I had already been in Chennai (India) for a day, the day Chief Minister Jayalalitha died (dec.2016), when I took the taxi from the hotel to the Dhamma Setu center for my 10 days Vipassana. The ride lasted three quarters of an hour and I was thinking. I was going to register at the center where I would voluntarily hand in my phone. I would hand in the book I was reading as well. Oh yeah… I still had cookies in the bag… I was also going to drop them off too…
It was like I was standing in front of a deep hole and about to jump in… Meanwhile I convinced myself that I really wanted this and that everyone who had done this, was saying how great an experience it was for them!
All kinds of things went through my mind…
on my way to the meditation center Dhamma Setu
10 days Vipassana – Chennai
Once in the meditation center I saw a number of buildings of which one had a larger hall, the dining hall. The other buildings were the rooms where we would get a room. I went inside and walked through the large hall and was directed further into the building. It was the same kind of hall but smaller. This was the ladies side of the building. I would have my breakfast, lunch and evening snack and chai here every day. At a table I saw an Indian woman sitting. I could report to her and fill in the papers. This woman would accompany us all week, scoop up food and answer questions… she was the volunteer… the Dhamma worker… I had already seen online that you could go for that option as well.
I had to fill in a form, read again the rules I had to follow strictly and then I got a sheet and pillowcase. I was directed to room 20. When I started walking I saw some more people walking around. And then women… This was the women’s side I soon found out about when I started walking around and was sent away on the other side of the meditation hall…. (This was the male side I found out about later) In this meditation hall I would spend 9 to 10 hours every day for the next 10 days….
Composition of the participants
10 days Vipassana
There were about 25 women in total. There were about 10 western women, some Russian, some French, some Australian, British, German, Japanese… (if you can call that western…) And the rest were Indian women, 2 or 3 were not wearing ‘costumes’ but the rest were all wrapped in 6 meters of sari and dressed wonderfully colourful. The younger generation wore the leggings with the long shirt or a dress over them. And there was a nun 🙂
For now we were still mixed: men and women
Drinking chai & talking
We could have some tea and talk to everyone…including the men. Soon it became clear that the seperation after this would be very tight. I saw a fence closing to the front of the property. The men would leave the dining hall from that side and walk to their side. Our road was at right angles… so we would see them walking by. This view was blocked by a fence with another cloth over it…and then there was a rope stretched between 2 trees….
So our path was just made almost 10 meters shorter… …we still had a road about 300 meters down. The men’s side was longer…I’d seen that…as the only one turned out later. Nobody had walked that way… I guess it was in my police heart to look around and have a look at everything. I was the only one sent away… The man pretended to send an animal away… shhh…and point with an arm and make hand gestures…hahaha!!!!!!
Again the rules were mentioned and then it started!
After the delicious chai… I really started to appreciate the massala chai this week… How delicious! Is also the only sweet thing I got a day…and a banana 🙂 But ok, after the tea we got a speech. I had to make another promise which I also had to read online when I registered…also when I filled in the papers I had to read them…. and now it was told again. We were all on the men’s side. All the men on one side… about 60 I think… …so a bigger group than ours. And while I was waiting, I talked to Montana, the Australian. A young girl and a couple of weeks already traveling around. She said she was very nervous and she didn’t like that.
I was a bit nervous too…
You don’t know exactly what’s in store for you… All the ladies were chatting and suddenly Montana says…look at the other side… the men. They were all quiet 🙂 A western man I spoke to earlier was looking out for himself among those dozens of Indian men…haha. I walked up to him and asked him if he wouldn’t rather sit with us…talking so pleasantly… He looked around for a moment and then he also had to laugh. He admitted that he wanted to sit with us for a while 🙂
So what were those precepts I had to make?
I had to keep Noble Silence for 10 days. That means no communication with anyone else… So no looking at each other…gestures…or anything. If anything was needed or needed to be said, it could be through the Dhamma worker or through the teacher.
The other rules were: To obstain from killing any living creature, To obstain from stealing, To obstain from all sexual activity, To obstain from counting lies, To obstain from all intoxicants.
