I woke up this morning determined to improve the situation. I can do this; I just need to find a way to get slightly more comfortable.
I purchased a special meditation cushion to bring with me, but since it hasn’t really done the trick so far, I decided to supplement it with some of the extra cushions the centre keeps in the foyer of the meditation hall. I put some flat cushions under my own cushion, and I used two more to prop up my knees. This felt a bit better, and I was actually able to sit the full hour. I am greatly determined after all!
I have noticed today that I am not the only one making cushion adjustments – all around me, the piles of cushions and blankets seem to be growing, so that when we get up to leave, the meditation hall (at least the women’s side of it) looks as though it is full of rows and rows of gigantic nests.
I have also noticed that as we learn to observe things inside ourselves, we are observing more and more things outside, as well. Details that I suspect I may never have taken notice of are everywhere. This afternoon I found myself watching a small insect perform what looked like a self-grooming procedure on my arm. It didn’t occur to me to brush it off. I am not the only one engrossed in the tiny details in nature – I’ve seen a student staring up into the branches of a tree with a gigantic grin on her face, and another get down on her hands and knees to properly smell the flowers. Most of us seem to be wandering around in a state of awe and I suspect that after a short observation an outsider would conclude that we are all high.
During our free periods, in addition to staring wonder-eyed at bits of nature, we have the option of sitting around, walking around, or napping. Up until now, I’ve been doing an awful lot of that last one, but I’m bored of napping, so I opted for the sitting around today instead, and watched others walk by. This is actually far more entertaining than it sounds. The grounds are beautiful and well-maintained, but they are not terribly large, and you can’t walk more than about 100 feet without running into one of these signs:
Some walkers, embracing the fact that they have nowhere to go and nowhere to be, progress at a comically slow pace: two or three steps, pause, a few more steps, maybe nudge a rock or two out of the way, five more steps, stoop down to investigate one of the millions of ant hills on the property...this can go on indefinitely. Others power-walk down the trails, arms swinging – they don’t need a destination so much as an outlet, I suppose.
The past few days have been so much better. I have augmented my ‘nest’ further, and it now comprises 14 cushions of various sizes (including my own), three blankets and a shawl. My concentration and practice are improving; last night I enjoyed a prolonged pain-free period. Even when it hurts, it doesn’t bother me as much. I have come to see that the pain is actually a necessary part of the process, and I can learn from it.
Today, noble silence gave way to ‘noble chatter’, as Goenka called it during last night’s discourse. It is a relief to be able to look people in the eye and smile, and speak about our experience, though it isn’t quite over yet.
Walking into the meditation hall this evening we looked less like a parade of zombies and more like a group of exceptionally happy individuals off to do participate in an activity they enjoy. Several of the other meditators commented that they have found it easier today to meditate now that the silence has lifted and while I also feel lighter in a way, I have found the opposite – my mind is already at my parents’ house, visiting enjoying the summer holiday.
|Women's Residence B|
Today is unlike all the previous days, not just because we are all chatting freely with one another, but because we are also practicing a new type of meditation, called Metta – Loving Kindness. My grasp on this, the third type of meditation we have learned here, is shaky. I think because I am too excited about going home to concentrate properly, though I am trying not to get carried away.
Also, I got to spend large parts of today chatting with the other women at the course; there are university students, a mother and daughter from Colombia, a Polish teacher, a Russian doctor (who asked if I was Russian also, because apparently I look very Russian – who knew?) and many others, spanning the ages of 19 to around 70 or older. It’s interesting to hear the stories of the other meditators, and what brought them here, and what they have gotten out of the course now that it’s almost over.
We had our last meditation session and discourse at 5:00 o’clock this morning. Goenka has instructed us on how to continue meditating at home and walking the path. This hasn’t just been a course in meditation, but the beginning steps of a process that is intended to be a lifelong thing (or perhaps many lives, if you believe in that sort of thing). It seems reasonable that monks and nuns who dedicate themselves to the path full time should advance at a quicker pace than the average householder, as Goenka calls working people, but even the two hours a day we are encouraged to sit seems like a lot to me. I can see how I might squeeze in an hour in the morning before work, but between the gym, feeding myself, errands, and a social life, where am I supposed to find an hour in the evening?
I cleaned my room this morning, said my goodbyes, and must wait for my ride to come collect me. Despite my excitement about going home and seeing my family, I am reluctant to leave the centre, perhaps because I know that my mind cannot possibly remain this calm and peaceful once it is required to face the unpredictability of the big bad world on the outside. I can’t recall the last time I felt so much at ease, so at peace with everything around me, and I want to hang on to this feeling.
Despite low points along the way, I’m so glad I came, and stuck it out. I feel that I have grown here, and learned things about myself. I can’t, at present anyway, buy into every aspect of the ideology that is attached to this brand of meditation. The multiple-lives thing, for example, is beyond me. Goenka says, however, that it is not necessary to accept everything we have been told for the meditation to be beneficial. Thank goodness for that.
So I’m going to make an effort to keep doing it. I’ll let you know how it goes...