Vispasana in Chong tom –Chang Mai – Thailand
Just do it, a TEN day Insight Meditation based on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness in the tradition of Ven.
Mahasi Sayadaw’s teaching
This is a system of meditation which preaches equal parts of meditation:
- While walking and
- While sitting.
This form of meditation is done with a focus and mindfulness/awareness using mental noting. The temple emphasizes the development of momentary concentration paired with deep internal thinking and sentivitivity to every minute detail which is called mindfulness.
New instructions on most days of practice.
I told myself don’t go in with expectations, don’t ask yourself if you can do it or not.
Just try and you will know for yourself. My biggest motivation was that I had heard that this phase of meditation is not easy; it is hard for even for those who have been at it for quite some time and is so for most of the standards meditators,
His opinion is that, in comparison to this form, the Vispasana propogated by Goenka is like a leisurely vacation compared with none of the serious aspects and hard work that this meditation entails.
The first need that I felt I wanted to do was undergo complete detoxing of my system by purging all the stress and burden of technology; to really make an earnest effort and prove to myself, apart from others, I handed over all the detractions of the world to the monk; in fact, I handed over my phone and my passport to the monk for safekeeping till such time I was not free.
This simple gesture was a source of great relief to me and I felt as if a boulder had lifted from my shoulders; it was a bit funny too since I could never have thought that my phone which was my constant companion and my passport which was the main document for helping me to travel, had been like a veritable load on my chest. Never thought on these lines before.
My mind was constantly aflutter with so many thoughts, mostly doubts, wrestling their way to the forefront of my mind. The day overall was quite easy and did not tax my mind much. The fact is that my mind was a curious monkey; my mind would question everything since I was too excited with anticipation creating a curious hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Where will they serve the food, I wondered? Will the food be nutritious and palatable? How will I feel? Will I be able to stay for 10 days without feeling like running away? Will my experience be so bad that I may regret my mistake in coming here? Or, will I emerge a stronger person through this ordeal and in spite of the ravages of this tough course? Will I or won’t I enjoy this outing?
I started off with 3 times refuge and count every move you made 3 times; 15 minutes sitting; 15 minutes I continued walking with an effort. Thank the lord, somehow, the day passed by with ease.
Initially, before I retired for the night, I had serious misapprehensions about my ability to relax on the hard floor; I had an ominous feeling and my bones and my mind creaked in anticipation. Yes, it felt like an ordeal was impending when it was time to sleep; to stretch my body on the floor.
But, in spite of all misgivings, my sleeping on the thin mattress was actually quite comfortable I also had clear dreams that felt so real but it gets a bit cold in the mountainous terrain at night.
I was almost surprised that I slept like a log without so much as a minor hiccup; it felt like I had just shut my eyes when I was aroused by the deep resonating sound of a mildly irritating sound of a gong. Then, when I was alert fully, I realized that the irritation was not due to the gong; in fact, the sound of the gong was quite pleasing and mildly reassuring.
It was the loud and continuous barking by the dogs which was the source of my discomfort. I finally got up from the floor, folded up the thin sheet and walked out at 4 AM to face my trainers and start my practice. Perhaps, I thought, I shouldn’t mind them; that is one of their functions in life, to alert the ashram and guard it. Live and let everyone live as they desire.
This was a place of self control, disciplining your body and mind while also giving you adequate freedom to keep a semblance of controlled scheduling of one’s activities.
Yes, it is all about strictness with yourself, if you wish it to be so; it is also not an imposition on you if your heart does not sincerely, and with all your spirit, want to do it. In line with this fantastic philosophy, my feelings entirely, no one will come and wake you up. It was not as if there was no contribution from the ashram management, they were sounding the gong to indicate that it was time to get up.
It was your duty to attune yourself to its sound and make it a habit to obey the call. You have to get up, finish your ablutions and be there on time; no force, no coercion, just a reminder that it was time.
