far I haven’t attained that goal at all! It’s not something to beat myself up over, I’ll never give up, it’s just the beginning of my path- I’ll get there. Overall it was an interesting transition back to the “real world”. I noticed a complete difference with how I felt and processed life around me and still am, there was a definite, noticeable, shift–inside and out.
“iSit” in honor of the Spirit and truth within me, as a means to cultivate inner peace and be the best person I can be for people around me and the ever-giving planet earth. Those ten years of spiritual materialism and those ten days of Vipassana meditation is what it took to bring me here, now. Things that seemed nearly impossible or almost possible now seem very possible. Meditation is going to be an excellent ally for waging the waves of life.
During the last few years, I’ve been studying Taoism as a seeker and student of acupuncture. There’s a beautiful dance between my beloved ancient Chinese philosophies of nature and healing and this Dhamma. It feel like this gave me a brand new, non-animal product but super durable, bag for all the healing and awareness “tools” I am learning in-order to be an effective acupuncturist.
It’s common to say “I feel grounded,” and I almost typed that, but really what I feel is space–more of it.
Capri Kurtz is working hard/hardly working as a graduate student in the amazing lineage of Classic Five Element Acupuncture. She is inspired by nature and energized by love and laughter. Striving to evolve-she writes on her blog, Pilgrimage to Balance, and for fun on twitter @fivelementalife.