I call this little guy my "Meditative Monkey."
Two weeks ago, in Battambang, Cambodia, I had just completed a most torturous task that I’d actually been looking forward to for a very, very, long time my first Vipassana. For those who may not be familiar, a Vipassana, which means "to see things as they really are," is a tenday 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 allowed to move even a finger during Adhitthana, attempting to solely focus on the sensations of being alive.
To say this experience was difficult 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 oneself just my mind and me, not a thing to busy ourselves with; a kind of “come to Jesus” meeting between my physical and mental self, as never in my life have my mind and body sat together in silence with absolutely no distraction for anywhere near this amount of time. I am also
a steadfast believer that the human mind is capable of so much more than we give it credit for, and is an incredibly powerful yet misunderstood vehicle for creativity, spirituality, healing, peace, love, and understanding, in ways we as individuals have yet to realize. I thought hanging out with just my brain for ten days might help us become better friends, and might help me better understand its potential.
I wouldn’t say I had a specific “breakthrough” during these ten days, but I’ve definitely felt the effects since, and am still very much consciously and subconsciously processing what I’ve learned about myself. 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 would get bored, fall asleep, go crazy, experience too much discomfort from all of the sitting, etc. etc. If this is you, I truly believe you’re just not fully aware of what your mind is capable of of what you have stored up in there that you’re just completely oblivious to. If you’re at all interested in trying it out, I would highly, highly, recommend doing so check out www.dhamma.org for more info and retreat schedules. There is so much more to say on this topic that I won’t drone on about here, but feel free to reach out if you care to know more!
That was two weeks ago, and I've since found myself once again 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, and was therefore an appropriate (albeit perhaps a bit of an odd) representative for this post. :)
That concludes the longest “quick” post ever, and I hope all is well with you, dear friend, wherever in this great big world you may be reading this.