At Kopling Conference Center, Langata, the morning sun gently pierces the atmosphere, penetrating my skin and leaving behind a warmth that I had not appreciated in a long while. That would be at around 11 am when we break for lunch after the morning meditation. The Kopling sun radiates with calmness, hope, and dharmic peace.
It’s day 6 of this meditation course, and I have done more than 50 hours of observing my breath and body sensations. Four more days left of the ten-day course. My back hurts, and my knees hurt even more. The pain I was experiencing made the first few days of my meditation hell on earth. “Oliver, leave; why must you hurt yourself like this?” I told myself on the day that I had made a resolution to approach the management to inform them of my intent to leave. But then folks, my pride. What would I tell my sister? That I couldn’t stand just ten days of physical and mental stress? No way.
I did not approach the management as I had planned. After deciding that giving up was not an option, I stayed behind in curiosity about what this whole thing was about.
I saw people wincing in response to meditation’s deep mental operation. In as much as most were trying to suffer in silence, from my clinical background, I could tell that it was not easy on them as well.
Far in front of us in the meditation hall were old students, most of whom were already established in the Vipassana meditation technique, referring to the technique we were all gathered for. When I saw them during each session of group meditation, I marveled. The sight of someone in the meditation pose strikes a deep sense of peace in the tender human heart. I thought I was in a monastery at the foot of The Himalayas. You know, folks, even as my mind agonized, the meditation hall vibrated with profound peace and harmony that I had never experienced before.
On that sixth day that I made a solid resolve to stay in the course, the universe conspired to make it a little tolerable to my weak mind. I asked for an extra cushion. Within a few tries, I found a reasonably comfortable position, enabling me to withstand the physical impact of the meditation on the body. Then I put my head into what was going on. I listened carefully to the instructions and followed them to the letter.
On that afternoon, my thoughts did not wander, and for once, I felt the stubborn, unpleasant gross sensations of my frail and unaccustomed body dissolve. Areas of pain started vibrating, and I felt a wave of electricity engulf my body for a brief moment. The feeling was pleasurable, and that is where the catch was; I was not supposed to react to it with any sort of craving. That subatomic feeling did not last, for as soon as my body realized that I was developing some bit of liking for those sensations, they disappeared, leaving me with the uncomfortable feeling of pain here, itching there, pressure here, and so forth. These feelings were not supposed to make me angry and develop aversion. Reaction to both the feelings of craving and aversion are the products of conditioning of the mind.
The keyword was equanimity, to observe your sensations without reacting to them. You would hear the voice of SN Goenka, the late vipassana teacher (May he RIP), echoing from the audiotape in the deep mental silence that had been part and parcel of the meditation hall since we first stepped in here. “Maintain perfect equanimity. Perfect equanimity. Work hard, Intelligently, and ardently. You are bound to be successful.”
On most days, the technique’s success came as a bit of anger off the jar of rage or a heavy sense of gratitude settling in one’s own existence. The experience made me dissect my mind in a profound way that I had never envisioned before. Our misery lies from our constant reactions to constantly changing events and circumstances. In the Vipassana meditation technique, you get to learn this by experience, in your own body, the very law of impermanence that governs nature. Our only work is to observe our respiration and sensations. Then we can watch pleasure and pain as possessing one quality: arising and passing.
For the next four days, I found my happiness and peace dissecting and removing the impurities of my mind. The experience might sound fiction and near impossible, but I developed truth from an experiential level. Suppose we pay attention like Gautama Buddha did under a tree 2500 years ago; enlightenment remains within our grasp in this life. Human misery is a product of the mental habits that have been formed at the level of the subconscious mind. That reality is hidden from us because we have a weak sense of awareness, an art hidden away in the noisy recesses of the mind. It takes practice to incorporate this wisdom into our daily life. Maybe you will tell me how it turns out when you have gone to the course and gathered your own experience.
I wish I could talk more about this life-changing experience I had on my ten days of meditation. Folks, challenge yourself to one day challenge what you have always believed as truth. The only truth that one can attest to is one they have experienced. The rest are dogmas, opinions, and things passed down as the truth but never experienced. Vipassana is an art of living that makes someone experience their own true north, with the reality in the framework of their own body.
Meditation does not offer superhuman powers that make you have the high of psychoactive substances. Still, definitely, it gives you a fresh perspective of how your mind sabotages you in the grinds of daily living.
I leave you with the words of Rudyard Kipling,
“If you can meet with triumph and disaster.
And treat those two impostors just the same; ….then yours is the earth and everything in it. And which is more? You will be a man, my son.”