I had to put my signature under these precepts,
I had understood and will keep them
So basically all that other stuff was pretty easy when you’re in there. Though we’ve all killed quite a lot of mosquitoes hahaha! We were in an outdoor area and there was a nice garden and a lot of trees around us. It was warm and humid… lots of vermin. The doors of the rooms didn’t close properly… I’ve had a gecko in my room all week… I spent the whole week trying to get in touch with it… touch it… And for real! On the last day in the morning he sat in the doorway as if he was leaving and stayed put. The first touch frightened him … but he remained seated. I even stroke its back a couple of times. How strange!
Different experiences at different centres around the world
The German (originally Sarajevo) woman I spoke to later when the noble silence was over…told me that these animals and the vermin had made the whole 10 days very heavy for her. She had been through these 10 days more often but in Germany and there the bed is nicer, not everything is damp…you do have a hot shower…at breakfast a wide view and lots of space to walk…hahaa! This time had been a real ordeal for her!
Noble Silence started… From nowon 10 days silence
That first evening we were assigned a pillow in the meditation hall where we would meditate the rest of the week. I got pillow 11, on the pillow was another little pillow that you could put under you for some comfort… We got an explanation of how everything worked out and were shown an ‘introduction’. Goenka himself, who has been out of time for a while…, gave us advice and told us what the course would look like. The Noble Silence started and when we were outside again it was dark and as the ‘alarm clock’ went off at 4 o’clock that morning I walked to my room to go to sleep.
I’d made my bed… An old mattress where I felt the iron coming through when I did the cover around it that had been lying on it. I had been given a pillowcase and the pillow inside felt damp and dirty. Luckily I always have my own silk sleeping bag with me and I had it on top and so I was lying in a bag of silk and cotton. So much finer!
Day 1 started…
Just like all the other 10 days at 4 o’clock!!
Vipassana Centre, Chennai
I slept quite well and at 4 o’clock I heard a bell ringing in the distance. It came closer and closer and I realized again where I was and that the Dhamma worker would wake us up.… She walked across the grounds in front of all the rooms ringing a bell. I quickly got out and got into the shower… Very cold! Quickly I rinsed and got out of that room so my roommate could wash herself too. Just before half past 5 another bell rang and we had to come to the meditation hall.
Everybody sat down on her pillow, the teacher sat on an elevated platform in front of us with around her the equipment with which she could show us instructions, radio/amplifier and behind her a tv. Different remote controls for the airco, ventilators etc. She didn’t say anything but sat down to meditate…so we all did the same. In last night’s instruction we had heard that we had to concentrate on our breathing. Don’t think about anything else…being in the here and now.
Getting you to control the mind.
Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of meditation
Your mind always wants to be in the past or think about the future.
Making plans that cheer you up…or thinking back to moments that cheered you up… Or the other way around… Thinking back to those moments when you were hurt and how you could have reacted differently… …or how you’re gonna react to that next time… …or even what you’re gonna do if you can hurt whoever hurted you… All thoughts that are of no use to you here and now and what a feeling of craving or aversion entails. Feelings that we shouldn’t have…that are of no use to us…that we should banish in order to be truly happy.
So …. breath in … breath out…
Only through the nose… and within a minute my mind was gone… You’re sitting in a hall, still dark outside…20+ other women around you… India… Again… back here and now… Breathe in… Breathe out… breathe in… exhale… And there go your thoughts again…
Where were my thoughts? What was my craving… What was my aversion?
