Mother thinks I have gone absolutely mad…again. Off gallivanting in hopes of discovering the meaning of life, my purpose… again. “Poor thing”, echoes my older, more responsible and rational sister, “she is just taking this life thing way too seriously”.
I am certain the two of them are plotting a scheme to halt me from my potential addiction to self-healing. Them, and everyone else I have ever encountered.
“Ashley” mother beckons “I worry you know… I just don’t want you to get caught up in one of these things… you promise you will come home? You promise?” I can taste her worry and it has left me with an aftertaste as wretched as rotted milk settling on the tip of my tongue on a hot summers day. Mostly because it is that very worry in me that has driven me to Vipassana in the first place.
“Mom, why the hell would I stay after a 10 day meditation? And even if I did, it’s only 2 hours away? But really mom, I’m going ten days without talking… the last thing I am going to want to do is stay, in fact, I think they literally kick you out after the meditation is over”. I get angry, reactive, unsettled.
I shake my head. You would think after reporting from a Honduran coup, drinking ayahuasca tea in the valley of Peru, devoting my weekends to the Landmark Forum, taking a midnight bus from Ecuador to Colombia and proceeding to wander the ex-guerrilla landside of Colombia popping yoga squats in highly militarized public parks that mama’s anxiety would have subsided by now. Alas it hasn’t, and it is for this partly genetic but fully my own anxious, neurotic, melancholic state of mind and the quick wit that emerges when I am tested, that yes, I am embarking on yet another attempt at figuring this whole life thing out, of settling this mind down, of getting out of fear, out of incessant doing, and back into being.
Vipassana starts in 24 hours. I remain uncertain as to precisely what this is. Aside from the fact that I will be abandoning all of my vices, addictions, afflictions – that includes everything from love to coffee to sex to writing to yoga to talking. Yes, talking. I am about to attempt ten days of absolute silence in the woods of my sweet homeland.
“It was the hardest thing I have ever done… in my life” – says the old friend I encountered spontaneously as I began to ache with anxiety about this decision I had made. He tells me that this won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. The ease of knowing I will figure something out about myself hardly surpasses my incredibly overbearing fear of what is to come. Silence. Stillness. Aloneness. I am already starting to see things about myself that I so delicately concealed from the world.
Vipassana means to see things as they really are, and it is one of India’s most ancient meditation techniques. The concept, though complex, is simple. Sit in silence, uncover self-awareness. In their own words:
“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.”
Worth a shot isn’t it? I mean, considering all the time and invested in physicians, naturopaths, therapists, acupuncture, yoga, Chinese medicine and who knows what else, I wouldn’t mind if healing actually did come from witihin – from doing absolutely nothing, but sitting with myself.
I pop in and out of jitters the week previous to attending. Partly because I don’t have a meditation cushion and partly because I chose the english as a second language course so I wouldn’t be tempted by interesting looking people to break my silence vow. Though I have half-successfully integrated one-hour meditation into my daily routine for the last month, something about the rigidity of it all irks me.
“What are you afraid of?” Asks my best friend. I stall, considering my reply. “…Me” the response shocks us both. “I am afraid of being alone with me”. Ah yes, it appears we have some work to do.
According to the website, “on day 10 you will learn a new meditation of Metta, loving kindness, and then the rule of silence will end.”
So heres hoping that my fear of me, and what appears to be a fear of nearly everything else, an unruly worry and anxiety and an inability to accept, love and cherish myself truly subsides and I come home with a little more love to share with the myself and lot more to share with the world.
Until then, Namaste.
In knowing im going im already slowing
Down the thoughts and the rocks that keep me trapped in my knowing
Of whats right and whats next and whats then and whats now
Today I abandoned my neurosis in exchange for this vow
Playing on beaches with babies to be
And mothers and grandmothers who have seen more than my dream
Sand cracking through my toes
Sun seeping through my skirt
Today I was present
No longer adrift, no longer on alert
To business proposals and hasty cash hustles
In erratic schedules and the commuter bustle
In relationship woes and expectations alone
Today I just was, me in my home
This body, this temple, this wild little mind
Unchanged and unchanging but awake and off time
And tomorrow I depart from the addictions I crave
Into my own minds eye and my souls darkest caves