‘Burbs of Philadelphia
It was 10 PM on June 14th and I was on the subway headed to South Philly from Northern Liberties (North Philly). As I stood up to to get off the subway, I received a call from the Vipassana center in Massachusetts. One of the center volunteers, Tracey, told me there was a cancellation and so far everyone else on the waiting list was not able to make it to the ten-day course. As soon as I received the call, the subway doors opened at the stop I was to get off at. I let the subway doors close as Tracey told me there was an opening in the meditation course. The subway heads on towards 30th street station where I take the train back to the suburbs to pick up our family car. The next afternoon, I began my 7-hour journey north to Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts.
In January I had a transformational 3 days in silence while staying in Gandhi Ashram and serving with an organization, Manav Sadhna. Two friends from Spain, Miki and Joserra, along with Virenbhai and a few other friends made it possible for four of us to sit in 3 days of silence and meditation. I am grateful to those who made it happen and to the lifelong friends who experienced it for the first time alongside me. During those days, I experienced an internal shift that was first triggered by an intense moment I experienced while traveling through northern Vietnam. After those three days, I decided I would sit in a 10 day Vipassana course sometime in the spring or summer months. In April I signed up for the course, but was placed on hold until Tracey called me at 10 PM the night before the start of the course.
During the ten days, nine were in complete silence. By the end, meditators would have probably sat in 100 hours of meditation, if not more. I didn’t have any particular reason for sitting in the ten days of meditation. Looking back, all I can say is that I wanted to deepen my practice and internal service. I decided it was the greatest gift I could give myself. The outcome of the ten days still isn’t something tangible, but I think the invisibility is the beauty of it.
Here are some of my reflections as I look back on those ten days:
Fear is a Blessing in Disguise.
There were a couple of days where my mind was clouded with intense thoughts, thus generating fear and pain. To wholesomely sit with myself as I felt the fear was uncomfortable, but necessary, I realized. As a pattern of fear emerged, I felt frustration and a need to control or force the thoughts away. This resistance fed into the thoughts, thus feeding into my ego. There came a point where I let go and let every emotion and thought simply flow. Once I let go, the loop of pain generating thoughts stopped.
Surrender and Acceptance.
This experience I had was one of surrendering and acceptance. I hadn’t understood it at the time, but what I did know was that it was important to not become attached to the good as well as the bad. As I let go of controlling and started to surrender, I noticed how this simple concept translated into things I was experiencing on a day to day level.
As I have watched myself these past months, I have been able to articulate a behavioral pattern emerging. Starting from day 3, I noticed a pattern of thoughts creating a consistent loop of pain and fear. This pattern seemed to be at the root of my suffering, not just within those ten days, but has also been present throughout my life. Through the meditation, I’ve been able to observe how this new level of awareness has drastically shifted the pattern, thus shifting my internal and external reaction to these thoughts.
Beauty of the Present.
The newfound awareness of these thought patterns has triggered a depth and understanding of the present. While I still find my mind running away with thoughts far from reality, I also find myself enjoying the beauty of the present. As the moments pass, I’ve found an ability to ‘be’ that had been tucked inside for so long. This has directly played a role into my relationships and the decisions I choose to make on a micro and macro level.
Lastly, gratitude. Immense gratitude.
By some magical spur of events, I was able to attend this beautiful ten-day sit with beautiful souls. Those days created authenticity and an ambiance that allowed us fellow meditators to open our hearts to one another. As I drove east towards Boston on departure day, I left with a smile and a heart full of gratitude for all of the incredible forces that played some invisible part in allowing me to be there.