I’ve been thinking a lot about the Camino… That was my craving thought… I felt that was so great, walking those 780K in Spain… I also thought of nice places in the world like the beach of Varadero where I had a nice time with the British cyclists. Babette I met in Medellin, Kerala in 2015… Gamla Stan in Stockholm in 2016… But I also got to see moments that weren’t fun again…that annoyed me a bit… Oh yeah… that… Or…when this happened… that made me a little unhappy. Or where someone wasn’t honest with me and just never admitted it…
Desire and Aversion…
Emotions / Sensations
Some thoughts could take my attention from my breath for a long time. I really don’t know the time but 10 minutes or even longer were in the first days no exception. Every day this became less long, that I’d sooner realize that I was not doing what I wanted anymore but my mind had run away with me again. It seems so simple… only thinking about or at least feeling… your breathing and not doing anything else. Your body is also going to protest… That knee must be a little different… oh now it’s gonna feel weird in my tail bone… With the shoulder blades I suddenly feel that I no longer sit upright… and the neck feels less and less good about it all.
After 2 hours the gong went again and we could go to the dining hall to have breakfast. The first two hours of meditation were over. The food was set up and the dhamma worker was going to fill our plates for us. Every morning we ate some curry or vegetable mix or idli (looks like the Dutch ‘poffertjes’)…. I don’t know what the first one was, it tasted fine. On top of that we got a nice cup of chai. I really started to enjoy the chai this week. The only sweet thing … and so I always gave myself a second cup after dinner. From one of those stainless steel cups… I now have one at home and this reminds me so much of India… of these 10 days too 🙂
Drink a deliciously sweet but spicy Chai for dessert
After breakfast we had over an hour ‘free’ and the first day I walked around and sat down but the other 9 days after breakfast I always went to my room to get an extra hour of sleep. Olga, my roommate, did the same. At 8 o’clock another session of meditation started. This was a group session and then you are not allowed to leave the hall for the whole session. These sessions starts each time with a soundtrack of Goenka explaining why we are doing this, only watching our breathing, trying to avoid thoughts… Especially the feelings that these thoughts arouse don’t feel them. Just observing…not paying attention in the sense of going back in. See what it does to your body and see that it subsides again. It is the law of nature that everything ebbs away… a feeling comes and goes…
All feelings/sensations come and g0..
Realise that nothing is permanent
After an hour the tape suddenly starts producing sound again… Goenka who is chanting… this took a few minutes and then we were allowed to stretch our legs for 5 minutes and come back again. 9 o’clock a new session, hour watching your breath… 10 o’clock another session and at 11 o’clock lunch and rest until 1 o’clock. Rice with different sauces and milk. The milk is a kind of yoghurt that is diluted… At a certain moment it’s tasty again… everything that stimulates your taste buds differently is fine. Normally I don’t experience this at all but here I did… Normally I really do not like yoghurt that much but at a certain time I also took this glass after dinner. Just for the change of flavours or something. The food was good and it was also a lot that was scooped up.
Of course we eat from stainless steel and from the cups that are put on top of it. We wash all this ourselves and the next day the tray is put down so we can get another plate, cup and tray. After lunch I went back to sleep almost every day. Between the meditation hours and before and after sleeping I walked a couple of times over the path of about 400 meters back and forth...stretching my legs…stretching my back…feeling all the muscles for a moment….
The afternoon then starts again at 1 o’clock with a 1.5 hour meditation session. Half past 3 to half past 4 a joint session and then another one hour from 4 to 5. 5 o’clock tea and a snack and at 6 o’clock another session and at half past 8 discourse. TV on and Goenka telling us what to do the next day. After this another half hour of meditating, sniffing the new one extended method… For the second day it was trying to feel that the breath enters your body through the nose and goes out again. Trying to feel the sensations…
Around 21.30 uur I was in bed….I was tired…
Day 2 of 10 days Vipassana
Feel the breath at your nose and upper lip
On day two it started again in the same order. 4 o’clock awake… I’m going to take a short shower… a cold shower… Olga, my roommate, is going to freshen up but is already dressed and we walk to the meditation hall. Then soon the gong sounds again with after that the little bell that rings the Dhamma worker and runs along the rooms. We enter the hall and all of us sit down on our own cushions again. Some days those first two hours went pretty fast but the later in the week the longer they lasted. In the beginning I had the idea that I achieved something in those hours but after a while I didn’t anymore. I went a bit in my sitting position 🙂 Eyes closed and sometimes my head fell down and I was wide awake again and started again…breathing out of breath…. I am here and in the now… You’re not supposed to imagine…a certain god or whatever… You’re not supposed to sing/chant that name in your head…
Keep your thoughts empty..
