“But WHY are you doing this?” K asks. “I just don’t get it.”
“I’m doing it because when I wake up in the morning, there is a song playing in my head. In addition to the song, I plan all of my meals right after I open my eyes. Sometimes, I actually go through the motions of cooking those meals. Then, I think about what physical activity I will do for the day. Will I run? If so, how far will I go? Will I practice yoga? If the answer is no, I silently berate myself. Should I write? What orders will be available for me to work on? Will I have any revision requests? The list goes on and on. I want to be able to sit in bed and just wake up. I simply want to hear the birds chirping and watch the sky go from purple to pink to blue.”
Like most people, I have a busy mind. Like or unlike most, I am a planner. I mentally masturbate on who, what, when, where and the never-ending WHY. The word “should” comes up over and over again. Should have, should do, the list goes on and on.
On Monday, I begin an intense training in Vipassana mediation. The training will last 10 days. I will meditate for 10 hours per day. I am not permitted to read, write, run, practice yoga, drink caffeine, consume alcohol or possess snacks.
According to the Dharmma Foundation, this style of meditation was practiced by Indian sages and rediscovered by Gotama Buddha more than 2500 years ago. Vipassana meditation is a silent meditation designed to help free one from the unbridled thoughts, desires and judgments of the mind. In essence, the goal of this style of meditation, like most others, is to help a people bring awareness into the present moment. It is an “art of living.”
Sounds like a perfect fit for me.
When I tell people I am participating in this retreat, most ask why. Many of them ask with intonations of astonishment and a tiny hint of abhorrence in their voice. Those that know me best say reassuring comments like, “I think this will be really good for you.”
The code of conduct at the retreat is strict. For example:
- No reading
- No journals or writing instruments
- No speaking
- No outside contact
- No physical exercise, including yoga
- No eating after midday
- No religious objects
- No bodily decorations
- No shorts, tight clothing or sleeveless shirts
The daily schedule is:
- 4:30-6:30 a.m. Meditation
- 6:30-8:00 a.m. Breakfast and Morning Break
- 8:00-9:00 a.m. Group Meditation
- 9:00-11:00 a.m. Meditation
- 11:00-Noon Lunch Break
- Noon-1:00 p.m. Rest and Interview with Teacher
- 1:00-5:00 p.m. Meditation
- 5:00-6:00 p.m. Tea Break
- 6:00-7:00 Meditation
- 7:00-8:15 p.m. Lecture
- 8:15-9:00 p.m. Meditation
- 9:00-9:30 p.m. Quiet Time in Meditation Hall
Merely typing the schedule gives me dah chicken skin. Yes, I am nervous. Yes, being nervous about an event in the future is just the sort of mind chatter I hope to begin to tame by attending this retreat. At my most optimistic moments, I refer to this retreat as “meditation bootcamp.” In my fraidy cat moments, I call it “meditation jail.”
On Monday morning, I will meet with my rideshare on the Honokoa coast and head to Pahoa. The retreat is held on a farm there. I will camp in my own tent. I will pack my own meditation cushions, eating utensils, dishes and ablution bag. I will not speak for 10 days.
I am currently living in a van on the Big Island. I have one pair of long pants, one long dress and a few shirts that have sleeves. (It’s nice here, folks. I wear a bikini most of the time). In an act of aloha, I recently gave away my good towel. My meditation cushions consist of a yoga mat and sleeping pad. My remaining towel has a colorful unicorn on it. I am a little self-conscious of that unicorn, but not enough to drive 100 miles to buy another one. Driving that far to buy a towel is an extravagance that is very un-Simple Life Good Life.
A unicorn is a fantastical creature. At this point, a mind without endless chatter is the same. Wish me luck (but only with full awareness and presence) .