Vipassana 10-day silent meditation retreat Part II: Touching glowworms and being naughty...
19th November 2018
I was woken by my own inner body clock before 4am this morning. At 4:30am there was a 2-hour meditation session. You could either go into the main meditation hall or do it in your own room. As I had no experience yet on that type of mediation (and even though we were given instructions the night before) I opted to go to the meditation hall for this morning's session.
Day 1 meditation instructions where as follows:
We had to sit upright and observe our breath coming into our nose and leaving our nose again. We were instructed to concentrate on this part of the body for the entire session and this day.
The mind was a naughty one though. Constantly it buggered off. Going to this place, having those thoughts, thinking of this in the future and thinking of what was. I had to tighten up the leash a bit more I had my mind collared on to I thought, this is really annoying.
I made it ok through this sitting and at 6:30am there was breakfast served. Uh, food :) Food shall be one of those things that kept me going throughout the course... ;)
After breakfast, we had about until 8am, where there was one of our daily 3 group meditations in the meditation hall. You had to attend these sittings and you needed to be in the meditation hall. Each group sitting was 1 hour in length. Another group sitting was scheduled for 2:30pm and then again at 6pm.
After this morning's group sitting (which was still quite painful with the limbs and body parts being bent and twisted, and you constantly searched for a new, more comfortable position to sit in) we had 2 hours of further meditation, which we could either do in our rooms or in the meditation hall (9am – 11am) I can't remember if I already went to my room by that stage or stayed in the meditation hall. Eventually, I would spend whatever session we could do in our own room in my room in the end as I could not really concentrate with the noise of shuffling, sneezing, coughing etc in the main hall.
Every night at 7pm we had a session called: Discourse, where the day just gone was relived in the sense that we watched a video of what should have been expected of this day and certain things got explained so we actually understood what this technique was doing to us in the process. At the end of the discourse, we usually would get new meditation technique instructions for the next day. I did really enjoy those discourse sessions, as it made it clear to me that what we were going through was actually normal...and expected. Also, a few things you pondered about during the day were made clear by watching this video every night and so I understood better. And when I understand something it is easier to maintain and grasp it and get it into my head.
After the discourse, we had another 45 min of meditation to implement the new technique we've just been given and then sent to our rooms for 9/9:30pm. Lights out.
As the days went on, nothing much changed. You had a tight schedule to follow every day, which I thought once, made it easier as it gave us and the days some kind of purpose rather than just been given some instructions and off you go – try it yourself, you've got all day.
The daily schedule was as follows (and it had to be strictly obeyed and followed):
4:00am Morning wake-up bell
4:30am – 6:30am Meditate in the hall or in your own room
6:30am – 8:00am Breakfast break
8:00am – 9:00am Group meditation
9:00am – 11:00am Meditate in the hall or in your own room
11:00am – 12:00pm Lunch break
12:00pm – 1:00pm Rest
1:00pm – 2:30pm Meditate in the hall or in your own room
2:30pm – 3:30pm Group meditation
3:30pm – 5:00pm Meditate in the hall or in your own room
5:00pm – 6:00pm Tea break
6:00pm – 7:00pm Group meditation
7:00pm – 8:15pm Discourse
8:15pm – 9:00pm Group meditation
9:30pm Lights out
In total you would sit and meditate for about 10 hours and 45 min EACH day. Given the fact that you had your eyes closed when meditating, you would only have your eyes open for about 5 hours a day. Fact of the day.
Day 2 was still very much painful when sitting. By Day 2 I had several things to look forward to that pulled me through the entire course:
FOOD – I LOVED breakfast time and lunchtime and I LOVED my banana at dinner time. You start looking forward and appreciating the small things in life …
Nightly discourse – as it made so many things clear that I experienced over the day in thoughts and bodily pain and I was always pretty keen to see what we would learn for the next day because this meant a break in this utterly and monotonous routine every day.
9/9:30pm lights out – I was always looking forward to snuggling up in my sleeping bag at the end of the day. As I was so tired and fell asleep like within minutes it also meant: Another day has passed – one less day to go...
Breaks – time to wander in nature and sit in the sun or watch the rain, letting your mind run far far away and not trying to get it back. Being ever so concentrated all the time for about 10 hours + is pretty strenuous on your poor little mind. So much work I tell you and exhausting too.
Our Day 2 meditation instructions were as follows:
Concetrate again on your breath going out of your nose and coming in again – feel the touch of your breath around the area of your nostriles.
Another little story to add: On Day 1 I saw one of us girls taking the bush walk after lunch – not just a leisurely walk, oh no, this was like a full-on exercise half-run around the block. She made her 8-10 rounds at a pace I was getting a bit worried about her a little bit when watching her from the dining room balcony. I was wondering if she was actually ok...I shall find out more on Day 10 when I would be able to speak to her...
