Hello world, I returned to civilization on Sunday, May 30th after 10 days of grueling meditation.
I’m still at a lost for words on how to encapsulate the experience or what lasting impact meditation will have on my life. So, here’s a list of lessons I learned.
- It was a Bootcamp, not a mere class or vacation retreat
When I tell people I’m going to a meditation retreat, they sometimes respond, “oh, I wish I could go; I could use some time to get away and relax.” Let me tell you, the experience is no walk in the park. Sitting 10 hours per day with 1 hour periods of not moving at all is hard work. Sometimes, the sittings were the hardest pain I ever had to work through. But you only get past things by going through them.
- Casting Unwarranted Stereotypes on Others
I arrived on the second day when silence was already in effect. So, I didn’t get to talk to the other students until the course was over. Although, I did not know anything about them, my mind quickly started judging everyone. The human mind naturally does this to simplify and categorize experience thereby giving an appearance of control. I had to laugh and stop myself a few times realizing that I was absolutely hating on someone without knowing anything about them.
- “Wisdom is your eyes, but Faith is your legs”
Growing up from a Catholic background, I always had difficulty with the idea of faith. In my younger days, I was an ardent rationalist and cared about knowledge and wisdom over blind faith. Over the years, I’ve continually reconciled myself with Christianity. However, this quote (although I heard it before) struck a chord with me. A wise man may know the entire path, but if he lacks faith then he will not take a single step. A man of faith without wisdom may go running but can easily fall off the path without wisdom. In general, this truth applies to any aspect of life besides just religion. For example, applying to graduate school or starting a business requires a great deal of knowledge, but also trust and faith that you will succeed. Nothing in life is 100%.
- The second time is never as enjoyable as the first time
Whether it’s food, movies, or meditation bootcamps, the second time is never as pleasurable as the first time. However, I do appreciate the experience more and believe I learned more deeply the second time around. But my delusions of how great the experience is were shattered. The entire experience was a cycle through heaven and hell every day. Thankfully, more heaven and less hell as time went on.
- So, what now?
I’m trying my best to get a solid 2 hours of meditation every day. But, there’s no magic powers or supernatural experiences happening nor am I seeking them out. Really, meditation is just about becoming more focused and aware of oneself and one’s surroundings. At the same time, it’s training for equanimity to the ups and downs of life. On the most basic level, the practice of meditation is a mental exercise to keep a healthy mind. But vipassana meditation goes further to radically transform the mind by continually purging out negative aspects and habits like greed, attachment, or hatred. Meditation also helps me hear that genuine small voice within me that knows whether I’m on the right path or not rather than getting lost in a sea of voices from advertising, family expectations, peer pressure, instinctual fears, and so on.