If you would have told me just a couple years ago that my life would revolve around Spirituality, Yoga and Meditation, I would totally unfriend you because no one I knew in my age group ( late twenties ) was into it including my family and friends. I thought it was for people who were above 50 and had a lot of time. I never stepped on a Yoga mat until I was 26 and then I never looked back. Even if I miss a day it seems that I spent my day poorly.
I had heard about Vippaasana vaguely in the US, but brushed it off since we did not have family where we could trust keeping our son away for 10 long days. Now, Since we moved for a while to India, This was in my bucket list to do it along with my husband because god knows he needed time away from it all.
Even before registering for the course, I knew it would one the most emotionally taxing experiences of my life since I talk a lot due to the nature of my work and also move a lot because it is therapy for my mind. So, when I told my husband there is absolutely no physical or metal or any external stimulation of any sort, He was quite happy as he had planned to write and journal a lot during the tenure of the course.
Like Imagine, NO Talking even through gestures, NO phones whatsoever, NO killing. No touching, No exercise, No reading or writing, No lying, and NO wasting food. I think I may have missed a couple other NO-NO's. But that was a lot of NO-NO'S for me.
But I had a self pep talk and told myself that I can do it plus I have my husband with me and I have been meditating for a while already so I tried to keep an open mind and registered at the Dhammagiri location near Nashik, Maharashtra, India. Me and husband were thankfully accepted for the January course and we worked around our schedules to take out 10 FULL days of basically doing nothing at all. It was huge decision for both of us since we have so many day to day big decisions to make in our business and life so we had informed everyone that for 10 days, We would be unavailable and we kind of received mixed responses, But I had made my mind and there was NO stopping me.
Alright, The day we came, I felt that the location was beautiful and very calming. Mind you, I have been to ashrams from Kerala, Madurai, Andhra to California and I crave the ashram vibes. We were asked to go our separate ways as females could not go near the male area and there was a strict line of demarcation between both the sexes and my husband was infact asked to move away from me as we were walking towards the main office.
We reached in the morning, So, we filled our forms and were allotted our rooms and yes, we were asked what kind of bathroom we would like and we opted for the western as usual. Then, we had our lunch in our separate mess which was very delicious simple Indian vegetarian food and also I guess we were very hungry by the noon.
After that, I wanted to spend last few minutes with my husband before we parted for the next 10 days together, So, we quickly walked outside the center to grab coconut water and talked a little to basically calm my anxiety of being totally cut off from rest of the world. We bid each other goodbye and walked away.
Then, All the meditators gathered before the course actually started and we were explained all the rules and the NO-NO's. I exchanged a few smiles and greetings with a couple other females and found that a lot of them were doing it for the 2nd time!
I was looking forward towards spending time with myself, consciously analyzing how I would like to spend my time and days on this planet in deep contemplation. I walked towards my room with my luggage and was lucky enough to share with a beautiful girl who by the end of the course realized that she had cleared her MBBS and is now a doctor. You will catch a glimpse of her in my youtube video here.
As, The Day 1 began, A big sound of gong interrupted my deep slumber at 4.30am, I got up reluctantly, freshened up and headed for meditation. I almost wanted to burst out laughing when I heard guruji's nasal voice for the first time which was a recording...But resisted. You can hear his voice here :-
It started off well but towards the end of Day 1, My back started to hurt and I couldn't believe I had been sitting tossing all along and being constantly distracted for about 8-10 hours! I was looking at everyone to see if I am the one way not being able to sit peacefully and enjoy the process of meditating for so long. Damn, I am a Yogi, I could be better. So, I gave myself another pep talk at night and looked forward on what Day 2 had in store.
All we had to do was focus on our breath around the nose and upper lips for the next 3-4 days. The procedure which is also called as Aana-Pana.
Day 2 was equally frustrating mostly because I wasn't able to exercise or move my body and my daily lifestyle had come to a silent halt and I had NO ONE to share my feelings with, But how could I, I was wondering if my husband was loving the course and if I back out, He would also quit and come back, NO, NO, NO, I could not do that....In my mind, There was a wedding of a close friend in the same week plus a big conference that my husband was asked to be part of but he had to decline because we had decided to be here.
So, I came up with a GRAND plan, I decided to write a letter to my husband. I went up the counsellor and told her that this course was not my cup of tea and my husband wasn't too willing to begin with, So if he is also not "enjoying" the course, We could go back and happily enjoy the wedding and do what we were doing before coming here. She said, Weddings come and go, If he has come, It is for his greater good. Let him be. Do not bother him. I showed her the chit I had written for my husband and asked if someone could give it to him, She asked me tear it throw it away as it would disturb me and I would not able to give my 100% to the course.
Reluctantly, I did what she said and cried internally and felt guilty of what I had put my poor husband through.
The same location that appeared peaceful and calm now seemed depressing and eerie. The counsellor asked me to stick around till day 5 and 6 and see if I still feel the same way. I used to look at the clock and the hours just would not go by. I was STUCK.. Big time. The only time I enjoyed was the recorded discourse given by S.N Goenka which were very enlightening and he somehow seemed to know exactly what I was feeling.
The real test of my perseverance began from Day 3 when I caught cold and was feeling terribly ill.