The first round of meditation commences on an empty stomach and however much I tried, I could not muster up from my vocabulary all the superlatives of joy, rejuvenation and peace that flowed through my relaxing body and my floating mind.
At 6 am it was time for breakfast and, after one more round of meditation, it was time to see a teacher or a senior person who has more experience than you and who acts as a mentor or guide to you throughout the duration of the course; he listens to you patiently sometimes with eyes closed, questions you sometimes without interrupting and guides you on various subtle issues or aspects of your personality, its reactions and responses. With a calm demeanor he carried me over the lightly flowing waves of insight and understanding.
And, I was to regret it and kick myself later, revealed my over eagerness and immaturity to both my mentor and to myself too. Me with my big mouth I fumed later! He was discussing the daily routine for me and asked me as how much time of meditation would I be comfortable with. I thought to myself that 15minutes is easy so jumped the bandwagon as I went straight to 30 minutes.
Believe me I was furious with myself as I went about my chosen 30”; I found that this period was so hard that it never seemed to end. I was disgusted with myself for having been such an ass; I’m sure my mentor and seniors were amused and having a good laugh behind my back at my obvious discomfort. I felt annoyed and upset.
Are these people not taking things a bit too seriously? I queried myself. After seeing my guide I was not in the mood to meditate. All my euphoria and enthusiasm of the previous day had gone up in smoke; or, should I say that it had gone down in a fizz.
I just went for a walk around the neighborhood; there was not much to call it that, I was feeling sore and tired.
Then, I had my second and last meal of the day; “wow!” I thought, it was only 12 noon and, to my consternation and bitterness, we still had seven long days to go. Seven days of toil as punishment for my ignorance and impudent thoughtlessness.
My mind is simply driving me crazy, it keeps talking to me continuously and it won’t shut up. My head created characters, a Danni Devito voice in cowboy boots with a guitar and a big Mexican hat – asking me “Whatcha doing with yourself? Come join me by the pool. Hey, honey, I’ll let cha drive the Ferrari, whatcha doing to yourself, u think it will get you somewhere ”Oh come on honey don’t get all cold’, ‘alright I’ll catch you later’. I kept refocusssed my rambling mind on the walking meditation. Using slang was something new to me; a first.
Never in my life could I foresee myself using such guttery language; these were my thoughts as I pushed on to complete my 30”, the same 30” that I had foolishly thrust upon myself.
Wonder of wonders, all of a sudden I had George Bush riding a horse in the woods asking if I would like to join him to shoot some hoops…What rubbish to I have in my mind, is this what I’m made off? Are these the kind of fantasies that are seated deep in my psyche?
I wanted to get out of here, I wanted out, NOW. The irony of the whole episode is that, while leaving Hong Kong, I had forgotten to carry enough money and I would have to make some phone calls to get permission to withdraw some money from my bank account. I was aghast with desperation since I was responsible for this predicament of mine.
I am well and truly stuck, so, I might as well keep going. I met a nun and she was the only one that I was indulging in conversations with. She has a coffee shop in the park for the monks. So, it was so refreshing for my practice.
I told my teacher I’m having a sharp pain and I couldn’t do it; I cannot go on anymore. He wasn’t helpful in the least, all he said was, “note the pain and keep going’.
Every part of my body was screaming at the top of its voice, I was creaking all over. It was a terrible ordeal since it was starting to hurt severely. I tried to tell him again that I was suffering very badly. He just nodded his head and asked me to keep going… I was rather upset with him and that got stuck in my head for half a day.
It was all a crazy feeling, some mornings I would wake up feeling extremely happy and some mornings I would wake up not wanting to get up. Without doing anything different, still my moods can change. I was nonplussed, these mood-swings were simply defying reasoning and changing of their own free will.
Even the sharp pain which I was convinced would, if I sat more, I would cause myself a long term injury was all gone as if it never happened. Sometimes, I would meditate outdoors under the hot sun in the afternoon and sometimes I would create a competition in my head with the Russian girl and see if I could meditate longer than her.
