I realized on July 2014 that this 1,5 years old post post is still in draft … I am publishing it lately
I arrived on the 2nd of January in the morning in the meditation center. It was quite a peaceful place compared to what one experiences in Calcutta. Still quite noisy compared to European standards but quiet for Indian’s one. I was assigned a 2 beds room. The other person sleeping in the same room was an American: Michael. He left Detroit to establish in Korea where he teaches Buddhism children education. Quite surprising that a teacher for such skills is from the west. He was a very nice guy with a very clear way to speak and express his ideas. We spent the day arranging how we would try to take care of the room for the coming next 10 days as from 8:00PM on the noble silence would start: not possible anymore to communicate in whatever way. Furthermore, there is an absolute separation of males and females.
Lunch and later dinner were offered. Meditators were arriving mainly in the afternoon. One gets to know different people from very different origins. We were 5 male foreigners for 25 male Indians. Females were much less.
The first meditation day course took place at 8:00PM. This is called day 0. I always remember when I first started this technique in August 2006. Entering the first meditation course I was wondering what would come. Many open points in my mind but the feeling it would be quite easy for me … I was very far from the reality… It was very hard … However since then I often wonder what kind of feelings the beginners have when they first sit and get the first instructions.
Next day, 4:00AM the bell rang to wake up. 10 minutes later the bell rang again to inform the students they should go to the meditation hall continuing the meditation of last night for 2 hours. At the beginning one concentrates only on the breath. The technique is called Anapana and is a kind of preparation of the mind for Vipassana. It consists in concentrating the mind so much on the respiration that one can avoid being disturbed from the many thoughts driving out from the goal of staying concentrated. Usually for the beginners it is merely impossible to stay concentrated more than a few seconds the first day and more than 30 to 40 seconds even after 3 days of preparation without having the mind wandering away.
At 6:30AM the gong rang for breakfast. It was simple, a kind of Indian pollenta, bread and bananas. Chai was as well served. On my side I had taken enough water to avoid drinking anything I would not see as safe. After breakfast a period of rest is offered until 8:00AM. I always go sleeping during most of the period of rest. Some meditators need to walk and do exercise between meditation courses. On my side I want to stay as much concentrated as possible and prefer sleeping as much as possible to have all meditation sessions as deep as possible.
7:45AM the gong rang for wake up and 7:55AM it rang again to inform the meditation starts. Meditators should join the hall for one hour. 9:00AM again gong to inform the end of meditation, a short 5 minutes break and next session starts until 11:00AM. Old students (means student having followed at least one course of this technique) were assigned cells. These are kind of 2m2 room where one can seat and meditate. Such a cell is very calm and the meditation can proceed more deeply.
11:00AM: gong to announce lunch. I ate rice and some vegetables. I always carefully avoided any suspect things I was not sure of. After lunch pause until 1:00PM. Again I went sleeping every day during this pause.
12:45PM: gong for wake up. 12:55PM, gong to inform the beginning of the meditation. It lasts until 2:20PM. Then again gong, 5 minutes rest and from 2:30PM an hour meditation. 3:30PM gong, rest 5 minutes and again meditation until 5:00PM.
In the evening new students can get fruits and Chai or tea. Old students get only hot lemon water. On my side I directly went for a shower and cleanup. I rested a little without sleep to avoid nights insomnia … this first part of meditation technique (called Anapana) would tend one to go very deep in his past. Many memories and old feeling arise … mostly the painful ones. The mood tend to go down and this can easily lead to insomnia or disturbed nights.
6:00PM one hour meditation followed by a discourse. The discourse explains deeper the meditation technique, what we are doing, what kind of purpose should be served. One has to understand there is no mysticism in this technique. Only respiration has to be observed to learn how to become the master of his own mind by being able to concentrate it as one desires. No believe, no contemplation of whatever God of founder of any religion. Only breath and that’s all.
After the discourse another 20 to 30 minutes meditation session. Questions can be asked to the teacher: the teacher and course managers are the only ones a meditator can talk to.
After this day 1 was over. Day 2 to day 9 same program except day 4 where Viapassana will be introduced. A slight difference in the schedule will happen. Vipassana consists of learning to observe sensations on the body and learning to avoid reacting to it by developing a so called equanimity. This gives a strong power in the daily life to face the difficult moments of it. It sounds quite easy but applied it can be very hard.
Now how was my course ? The first 3 days I literally fell down. I had the feeling that all the thoughts that were surrounding me would never again go away, many images of high violence, almost torture in some cases, many hard memories of the past being much more intensified. I had the feeling I would never again go out from these feelings, from this state. I have the luck not to suffer of depression. However in these days I discovered what deep depression was.
Day 4 Vipassana was introduced, my state did not improved, many thoughts running constantly, dialog in my head I could not really control. Day 5 came and I got up with more energy, I shouted in my head STOP! And it worked out. The dialogs completely stopped, when they tried to come back I could easily stop them again. The images and scenarios of violence went slowly away. Day 6, I was emerging from this depressive state, day 7 I was feeling much better. Day 8 and 9 I could feel many pains in some parts of the body. Applying the technique I could reduce some of them, some joy was arising again.
Day 10 a new meditation technique is introduced: Metta. One learns how to share the result of the meditation with everyone. After this the noble silence is stopped and students can talk with each other. In all my past courses I always spoke a lot after this day, socializing and exchanging mail adresses with people. I had kept some contact with a few of them for a short period and then always lost it. For this reason I preferred staying a little more with myself, enjoying the silence. I spoke as few as possible.
Day 11, after breakfast, almost all meditators left. I had my flight the next day hence I had planned to stay one more night … by chance a one day course was offered. Such courses are reserved for old students only. The technique is quite complex to learn and within 1 day one could not learn a lot making a lot of mistakes when practicing on his own. The 1 day course ended at 4:00PM.
We were only 2 students remaining in the center for the night. The cook was as well there and one guy helping him. The teacher would leave as well on day 12 for a 2,5 day train travel to the east of India. Teachers come as volunteer to offer such courses. They are not paid at all.
In the evening I spent some time with the cook and the guy helping him. They could not speak English. We went for a walk to the Ganga looking at people diving in the spiritual water (extremely dirty). After this they showed me the female area of the camp. It was much nicer than the one of the males. I looked at the kitchen and was amazed to see there was almost nothing in it! Only a few gaz sources to cook. A few casseroles but that was all. Compared to European centers where the kitchen is well furnished it was amazing to see how much they prepared every day having so few tools.
I left on day 12 after breakfast. I wanted to make a donation but as I could not use my Visa card I said I would make a money transfer. Donations are obviously not mandatory otherwise they would not be donations and no one is expected to donate anything if he does not want to or.
I wanted to take a taxi to go back but as a bus arrived I took it and arrived in Sudder street around 1:30PM. I had a pizza and some rice and went to skype with Nino. It was so nice seeing her again. We spoke around 30 minutes. I spent the rest of the day applying to some job offers.
At 8:45PM I left the restaurant to get a taxi. On the way I saw a small dog, he was still a baby and could not really walk yet. He was crying certainly of hunger. He tried to move around falling down after a few steps. This was terrible, he would certainly die: who can care of him in a city where most of people cannot eat enough and where dogs are struggling even to get some water.
The taxi driver drove me to the airport while I could not get rid of the image of this poor dog. After a while it went away. My flight was at 3:15AM. I used the time to write these few lines… the last ones of this 4,5 months travel …