Here’s a Spiritual Experience that Changed My Life for the Better
I’ve always led a simple life and I don’t remember being too materialistic. On the contrary, I’m not a saint either. I’m just an average man with different interests in life. I’ve drawn most of my contentment and excitement from intangible things and experiences. If I had ten grand, I would prefer spending it on traveling to new places and being disconnected from people than buying a smartphone or a gadget.
As far as I can recollect, I’ve always been like this. And for the last couple of months, too many questions started popping up inside my head. I have a really good job that pays me well. But as every other cliché goes, I wasn’t happy. I started questioning the purpose of everything around me and ultimately my own.
I arrived at a point where I couldn’t take it anymore. I wanted answers or at least hints or guidance. I researched this and found meditation was one of the strongest avenues to look within and look beyond. However, I was confused here because there were too many meditation centers promising peace of mind and enlightenment. I did not want enlightenment but answers.
I wanted a retreat where I could spend time with myself and gaze into my own thoughts. That’s when one of my friends recommended Vipassana to me. A very alien term, I did not know what it meant. I Googled Vipassana and I immediately enrolled.
Vipassana was unlike any other place you would read or hear about. Located in almost every major city, the Vipassana center is a spiritual retreat. It’s not the place that would get recommended on travel or scoop article websites.
Because this school of meditation really puts you in an endurance test and examines your limits. Hearing it from a friend, I thought he was exaggerating things. Little did I know that I was to be proved wrong.
The place required me to dedicate ten days completely for the first session. I learned that I could not visit the place every day from my home, be there for the meditation classes and come back home again. It was a residential program and every student was supposed to pack his or her bag for ten days and stay there through the course duration.
On reaching, I also had to deposit my phone, wallet, book, notebook, pen or any distracting material to the authorities over there. This was because they wanted students to focus only on one thing – meditation. I was assigned a room there, where I found that they would allocate one room per person.
This was because, throughout the course, I was required to take a vow of silence and not even make eye contact with anyone inside. I could only talk to my meditation guru when I had questions and talk to the volunteers serving food only when absolutely necessary.
My course began and the schedule was hectic. I was required to wake up at 4 in the morning and assemble at the common hall for meditation. Meditate till 7 and go for breakfast. I had to again come back for more meditation from 8 to 11, after which I would be served lunch. At 3, we had to assemble again for meditation and at 5:30, we were served dinner.
Yes, no food after that.
Till 9, we had our meditation sessions and this was the schedule for the entire duration of the program.
The first two days were really hard because of withdrawal symptoms. I was asked to focus on my breath and concentrate only on that. I learned how to do this on my 4th and 5th days. On the 6th day, I noticed I was starting to get deeper into my mind. My awareness was slowly increasing and I could hear the slightest of sounds very clearly. Random memories from childhood started cropping up as dreams at night.
In each session, I would reach a state of mind that was difficult to penetrate within seconds. I was getting hints for all my questions and I slowly started learning to be completely present at the moment. I could feel weird sensations in my body and it was on the 9th day that I felt a state of mind called Bhanga or stillness. It was strange but blissful. I’ve never been any more contented in my life.
On the 10th day, I was told by my guru that if I kept practicing, I would make good progress and start experiencing things an ordinary mind cannot. It’s been two months since my program and I’ve been following the schedule rigorously.
Life has been the same but my approach to it has completely changed. I don’t get zoned out anymore. I am fully aware of my surroundings and I sometimes get to know what responses from people in conversations would be as well.
More than a retreat, this has been a school to learn about myself. I recommend this to everyone who wants to experience peace of mind more than anything else in the world.