Seven Reflections From 30 Days Of Meditation

Posted by Nipun Mehta on Jun 11, 2010
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After sitting many 10-day Vipassana meditation courses, I got a chance to sit for a 30-day course last month.  The same context of no reading, writing or talking but with more intensity and seriousness.  How was my experience?  What did I learn?  In a way, there's a lot to say and in a way, there's not much to say. :)

Here are seven reflections that stand out ...

One: Meditation is a revolutionary experience.  When you are sitting in silence, observing the arising and passing phenomena at the level of your body sensations, the tendency of the mind is to react -- I like this, I don't like this.  It makes no sense to develop any attachment to things that are constantly changing but in ignorance, we repeatedly cultivate this pattern in trillions and trillions of moments. So,  meditation goes against ALL the momentum.  Just like Gandhi's satyagraha or birthing a new paradigm, one has to keep persevering with unflinching commitment and a compassionate  gentleness.

Two, we have nothing to fear but fear itself.  Perhaps the first few days were the hardest part of the course, for me.  Somehow I was seriously tripped up by the heat.  It was hot, the meditation cells had no fans, I was constantly sweating, electricity wasn't guaranteed, and water was only available for 90 minutes in the morning.  On paper, these things shouldn't be a big deal, as I've lived in far more challenging circumstances.  I knew that, but still, my mind started to panic.  I would sit to meditate and start sweating profusely, the walls literally made me feel trapped, and it was hard to stay equanimous.  Then, I would realize -- "This is day 3.  You have 27 more to go."  Yikes. What to do?  You're crawling through the dirt of your inner-most basement, and it is simply impossible to back out.  The only way out is through.  And you don't know how long that'll be.  You just have to breathe.  And breathe again.  Bit by bit, you release the fear, the walls start expanding, you stand up and even smile. :)

Three, the practice is to do-nothing.  As Fukuoka would say, doing nothing is hard work. :)  One has to let the mind unwind itself of its entanglements, naturally and without interference.  If we don't run away from pain or indulge in pleasure, our mind becomes still and we start to see reality as it is.  Because of our own past conditioning, though, we project our own hopes and dreams and fears and desires onto reality and convolute its perception.  When we fight with reality, we always lose -- and subsequently suffer.  After a while, we forget the cause of that suffering and even become addicted to that suffering.  So, observing, ie. "doing nothing," becomes the difficult but fruitful process of allowing these delusions to unravel.

Four, grace happens.  Along the way, of course, there are signs of encouragement.  For the first ten days, we were to watch our natural breath.  That's it.  Breath coming in, coming out.  Simple, painless task unless your ADD generation mind starts wandering every minute or two.  It can be quite disheartening to see that you can't even be in the present for a little bit.  One would imagine that there would be progress after dozens and dozens of hours of continuous practice, but no!  Still, one keeps trying.  On Day 7, I sat with the same heart of effort.  A minute passed.  Two minutes.  I was still with my breath.  Five.  Ten.  I couldn't believe it.  There was no struggle and it felt almost effortless.  Twenty minutes.  Thirty, forty, fifty.  And the whole hour passed and I was still there -- present.  Really?!?  I couldn't believe it myself.  Surely, I must've had to have some help, but what, why?  Speechless, :) and with renewed zeal, I carried on, knowing that I hadn't created this state, and that it wasn't going to operate on my terms.

Similarly, on Day 18, I came out of a focused meditation sit in my cell.  On my way to get a drink of water, I noticed an old fellow hobbling with very short steps in front of me.  During the course, your eyes are to be constantly downcast to minimize distractions, so I couldn't see what he looked like; yet I could see that he was carrying a giant jug in his left hand, presumably to fill it up and keep in his room so he didn't have to take frequent walks.  Almost out of nowhere, I had this overwhelming thought -- "Oh, here is an old man, wanting to purify his mind.  He doesn't have the strength to walk but he's still got the will to meditate.  How noble!  May he have access to ALL my assets. May his journey be strengthened."  Just with that one thought, tears streamed from my eyes.

