A Monkey Mind Meets Some Serious Meditation
I call this little guy my "meditative monkey."
Two weeks ago, in Battambang, Cambodia, I completed a most torturous task that I'd been looking forward to for a very, very, long time — my first Vipassana. For those who may not be familiar, a Vipassana, which literally means "to see things as they really are," is a ten-day retreat in which one takes a vow of noble silence and practices meditation for a minimum of ten hours per day, every day. No use of electronics, reading, writing, exercising, speaking, touching, or even eye contact is permitted during this time. From 4 a.m. until 9 p.m. with a few breaks for meals inbetween, you are expected to sit cross-legged on the floor, not move so much as a finger during Adhitthana, and attempt to solely focus on the sensations of being alive.
To say this experience was challenging is a gross understatement. But, as the old adage goes, nothing worth having comes easy.
I was drawn to the idea of Vipassana because I wanted to see how it would feel to be truly and utterly alone with myself — just my mind and me, not a thing to busy ourselves with, a kind of "come to Jesus" meeting between my mental and physical self. Never in my life had my mind and body sat together in silence with absolutely no distraction for anywhere near this long. I'm also a steadfast believer that the human mind is capable of so much more than we give it credit for, and that it's an incredibly powerful yet misunderstood vehicle for creativity, spirituality, healing, peace, love, and understanding — in ways we as individuals have yet to realize. I hoped that maybe, just maybe, hanging out with just my brain for ten days might help us become better friends and help me better understand its potential.
I wouldn't say I had a specific "breakthrough" during the ten days, but I've surely felt the effects since, and am still very much consciously and subconsciously processing what I've learned about myself and those around me. Though incredibly difficult, and I'm not sure how soon I'll be doing another one, I will complete another Vipassana at some point, and I'm already looking forward to what I will continue to uncover through my practice.
Many people have told me that they don't think they'd be able to complete a Vipassana — that they'd get bored, fall asleep, go crazy, experience too much discomfort from all of the sitting, etc. If this sounds like you, I genuinely believe you're just not fully aware of what your mind is capable of — of what's stored up in there that's just waiting to be explored a bit deeper. I challenge you to challenge yourself.
There is so much to say on this topic, but I won't ramble on about here. If you're at all interested in trying it out, feel free to reach out to me directly with any questions, and check out www.dhamma.org for more details and retreat schedules near you.
That was two weeks ago, and I've once again found myself surrounded by devout meditators while traveling throughout Myanmar — a country so dedicated to meditation that single cities house over 2,000 pagodas and temples for people to practice. I thought this little guy, found atop Mt. Popa just outside of Bagan, looked to be pondering life — a monkey mind at peace — and was, therefore, an appropriate representative for this post. 😊
That concludes the longest "quick" post ever. I hope all is well with you, dear friends, wherever in this vast and beautiful world you may be.