Meditation Boot Camp: Part 2

Saturday 26th January 2008

Day Two

Meditation goal: To observe respiration and try to feel the touch of breath in my nostrils.(Annapanna method)

My concentration was a little better today, still a pretty hardcore running commentary (can’t seem to switch that off), but was able to concentrate for slightly longer periods today without getting distracted.
My legs were really sore today, after the 11 hours of sitting on the floor yesterday! Oh well, more sitting to come!
During the 2-hour session from 9-11am we were allowed to sit in our room today.

I managed to sit much more comfortably leaning back against the wall, and did 1 hour 45mins without moving very much and really concentrated hard. Was really pleased, but by 10.45 I was getting a headache, so I decided I’d done really well for a beginner and stopped. I stood up, stretched, sat back down on my bed and decided to stare at the wall for the last 10 minutes (you’d be amazed how detailed the wall looks after a few hours of sitting in a dark room with your eyes shut!).

However, at exactly 1 minute to 11, Evil Jailer 2 walked past and proceeded to give me some very scary angry gestures. I pointed to my watch, to indicate the time was almost up (Come on! Give me a break!) but she stalked into the room and hissed “Meditation! Now! Eyes closed!!!!”

As she was walking out the door, the gong rang to signal the end of the session, but neither Kalpana (the girl I share a room with) or I dared to get up. We sat with our eyes closed for a bit longer, but after 5 minutes, Evil Jailer 1 stomped in and hissed angrily at us that we should be in the lunch hall and were very late! It was impossible to try and explain ourselves with hand gestures, so Kalpana and I simply hung our heads in shame and went to lunch, under the glowering watch of our keepers.

Highlight of the day: Playing guess-the-vegetable at lunch (I narrowed it down to something from the pumpkin/yam/squash family, but couldn’t get any closer than that).

Day Three

Meditation goal: To observe respiration and try to feel subtle sensations around the nostrils and upper lip. (Annapanna method)

Today was a really good day.
I was really getting into the zone and concentrating well. I was feeling the sensations and was generally very pleased with myself.

My legs felt much better, although I was still getting quite uncomfortable and can’t sit still for very long, but I talked with the teacher and he said apart from three specific times of 1 hour each when we MUST be in the hall, the other times I can go to my room and meditate.
So, after lunch and the group sitting, I stayed in the hall for the chanting bit, and then quietly got up and went to my room. I was sitting comfortably on my bed and focusing on my breathing, when Evil Jailer 2 stalks into my room and gestures me back upstairs. I smiled calmly and shook my head. She got so angry and hissed “Meditation! In the Hall! You go now!!!”. I shook my head again, and she actually stamped her foot in rage!
Not wanting to anger her further, but also not really wanting to break my silence I eventually whispered “Teacher said I can stay in room now.”
She disagreed and kept saying no, I had to go back upstairs, but I shook my head again in refusal and closed my eyes to continue meditating.
After a while she stomped off.
(Needless to say it was very hard to be calm and relaxed after that, so my meditation went a bit downhill).

Later on at tea-time I walked into the dining hall and was treated to such a venomous glare from EJ 2, and all of the other staff (she had clearly informed them that I was the trouble-maker) that I felt awful.
I really felt like all the staff hated me, even though I was trying really hard, so I went to my room and cried for a little bit. It was a really crappy way to finish what had been a really good day.

Highlight of the day: Really successful meditation sessions today

Day Four

Meditation goal: To begin Vipassana method and feel subtle sensations all over the body. For three group sittings of one hour each you must sit completely still.

Today my legs and back were hurting again, and the whole day generally was pretty mediocre. I had some good moments of concentration, but not as good as yesterday.

Today we stopped doing Annapanna meditation and switched to the Vipassana method, which involved a lot of chanting. (We had to repeat a chant in Hindi to formally request that the guru teach us this sacred method or something like that).
During the question time I asked the teacher if it was possible to sit with my back against the wall while I meditated in the hall, but he said no.

At lunch I was completely stumped by one of the vegetables. It was sort of round and cone-shaped, like a tall pointy mushroom, but the inside was hollow and rubbery, like seaweed, and the outside was black and wrinkled like tree bark. The flavour was really strong, but I couldn’t place it – kind of like olives, but not at all. I think it must have been pickled beyond recognition, but I might be able to identify it if I saw one fresh.

I think it could be a member of the tuber family, but only because I don’t really know what tubers are, and this was kind of tubular shaped.

Highlight of the day: Playing guess-the-vegetable.

Day Five

Meditation goal: To feel the subtle sensations throughout the body and observe them objectively without reaction. (Vipassana method).

Last night it rained all night, which was loud and I didn’t really sleep much. I woke up cold, damp, tired, stiff and sore.
My legs and back were agony today from the moment I got out of bed.

In the first 2 hour session all I could focus on was the pain and how much it hurt. I don’t know if it was worse because I was so tired, so damp and stiff, or because the meditation had heightened my sensations generally, but there was no way in hell I could meditate. All I could feel was pain and by 6am I started to cry. Luckily I was able to cry in complete silence (a trick I learned at boarding school), so I don’t think I disturbed anybody.
After the gong rang I felt too miserable for breakfast and went straight to my room to cry and try to get more sleep.

After ten minutes Evil Jailer 1 comes down to find out why I wasn’t there. I wearily whispered “No thank you, I’m not hungry. I don’t want anything”. She kept trying for a while, but I turned to face the wall and she left. Then ten minutes later Evil Jailer 2 comes in, demanding angrily that I go to breakfast. I repeated myself and then closed my eyes.
Eventually they left me alone and I got a bit more sleep.

In the next three hours of meditation I continued trying and failing to observe my pain objectively, and mostly cried a lot.

I felt utterly and totally depressed. Not only was I cold and tired and in a lot of pain, but I felt like an utter and complete failure. If there was a test at the end of this course it would go like this:

Sit still: Failed
Concentrated: Failed
Observed things objectively: Failed

I hate failing (I’m a very sore loser) and felt that I just sucked at everything. Furthermore, during the discourse in the evening the Guru said that today was the first deep surgical cut into our subconscious, and that without remaining objective we will never really be practicing this method properly. Those people who cannot properly practice Vipassana will never find peace and will live all of their lives in misery.
So, I realised that deep in my subconscious there is nothing but pain and misery, I will never find happiness, and must simply accept I will live the rest of my life in misery.

As you can imagine this did not help my depression much and I cried a bit more. Felt obscenely down all day and fell exhausted into bed.

Highlight of the day: Resisted the urge to hurl myself off the mountainside.

2 thoughts on “Meditation Boot Camp: Part 2

  1. Pingback: 10th Anniversary | Had we but world enough and time…

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