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It was Aiza Cathe, my best friend and soulmate, who told me about the 10-day silent meditation experience.
It was something I’d wanted to do for years. My life had seemingly come to a halt and I decided there was no better time to go than when you feel stuck. I didn’t do much digging or reading about it. I decided on a whim. Most things I do, I do without researching; it kills the mystery for me. I’m in it for the lesson, even if it turns out to be a bit miserable or unexpected.
All I read was the “About” section of the website. I noted what not to bring. Attendees were to bring warm clothing, but no see-through or tight clothes (there went my yoga outfits—blah). Additional “do not bring” items included journals, writing pads, tape recorders, phones, or electronics—just wonderful!
The drive there was nice but emotional. I was tearing up as I got closer to the location. I didn’t understand the emotion I was experiencing. When I arrived, I checked in and noted the weather was hot. I introduced myself to my roommates: 13 girls, including me. At the orientation, we were told to practice noble silence, which meant no talking to anyone unless it was necessary (we could speak to the managers of the facility), no looking into someone’s eyes or any version of communication, not even a smile. What had I gotten myself into?
I knew I would have a hard time sleeping because I was excited to start this mysterious adventure. I was right. I woke up at 2 a.m. in the midst of a panic attack. I had never felt or experienced a panic attack in my life before. Now I can add it to my collection of emotional experiences. It was a quick attack and I was unsure what to do, but it soon passed.
We woke to the 4 a.m. bell, which sounded almost like a gong, signalling us to begin our day and meditation exercise. I’d learned about this breathing exercise but never had the patience for it. However, this time there was not much I could do but to practice it. The meditation practice is called Anapana or awareness of respiration or breath. The goal is to follow your breath without changing it, which seemed impossible at the time.
If I could describe Anapana, it felt like chasing someone you cannot catch or trying to pick up a ball you keep kicking away before reaching it. It was incredibly frustrating, but I was determined to get that damn breathing exercise down.
This meditation practice focuses only on the breath: no mantras, no chanting, no music, no symbolism. This meant it was just me, myself, and I in my head. Just writing this and recalling that intimacy with myself brings me to tears as I write this in the library.
All of me was in my head. The good, the bad, and the ugly. The good was in the background listening and observing every thought that walked by. The bad stirred things up and had no shame or guilt. And the ugly just fueled the bad even more. Although the good was observing, she began feeling shattered emotions, blasts from the past if you will. Some of my impurities and miseries began surfacing.
Lesson from Discourse
From the discourse summary book of S.N. Goenka: “You have come to this meditation course to learn the art of living: how to live peacefully and harmoniously within oneself, and to generate peace and harmony for all others; how to live happily from day to day while progressing toward the highest happiness of a totally pure mind, a mind filled with disinterested love, with compassion, with joy at the success of others, with equanimity.”
Before we can live harmoniously with others, we must deal with the disharmony within ourselves.
Soon, I will post Days 2 and 3 of my 10-day meditation journey.
The divine in me honors the divine in you. Let us see the true essence of every soul we met. I am you, you are me, and we are one. Peace in your thoughts, words, and actions.