In the current times with the Global pandemic and lockdown reality, like the majority, I revisited silence and my inner Peace Day after day and month after month. I reflected on my life choices and all the adventures I had living in Asia, Europe, and North America. My urban and international exposure cultivated considerable creativity, courage, and curiosity.
Working within the entertainment industry, I choose to live downtown. In my adult life, I’ve lived in some of the World’s most happening cities, such as Mumbai, London, New York, Toronto, to name a few. I believe that all the action occurs in the city’s heart, and I enjoy all the hustle and bustle!
Ironically, I am a spiritually inclined artist with an acute desire to know “the truth.” Back in the summer of 2005, I visited my family in England. I decided to attend a Vipassana meditation course. The challenge of observing noble silence for ten consecutive days motivated me to this course. To learn this Vipassana meditation technique, we must maintain complete silence and live an introverted life. We remain within the Vipassana Centre’s boundaries, have no contact with the outside world, and refrain from reading and writing.
Vipassana, which means to see things as they are, is one of India’s most ancient meditation techniques. Gautama Buddha was rediscovered and taught as a cosmic remedy for universal ills, i.e., an Art of Living. This non-sectarian technique aims to eliminate mental impurities, resulting in the highest happiness of complete liberation. Healing, not merely curing diseases but also the essential relief of human suffering, is its purpose.
This practice sounded mystical and got me curious to explore Vipassana’s journey at Dhamma Dipa in Herefordshire in the West of England, close to Wales’s border. The idea of a road trip through the hilly, curvy roads with two of my darling cousins, AVNI and SURAJ, added fuel to the fire. ‘Dhamma’ means ‘law’ as it is the law of nature that the Buddha discovered through self-introspection through his efforts and perseverance.
With an open mind, no expectations, and willingness to surrender, we drove to Dhamma Dipa. Surprisingly, the group included only five South Asians out of 110 participants at the orientation meeting. I remember the segregation of men and women at the camp and having my room in the stables.
Our daily schedule was to wake up at 04:00 am with the sound of a dong in the peaceful countryside. Then, freshen up and head to the dining hall for quick tea and fruit, and within 15 minutes, walk to the meditation center. Our diet was organic, pure vegetarian breakfast (no eggs/fish), freshly prepared with a mission to detox our bodies — breakfast at 07:00, lunch at Noon, and then final tea with a couple of fruits at 18:00.
The first half of this course was fun, embracing the people’s newness, the place, and the concept. All this while self-talk was fashionable and doable. On day six, at 2200, I was wide awake with various thoughts rumbling in my mind when the lights went off. And then I got this inspiring idea of taking a walk in the woods with my torch, remembering the tales of “gurus” and “yogis.” Perhaps, this is the exercise to contract with the fears and research the forests, I thought. After hiking a certain depth in the wilderness, I returned, making another attempt to go to sleep and brushed-off feeling scared of the dark woodland. But that didn’t happen. With the fear of the unknown still in my mind, I rapidly started conceptualizing short horror films. And in my mind, I had already concluded that there would be no ticket buyers but myself. Sigh!
The following day, I had many difficulties sitting firmly in the lotus position during the meditation classes. I was tired and distracted. My city lifestyle is socially active with many late nights, parties, movies, and friends. Hence, adopting this disciplined routine was challenging. I now realized the question in the application form, where it asked me if I had any addictions. I typically thought of alcohol, drugs, or sex, and I said none. I was wrong, and it wasn’t my truth. I am a tech addict (smartphone, reading, writing, social media, TV, etc.).
Then comes the night with a full moon, and as we know, while the moon’s magnetic effect is not creating a physical movement of water in our bodies (according to science), it could be bringing heightened emotions to the surface. That full moon made me feel sensitive and got me into deep thinking, resulting in sleeplessness.
Now I understand those prison wall writings better, with a depth of compassion. I started writing a screenplay in my head with impressive details, which I was afraid to lose if I didn’t put it on paper. Finally, I sensed the urgency to express myself, as filmmaking is a medium I’m passionate about, and the script in my head was ready to get on the floor.
I had this immense urge to write and express myself, but I had no access to pen and paper against Dhamma’s policy. So, restlessly, I turned on the torch to read the writing on my toothpaste as my active mind needed food — thoughts! Just stimulating thoughts. I must have read every acceptable word on the tube a dozen times, yet I had difficulty letting it go.
I was calling shots with my screenplay’s incredible cast and the crew that I couldn’t write in my sleep. My emergencies were brimming out in my dreams. I’ve read that Dreams are electrical impulses that occur in our brain that tap into random images from our subconscious mind. Meaning, sometimes, our Dreams are nothing but random snapshots, and other times, it is our subconscious mind trying to share with us something. Having this dream was a euphoric experience.
On the 10th day, I confronted my inability to go beyond a mind block that stopped me from mentally scanning every part of my body. The issue was my intense desire to have the mind flow, signifying success in meditation. Its absence bruised my self-image. If it were okay to have the mental block, then the intense misery caused by its presence would cease. In Vipassana, they call it equanimity.
The insight was blowing out of the water. Only by renouncing joy can you lose sorrow. The moment I want something to occur, I give birth to its opposite. It is so in all things big and small. For example, the joy of falling in love is mingled with fears of the relationship ending. I had to let go of everything the flow signified in my case. As soon as I did this, my mind began to flow.
I was now unconditioned. I could use this brainwave in every aspect of my life. A moment-to-moment acceptance of reality would free me of all reactions and beliefs. I have a solid resistance to negative feelings. I would not accept that I could be unhappy. I had to be perfect. And this trapped me into my imperfect self.
I believe this development of Wisdom or Insight — Vipassana meditation, thus, leads me to an ultimate truth realization. One can experience this truth within oneself, through self-introspection, to finally attain ‘Nirvana,’ the Truth of Freedom from Suffering.
Life flows today, no longer caught in the stagnant eddy of reaction and resistance. Acceptance cuts through the endless cycle of thoughts. The arguments, rationalizing, dreaming, and fantasizing, lose their power. You realize pretty simply that thinking is fruitless. You can ‘be,’ really like the Zen.
*The first version of this story was published by ANOKHI magazine 2005.
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