Be only in the present..
The intention is to focus your attention completely on your body. Fully get all senses in this moment and feel and experience what is happening right now. The first 3 days we did this by feeling our breathing, feeling that air goes through your nose, that air goes in… and goes out. In it I always felt…but out…then the air is warmer and that’s hard to feel. You don’t need to adjust your breathing for instance breathing a little harder so you can feel it. You can do 1 or 2 breaths and then back to normal breathing. On day 3 the space where we had to feel this was extended to the whole nose and the space under the nose and above the upper lip.
I sometimes was laughing out loud (within)!!
It’s completely silent in the hall all day long. Outside, a little Indian female, traditionally dressed in sari, is sweeping all day… So you hear that sweeping very well. You can hear some of them breathing a little louder… You hear people shifting… sighing… supporting themselves… mourning haha! Or sometimes a burp… Indian people don’t keep their mouths shut… There was air… that has to come out… We’ve learned that it’s descent to do it inside the mouth and with no sound… I have to laugh so hard sometimes! Also a fart… I don’t even know if they’re like … hmmm…sorry… …but I have to laugh inside!! And back to breathing… And in no time the mind was wandering again… Thoughts back to everything except breathing and being in the present.
And when I almost tamed my thoughts….
My body started to protest!
But on day 3 I was already so far that I was pretty soon aware that my mind was wandering…and I think it was the longest 5 minutes. I started to get more and more pain in my back and neck. My neck always bothers me…now it was between my shoulder blades. I couldn’t adopt a painless posture anymore. At the end of this day we were ordered to sit still…not to move. Not to move out of the pain that our body gives in resist for being in the present.. I got desperate. I couldn’t do this… My hip joined in too, and sitting in the lotus position became hell. I understand that it’s partly psychic…but partly real because of an accident many years ago… Now they really think it’s not…that it gets less as long as you sit up but I couldn’t do it anymore. My motivation to stay almost dropped to 0… I’m not a quitter…and I will persevere…but I would have liked to have packed my bag and gone…
I am not a quitter!! I will persevere!!
I had a really tough time…
I then, at the end of the day, when you can ask a question, asked if I could get support… Of course I got the motivation that I was not patient enough and that I had to persevere. It was the mind that made me feel this. The pain comes and goes and don’t pay too much attention to it.
Continuing to feel the breathing and by now we had also been instructed to go from body part to body part and feel that. Touch everything you feel on the skin with your thoughts for a moment…what kind of feeling/sensation is it…how long will it stay? tingling, stinging, hot, cold, whatever kind of sensation … examine it in your thoughts and soon you will notice that it is ebbing away. And then you begin to feel the body again. I couldn’t get my thoughts away from my hip. Right hip… I couldn’t leave my leg hanging… My neck was stuck… I had to sit very upright, push myself up a little with my arms, to keep it clear between my shoulder blades. But in the end, she gave me a support so I could sit better.
I was extremely annoyed by this answer, I felt like a poser…
I felt like I wasn’t being taken seriously…
May all beings be happy
I was so NOT happy!!
Day 4 Vipassana day
The next morning I came into the hall and all I saw was my pillow…no support… I had slept badly…the motivation of her that I wasn’t hard enough…wasn’t strong enough had hit me good, so to speak. Still…just when I wanted to sit down the Dhamma worker walked in with a support. Wooden seat with an upright back part. Cushion could be placed on the seat and then I could lean with my back. It was so much better. In the meantime I had also conjured a pillow from somewhere so I could put two small pillows on my big pillow, one I could put under butt and 1 under my knee. But yes…when you sit like that for an hour you really hurt again… So once with pillow…once without pillow. I also sat a lot with my legs in front of me so I could lean with my hands/arms on my knees. But as long as possible without moving of course.
I have to admit that the pain became less.
