My soon to be wasband is still my husband and it’s been tumultuous for awhile. When I say awhile I could be writing in the 2 month to 2 year time span. For two years we’ve been struggling and for 2 months he’s been sleeping in the guest bedroom because it’s “better for his back”. My heart hurts and I need a remedy. I’m mostly open to anything at this point that isn’t big PHARMA.
I have taken on the habit of listening to podcasts in between appointments and I hear a Time Ferris podcast with Sam Harris discussing the benefits of mediation, specifically Vipassana retreat. It brings up a few feelings. Mostly, why-the-fuck-would-I-ever-stay-silent-for-10 days-kinds of feelings. I set it aside, yeah, not doing that.
Two days later at coffee with a friend she brings up her own Vipassana retreat. I’m at the point in my healing where I don’t need to get hit over the side of my head with a sledge hammer so I go home and look up the nearest spot offering ten days of deafening silence and terrifying introspection.
Of course, it’s an hour away. Of course, it takes payment on Damma (pay what you can), and of course, the next retreat is happening in 2 weeks and I have nothing going on in my life to explain away why I wouldn’t be able to participate.
I due diligence and fill out my application online after 6 restless hours in bed. I’m sure they won’t accept me when I tell them my history, mother with bipolar, father with depression, myself suicidal and hospitalized at 14yrs old. I give my history of imbalance and mental ping pongs an Oscar winning performance. They won’t accept my application when they read all of this. it’s very clearly declared in their website info you need to be mentally stable to participate in the 10 day retreat.
I make myself sound as crazy as possible. Please reject me. I’m begging. Reject me.
Two days later:
We are in the process of reviewing your application for this Vipassana course, and we require more details about the medical information you listed on your form. Please complete the attached confidential health questionnaire, and return it to us no later than 11/17/2014.
Oh, good. You think I’m crazy too. I agree. I shouldn’t be allowed in under any circumstances. It’s a horrible idea.
And then. Another two days later.
Thank you for confirming your attendance for the Vipassana meditation course from 2014-12-26 to 2015-01-06 at Dhamma Visuddhi.
If at any time you become unable to attend, please cancel using our web-based system.
Ummm, What just happened? I went from crazy to, yes, we’d like to have you sit quietly with us for 10 days and probably have a break down crying uncontrollably in a corner in the back of the room, and it’s okay as long as you’re not too loud.
I so wanted to reply ‘unable to attend’ and still I had an internal knowing, I needed to be there. So I completed my application and held my breath. For way too long. And then I drove to Menomine, WI. to sit in silence for 10 days.
It was the day after Christmas. It was a rough one too. Wasband didn’t have much to say to me and we were still living on opposite sides of the house. I was feeling a bit of a relief to not need to have anything to say to him or anyone else for awhile.
However, giving up my phone, books, writing, exercise, all of the things that I believed helped me be more myself felt daunting.
I feel tears fall. The quiet has already hit me and I’m not sure what I will do with my mind for ten days,
I’ll side note here. I often do. I’m recalling all of this as I write it from the journal I “snuck” into the retreat. You aren’t supposed to bring any reading/writing materials when you step into a Vipassana retreat so everything below is actually an abomination.
It is the ‘in the moment’ experience of my retreat as I lived it. And wasn’t supposed to be writing it down. I really don’t follow rules well. And maybe it will help you, a little, to see what it feels like and make up your own mind if this is the kind of course that might help you heal.
Day 1 Begins:
The bells sound at 4am through the dorms. Life stirs. Snow is falling outside. I walk a self-created labyrinth path in the newly fallen snow. We begin with in-residence meditation, meaning we are meant to sit in the folding chair they have left next to our beds.
I get back into bed. Fuck the chair. I fall asleep and dream of everyone breaking ‘noble silence’ and talking with each other. In the dream I talk to our house manager about my shame about all of this. I wake to the next bell singling us to all come to the hall for group meditation. I feel a great sense of relief I didn’t actually break noble silence for real.
Afternoon meditation is 2 hours. I think I’ve found a way to sit that is comfortable for me, on the benches and kneeling. I find this interesting as it might be a more “protestant” way of meditating and I come from the Christian faith. Joyce calls me to the front of the room. This is standard practice to engage each student and check in with them.
“Are you aware of your breath? And can you bring your wandering mind back”?
“Yes. But I seem to fall asleep alot”.
She smiles, “That’s perfectly normal”.
I wonder if she actually realizes exactly HOW much I’m falling asleep and how quickly. I’m absolutely sure I’m not normal and not doing it right. And I just want to leave.
Day 2 Begins:
4 am bells go off, then a reminder bell at 4:30 am. I curl up under my covers. It’s a lot of meditating. Like so much.
I haven’t taken a shit since I got here and my mind is jumping around like some kind of excited child in a bounce house. But I’m not excited and I’m pretty positive I can’t spend even one more minute focusing on the “triangular area around my nostrils”.
The permanent retainer I’ve had at the back of my bottom teeth for 20 years has decided to snap and I start concocting all kinds of stories about how I need to get to the dentist as soon as possible to have it fixed. Will they believe me and can I get out of this fantastically horrible idea I had to come here? After much deliberation I decided to pull the broken piece out which seems to actually work.
I’m confident this has been the longest day of my life and I shuffle my feet towards our final meditation and evening discourse. The discourse is all video teachings of B.S. Goenka. He left this world in 2013 and to preserve the tradition he created all of the work uses his audios and videos. The teaching is meant to retain it’s purity in this way.
The video discourse is fascinating and after so much silence it’s really nice to hear a voice finally. I appreciate his humor and enthusiasm. He says the work will be “very difficult”. I let out an audible “YES” and then cover my mouth quickly.
I doubt him though when he says,
“When you work ardently, vigilantly, continuously you’re bound to be successful. Bound to be successful.”
Bound to go crazy is more what I think. I want to run far away. But I go to bed instead. Lying in my small single bed with that damn folding chair sitting next to me, I wonder if it’s possible I’ll make it through 8 more days.