Looking In The Mirror
At the official start of the course, Noble Silence was enforced and the attendees were segregated by sex. Men and women had separate dorms, separate dining halls and separate entrances to the
meditation hall. As I approached the men’s dorm, I noticed that there were three bumble bees hovering outside of the door.
The city dweller in me took a deep breath, puffed up my meaty chest and walked with stoic poise towards the door. The two the bee suddenly engaged one another, darting right and then left, flying square into my jaw. Something like a grunt came out (because I don’t squeal) as I desperately swatted them away, cringed and ran inside.
The door closed behind me and I took another deep breath before finding my bunk. I looked around at the modest living quarters and exhaled all of my remaining excitement. With slumped shoulders I thought, “so… this is what nirvana looks like.”
The next several days were a blur of 4am showers, butt cramps and questioning my sanity. I wasn’t sure I was about this life. After living in the ghettoes of jersey and Philly I was pretty sure that I could handle anything but now I had no choice but realize how wrong I was.
Each time I’d consider standing up during a meditation sitting of strong determination or leaving for the dorms to take a nap during meditation time, Goenka- a miniature version of the course instructor would pop up above my shoulder, waving his pointer finger saying, “no, no, no! This is not Vipassana.”
I’d somehow quail the urge to move and instead, I’d refocus on my breath. After a while, my hallucinated friend would vanish (or I’d forget he was there, I’m not sure) and all that would be left was my awareness within my body. Initially, thoughts came nonstop. It was like looking out of the windows of a subway car while trying to count all of the steel beams that stood between the different tracks. One moment, I’d be thinking about a pain in my knee, then next I’d have an hallucination about a track meet where I injured my knee, then I’d remember with disdain my pitiful-excuse-for-a-track-coach’s face, then, out of no where, I thought I smelled pizza. I don’t even really like pizza that much but suddenly I had a craving for it. Mmmmm with extra cheese!
“Goddamn! How much longer do we have to sit here!?” I thought to myself. Again, the fat, miniature Indian man with a thick accent would appear on my shoulder waving his finger, “no, no, no! This is not Vipassana.” Refocus. Breath. Observe. After some practice the thoughts came less and less frequently and my focus grew stronger. Two eternities later the recorded voice of Goenka would shout “Anicc!” and I’d feel the sensation of smug success wash over me. “See… I knew I could do it.”