Published: May 2nd 2012May 10th 2012
I had to go to prison. I knew it since some time and now the day has come. 10 days of imprisonment, hard work, no contact to the outer world, no leisure, only rationed vegetarian food.
It all started on a sunny day in Goa when a good friend, who I don’t want to name or blame, told me about a 10 day meditation course she had attended recently. With the often heard expression in India “Yes sure why not” I signed in online for such a course 3 min. later When reading through the Code of Conduct and the daily schedule it occurred to me that once again the major mistake I did was, not having asked about the details in advance (tourists experience this in daily travel life in India at several occasions, one being negotiating an exact destination/price with my already well known Rickshaw friends) so only after signing up I learned about above mentioned details incl. the schedule. Not to go in detail, but wake up at 4am…do I need to say more ?? Actually my friend wondered about my quick decision as well without having all details explained to me. I just thought, no worries,
one man – one word, more than a month to go, easy going…
As the day had come closer naturally about 100 excuses turned up into my mind. From one man – one word to one man – 100 excuses. I figured this to be only logical, the mind knew it was supposed to become mastered so it started the big rebellion. Nevertheless first success has been achieved by entering the front gate, switching off the cell phone, waving goodbye to the world, hoping it would still be there 10 days later, those 10 days which seemed to be “forever” at that point.I started wondering a little about which kind of people may attend such a course, either total lunatics who didn’t know what they got themselves into like me, or on the opposite, total esoteric freaks I pictured wearing “Birkenstock” all year long, preparing their own eco-muesli on daily basis. OF COURSE I didn’t bother to buy any kind of meditation clothing or other stuff I didn’t even know exists and only had my gear of short beach cloths with me, I was prepared to be spotted as different and started compromising, 3 days = Threshold, 5 days
= Target, 7 days = Stretch, 10 days = Hahaha…
Looking around I actually saw nothing but normal people (as far as “normal” can be judged by first view), some Europeans, some Indian people, altogether around 40 people, 25 men, 15 women of which most were in the same position like me meditation being completely new to them and they wanted just to give it a try, so no esoteric lunatics…all clear. I pictured us all to be a group of Adventurers, only our 10 day adventure not to be some adrenaline loaded jungle trek this time but a journey to the individual inside/insight. The meditation center is one of many in India in Kerala, which is a very natural green state in South India. Nature was all around, banana trees, coconut carrying palm trees. In short, a great facility in a beautiful surrounding one can easily live for 10 days. Men and women are separated for the entire course; women sit on one side of the meditation hall men on the other. Even the meditation pads have a different color, lovely light blue for men, slight pink for women….of course there’s no guarantee no one is color blind
but the message was clear “no border crossing”, it occurred to me this to be the first time since in India sth. to be considered as “not possible”. The accommodation was basic, two dorm buildings with shared bathrooms which were cleaned daily by volunteers…at this point some words about Vipassana in general and why I signed for this course.
There are numerous meditation techniques which most of originated in India, one may say “of course, if they have more than 1000+ gods why not over 100 meditation techniques, different Yoga styles, combinations of both and much more” in short, most difficult to see the wood for the trees - which one to chose? What benefits does which one bring me? Which is the best? Which supernatural power will I gain? Actually I didn’t bother too much as I was never into meditation before and just by chance my friend told me about this particular technique and I wanted to give meditation in general a chance as I had plenty of time, BUT of course as many time in life I wanted at least some kind of reference why to chose Vipassana and not one of the many other meditation
forms, (ok, in fact I wouldn’t have bothered taking the effort to chose another one but still…)
In fact, Vipassana is one pure form of meditation which doesn’t claim to be better than any other form. Vipassana means “Insight” and the “simple task” is to stick to a certain moral code of conduct, learn to master ones mind and realize the universal truth of impermanence by observing oneself while maintaining perfect equanimity….as simple as that isn’t it?? …hahaha ;) The only, very humble reference one may get is that Siddarth Gotama, known as the Buddha used and developed this technique to become fully enlightened about 2500 years ago. Bottom line: a decent reference for the European “I want the best mentality” to give it a try. Vipassana centers can be found all around the world and the courses including Food, Drink and Accommodation are totally free. The organization lives only on donations of students who feel the benefits of meditation in daily life after finalizing the course and donate in order to enable others to attend the courses as well. The only thing a new student has to give, are 10 days of one’s precious time.
