So for 10 days I was here:
Check out the slideshow for a visual idea.
It was a meditation trip. Some specifics:
- 10 days long
- About 80 students
- No talking, eye contact, or communication in general
- Plain clothing, simple diet
- Meditating 12 hours a day
- Living simply out in the Washington countryside
- Only exercise permitted is walking
Safe to say that I've never done anything like this before.
So what did I do?
The first three days were spent concentrating on breathing. I could do nothing but think about the area between my nostrils and my upper lip. I didn't even need ADD to get rocked by the difficulty of this task. Try sitting in one position and think about your breathing for 30 seconds. If nothing else popped into your head during that time, I commend you and shall deliver a thousand camels to your doorstep. These three days sharpened the mind.
For the seven days following, I searched the rest of my body for sensations with my newly aware mind. Sensations ranged from extreme pain to a calm body buzz.
How did I feel?
My emotions went from the depths of misery to the highs of ecstatic happiness. All I did was sit there, but in sitting there, thoughts, good and bad, ruled my time. This type of meditation unravels the junk built up in one's brain from years of craving and eversion. In turn, memories from years ago popped into my head throughout the trip. Some were great - winning a disc championship, laughing with friends, hearing a great song I hadn't heard in a decade. Some were awful - a bad breakup, getting terrible news about a family member, hearing a bogus song I hadn't heard in a decade (Backstreet Boys comes to mind).
So what the hell is the point?
The point of Vipassana is to end misery. Thousands of years of this technique has proven that if people focus equanimously on their sensations, then your cravings and aversions will fade. As humans, we've felt the wanting and needing of things since we were born - Crying because of wanting food or not wanting a cold temperature, hot temperature, etc. Years and years of this life causes us to want more and more and push away more and more, usually to an end of no happiness.
We do this all the time. We do a terrible job about thinking about the present, but we do a wonderful job of thinking about the past (which we can't change) or the future (which we can't predict). We buy new clothes in order to satisfy a want to look good. A couple months later, those clothes don't satisfy that "new" need anymore, so we buy more. The cycle continues, even when our first set of clothes, without any real holes of course, will do just fine.
"Money doesn't buy happiness" gets thrown around a lot. People who believe they need more money say "If I only had a little more money, I would be just fine and totally happy. Money can definitely buy me happiness." I don't think it's that simple, because people who grow up without that extra little bit of money have different values than those who grew up financially set. Their happiness is probably exactly the same, because their levels of appreciation for certain things are different. A child growing up in a family with lots of money may have a want for spending more time with their parents who worked all the time, but no appreciation for the financial security. A child growing up in a family with a minimal monetary situation may have a want for money, but then don't truly appreciate the time they spend with their parents.
Either way, Vipassana taught me how to deal with my cravings and my aversions and has really leveled out my mind, showing me how no matter what my situation is, I can crack a genuine smile.
Anything crazy happen?
Yes. 100%. My dreams were incredibly vivid. They were more like real life than ever before. I had this one dream of one of my old college roommates being cheated on by his wife while I was playing Madden 2014, trading everybody on the Bears because they sucked so bad, and I actually remember some of the trades I made, all while running out of the outdoor mall I was playing the game in to go help out my friend and his failed marriage at an Applebees. I remember what he was wearing and all the surrounding scenery. I remember everything. And this dream was 4 weeks ago. And that was just one of many.
As far as physically crazy, it felt like being on special fungi. Body buzz, bliss, very crisp vision, light distortion. It didn't happen every time, but when I came out of deep session, it was definitely a surreal feeling.
The most emotional part of my trip was the last day. We practiced a technique called Meta, where we sent out the positive energy we gained throughout the trip, whether it be to family, friends, people we don't know, enemies, everybody. I started hoping for happiness and peace to all these people, and then my brain screeched record-style and went into a VCR rewind-type flashback, taking me through dozens of situations where I acted like a dick, didn't appreciate a family member, screwed over a girl, didn't have a friend's back, etc. It was really intense - I couldn't hold back emotion. I started bawling. Hardest I've ever cried. Wet cheeks. Puddle of tears. And the weirdest part was the actual emotion I felt - I didn't feel bad for the people I hurt; I actually felt their pain. I felt what it was like to be hurt by me, and it felt terrible. Multiply that by every situation I've ever done anything morally wrong, and it was the most overwhelmed I had ever felt. I stayed in the meditation hall after everyone else had left and just flash flooded salt drops of emotion. I went outside to calm down, took one look at the horizon, and started crying again.
After ten more minutes, I was drained. I could barely think. So I started walking to clear up. I kept walking, and I felt lighter. Like a weight was taken off my back (I had always heard this expression, but had never truly felt it like this before). I then realized what had happened - I had been carrying the weight of all those times I had shit on people, and it had finally fallen off my back. I can't compare their suffering to mine, but feeling the way that they did made me realize just how wrong I truly was.
After that, I started to appreciate everybody and everything exponentially more. I had an incredible conversation with my dad, telling him I love him, which doesn't happen much if ever. I started actually wanting people to have a good day after I said "Have a good day." I started smiling at things that I used to never give a second thought to - people laughing, nature, having food in my fridge, being alive.
I've never been a part of something so powerful. I also know that it took a lot of shit to pile up in my life to actually dive into something like this. I was depressed in ways that were beyond just feeling like hell, spiraling towards worse. This trip turned it all around. If you're reading this and feel like it's something that you might be interested in, click the link above or email me at demzelkiev(at)gmail.com.
Have a good day.