Monday, August 1, 2011

Journey to the Vipassana Centre

Randy and I are sitting on the bus that will take us out of Vancouver, BC.  We're heading to the Merritt Vipassana* Centre amongst the mountains. It is a 3 hour drive. The feeling is of excitement and a bit of fear, although, I speak for myself only.  We are entering an unknown event for 10 days, something that neither of us have done before and there is some trepidation.

When we booked this meditation retreat, we didn't realize the steps that would be needed to get there.  First we didn't realize that it was so far from Vancouver, but we probably should have.  And, there is no bus stop for this Centre and the Centre is not in a town.  We are fortunately dropped off at the side of the highway.   I say fortunate, because as we find out while boarding the bus, the driver has the option to not do this, meaning we would need to go to the next town which is quite a distance away.  The driver is feeling generous.  There are others who are doing this, as we come to find out while sitting on the bus, so it isn't just the two of us.

We stop, disembark, within seconds the bus is gone.  We look around to see the panoramic view of the is cold. Crisp.  Snowy.  'Stranded' comes to mind.  We stand in bewilderment as what we will do next when we all turn to the sound of the van pulling up.    We climb into the back.  There are no windows and it feels like we are being smuggled into another country.  There isn't much talk, yet I sense an underlying energy vibrating that seems similar to mine.  After 20 minutes or so, we park, the van doors open and we are in the snowy mountains, in the middle of nowhere, with lots of trees.  Breathtaking.  Silence.  I think I am going to like this!

See full size imageWe are escorted to the building and separated by gender.  We will have one more opportunity to co-mingle before the meditation starts and then we will be separated except during meditation time, yet, that is silent.

We are interviewed, which feels quite awkward.  I am nervous and make a joke.  I guess no joking is allowed because I get the question repeated back to me.  Basically, it is a commitment interview that I am willing to follow all the rules:  must be silent, no interactions, no eating in the rooms, no lies (hard to do if you can't talk), no sex of any kind, etc., etc.  Many rules, also known as the code of discipline in this problem.  I can do almost anything for 10 days, although I am questioning my ability to sit in total silence, without any movement for 11 hours a day, for 10 days.  Silent, I can be, the challenging part is 'without any movement '.  I imagine the sudden need to constantly scratch throughout the whole meditation.  This could be a problem.

I am concerned about the food, a vegetarian/vegan diet which doesn't really resonate with me at this time.  It will be a struggle.  The meals are limited.  We get three sparse meals each day with the third meal being fruit and soup.  Those who have done this get tea and water for the third meal.  I guess I am lucky.  However, I am called a grazer when it comes to eating, preferring to eat smaller meals throughout the day.  The grazer that I am doesn't really appreciate this way of eating.

I find out that I get one of the private rooms.  They are not soundproofed whatsoever, so even though I have some walls to provide a sense of privacy and space, I can hear everything.  Luckily we will be silent so I won't hear talking.  Snoring, yes.....

I am grateful for the private room, having had my fill of sharing a room in my childhood, college, and the early years in Boston.  I no longer share a room with the same ease and comfort.  I like my space.

I have opted to sit in a chair to do the meditations so I am placed against the back wall.  I have a view of all of the other meditators except for those who are with me, against the wall.  I was concerned that I would not manage in lotus position for 11 hours a day with my back and neck issues.

We are gathered together to start our meditation.  One minute down, only 10 hours and 59 minutes to go.....a breeze.  Just joking.  We get our instructions and we get called up to the instructor.  It is a formal hello and we return to our spot - our spot for the next 10 days, 11 hours a day.

The chime.....and we are off.....into silence......


*The Technique

Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India's most ancient techniques of meditation. It was rediscovered by Gotama Buddha more than 2500 years ago and was taught by him as a universal remedy for universal ills, i.e., an Art Of Living.

This non-sectarian technique aims for the total eradication of mental impurities and the resultant highest happiness of full liberation. Healing, not merely the curing of diseases, but the essential healing of human suffering, is its purpose.

Vipassana is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind. It is this observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body that dissolves mental impurity, resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion.

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