#Vipassana – 2 #dailyroutinevipassana #dreamday
The day started at 4 am, as alarms went off inside individual rooms and dormitories as well as outside, where the Dhamma-Sevikas did their dedicated rounds of ringing tinkling handbells. Each Sevika (helper-volunteer) had been allotted sets of residential quarters, where they had the duty to wake us up.
Daily morning routine- first session (2 hours) scheduled at 4:30 to 6:30 am. Freshen up quickly, in silence of course, lock the room and walk out, don’t forget the torch and the water bottle, up the steps in the darkness and silence, and along the Shantipath to the Dhamma hall. Seek out my meditation pad/gaadi/soft mattress (it was a 2×2 square of cotton stuffed mattress – and over days each on of us supplemented it with smaller pillows and cushions as per our customised requirements). Sit there and start off – looking inwards. (https://www.dhamma.org/en/schedules/schgiri)
Some people were lucky to have got a wall to rest their backs. Those who hadn’t but wanted a backrest, could opt for a Chauki – a low wooden framework which had a built in backrest at 90 degrees – like a chair without legs – the meditation mattress would be placed on it. Those who were unable to sit cross legged on the floor could opt for chairs. There were many elderly ladies, some with breathing problems, some with arthritis and at least one with a coughing problem!!
I had decided to go with the flow of averages and not take any extra something anywhere, as far as possible. But I was lucky to have a column on my right side. There were a few rules for how to sit – we couldn’t sleep, of course, and we could not sit with feet pointing towards the teachers. For other postures there were no issues. I had estimated that with my long distance cycling, I would have no issues in long duration sitting. Over the next ten days I was proved only partly right.
The first session of 4:30 started and we were advised to start watching our own breath. I had heard about this and I thought I was ready.
Anyone experience with Vipassana that I had spoken to before reaching Igatpuri, had described only till this stage. My own meditation mattress, silence, food rules and watching breath – that is all I had heard of. Advises to be neutral, unbiased, to be smart in selecting the meditation mattress (but that advise was irrelevant as we were allotted our mattress locations), take comfort wear clothes, be sincere, stick to rules, especially be silent, don’t bother about writing and taking notes, take walks around the campus. Everyone I had spoken to had informed that we are asked to focus on our breathing! Then they had paused and asked me if I was planning on going there? On my replying in the affirmative, they had wound up the description, stating that I would then find out what happens next anyway! So, the rest of the journey was an adventure and I felt like a kid in a massive park, wondering what ride was next!! I, too don’t want to reveal the secrets more than necessary, because a part of the learning was in the unexpectedness of what happens next. However, since I feel, everyone should give this practice a fair trial, I want to share, just enough to stimulate curiosity and the need to add this skill to your kitty of managing life.
So as I was saying, we sat cross legged (to start with) to watch our breath. Being well versed with Anulom-Vilom Pranaayaam, my attention would go to the filling up of my lungs. I had to unlearn my reflex of quantifying my breathing time, inhaling and exhaling. The instruction was to close eyes and focus on the breath going in and out of my nose. From the upper lip, right up to insides of the nostrils. Focus, observe and don’t intervene. This was the starting trial phase of AnaPana – the meditation of mindful breathing (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anapanasati).
Breaths going in and out – just watch and observe, watch and observe. Do not intervene! Tricky? Or manageable?! Sounds easy, doesn’t it?? Watch your breath going in and out at your nostrils! Simple!?
But the fun begins. A very customised fun. It would be different for everyone. Full of drama, emotions, action etc etc. The 4:30 session and the silence and the relaxation that came by default made me doze off often. And in those naps a screen appeared and displays started, much like the Calvin and Hobbs cartoon strip. For some strange reason, my screen was full of visions I had not seen – like the unplanned irrelevant dreams one gets. Unseen places, unknown faces, seemingly irrelevant happenings. I was clearly confident that I was actually continuously going in a dream sleep, because I was sleep deprived. Simple. Logical. Then there was breakfast and a break for bathing etc. And we were back at 8 am – second session of (3 hours) in the same hall! To my shock, as we all collectively started the AnaPana, the visions were back. Breathing and attempts to watch it at the nostril were on!
At 11 am we dispersed for lunch. With changing postures, the second session was over.
Were were back at 1 pm to sit there till 5 pm (third session – 4 hours). Visions kept me company along with watch-the-breath-at-nostrils-don’t-let-mind-waver routine. And then after the dinner of Murmure and milk and a fruit, we were back again at 6 pm for an hour of attempts to meditate (1 hour). At 7:15 pm we had a recorded discourse by Shri Goenkaji. In his discourse he told us that Mind is like a Monkey, he said, jumping from branch to branch, curious, interested and distractible. He warned us that past griefs might surface. But THAT HAD NOT HAPPENED TO ME!
The discourse ended at 8:30 and that was followed by a learned half an hour of an additional session of watch-the-breath-at-nostrils-don’t-let-mind-waver routine.
The dreamy visions !!! Were they a mechanism for my mind to hide underlying pains and anguish that might be likely to surface in probing? The visions continued the whole day, till I started brazenly worrying. I have forgotten most of them – there were so many and the content was so varied. But a few surprising ones remained and I consciously remembered them, like revising for a test. One of the visions was amidst a background of some hills, with two white-lungi-clad South Indian men (most likely from Kerela?!?) talking to me (whoever that was?!?) very seriously about something. No sound. One was sitting on a chair and one was standing. I don’t know who I was in that dream. And who WERE these guys ANYWAY???
There was one vision of a face formed by the faces of Durga and Kali and Parvati and a few more goddesses perhaps merged into one. I am not a believer of the God with form, being rather inspired by the formless NirguN version. So this surprised me a LOT. But nothing inside was making sense that day. The Monkey was on a dream-rampage! Or was it someone else?!
Sometime that day, there was also a brief but distinct and frightening moment of feeling ‘me not being me’. I had to open my eyes and wonder if all this while this is what was lying underneath my outer self- some occult psychosis. I repeated my identity to myself. In full detail. And decided to be alert. Being alert helped. It was a necessity.
I later spoke to the teacher who told me not to worry, not to analyse and read too much into these visions and spontaneous feelings. I should just focus on the breath and everything would sort itself out!
(Every two days we would be called by our allotted teachers for follow up on our processes and to allow us to ask questions. If we had any additional doubt we could ask on any day during specified times).
Lessons of the day:
1) Focus on Here and Now.
2) Be aware of the Truth of the moment.
3) Be alert
4) Keep trying all the above
5) I can sit for 10&1/2 hours a day in silence.
6) Mind is mysterious