So as Day 2 lunch break comes around I am thinking: “ Mmmh, I shall try and do some exercise too and give the bush walk a few rounds. And so I was off. Round after round I went in power-walk mode, closely following my other fellow student (Poppy is her name as I found out at the end of the course) And so both of us made our rounds around the bush ever so briskly walking. I guess it was funny to watch by all the other students as we both seemed to be the only ones doing this sort of thing every single day. Other students were walking in extreme slow motion on this bush walk, touching every leaf, looking at every stone. The bush walk was a bit narrow at parts, so at times it kind of annoyed me as I could not take over some of the slow-moving people (I compared it with driving on the road, and driving behind a slow car on a 100Km road, this slow car in front of you not knowing when to pull over and let other cars pass...)
And already on Day 2 I was naughty. As it was not allowed to write down notes, I was being a good girl leaving my notebook and paper behind – safely locked away. However, when I get thoughts, I get them in millions and then I get ideas too. I NEED to write that stuff down as otherwise, I would not be able to calm down and sleep properly. I was dearly missing my writing materials now as I had so many thoughts floating through my head that wanted and needed to come out on paper so I had more space for more thoughts and ideas. Unknowingly, and maybe it was meant to be by the universe, I had my nail caring set with me with all the bits and bobs. You gotta know that I am not a fancy nail fanatic at all or something, but at the time of packing, I thought it would come handy, if I have enough time on my hands, so to clean nails and stuff. Oh, you never have seen me so happy to have this set with me. Because I got the amazing idea to use the nail file and the brochure of the course, we've been given at introduction time, to pierce words into the paper bit by bit. And in the end, I thought, I could just take a pencil and go slightly over it and all the words, thoughts and sentences will appear magically! Bloody legend I was ;) And as it was something that was forbidden, so every single night, when we went to our rooms, I draw my curtains shut, put on my headlamp and pierced my thoughts onto this brochure. That was probably also a reason why I slept so blissfully every night...
Day 3 wasn't much of a change from Day 2 or Day1. I start enjoying the early mornings at 4am, silence everywhere and also started to have my own little routine in the morning. I would wake up before the morning gong at 4am, did some feet exercise in bed and then moved onto my blanket on the floor and did yoga back exercises to help and support the back area, which was getting a lot of pain and strain still during the sittings. After that, I took my mediation pillow and sat for almost 2 hours. Sometimes I did not make the full 2 hours of meditating in the morning but just before 6:30am I would wander outside and did some 'walking' meditation on the little bushwalk, hearing the world wake up with all those amazing bird songs and seeing the light getting brighter.
Breakfast time came around and I indulged in it every single morning. Usually, the mornings were OK to get past it, it was the afternoons with meditation sittings for 4 hours in a row and then a short tea break and some more sitting. The afternoons almost broke me, I was getting bad moods, felt bored and pained from sitting and observing my mind, its thoughts and my body's sensations. It was those times where I started thinking: 'This is not great, I don't like it, get me out of here'. I was getting sentimental, thinking of my boy back home, what fun I could have doing fun stuff like playing in nature, being crafty and arty, studying, working at my work and having this amazing buzzing energy around me... Thoughts kept coming in and creeping up - my ego and mind were doing a great job!
Our Day 3 meditation technique was as follows:
Observe your breath going in and going out of our nostrils and feel the sensations around the little triangle area with the top being just at the entrance of your nose and the base your upper lip. Just focus on this tiny part of your body.
After we had lights out at around 9/9:30pm on that day I wasn't feeling like going to bed just yet so I took the bushwalk at night and oh to my joy: Glowworms everywhere! What a beautiful sight! I then did this little night bush walk almost every night before I went to bed, observing the glowworms, beam my flashlight onto them, touching them and wondering if they would sleep all day tomorrow and where...There was one rule as well, that just came to my mind, we had to obey to: Do not interact with even the animals around the centre. There are many! First of all the birds: Kākārikis (meaning ‘small green parrot’ in Māori), The Eastern Rosella (which is an introduced parrot from Australia), Kingfishers, Starlings, blackbirds, Kererūs (New Zealand Woodpigeon), Ruru or Morepork (which is one of my favourite birds in NZ), Fantails and all sorts of other NZ native birds). Then the Possums. You see them on the road anywhere as roadkill, and they are a pest in New Zealand, so they sought to be killed. However, at the centre there was a no-kill policy for all living creatures, so Possums had a free run and an amazing lifestyle! So I was naughty once again interacting with the glow worms. I think I must have overheard that specific rule at Day 0 …