Now, I observed that compassionate laughter bubbling up inside me that I stifled in order to keep with Noble Silence. I actually found it kind of cute that he was so absorbed in his own blissful 19 year old existence that he was oblivious to line of hungry meditators that was forming behind him. Vipassana was working!
At this point, I no longer bothered turning the fan off at nights. The unfamiliar cool draft that passed over body was going to pass, just like my knee pain had earlier that day. I was more concerned that the other meditators found their stay comfortable. It must have been hard for the 19 year old to leave the comfort of his home to be with a bunch of strangers.
After touching all of these shared surfaces, I stopped craving the hand sanitizer I had left at home. It also became more obvious to me that the older gentlemen’s bladder issue probably added another layer of challenge to his meditation sittings as his mind was very likely to be distracted by this added discomfort. I no longer swatted the stink bugs that took refuge in our dormitory. They were going to land on my face or wherever they pleased regardless of whether my muscles were tense or relaxed.
No sense creeping around the spiders in the shower stalls either. They had been there before I arrived. I’d be gone before they were all dead. I was just a visitor in their domain. Also, I grew content with fruit and peanut butter as my primary source of protein and the loose stools became a sort of accent that made me appreciate the peace and discipline I attained during meditation as a sort of small miracle. It was glorious.
When day 10 finally came, I felt a weird combination of excitement, gratitude and longing. Vipassana taught me that I was stronger than I had thought in some ways. But in many more instances, however, I had become aware of just how undisciplined, unfocused, critical, pompous and flat out annoying the thought pattern of my mind really is.
Driving to the retreat I was sure I’d feel like a saint after it was over. I thought I’d be able to turn my ‘96 Toyota Camry into a hybrid that ate less gas simply by supplementing fuel with my chi. I thought I’d be able to levitate. But instead, as we all poured out of the meditation hall, I opened my mouth to speak (legally) for the first time in ten days but… nothing. My mouth hung open awkwardly and the inner corners of my brows knitted upward like a confused puppy. I’m a jerk… and an annoying jerk at that. What to do now that Vipassana is over? How do I fix myself? Somehow, laughter started falling out of me and all over my fellow meditators. My goodwill had finally found its release and I began hugging everyone that I passed.
“Congratulations!” was what I eventually ended up saying to most people. It seemed out of place but when you think about it, even though we all sat on our butts for 10 days we really did accomplish something rather profound. We all took a pretty intense journey and if any of these other guys had nearly as tough of a time as I did then they’ve earned my respect for sticking with it.
Congratulations was definitely appropriate. I still had no clue what to do with myself. My definition of God had further morphed into a fluid abstractness that refused to remain confined to the small corners of my mind and heart I had previously reserved for religion.
My identity inverted itself in on me so that my inside now hung out for all of the world to see. I felt like a jellyfish- vulnerable yet powerful and just barely more dense than the waters around me. Despite all of this, I also felt oddly centered and at peace. I prayed once more, thanking God for this experience. I hadn’t a clue how I was going to continue with life without my handy coping mechanism and grand ego but strangely that didn’t bother me.