After a few more days I sat without moving for an hour…at least… Push your leg up a little bit with your foot… or move it a little bit… …but I was allowed to. But don’t move your feet or change your position. So increase the distance considerably or take your legs apart when you’re in the lotus seat.
I did got control over my body more and more
And then each time with the joint meditation hours, we had to sit still for an hour. That hour started with Goenka chanting. Every break we heard that through the loudspeakers on the road we were allowed to walk on. Every discourse, in the evening with joint meditation and as a conclusion. Still the sitting still went better and better and especially when I was in deep meditation … so my concentration was good on my physical sensations and by feeling them good and moving on with the attention in my body I could sit still.
So at the end of day 4 we were instructed on how to apply Vipassana, so far we had done anapana meditation. So just watch the breathing with today also trying to feel sensations in the nose/nose wings and above the upper lip. But from now on we went into the body. Trying to feel the sensations the skin gave us, small tingling sensations etc.
The theory behind this is that everything comes and goes. Beautiful, happy feelings but also negative, aggressive or sad feelings. This is also the case with the sensations the skin makes us feel.
How does Vipassana work?
what I remember and what I take from it
The subconscious, which is said to be not always consciously present, is according to this theory always present. If you consider that your body performs actions that are so conditioned and of which you are no longer aware that you are doing them... this is therefore caused by the subconscious mind.
If you feel a mosquito on your arm…you are doing something else but still your body reacts by sweeping your other hand along that arm. You often don’t do this on purpose, but it happens. The body reacts.
This is also the case with feelings, you see someone who appreciates you very much and for whom you are in awe or who you don’t like…this will also manifest itself in your body by creating a certain feeling. Infatuation, anger, insulted etc… These are all feelings your body makes you feel after you have a thought. Now this theory says that you only feel your physical sensations for a very small part. You’re not tuned in to this anymore, so to speak. You’re not aware of it anymore.
And that is what we are doing
Fine tuning your senses to feel those sensations again om
These stimuli are connected to the experiences, positive or negative, that you have had. Which you have reacted to and which have left an impression. So these will make you react in the same way again next time… E.g. A person you really liked, appreciated and respected… You will see them again 20 years later and immediately your body will reawaken these feelings and you will almost blindly start to like this person again. You become a little blind to changes, you don’t notice it anymore. It works the other way around, someone who had hurt you…that feeling is still there after 20 years.
Blindly that feeling comes back into you and you don’t like this person…Or you even start thinking about hurting them…. Because your big I is affected and often feelings of revenge are released because you have to put it right again… So…fight one negative feeling with another negative feeling. If I’m suffering… then the other has to suffer too…
This was dealt with in several examples every day during the evening discourse.
Day 5 Vipassana
Feeling the whole body
So from day 5, we were going to try to perceive the sensations that our body has at all times. From the crown of your head…going with your attention through every part of your body. Your face…your neck…shoulders…arms…chest…back…hips and so on and so forth. Going at every piece of skin with your thoughts, touching… When you feel a sensation you go there with your full attention. What a feeling is it? Does it stay for a while, does it get less… does it move… does it get stronger? In time, the feeling will go away… The law of nature. Nothing is permanent and all feelings and sensations are temporary.
What happens a lot is that with a feeling like that, there’s a memory… a situation comes to mind… negative or positive… Try to pay less attention to that but treat it as a given. Don’t give it a feeling, don’t go along with the feeling it gave you at the time of the situation. Don’t get stuck in the past and try to get back in the present. Don’t go to the future thinking… next time I’ll do this or that… No…
By only realizing that that situation is still in your mind…is linked to a sensation in your body…and then going further will weaken the power of the emotion.
