My Vipassana story

The first time I went on a silent meditation retreat I came away more refreshed than I had ever felt- hands down. My head felt so cleansed of fears and what-ifs, It was as if my brain had been washed. Ah, so this is what “brain-washing” is really supposed to mean!

For almost 12 days, I got to sit in noble silence- up at 5, to bed by 9:30, meditating while sitting, walking, and eating. [1] There I learned my vehicle of self (and standing waveform body soma), loves following a regular schedule with a clean diet!.

The first time, I didn’t do any chores, meals were prepared; cots were comfortable. I took care of myself, only. This felt like “heaven” to me.[2].[3]  

After sitting for three (mandatory) and ~6-8 voluntary hours, we’d have lectures at night.

During the two-hour inculcations, which you will stay (be kept) awake for, Ven. Goenka reviews the nature of (basically) sin vs chastity[4]. Not just sexual, but in all things -and how to live a life engendering less karma. You know, that sticky stuff of attachment that ropes and weighs our soul[5] (down).

Buddhism does not seem to address, the mother (or father)-child bond per-se. Practitioners attain moments of a sense of Nirvana. detached from the ‘defilements’ of the body, while being incarnate – for me this has meant getting off all medicines including prescribed narcotics taken daily- for 16 years.

*****

After a few days of silence, folks slow and steps soften. I noticed we became attuned.

Staying with another, such as when sharing a room, needs are negotiated with minimal body language, and less eye contact while keeping the silence. Waiting for each other to complete a process rather than jumping in – even if seeming efficient, is done without signaling; one simply waits their turn.

Meals are savored when “mindfully” chewed with no rushing.

One day, I think around day eight, during morning meditation in the Dhamma hall, someone made a noise- released gas out of an orifice – it could have been either funny belch or fart. The room was so quiet, the sound was loudly audible.

I was sitting in the back and noticed gentle laughter spread like a murmuration rippling around over a slow second. Pockets of people simultaneously started to titter in waves. The effect of near synchrony was surreal. It struck me the pattern of dissemination… was not unlike the way Twitter operates.

*****

Emulating a monk, to feel the way he looks, is challenging but over time, one gets glimpses of serenity. “Fake it till you make it”, works ok too. Sitting quietly, with no one or thing to distract you[6] is very good medicine for the body soma- parasympathetic nervous system and solid organ “hive” minds.

Ideally meditation is followed by a period of integration- being supine for a few minutes or journaling, is suggested.

The Vipassana technique of scanning your body, keeping ones inner focus moving so as not to get stuck on localized sensation, such as discomfort, fatigue, or tightening, is good practice and reminder- with time (all) things change.

Another beauty of Vipassana is one can get to the roots of an attachment by noticing the thoughts arising by free association. Cultivating curiosity with a sense of “I wonder why…this sensation?”, strengthens the sense of “witness”.

I cannot attest to mantra-based systems, but then I’m so word-oriented, even the bija, or seed sounds, seem distracting!

*****

 Being grounded and centered (there is a difference) is likely a life’s work.

For the next two weeks or so after the retreat, back at work with patients or home with family, no one put me on edge. No matter how upset a situation, I was less defensive- and more effective. The shift was profound and lasting.

Furthermore, when a person or thing, does “get my goat[7]”, as it were, it is easier to get back on track- as long as I meditate ~30 min once or twice a day. [8][9]

*****

Lately I’ve been playing with the sensations of sitting under a waterfall of color, one-by-one – favorite shades of Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Violet, Purple, and Magenta.

I’m finding great comfort when the “waterfall” is a soft -green or bright clear tangerine. Especially since my harmony has been off. Some of the other colors are almost agitating.

Sometimes I “place” (in my mind’s eye) pure white roses in four directions around me about 2 feet out. Then envision a band of yellow ones in a circle nearer.,This seems to be quite helpful in assuaging my sensitivity, especially before appointments with business acquaintances.

*****

May it be so as the holidays come and go, our hearts have ease and soul’s flame be sure.


[1] I also ate a light vegan diet, mostly vegetables, tofu and beans- and fortuitously, my usual toast. This diet, like a peasant food, is in itself incredible medicine. Exercise is limited to slow meditative walking in a muddy meadow. Endorphins aren’t induced. This was my first time since childhood, when I wasn’t doing strenuous exercise regularly.

[2] After all, I was a full-time mom, wife working part-time; before then, a busy (workaholic) doctor for over twenty years! Even vacations, wonderful though they are, tend to be planning nightmares– and by no means stress-free, especially traveling as a family.

[3] Did I forget to say it is free? Donations at the end of the course are gratefully accepted. Check out Dhamma Kunja – there are four locations in the US and others in India.

[4] To participate, one had to vow to keep chaste (male and female sides are separated), not telling lies, and not killing anything (even mosquitos) and to stay to the bitter end, (which is probably the hardest of all for some). Also no electronics, books or writing.

[5]I mused how much the Buddhist teachings didn’t seem applicable to my feelings for motherhood – especially with my mama bear mentality. Being corded to our children as moms are, physically- as well as mental and emotionally- are iteration of sacred energies! As parents sometimes live our lives through our dreams for our children – they can be seen as extensions rather than issues.

[6] I made an agreement with my kids – unless there really was blood coming from a (head) wound, I was not to be disturbed for my 30 minutes while meditating at home.  This time al(l)-one helped me enjoy being with them- especially when my husband was deployed.  Letting me meditate was win-win- got they more of me tuning into them- just not right now or this instant.

[7] According to Caroline Casey, stud horses used to get little companion goats in their stable. Sometimes an unscrupulous adversary might steal the goat, thereby upsetting the horse, and marring its performance. Looking up the idiom now- I see some controversy. Either way, it means losing your composure.

[8] Notwithstanding the challenges with my experience of feeling possessed…

[9]When meditating you reconnect with your soma self, as well as with Her – sacred Mother Earth- assuming you are not floating in air. Surface contact with your body directly, even water immersion, is what is important. As we sit grounded by the root chakra, energetic cords come off one’s sitz bones and coccyx. These roots conduct downward to earth’s core, to then draw (love) energy upwards.

Dress comfortably, without glasses or hearing aids, as you tune in. Let your soma breathe. Find a small (prayer mat size, 2’x3’) spot to build your practice – your sacred space will sum with resonance from repeated sessions.

3 thoughts on “My Vipassana story

  1. Sadhu! Your wonderful story brings back good memories of my several meditation retreats as an old student of vipassana via Ven. S.N. Goenka… Thank you!

    Be happy/peaceful always!

    Happy Holidays!

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    1. The more we take time to notice, the more a thing notices us – and becomes resonant in a particular way. It’s as if your cushion can start talking to you! Sitting comfortably with spine erect is a great ‘treat’ for our western-culture bodies. Lent is a time of year when I get to do extra sittings and not feel ‘guilty’ about it. Every bit of effort you do put in counts from our soma’s perspective!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow. Sounds like an amazing experience. I’ve been working to be more mindful, and I don’t think I’ll ever be ready to take on such solid commitments, but the things you’ve mentioned, like eating peasant food and just sitting quietly really resonate with me. Thanks for sharing!

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