On the afternoon of February 28th I arrived at the Dahma Rasmi centre in Pomona, Queensland. I gathered the few items that I would be needing for the following 10 days which included 3 sets of clothing, basic toiletries, a towel and some bedding and made my way up to the main dining area to register my attendance. I handed in my car keys for safe-keeping and was informed of which room I was to be in. There were a number of people already gathered and some were chatting amongst each other. I went up to my room that I would be sharing with another participant, selected which side I wished to be on and proceeded to place my items out. After this I made my way back to the decked area outside the dining halls to await dinner which was to be followed by an introductory talk.
For those of you that do not know what the Vipassana experience is all about, in a nutshell, it is 10 days of noble silence (no communication, no eye contact, no physical touch) and the learning of the Vipassana meditation technique, which is quite simply the practise of observing what is moving through the body without judgement or attempt to change or manipulate it any way.
Sounds easy right?
Well, it would have been apart from the fact that all-in-all there are over 10 hours of scheduled meditation everyday!
The first day saw me futilely attempting to stay awake in the morning sessions as my mind would lose focus, drift off and head into a dreamlike state which coincided with the constant nodding of my head either forwards or backwards depending on the predominant angle it was in. Some occasions rather aggressively. I seemed to manage the afternoon sessions with greater ease on that level, however it wasn't long before the physical pain began to set in. I requested a backrest and rapidly accumulated cushions of various shapes and sizes in a bid to create some semblance of physical comfort in order to focus my attention on the task at hand ... observation ... but I can tell you that no amount of cushioning can alleviate the pain of being seated for long periods of time in a limited space and attempting to not be a distraction to those nearby working through their own pain and difficulty.
Some of the time we were able to practise our meditation in our rooms which at least allowed for an attempt at sprawling out, but the temptation to simply lie down to take the pressure off the lower parts of my body often got the better of me and my practise would end up being more sleep than meditation. Then there were other times when I simply could no longer focus and the effort became more intensely difficult, so I reasoned that if we were to observe what is and "what is" at those times was physical and mental exhaustion with my body and mind pulling me into slumber then surely it was my job to allow "what is" to be, and so it was that I caved in and spent some of my meditation in glorious sleep beyond the pain.
Day 5 saw the imminent arrival of my "monthlies" and boy were they kind! I have times where I can quite easily go through 6 to 8 Ibuprofen in a day to alleviate the cramping that accompanies the joy of being a woman, however the use of any non-prescribed medication is advised against, especially painkillers as they can defeat the purpose of feeling what is moving through the body. We had 3 one hour meditation sessions that we were required to be in the meditation hall and, on the second session of that day, the cramps kicked in with the vehemence of a rugby player kicking a ball as far down the field as possible. I was doubled over in pain, doing my utmost to utilise the Vipassana meditation technique that we had learned the day before to absolutely no avail. I had a total of 6 Ibuprofen with me and by the time the session was over and I could get the hell out of there to my room I did not hesitate to throw 2 of those babies straight down my throat. I am not sure exactly when it happened, but the pain in my legs and my butt subsided, possibly when the pain in my belly took over but I will never truly know.
The next day I had another two of those pain numbing beauties and was still able to feel what was going on in my body as my right shoulder which has been an object of discomfort over the years from ballroom dancing decided it was now its turn to jump on the bandwagon. This wonderful jabbing in my shoulder blade that travelled all the way down my arm into my elbow and my wrist stuck around for the rest of my 10 day experience. The amazing thing was it would often disappear straight after we moved out of meditation and had break time and return as soon as the sitting resumed, and so it was that my 10 days was spent in constant discomfort and physical pain that was at times incredibly unbearable.
By the time we hit day 7 I was completely over it and decided that I was done with meditating now, I could not focus at all and the chatter in my mind was just as active as the day I arrived, yet I pushed through. I might add here that you are able to leave if you so choose and there were many times where I thought I might just do that, however I am not one to give up and stuck it out in the hope that there may be a moment of supreme bliss and total enlightenment. Day 8 something shifted and my focus was back, I had longer moments of complete stillness and could observe my physical pain without judgement to the point where it would often disappear completely, then return once again, and disappear once again. Now, I am not sure if it was the fact that we were rapidly nearing the end of the experience and sub-consciously my entire being was in a state of near celebration at the freedom that was only a short while away or whether I was actually "getting it", but it certainly became easier.
Day 9 we came out of silence and the meditation timetable was relaxed. I don't think many people even meditated outside of the 3 required sittings to be honest, there was laughter and chatting and the sharing of experiences going on everywhere. The sense of relief in the release was tangible amongst the participants and humour levels were high.
In all seriousness though, beyond the pain and suffering of the experience, I can honestly say that I am glad that I did it. I opened up to growth and expansion, had deep personal realisations and experienced my body from a new level of awareness. The teachings are very much in alignment with the work that I do and I feel that this experience is going to take my work to new heights.
Would I do it again?
I asked myself this question whilst still on the course and decided that it was a question that should only be visited post the experience and not in the midst of physical suffering, but the Universe handled that detail as I was called in to see the teacher on day 9. Due to the fact that I do energy work and reiki I would not be accepted on another course as this is incompatible with Vipassana. So, in that light, an answer that I do not need to have ... thank goodness ;)
All-in-all ... should you do it if you are thinking about it ... absolutely ... but be more prepared than I was!
I Am Another You