Every time you relive an emotion and give it value again by going along with it, it becomes more powerful. Maybe this situation comes up again at a sensation you perceive…. realize it…don’t give it an emotion anymore…slowly it will disappear and your negative / positive feeling will become more neutral. More becoming one with reality …. No longer colored by your background…experiences…
Give emotions/feelings no more energy…
it’s the only way the emotion will weaken, become less deeply rooted
Some sensations will last a long time, some will feel strange… only experiencing that it’s there… It’s there now… and it’ll go away… Realize that everything is temporary, impermanent… I’ve heard this 100 times this week 🙂
Day 7 – Vipassana
After a couple of days, at 7, we got the assignment to scan the body as a whole. So the whole head…sagging down to neck…the whole chest and back…one arm…other arm…sagging down to hips…one whole leg…other leg… Like if you went through a scan… sitting around you, touching every piece of skin. The old students were also instructed to cross etc. through the body. To go for sensations they felt.
Because of this scan thought I came at a certain point that I no longer felt just the tingling sensations or creepy caterpillar feelings…. …but that whole areas of skin began to vibrate. I can best compare it to the television that shows a gray picture…at least it did when I was younger…when in the night…after the test picture…there were no more broadcasts?? Who remembers?? Haahaa!!!! That gray… All those tint balls dancing on the screen… That feeling… I don’t know if you understand what I mean in terms of feeling…but that’s how I can describe it.
Feeling, vibrating, what I now describe in retrospect as being 1 with the universe
The hours before breakfast it was hard to concentrate and my thoughts were everywhere and nowhere…and back in the here and now…and gone again… That went on and on…that didn’t change. But as the day went on I started to concentrate as well and I could stay focused longer. I think it was in the evening of day 8 that I could really scan my body with that feeling of the grey image. From top to bottom…from the head…along the whole body and up to the feet and back again. I think this took 1 to 2 minutes and then it disappeared. After that I had a few more times that I could scan parts, the legs or a piece of the head with a piece of back.
Every day you make knots in your soul… you get new cravings of aversions…
These knots end up in the subconscious and will influence your judgement. So to erase them you will have to apply Vipassana every day for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening… AAAAHHH I’m really not going to do that… I’m not going to have time for that…
Well… you have to make time for that. Once you realize what it’s gonna gain from it you’re gonna do this. Hmm… I don’t know. I really do think it is… but with work… other things you want to do…I’m not gonna be able to do it.
On day 4 it was really tough for me…
But what saved me?
I’m not going to interrupt the story I’m typing now...but we had a storm on day 5. In the night it was already raining, I had woken up a few times from the clatter of water behind our shower. An open space with 4 rooms adjacent to it… The morning went on as planned but it was very windy and raining cats and dogs. At 11 o’clock lunch and after that always until 1 o’clock break. I was then at some kind of deepest point in my course. I didn’t have much willpower to go on and I was thinking a lot about spending my days better elsewhere… I could go to Pondicherry or another place in the area to discover Tamil Nadu, of which I hadn’t seen anything yet. After the course I left India right away, I had that trip Sri Lanka on the program … so….
The cycloon saved me that day…
Of course we don’t have a clock…I didn’t know what time it was but I felt it should have been 1 hour already. The Dhamma worker didn’t come by with the bell and so I stayed on the bed. It was windy and I was also thinking about getting my rain cape out of the bag. We only have to cross one road but I was afraid I would be soaked. The wind was quite strong…and I had put the door not only on the lower clamp we normally use but also on the one on top. Sometimes I saw the door move and twice the hatches of Olga blew open. Apparently she didn’t understand that she had to put the clamps on it. We had no windows but only mosquito nets. So she went outside twice to close it and within 15-20 seconds soaked she came back inside again 🙂
Around 3 o’clock I think we suddenly heard a big bang outside, I jumped off my bed and opened the door. The building we were in was square with an open interior and our rooms bordered on that courtyard. There’s a tree in the center of it…a big branch had been cut off and ended up in front of our room. This was the first time we broke our Noble Silence. I said: The tree broke… Olga said: We got swimming pool… hahaha, she pointed to the courtyard which was a bit lowered and full of water!
