I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I didn’t even know who I would be sleeping next to later in the night. I just knew that what I had signed up for was nothing like anything I had ever done. I had to go there. I just had to. My mind was full of hate; diseased with anger and plagued with past memories. I had these voices in my head, and I had to mute them. I had to change.
The day I packed my bags, I was unsure of how I felt. Well, yes it was exhilarating to be going away from home, kind of like an adventure, really. But then again, I had never been on my own before. I have always been a sheltered mouse. I have never nibbled through a sack for myself, and here I was heading to what is said to be the hardest trial of one’s resilience. What the hell is wrong with me?
It was my birthday. I would turn twenty that day. And instead of blowing twenty candles like most people my age, I hurried to go to a secluded place where I had no company but those voices in my head. Oh, and one other voice, S.N. Goenka. I didn’t know then who or what he was. I only knew he was the one that promised peace of mind. As I reached my room, or rather the room I was to share with seven other women I didn’t know, I panicked. I wouldn’t be allowed to talk to anyone of them. Not even a glance, not a touch. No communication, noble silence. “It’s not too late to go back, you know. Tell them you suddenly remembered to do something. This place is NOT for you” cried a voice in my head. But I had already stopped listening. It must have been the air that blew away the worry. Something told me I would be just alright. To quote a fictional IITian, “All is well. All is well.”
Days passed quickly. All that I was asked to do was to sit, close my eyes, and concentrate on my breath. Phsh! What blasphemy! I leave the comfort of my home and the company of my friends and come to this barren secluded place to think about my breath? I wanted out. Two days passed, and I could not have been more impatient. But the funny thing was, those irritating voices were suddenly getting smaller and smaller. My heart wasn’t so unsure anymore. I hated this place, sure. But I was starting to love the silence.
On the fourth day, we were to be given the ultimate teaching. Oh, I was so ready. But my stomach had a different set of mind, apparently. Half an hour before S.N. Goenka was to give us Vipasanna teaching, I suddenly felt the urgency to take a dump. I looked at the time, certainly I could go and come and no harm would be done. So, I did. The problem is, I am a bit of a constipation patient, and generally it takes me about twenty minutes to complete my job. So, yeah. I barely made it in time. Anyway, I huffed and puffed through five minutes of Vipasanna, and by the time my breath slowed down, so did my mind! I was to concentrate on the different sensations that I felt as I went through each part of my body. Smooth sensations or crass, didn’t matter. All that mattered was that I felt them. I was not to put any desire of affliction towards the feelings. Such is life, we let materialism ruin us. Put our heart on the line, bring out desire when something pleases us and cry of affliction should anything pain us. What Vipasanna taught us was to calm down, and notice that everything that comes must go. Change is constant, and we must simply observe and not entangle our hearts to the illusions of eternity. I was beginning to see how wrong I was.
The rest of my stay was blissful. I was not homesick. I was happy. I was not thinking about the miseries of my life. Somehow they were not miseries. I saw them, I felt them, but I did not feel affected. I was happy, but it was not stagnant. I was enjoying the splashes of joy, as the river splashes stones with its water. I was living.
The tenth day arrived suddenly, and I was not prepared for the farewell. We were allowed to speak now. The strangers that I had been sharing a room for nine days suddenly had names, and I had things to say to them. I was not hiding in my shell anymore. I was talking to people I never knew. I was not mumbling, moreover I was proudly talking!
On the eleventh day we packed our bags and arranged to make our way back home. I was yet to process where the ten days had gone to, because it felt like yesterday that a damsel had entered these gates. Yet I felt completely different, like my clouds had suddenly cleared up, and the rain wasn’t damping me. I felt nothing, yet everything made me smile! I guess my twentieth birthday was a funeral in disguise; the nineteen year old helpless girl I had buried in the foothills of Budhanilkantha.