Week 5: Valuable Experience from the Vipassana Meditation Center
Wednesday 6 September
On Thursday I said I would be offline and disconnected from the world for 11 days so how come I’m posting this now? Well, it’s true…I should be meditating in the mountains right now…but in fact, I did not complete the course. Yes. I failed. Being ten days just with myself is even more challenging than I thought. On the other hand, I don’t feel like a loser. I don’t really feel too bad about it, I don’t feel like I gave up. It was still very valuable experience and I don’t regret it at all!
The hardest thing you can do in your life – to be just with yourself
Have you ever thought what it would be like to be disconnected from the world for a few days? I mean totally. Fully. Not only from Facebook, What’s up, other social networks, and the Internet entirely, but also without a phone or any electronic device. No calls, no messages, no GPS. No playing games. No book or anyhing else to read to get your mind distracted. No people to talk with. No connection with the outer world. Just you with yourself. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Yes, for many people it does. And it’s also unfeasible in a normal life, indeed. That’s why you have to go to the mountains to a place far away from any civilization, you hand over all your stuff, stay silent and meditate. For 10 days.
Those who know or read my whole story, I came to Romania for some peace and quiet. I came here to take a rest from all the rush and busy 21st century life, from the Internet, PC, electronic devices as such. And last but not least never-ending questions from people who hardly understand. I came to do my best for my recovery. During my first week in Romania, when I hitch-hiked from Sibiu to Alba Iulia, I ran into a guy who told me about this place. I thought this may be really something I should do for my mind, the maximum quiet I can get. Thus, later I decided to go for it.
I knew well this was something really challenging. Try to do something like that for one day. Close yourself at home, switch of TV, Internet, your phone and hide everything else distracting. No, it will never work, of course. There are so many distracting things around. Okay, try to do it for one hour. For 20 minutes. Still not easy, right? So what’s the best way to get rid of your bad habit of eating sweets? Not to buy them at all. What’s the best way to get yourself to excercise regularly? To buy a monthly pass for your last money, and in the ideal case to book classes which can’t be canceled. Get what I mean? And it’s the same with meditating and having time for yourself, there is just no better way than to go to a meditation center far away from everything where you have no other option. There you can’t check the Internet. Nothing and nobody can interupt you. You have no excuses.
When you arrive at the center, you hand over all your devices, watch not to check the time, books, everything that you could possibly be read or written on, you close your mouth up and keep a noble silence for 10 days not to distract the other people in any way. Well, physically you aren’t alone, but mentally you’re just with yourself as you are not allowed to talk with anyone. What you only do for the 10 days all the time is meditating, relaxing and sleeping. You’re given some food three times a day so you can fully concentrate on why you’re here. And there is nothing else you can do anyway. You can walk outside a bit in the breaks, but only in a small territory within the center.
So what does such a day at the Vipassana meditation center look like? You are waken up at 4am by a really annoying gong. You get up, wash, well, do whatever you need to do to wake up, and go to the meditaion hall. You sit down and meditate. There are many ways of meditation, I don’t want to bother anyone with details, but to answer many people’s question, here you basically sit as still as possible and focus on your breath and observe your thoughts. Yes, it’s a very hard thing, not only becuase of the thoughts wandering around, but also because after a few minutes, you don’t know how to sit and everything hurts badly. Well, it needs some training. You do it for one hour, and afterwards you are given some food for breakfast. After breakfast, you have a few more minutes for yourself, which I usually used for sleeping. As well as most of the other people. At 8 am another set of meditations starts. You do it for 3 hours with a short break after the first hour. At 11 am you get some lunch, and you have again a short break to relax. When you hear the sound of the bell again, you come to the meditation hall and guess what? Yep, meditate 🙂 This time you do, as far as I remember, three sets in total of 3,5 h with a short break in between each set. At 5 pm you are given a bit of food again to get ready for the final set of three 1-hour long sessions. At 9.30 pm the lights go off. I can tell you that you’re so tired that you fall asleep in a minute. Your next day starts at 4 o’clock in the morning again.
Yes, it’s really a though thing to do. Being with yourself and your thoughts is really challenging, and for many people scary. It is crazy, but it does help. Meditating all day long is tough, but I would say that for me, the very first day after the arrival was perhaps the hardest part. We arrived in the early afternoon, handed over all our stuff and were given free time to rest untill the very evening. But you know….suddenly you don’t know what to do! I don’t know how many hours this was (I would guess around 6) because you’re also taken away your watch, but it felt like days. You have been doing it for years, but sudenly you can’t check your laptop, phone, you can’t listen to the radio, music, you can’t talk with anyone, and you can’t really go for a walk either. You only sleep or stare 😀 And your thoughts are flying around. All the time indeed. I thought it would be relaxing and refreshing to lie on the grass and watch the mountains (well, they actually felt more like hills than real mountains), but it wasn’t. I thought, well, I won’t have any distractors around me, I will have time to calm down my mind, think about my life etc. But in the end it wasn’t like that at all. I was just totally swallowed up by a tangle of endless thoughts…
When you start the meditation process, you no more have this kind of free time. I guess it’s all very individual and many weird things may be happening in your mind and your body. When your thoughts start coming out of the subconsciousness to the surface, anything can happen. You may laugh, you may cry. You may feel pretty bad as well as experience a real state of hapiness right after that. Or nothing at all for quite a long time. I didn’t get that deep, yet had a couple of moments when I was about to cry. Once I fell asleep for a short moment and fell over to the side. For like 2 seconds I didn’t know what had just happened 😀 But nobody will blame you for anything here. You are all in the same shoes.