I rarely get ill, But I guess I wasn't getting my daily dose of Vitamin C so what started as a sneeze quickly escalated into headaches and runny nose. It was terrible. I just wasn't able to wake myself up at 4.30am anymore so I slept in till 6.30am , went for breakfast and then meditated reluctantly. I was also starting to feel very cold so I used to wrap myself in blankets during all the hours I was sitting. Simultaneously, a couple girls seemed depressed as well and one actually started to cry and I guess she left on Day 4. A couple others also left midway by Day 5.
On Day 5, My teacher had to actually ask me to stay in my room to meditate because I was being distraction because of my coughing. I felt a sigh of relief. I slept almost all day long. I really needed and had to take medications that I like to avoid as far as possible. I started to feel slightly better by the end of Day 6 and actually started to feel grateful for this time in my life!
During this time, We were asked to increase the area of concentration to the entire body and feel sensations that may be arising. I could not feel any and asked the counsellor if there was something wrong. She told me since I practice Yoga, My body has opened up hence there is no pain and not too many sensations. I was convinced,
I also have to admit that I used to look over the bushes to catch a glimpse of my husband somehow. It was as if I was in high school again and reprimanded for dating my crush. I only saw him a couple times and later was told on the last day by some male meditators who had become friends by then that he used to do the same and kept looking out for me over the bushes...Hahahaha...
A rush of gratitude to able to take time off away for so long away from my other everyday responsibilities. Not everybody is fortunate enough. I was here. It was meant to be. I looked forward towards the evening discourses by Goenka ji and enjoyed my walks each evening in our free time. I also remember smiling at a few other meditators who did not smile back making me realize that even gestures were not allowed.
Also another note worthy incident that makes me smile and cringe at the same time is when a few ladies would actually eat 3 bananas in one go and tuck 3 bananas in their sarees for eating at some point. It actually got so bad that the authorities actually had to put up a sign that said "Take only 1 banana" Lolz at that.
As, I got better at focussing on my breath and sitting at the pagoda ( A small cell ), Memories that were lying deep within came to the surface. Memories of my late grandparents, my school, my life as a teenager, everything that was hidden deep within started to come up bringing a lot of pleasant and unpleasant sensations. I wept a lot. I am glad I did.
I also started making all the plans for the business ideas floating in my head and how I would execute them as soon as I got back. The decision to host Couple's Yoga workshop was born during one of my meditation sessions. Also, rearranging my living room and redecorating my bedroom was all the distractions that plagued my mind till I was able to identify them as distractions and bring my focus back to my breath.
I thought of my husband a lot and missed him deeply although he was just next door but so felt so grateful for him and how deeply grateful I was to have him in my life. I longed to see my son and hear his voice and sometimes would worry if he was well emotionally and physically while I was away. Thankfully, I later realized that he did not miss us because our family took great care of him.
As, the Day 9 approached, We practiced Metta bhavana which is having no ill-will towards anybody and spreading love and kindness in form of a guided meditation.
We were allowed to talk after that finally but I almost couldn't talk and I sounded so mellow which is totally unlike the before me.
I was so eager to see my husband that I almost did not sleep. At one point I thought my voice had become so gentle and calming and my language was so shuddh (pure). No talking for 10 days for the first time in my life was huge deal for me since I was always known to be a talker. But, I still managed to talk to my husband and we shared our individual experiences. I also chatted up finally with my roommate and what a wonderful hardworking girl she is! We laughed and talked all night and slept for a couple hours before it was time to bid adieu to the Ashram life.
The next morning, I quickly packed my bags, took a video to share it with you of the premises and had a Sumptous breakfast consisting of Vada pav which was like the treat we had all been salivating for. I shared my experience with others and it really gave me perspective that I wasn't the only one feeling frustrated at the beginning of the course. I felt more at peace. Makes me realize as humans how badly we need validation. It makes sense now that we weren't allowed to talk at all.
We headed to catch our train and exchanged numbers and had a rollicking time chatting and cracking jokes and sharing our experiences of the course with the other participants in the train journey.
So, It's been more than 2 weeks since the course is over and I am still in the afterglow of it. It took me some time to reflect and process everything organically to share it with you authentically.
So, How did it improve my everyday life.
We are asked to give Gurudakshina in form of practicing Vippasana daily for 2 hours so that we can respond towards situations of life calmly and empathically.
But, I don't think practicing for that much time apart from my rigorous Ashtanga Yoga practice for doable for me. So, I have currently started reading discourses written by him each night and meditate before sleeping. It helps release all the negative sensations and offers a deeper insight into the human life.
It was like a surgery of the mind in Goenka ji's words. We take care of our bodies, our homes, our investments and our beauty. What about our minds ? How do we nourish our mind and keep it clean of the toxicity and impurities. By simply observing and not suppressing it. When we observe, The negativity loses it's strength to overpower our mind. We learn to face challenges head on and not run away from it.
It takes time to master this technique but with regular practice , I feel like in situations where one would have reacted with anger, Now, He shall remain balanced and even if he reacts with anger, The reactions will not be as prolonged. Few moments of self observation will act as a shock observer. One learns to look inwards and observe body sensations to liberate and heal oneself by the simple act of observation.
Every single human has different experiences to share and I am only sharing what I felt. I have done Yoga retreats but never a silent retreat like this one. It is Intense to say the least.
But the best part is I did not miss my phone one bit and almost did not switch it on a couple days after. Felt so free like when I was little girl growing up in the 90's.