4am which is considered in most countries to be “in the middle of the night”…all I hear is DONG…2 more times, lights on! At this second I knew why I skipped the military service!! 4:30, first 2hr meditation before breakfast. If you’d put the level of overall participants fitness at this hour on a line graph you can see the free fall from day 3 on at a level every Managing Director could take his hat if those where the monthly sales figures of a company. Besides the early Morning fitness, everyone experiences his/her individual ups and downs during the course on a daily level, depending on the development of trust in the course and technique, ones own condition of mind, the success of developing concentration, drop in concentration, first insights etc.
Once you are down and get frustrated, everyone around you still seems to be sooo happy and you ask yourself why it seems no one else feels the pain of 10hrs daily sitting and gets upset to do always the same again and again repeating…why is everyone supernatural but me ??? The problem is, that you can’t talk to others about it as talking or any kind
of communication isn’t allowed for 9 days, only on the 10th
day everyone can share his/her experiences etc. Psychologically this is more than interesting to live 9days with 24 guys one has maybe spoken to 1-2 on the arrival day, you are together all the time physically but yet everyone is by his own, on his own journey with no communication. E.g. I talked to Nils, another German guy and by chance we were sat next to each other in meditation. Same as me, he hoped/wanted to make it to make it for 10 days, without having meditated before. Automatically we became “brothers in pain”.
Living together with Europeans and Indians mixed it also provides a great chance to learn and “try” to understand about the different manners and behaviors which some still make me laugh. One I will never understand is why one older Indian guy felt the need to shower at 2am regularly making me, having no watch with me, believe it was already time to wake up and go for a shower.
My major worry and another aspect that dominated my life in these days was what I call “the Struggle for Food and Sugar”.
Not that there wasn’t provided enough Food, we were actually very good taken care of. But as the technique demanded, we only got a “snack and tea” at 5pm as the last source of carbohydrates, proteins, fatty acids….ok too much details, I’m still in the Food Industry with my mind…being used to 4-5 meals a day (most of you know me as constantly eating and highly consuming sweets) this fact was my major struggle. On the second day (the scene which I guess makes Nils still laughing his ass of) I couldn’t resist and took 2 spoons of plain sugar….I guess some of the Indian guys may write in their blog “one thing I never understand about Europeans, one guy……) Of course everyone should get his portion and Vipassana teaches not to take what belongs to others but after 2 days of going to bed hungry one may get slightly more tended to think about his self advantage. and I didn’t want to die because of a low sugar level, not so close before enlightenment. As you always recognize your kind, Nils another French guy and me teamed up step by step to make use of the vow of silence
combined with the Indian attitude “do whatever you want, as long as no one says anything against it”…which in this case was obviously not possible at all. So day by day we increased or Snack portions, no more hunger, happy times !
As one progresses on the path and learns concentrate and succeeding observing oneself, realizing what the meditation is about and what benefits it brings, feeling quite confident all of a sudden those 10 days went by like nothing. Why ? Because one realizes at one hand 10 days is in fact a very short period of time one thought in beforehand one wouldn’t enjoy because one is not free to do whatever one wants. Finalizing the course, having worked hard every day (more or less), managed to master the mind and experiencing first insights temporarily, one realizes that this was EXACTLY what one knew was good to do but due to ignorance, maybe fear, laziness or whatever never get down to do before. To look inside oneself, just 10 days of life concentrated to 100% to the outside, reacting all the time not taking the time to understand one’s inside, changing to enable oneself to act instead
I learned for myself, in these 10 days I thought of being not free, enabled me to feel more free than ever before and I realized the freedom we all mostly believe in is the real imprisonment, we think we are free but our mind is imprisoned in our semi-skilled behavior patterns that dominate most of our life without us to realize it. After the gate to the world have opened again, I bought a pot of sugar (just in case) and continue my journey….inside outside…
There are more photos below