“All students must observe Noble Silence from the beginning of the course until the morning of the last full day. Noble Silence means silence of body, speech, and mind. Any form of communication with fellow student, whether by gestures, sign language, written notes, etc., is prohibited.”
I read these words as I signed my life away for ten days of meditation with my good friend, Celine Smith. The ten-day Vipassana course includes a rigorous fourteen-hour meditation schedule starting at 4:00 AM. The practice involves observing, without reacting, to the sensations (pain and discomfort) that naturally occur in the body. This includes withholding from scratching, adjusting, or moving in any form throughout each session.
The head figure of Vipassana, S.N. Goenka, compares this form of meditation to healing a wound. In order to heal a deep wound, one must allow the blood and puss to arise to the surface without aggravating it. It is only after letting these impurities rise to the surface that a person can wipe them away and clean the wound so it may heal fully.
I understood the analogy, but I had no idea how mentally and physically taxing this experience would actually be. Prior to my experience with Vipassana, words that I’d associated with meditation were peace, spirituality, calm, and zen. How naive I was... Although parts of the course felt literally like torture, I came to several realizations that I’ve since used to shape my life and decrease both anxiety and depression symptoms. By following the below guidelines, I hope to help... .
Don’t Scratch the Itch
Whether you meditate for one minute or one hour, there will always be distractions. I could write a book about the physical and mental distractions that creep up on daily basis for this space cadet, but instead I’ll spare you the word vomit and let you come up with your own. What’s the excuse you tell yourself to avoid doing that thing that will make you a better version of yourself? That excuse is nothing more than a distraction. I have a hard time sitting still when I meditate, so I always find an excuse to open my eyes, scratch an itch, or fidget. This inevitably brings me out of my meditation and spares me confrontation with unpleasant thoughts.
Hiding from your deepest fears and anxieties becomes exhausting when you meditate for ten days straight. I got tired of always looking for a way out and using my restlessness as an excuse to bring me out a meditation that was meant to help me face my fears. You too, will reach a point where the energy it takes to be afraid, is overcome by your desire to develop as a human. Stop fighting yourself and sit with your discomfort. It is often the things that we resist the most that are what we so desperately need. In the words of Deepak Chopra, “Whatever you resist persists… As long as you engage in an inner war between what you crave and what you know is good for you, defeat is all but inevitable.”
Watch Your Thoughts
Observe or notice thoughts as they creep up and attempt to make your life a living hell. Then, instead of attaching yourself to these thoughts and letting them control your life, take a minute to observe them and figure out who it is that is actually having these thoughts. If you start simply watching your thoughts, you begin to realize that you are not owned or ruled by these thoughts. You are not your thoughts; you are the watcher of your thoughts. Realizing this can give you power over your thoughts and allow you to kick them to the curb before they rule your life.
Let the Bad Shit Come Up
Let go of the shit you’ve been carrying around since you were a child. Reflect on your life and try to pinpoint recurring patterns. Do you always get angry when people speak a certain way? Do your relationships always begin and end in similar fashion? Do you have a certain thought pattern that makes you anxious at night? If you look closely enough at these patterns, you’ll eventually recognize that the problem isn’t with the rest of the world. The problem lies within you and most likely stems from your childhood. Try to understand what the root problems is and begin to let it go.
It’s actually a good thing to let this process unfold because it is the only way you can heal yourself of emotional pain and let go of trauma and baggage. Even though it’s a lot easier to put away your problems and log onto Facebook or lose yourself in a TV series, this is only a short-term solution, and you’ll eventually relapse to the recurring pattern. Choose long-term happiness over short-term relief. Drop the bag of shit you are carrying around with you and don’t look back. Your future self will thank you once his or her load is that much lighter.
Take Your Life One Day at a Time (It’s Literally the Only Way to Live)
Our mind works in mysterious ways. Remember that saying, “the grass is always greener on the other side?” Well, our minds are programmed to always want what we can’t have. I knew in my heart that I truly valued the Vipassana course and that those ten days would be days I looked back on with love and gratitude. I knew this deep down, but on a surface level, all my mind wanted me to do was ditch the silence and head for greener pastures. The next time your mind starts craving that other experience, tell it to fuck off and enjoy the day you’re actually living in.
Conclusion: Awareness Gives You Power
Whether you attend a ten-day Vipassana course, or practice meditation for a few minutes at home, tuning into your deeper self has immense benefits. You might begin to realize what you’ve been running from all these years, or what you’ve been hiding from. Although it’s hard to stomach at first, having this awareness gives you a power over yourself that you might not have ever experienced before. This power will allow you to see things as they truly are, and not as the fictional story you’ve been imagining. When you begin to see things as the truly are, you notice that your life is much calmer, more mindful, and a lot more fulfilling.