Moments later there was a knock on the door. The girl next door…if we wanted to have a look in the open space behind our room…There was a small square open space where our window of the shower came out, also theirs…but also those of our back neighbours. This room was filled with water, it was at least a meter high! I estimate another 30-40 cm and then it would flow into our room! Luckily it started to rain less and very slowly the water subsided. Around half past four we all started to get out of our rooms. It was a ravage outside, a lot of trees had fallen…1 on a building on the men’s side…1 just along the dining hall. The street where we could walk on was littered with branches and with this we started to sweep. After half an hour we had to drink tea and leave everything.
No effort for us… we went back to meditating at 6:30. 🙂
The fallen tree along the dininghall
but also the fences that separated us from the male part 🙂
Sometimes it was really hard not to say anything. Not to point something out to some one… …in a positive sense. Or when I saw the woman in front of me messing with her scarf… she just wanted to put it on right but it was twisted on her back… I saw it… But I can’t touch it, so I let her mess… Pretty tricky. My roommate who didn’t empty the trash the whole 10 days …never cleaned the shower floor or swept the room… I just wanted to point that out… We’ve had a gecko in our room the whole 10 days. I wonder if she saw it too?
I’ve seen him every day, at my foot end on the window or curtain… Even in the shower… Every time I tried to pet him 🙂 I did talk to my gecko…haha… what about Noble Silence? Also with animals? On day 9 I saw him for the last time… He was in the doorway, I was outside and suddenly I saw him. I sat down and touched his tail… he was frightened and only shot away a tiny bit… I touched him again… he stayed put… I stroked him over his back and he stayed put. Two women came walking by and one wanted to sweep him up and throw him away (she was Indian) and the other looked at me with big eyes… (That was the German from Sarajevo).
There were also a lot of toads on the terrain 🙂 And a white dog that came by a lot and a little frightened kitten. I was allowed to talk to that, wasn’t I? (one way communication 🙂 )
The Noble Silence of fellow Vipassana women
The first day I met Soniya. Little Indian woman, I think she was in her early 20s. She was really naughty… She still had her cell phone on her cell…it went off and when I told her that everything had to be handed in she took it and we went to do it together. She also showed me a packet of cookies that she had hidden in a corner of her bed… Really?
So you’re starting out like this? Hahaa!
The next morning to the meditation hall, I ran into her. She greeted me by bringing her hand to her head… as greeting a cop … Always makes an impression in Asia, and she just said goodmorning?? What? I gave her a smile and then I didn’t look at her anymore in the next days to avoid being talked too!
She had a roommate she could get along with, and the noble silence was beyond their reach. But also the other, older Indian ladies had no problem with just talking to each other. There was also a little lady who made her face completely orange… You can see that more here… looks really strange… but is a bit lighter in colour and therefore beautiful in the eyes of Asian people I guess… She was sitting in the back of the hall and when she wanted to ask the teacher something she just said it very loud throughout the hall! While everyone crouched down in front of the teacher and talked softly with her so they didn’t disturb anyone…hahaha! Even when the dhamma worker was out of the room and the teacher wasn’t there it didn’t take a minute whether they talked or left the room. This is allowed…to stretch your legs for 5 minutes…but most of the time you didn’t see them for a quarter of an hour/20 minute..
To top all of this I saw them, about 6-7 Indian ladies, with Soniya in front, entering the dining hall after the last meditation session…. So around 9:00 and went into the kitchen to get something to eat??????
I had also seen Soniya taking something away somewhere, putting it in her little cloth and hiding it from everyone … she sat down at her roommate’s and talked while eating. When I had finished my food and was going to wash my plate etc. her roommate came to me. You’re from Holland? I nodded, And your at the police force? I answered yes… and she ran away. That really made me think they were doing something that wasn’t right…I think this was day 6. So I told this to the Dhamma worker as well. She said all they could do was be compassionate… They’d already wanted to take them apart, do different rooms… And talked a few times about talking… but it didn’t get any better. I thought they must be more stricked! The site just says, and you just made that promise the first day, if you don’t play by the rules you might get sent away. Well… they don’t send them away.