Now that I was on 45 minutes, I was jubilant that I had beaten her so I felt highly motivated and proud since it was set in my mind that Russians are always very determined and highly competitive in all that they do.
My big mouth came back again, even though we had to have noble silence and no eye contacts. But, I was in my elements, I would talk to the monk, I would look at people just to break the rules and offend the ashram inmates.
I felt like a little spoilt rebel child deliberately disturbing people without actually disturbing them. Just distracting them and see who falls in the trap and talks to me. Impudent me! I even had the very determined Russian girl talk to me.
I also met a very cool lady from Tunisia; she was wearing really big cool shades to meditate. She became my friend as I was very amused with how she put herself there and then wanted to escape. It was all very, very amusing and hilarious.
All those gimmicks, all that monkey tricks, all those talks and eye contacts keep playing in my head like a trapped tape and those trapped tapes take me away from the moment we are living in.
The birds that we hear, the feet of the ants that crawled on my ankle, the different temperatures that touch my skin. I only have two days left to experience this complete awareness of every move, sound, smell, taste and feelings
I wanted to cut down to one meal a day. I couldn’t, so I was eating with full awareness. Food is not there to give pleasure it is to feed and sustain our body. Say thanks to the nature that has provided us, the nuns who cooked for us. I was meditating one hour sitting and one hour walking with little breaks in between.
I was feeling excited so I noted my thought by saying “feeling, feeling, feeling” in my head. I did everything to the best of my knowledge. I told the teacher that I keep seeing things and create fear especially while sitting. I had to note that and keep going too.
I remember things that it was impossible to remember, I had answers to some things in my life that I never questioned. I asked the teacher is that it? Is that it? I must be doing it right because I’m seeing things and remembering things and I’m getting answers to things I never questioned. So that day I kept going.
The craziest experience – I desperately wanted to stop and not do a one hour sitting and a one hour walking meditation. I felt restless; while walking, I was so angry that I had to do one hour, on the way I felt like kneeling down, I wanted to cry as I felt so much pain.
I noted crying,crying,crying..I suddenly ‘wanted’ to to burst out laughing (I put myself here in the first place) so I noted, laughing, laughing, laughing. I thought, “what is the point of all this acting out on emotions? It is pointless, ‘meaningless’.
I stood up and continued I felt like a trooper, a big girl doing her big duty, WALKING. I might as well be carrying on with what I’m doing. I did my last meditation at 11 pm. I wanted to stay up and meditate all the way… I had one meditation where I felt my legs were really long, my body was so light I didn’t feel. I felt I was floating all along and the steps no longer felt anything, naming the movements had become effortless. It was almost like I was overtaken by ecstasy. That night when I finally went to bed my eyes went on fluttering as if my mind was cleaning and rebooting like a computer.
4am I woke up naturally my body felt energised. I felt clean and pure. The head monk gave me a present in my farewell ceremony and told me that I must come back to do it completely, all over again. I guess he knew I was being a deliberate, distracted rebel. I said goodbye to the nun in the coffee shop, I felt that all my senses were like Spider-Man. Very aware.
It felt as if I was aware of everything. The world seems so fast even though I was still in Chang Mai. When I spoke to people it was like I know what they REALLY mean to say. It felt as I lived in the golden gate moment and everything is possible. All my actions were counted all things that happens are not coincidentally they all have a reason. All the great ideas, inventions are found here when you heart pulsate the same time as the universe does.
I wish to learn all the different kinds of meditations that exist; the human mind is so fascinating. We shouldn’t build big rockets to explore space, we should observe and learn what our mind does to us and our reality.
Knowledge felt so pointless, reading another book, it felt it was just another escape thinking it would make me wiser or actually to fit in this system.
Somehow, it seems that all the answers are deep inside us; that is true wisdom and it makes sense knowing that this is where the true bliss lies.