Five, the posse stays with you.  Whether I'm in a meditation retreat or not, I often get a strong sense that there's a whole load of people with me.  Physically, I may be alone but what I always carry is the inner transformation of all those small acts of service and resulting affinities with all those beings.  It's a truly solid feeling.  You're no longer meditating to purify *your* mind so *you* can be happier; you are cultivating because of the gifts of others and your merits are being cultivated for the benefit of others.  It's really an indescribable feeling of gratitude.

Six, meditation culminates on the cushion, but germinates off the cushion.  Sometimes retreatants get into this mindset of, "I need to sit more courses."  While the ultimate show for Lebron James is on the basketball court, he wouldn't be Lebron if he didn't do cross training, off-court drills and off-peak exercises.  Similarly, to be a solid meditator, you have to cultivate your strengths off the cushion.  Just sitting alone isn't it.  Buddha elegantly identified 10 paramitas (virtues) that really help -- practices like generosity, wholesome action, loving-kindness, truth, effort, and renunciation.  Maybe you do an act of kindness and build your loving kindness, or work two jobs to support your grandparents and build your effort, or run a business with an impeccable code of ethics and build wholesome action.  When I sat my first course after the walking pilgrimage with Guri, for example, I experienced a deep state of renunciation and subsequently had some profound sits on the cushion.  In that sense, most of my off-the-cushion training happens via an instrument called CharityFocus and I remain grateful to all who keep it possible.

Seven, gratitude.  I would imagine that it's impossible for anyone to spend extended time in solitude without feeling thankful for the inter-dependent parts of their existence.  From my immediate family to the larger CharityFocus family to an even larger family of truth seekers, there is a long (and perhaps endless) list of things I feel grateful for.  Many years ago, though, it was my brother who went to a 10-day meditation course -- which then inspired me to go, although he never insisted that I should go. :)  I'm grateful to him for many reasons, but this is certainly one of them.  And I'm grateful to Guri, with whom I was able to start meditating much more seriously.  It was almost exactly five years ago, when Guri and I serendipitously stumbled into Igatpuri's meditation center and a seemingly random coin-toss :) kept us in town for three blessed months.

All in all, if I just had to say one-word, it simply would be: thank-you.

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Comments (40)

  • Jay wrote ...

    You have shared your experience in beautiful manner.

  • Shail wrote ...

    Bravo my friend, thanks for sharing your inspiring story with us :) You Rock bro!

  • jean wrote ...

    Thank You

  • madhur wrote ...

    Realise what Viapasaana is and what meditation is meant for. Also, would like 2 agree on nothing 2 fear but fear itself, realised this some time back.
    Jus reading one story of yours brings out so much to understand, meditate on and live for. Your gratitude is marvellous. Thank you so much for who you are and for sharing.

  • Chris wrote ...

    Big smile to this one :)

  • Somik wrote ...

    Big Hugs! Thank you for sharing.

  • Birju wrote ...

    Now this is the Law of the Jungle -- as old and as true as the sky;
    And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die.
    As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back --
    For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.

  • Melissa Silversmith wrote ...

    Your experience is an inspiration to me. I hope others will draw the same light and determination as I have. I will surely direct my readers to this post from my blog (yoga-with-melissa.com) Namaste!

  • Pancho wrote ...

    ..." Just like Gandhi's satyagraha or birthing a new paradigm [also known, by Gandhi, as constructive programme ;-)], one has to keep persevering with unflinching commitment and a compassionate gentleness."

    BAAM-Plex ^ BAAM-Plex!

    Indeed, we are millionaires in this posse. :-)

    Gracias por compartir tu sabidurķa con nosotr@s hermano.

    May we spread the ways of the Universal Love all over the Planet.

    May (y)our soul, hermano Nipun, be the fractal of service in the SOULar System.

    May all become compassionate, courageous and wise.

  • susan wrote ...

