Wednesday I begin an extraordinary quest into the uncharted, wilderness. A 10 day adventure where no one has ever gone before with dangers and traps waiting around every corner. There will be No phones, no internet, no reading or writing and…NO TALKING.
Where I am I going? Into the depths of my own self. I will be embarking on a 10 day silent meditation called Vipassana.
This is actually my second time, the first was two years ago on my 30th birthday and it was the hardest thing I had ever done. Then the day I emerged from silence I found out my mother had chosen to end her cancer treatments and was going into home hospice. The next week and a half I spent caring for her as she rapidly deteriorated and passed away while holding my hand. The meditation retreat became the second hardest thing I had ever done.
Now, I have been through cancer myself and Vipassana is barely hanging on to my top 5 most difficult experiences.
The big question is WHY? Why would I want to do this? But the better question is what do I GAIN by doing this? The answer…Internal SPACE.
Vipassana is like performing surgery on myself. All of the baggage I have collected over the years is sliced from the depths of my being. The tool? Equanimous attention towards the sensations that arise in my body.
Example: If I have an itch and instead of scratching it I am instructed to gently observe it. IMPOSSIBLE! My mind begins to go nuts, all I want to do is scratch that itch, I get angry, frustrated, OUTRAGED…then I break down and SCRATCH it. Awwww sweet relief, for a second, then another spot starts to itch and the cycle continues.
BUT an amazing thing happens when I stop fighting. Once I take away the broad label- “itch” or “pain” - dissect the sensation (“itching” is tingling and warmth; “pain” can be a throbbing, cold), the mental suffering caused by the sensation lost it’s grip. Then eventually the sensation changes.
The lesson I learned is “nothing is permanent", everything changes and by craving or rejecting a situation/sensation I cause my own MISERY. THIS CHANGED MY LIFE!
As my mother died, I now knew that if I craved a different ending or rejected the fact that she was passing away, I would add more pain to this already excruciating experience. My heart was still broken, but I could start healing without having to first dig myself out from under the rubble of unnecessary emotional torment.
When I was diagnosed with cancer a year later, that lesson gave me even more freedom. I didn’t waste precious energy wishing for things to be different, instead I could focus on enjoying the life I did had and getting better.
Plus, the “pain” from surgery and chemo didn’t have the same power over me. Rather than running from it, I would look at it deep in the eyes, see what it was made of, hear what it had to say. Pain is like a child, it wants to be heard and when you ignore it, it gets LOUDER, but when you listen to it with love and compassion, it eventually loses interest and finds something else to do.
I am excited to see what I will discover about myself this time. Bonus, my buzz cut makes me look like a monk, which is very fitting.
- Do you think you would you be able to be silent for 10 days? Would you want to? Comment below and tell me what the hardest thing you have ever done VOLUNTARILY and what you learned.
New posts will resume Sept 30th.