I do get why they don’t do that too actually. Now they will do some meditation and if they are to be send away they don’t get the lessons at all… Maybe it will inspire them to be different or to work towards that in the future.. So that is tru, I do get that!
The first day I also met my neighbour Ravej. Nice woman! One night when we wanted to go to sleep I heard someone singing. Well…we are on the edge of a neighborhood and two mornings I heard music from about 5 to 7 o’clock or so. Really Hindu music, so very busy. This sounded a bit like it but it was just a woman’s voice. A bit later I hear SSSST but because of that the singing only stopped for a moment. It went on and again I heard SSSST. Shortly silent and she went on again. I went outside and to the sound…I ended at to the room of Ravesj. I knocked on the door and she opens. I asked who was singing? She asked… who did SST, if I’d heard that too. I say, yes, I heard it, but it wasn’t me. But who was singing? She told me that is was her. So ]I asked if she wanted to stop. Luckily, she did.
Ravej is the lady next to me
When we were allowed to talk again, she came to me. If I had heard SSST that night. She felt that her prayers had been heard because the singing was praying and she thought a god was saying SSST. Hahaha apparently they don’t know this sound until the gestures to silence.
FOOD AND SLEEPING – Dhamma Setu Vipassana
We had time to sleep from half past 10 to 4 and from 7-8 and then basically from half past 12 to 1 again. I did take the hour of 7-8 so I had about 7.5 hours sleep in totall… The bed was not nice… the mattress was old and I felt some lumbs in different places. I had my sleeping bag and the sarong from Thailand to lie in and under so I had it warm enough and the first days too warm so we turned the fan on. So that was fine. Everything was damp at one point…not really nice…especially for the clothes. I was always tired in the evening so I could sleep well and at 4 o’clock I got out of bed when I heard the gong and stepped under the cold shower. Something I wouldn’t be able to do at home…or in another hotel anywhere. Here I just did it.
I had enough food.
In the morning and the afternoon we got 3-4 different dishes. Vegetable mix, a dal (lentil soup) and rice and roti. Or sometimes a potato / lentil mix. Always medium spicy and in the morning with Chai and in the afternoon with some milk yoghurt. So in the evening no food but a snack, which consisted of puffed rice and a banana and a nice cup of chai. The puffed rice you got 2 cups full, and if you wanted a third you could get that too. If you turn it over, see that snack as breakfast and the rest as lunch and dinner then you don’t miss anything, do you? I also saw some of them mix the yogurt with the puffed rice… that’s really a breakfast like many western people have, isn’t it?
I really haven’t missed anything in terms of food. I understood later that there were many who were really hungry in the evening hours … I have not suffered at all. After 10 days I thought it was getting monotonous…. It was almost always the same… but yes…
DONATION – Dhamma Setu
10 days Vipassana
So the accommodation and food was completely free… Everything is paid for by the donations of old pupils or other people who care about the Vipassana Centres. The last day in the discourse by Goenka there was certainly some attention paid to how all this was established and could continue to exist. Donate compared to what you have to spend. If you have nothing to spend then come back as a Dhamma worker, giving hours is always best. People who have money to spend often have less time to spend, then give so that someone else, or maybe 2 or 3 others can spend 10 days here.
At the end of the course, at the office where our phones etc were located, there were two men who received the donations. ATMs and cash books at hand. There you could see that it was also a company 🙂 If you want to know more about this course and this location check their site at Dhamma Setu
In time they have build a professional business ofcourse
I had done it! 10 days VIPASSANA
And then I got back to normal life. It was such a strange feeling to have been here and now to go back into the hustle and bustle.
I felt great!
I was happy and I felt proud… I’d done it. I had gone through a difficult point… But I had gone through it and stayed till day 10!
This is where I did my first course
A centre just outside the city of Chennai – India
Are you interested in a course like this?
Or have you done one?
I am really curious about your experiences!
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Over a year later I went again for 10 days. This time I went to Belgium…
Before I went there I wrote this:
Lessons I learned before…
And when I was back home for a week, I wrote again about my experiences…
Vipassana 2.0 – Dhamma Pajjota