Osho said, “You have to lose everything in order to be.”
Yes, you must let go of everything that is not you. That is the key to happiness, wealth and success in life. Being who you really are means letting go of all your programming, all those old memories and preconceptions. Most everything you have decided to believe about yourself is completely untrue and does not define you in any way.
You are not your problems, your opinions, or your judgments. You are above all of that.
To be or not be, this is the only true question. Your only job is to be yourself again. And in order to come back to yourself, to become yourself again, you must remember how to simply be. You must let go of all the KNOWLEDGE in your mind, unlearning everything you have taught yourself in order to reconnect with your own wisdom, your true self, the wisdom of your heart.
After thinking many times on doing a Vipassana Meditation Course and also many previous attempts in the past years to do it in South America, the time and the conditions were to take it in India, nothing more, nothing less was in the same city where they say Buddha attained enlightenment a few thousands of years ago, in Bodhgaya.
I made the trip from Calcutta, on a night train which takes about 8 hours. Depending on your needs there are a variety of options to travel by train, so far the Sleeper Class suits me, specially because of the price (254INR). (See my Guide to train travel in India)
After arriving at the Gaya Junction Station next step is negotiating a tuc-tuc or taxi to take you outside town. This time it was very easy and I got at the very first time the price I wanted … must be the low season and the lack of tourists or I’m getting better and better on haggling.
The Dhamma Center is located on the outside of Bodhgaya, in a rural area without anything close to it. The city of Bodghaya is small, and there is a few things you do and have fun while staying in the area. You can visit the Mahabhodi Temple Complex, where you can find the big tree where people say Buddha became enlightened sitted under it.
As my train was arriving really early morning, they allowed me to arrive at the Dhamma Center in the morning and stay there all day before starting the course. I was received by Cristian, which to the delight of both we could chat in Spanish with someone after a really long time!
The day you arrive it is actually Day 0 and the Course starts next day early morning. It finish at Day 11 when you can talk with everybody and share with the people you were next to those last 10 days.
They divide the Center in Two sides and separate females from men. In this center they have small houses were they host you. In my case I had the room for myself as we were just around 20 female. It was around 80 men attending to the course as well. We were 24 foreigners and I was really impressed to know that there were some people travelling for 48 hours to get there, and they do that every year!
If you have problems with hot weather or any health condition that prevents you to drink plenty of water, definitely avoid the summer in India, I went in early May and the truth is, the heat is unbearable, but I’m already used to travel in the “wrong” seasons, I was in altiplano in Peru and Bolivia in rainy season when it is assumed not go and it was… interesting adventure as it will be reason for another post.
The heat in India is really strong, with temperatures between 30 ° C minimum and 43 °C every day, even being in my room with the fan on could feel the heat burning my face and the water in my plastic bottle within minutes after taking it from the ceramic pot was almost the optimal temperature for making a tea. Thanks to the my sister’s advice, I found the solution: sleeping with a wet blanket covering me and taking a bath whenever I could and before bed BUT with my clothes on…that kept me with balanced temperature.
The course at Bodhi Dhamma School is one of the most recognized institutions performing them. They are already doing this for years and they are worldwide, all free of charge and based on the donations of those who participate in them, and with the help of volunteers who have already completed courses and want to donate their time as a reward for the service and teachings received.
This 10-day Course was very well organized, everything is arranged so that you can dedicate yourself 100% to meditation. They provide food and accommodation, and there is a routine that you need to follow every day.
Before attending the course I must admit that I had some fears, I had read some comments and posts about these courses and feared was a sectarian place, trying to impose any religion or ideology. My surprise was quite big, because while they teach a method they don’t try to impose anything. Anyone of any religion may attend a Vipassana course.
The only thing nearest to sectarian is, probably, the norms and precepts (and certain rules along these 10 days also applying to schedules, norms of conduct and dressing code) they say you must follow to be a good meditador and to reach the enlighting … To me, the truth is I don’t search enlightment, so in spite of living my days calm, happier and being a better person every day I’m all good. So follow such strict rules is not going according to me, at least today.
When you sign in you make a commitment to stay 10 days and to follow the rules that they require within the Centre. According to them, one of the main things is to follow the strict routine that has a schedule which begins at 4:30 with the first meditation and continues until 21:00 when you go to sleep. They were some days that I was falling asleep while meditating at 5am and some mornings lot of meditators we were late for the first calling. It’s a hard routine to follow!
In addition a vow of Noble silence is made during all the 10 days that you do not speak with any of your meditation mates. You can only talk to the teachers to solve any problem or question you may have, just about the meditation technique. The silence was probably the easy part throughout the course and even necessary, so many people, each one with their own problems, doubts and uncertainties, that better dedicate only to yourself during those days and not to hear what others think or feel.
I might do a “mea culpa” and recognize I not fulfilled this 100%, since from the 3 rd or 4 th day when I wanted to give up and get out of the place I connected my phone and looked at Facebook once a day, but just stalking, without participating or writing anything (even clicking a “like”), so it was silent anyway.
Every day is different from the others. They will gradually teach new steps to reach to the technique of Vipassana Meditation itself, in which you’re sitting for one hour without moving!
When I got it the first time it was like winning a prize. When I was looking nearly 80 years sitting in front of me (well, aside) without moving for hours… was my motivation when my legs hurt like never before, or my mind told me: go out and walk! I don’t want to be here! Move!
The process that occurs during the course is intense, it is a meditation technique that, after trying many different techniques I felt comfortable with it. Very practical and direct, you just dedicate yourself to look at yourself and the sensations of your body. You do look for 10 days and it inevitably faces you with yourself and things that you had no thought or you’ve avoided seeing beforef. To me was equivalent to 10 years of psycotherapy. Is for this reason that I think is very important to have certain mental and emotional health before attending a course like this. I do not recommend to do it in the middle of a crisis of any kind or just after you get out of one.
It is a strong and intense process that can generate certain processes in people not prepared mentally and emotionally to do this. This is why so many stories that we hear about this or that traveler, half hippie who took the course and was half crazy after those 10 days, simply there are people who are not ready to do it when they are doing it.
They postulate that it is a technique that is dedicated to clean and to make people happy. To clean your physical, spiritual and emotional body of past and present experiences, which I was actually experiencing during the course. Memories of experiences and people that seemed forgotten and healed, just appeared and pump up in my mind to be cleaned again.
This last made me much sense, since some time ago I have been practicing a Hawaiian technique called Ho’oponopono, which is basically dedicated to the same thing: clean, clean and clean; your body, your emotions, and your memories that prevent you to to be happy and to develop fully as you are.
For me it was not an easy experience, but necessary. I went seeking to connect with myself and in those ten days I managed to see me as I am, which was hard sometimes but it is the reality. And is basically what you learn in a course of Vipassana: to try To See Reality As It Is, Not As You Want It To Be.
As any meditation technique is not generating any change if you are not practicing it, and is as well as after I finished those 10 days and continuing my trip to India I could see subtle changes generated, basically on the way of thinking and facing daily things. I was more calm, less anxious, more connected and patient. My experience in India became less tortuous with my mind calmer than when I arrived.
With some months after, I have not followed with a routine of meditation. Now I do it when I can/want or when I see that my mind is again a thousand miles per hour and thinking about 2000 different things per minute… one hour of meditation returns me to my center, a way of dealing with things more quiet, happy, calm and wise.
An experience that I recommend to those who are in some way to get to know themselves, very hard but rewarding experience at the end.
Have you ever done a Meditation Retreat? Do you practice Vipassana Meditation? How has your experience been?