I’m a very distracted and “nonstop-thinking” type of person, and I know my mind is a real mess. I find it very hard to stay still and concentrated, or let’s say focused, on my breath. I struggle a lot to stay in any stable position and after a couple of minutes everything hurts me. I don’t know how to learn to ignore it and to always bring my mind back to meditating. But of course I know it’s the same for many people at the beginning. Nevertheless, that’s why I tend to give up easily after a while while meditating at home. As I said at the beginning, the biggest advantage of such courses is that you have the best conditions for meditating, you have no excuses so you keep on trying and push your limits high.
I finally know what real freedom feels like
I kept on trying for 4 days. And I did push my limits higher. However, after a re-consideration and discussion with the people from the community I eventually decided to leave. I’m sure it doesn’t happen very often because nobody wants to leave as a loser, but I always need to be special, you know….I know there are probably people who will say, how did you even come up with that? What would you go there? Are you insane? And there are, on the other hand, people who will say why did you give up? You must not give up! You aren’t strong enough. You don’t trust yourself. And things like that. I don’t know…I mean, I don’t agree with either. As mentioned previously, meditation is not a religion and has nothing to do with sects, as some people think. Meditation is, unfortunately, something that has been forgotten in these parts of the world and put aside by the materialistic, busy life controlled by media. Meditation is something that certainly help in many ways, if you find your way to do it best. Brain is the most powerful computer on earth and can make miracles if you know how to manage it. There are people who say “ah, I don’t need it”. Well, these people usually find their own meditation in their life, even though they don’t realize it, or they don’t know what this all is about and what it can bring them. Everyone meditates at some point during the day. Remember when you are on the bus, train, metro, or whatever means of transport and you stare out of the window. Playing with a baby can be a sort of a meditation because you live in that moment.
I would just say that for a distracted mind like mine, which is not trained for that, eleven days is just too much. Of course, you feel some pain, you feel unwell, not yourself, but simply said I personally felt like it wasn’t actually helping me the way it should. I also didn’t agree with certain ideas and the food we were provided with. Perhaps it also wasn’t the right time with my current health and mental condition. I don’t know…I may still do it again one day…
The point is, I don’t regret. It was great experience. And although I may be leaving as a loser for them and some people, I don’t feel this way and I actually learnt something. Even these four days have helped me realize many things, and changed certain things in my mind. And beyond all that, the feeling of total freedom…man, I don’t think I’ve ever felt this before 😀 We’re really spoiled. All of us! We have everything, yet we don’t appreciate it and still want more.
I’ve just been released from the offline world and I feel like I’m leaving a prison after a couple of years. Seriously, I have never been in prison, but I can imagine that this is what it may feel like. Since I was totally disconnected from the world, I don’t know what’s going on, but more importantly, since I’m leaving a few days earlier than planned, I have no plans at all. I just got back my phone, I’m somewhere in the mountains far far away from any civilization, there is not even a phone network. Naturally, I have no place to sleep for tonight, but I don’t even know where to go and what I’m gonna do next. But right now, in this moment, I don’t care, because I can go wherever I want and do whatever I want! I’m free!
Yes, this is what the real freedom feels like. I know it sounds crazy but I’m really enjoying that. Now I also know what it means to live in the moment. I have no goal, but I’m enjoying the journey. All the sounds around, the trees, the quiet. It feels like I never noticed the beauty of that before.
After like 1,5 hours of walking in the middle of nowhere I’m back in the civilization. I see there is a bus waiting so it seems that it will really go some time soon. I ask the driver and he confirms. I still have 40 minutes, and even though I’ve just walked 7 km with my two backpacks, I decide to continue walking a bit farther and stop the bus on the way. It just all feels so rare to me now that I just can’t get enough 😀 I get to something that actually looks like another bus stop. Officially. I wait for the bus, which finally arrives. To add an icing on the cake again, when I’m about to get on the bus, I realize that I don’t have enough money to pay for tthe ticket. I’m a real nomad 😀 I show the driver I only have 3 Lei and he lets me get on anyway.
Back to where it all began
I arrive in Brad. There are a couple of buses departing from here, the thing is that I have no idea where to go. Fine, it’s time to switch on my phone, connect to the Internet again and see what’s up. I don’t see any e-mails from any hosts, only some spam in my mailbox. Great….So nothing has actually changed during these 4 days. I consider all options I have, all I could possibly do right now. Then I see that I’m not so far from Cluj – the city where I can at least get everything needed, so I try to contact the Couchsurfer girl in at whose place I stayed the very first night in Romania (you see, you never know when your acquaintances may come in handy:-) ). I guess I’m very lucky becuase she answers yes, come, you can stay. And hereby I would like to thank her again for being so flexible and hosting me when really needed! 😉 Great! I have a place to stay for tonight, I can calm down and think about my next plan. The last thing to solve today…how do I actually get to Cluj from here? I check buses and see there is one which can bring me closer, to Câmpeni, from there I will have to hitch-hike, how else. I tell the driver to kick me off at the intersection with the road leading to Turda, and Cluj respectively, have my very late lunch in the nature and start hitch-hiking. The road doesn’t seem to be that busy, but hopefully it will work out, there must be someone going to Cluj, or Turda at least. After half an hour, a truck driver stops. Cool!
After like 2.5 hours of ride I’m back in Cluj. I would never say that it would feel so good to be surounded by plenty of people 😀 I’m back to where it all began exactly one month ago. Again staying at the same place, again with no actual plan….but this time loaded with many experiences!
I’m looking forward to next adventures!