    Dearest Nipun, welcome home! Wonderful to read your experience. Wishing you love and happiness! xo

  • Nilam Desai wrote ...

    Thanks for posting your experiences; they are inspiring.

  • Nilam Desai wrote ...

    Thanks for posting your experiences; they are inspiring.

  • Jenny wrote ...

    We love you, Nipun!

  • Meghna wrote ...

    Dearest Nipun,
    Every moment right now, is so encouraging to be able to stay focused on the path. Just when i know i'm deviating, magic happens. I feel gratitude for all the souls that share what they have felt in different ways for me to understand the larger meaning of life and my purpose of existence. You are so right when you say "Physically, I may be alone but what I always carry is the inner transformation of all those small acts of service and resulting affinities with all those beings.{..] You're no longer meditating to purify *your* mind so *you* can be happier; you are cultivating because of the gifts of others and your merits are being cultivated for the benefit of others."

    This is truly an incredible feeling.. Thank you for sharing.. And thank you so much for your being!

  • prakash wrote ...

    Dear Nipun, welcome back.

    Wow! -- what can I say? I guess just "Thank you". I express my gratitude with a big Smile as well :-)

  • aumi wrote ...

    Thank you for sharing your insights... and also your merits so generously with all of us! And, thank you so much for being the light... much love to you!

  • Audrey wrote ...

    This reflection completely shifted my state-of-mind right now. Thank you. Especially for the coin toss. :) Big smiles to you and Guri, where ever you may be...

  • maushmi wrote ...

    Nipunbhai --

    Thank you for being such an incredible source of inspiration to me! Thank you!!

  • sudhakar wrote ...

    A surprise encounter at Yoga Bharati event
    Another encounter on 'bhoomi Bharati' event

    Nice to see and sit with you, Nipun
    Hope there will be more such in Tapovan

  • Monsieur wrote ...

    Finally...I read these seven reflections! All I can say is, thank you for sharing your efforts & experiences for truth. I hope these reflections strengthn us all. Thanks again.

  • Srikumar Rao wrote ...

    Those are powerful thoughts, Nipun. Indeed our ADD world could benefit if more of us would take just a LITTLE time to be still. You are so right that the germination happens off-cushion.

    be well.

  • Aditya Bandari wrote ...

    Thank You! Tears of Joy streamed out of my eyes as I went through this article.. watching a fellow traveler in the path of self realization renewed my vigor to keep going in my own journey within, thank you once again for sharing. My sense of gratitude and joy cant be expressed in words anymore..:) may all be happy and be liberated is all I would say!

  • Rushabh Gandhi wrote ...

    Thank you! :)

  • swara wrote ...

    Thank you!

  • swara wrote ...

    Thank you!

  • bhupinder wrote ...

    wow!!! thx bro sharing your experiences ...

  • Fabzil wrote ...

    As a very young meditator, I must say your article quenched my curiosity. I can not imagine the depth of the understanding after 10 days of Anapana and 20 of Vipassana
    May you all be happy :)

  • Ravi wrote ...

    Beautiful. As soon as I read, "May he have access to ALL my assets. May his journey be strengthened.", I had tears rolling down.

    Thank you for sharing your experience. Lots of metta.

  • Dr T K Sinha wrote ...

    Thank you for sharing your insigh and your merits, walk ahead , don't think any negative , Best Wishes for ur Success , With Metta ---Dr T K Sinha , Varanasi

  • Dr T K Sinha wrote ...

    Thank you for sharing your insigh and your merits, walk ahead , don't think any negative , Best Wishes for ur Success , With Metta ---Dr T K Sinha , Varanasi

  • Dr T K Sinha wrote ...

    Thank you for sharing your insigh and your merits, walk ahead , don't think any negative , Best Wishes for ur Success , With Metta ---Dr T K Sinha , Varanasi

  • Dr T K Sinha wrote ...

    Thank you for sharing your insigh and your merits, walk ahead , don't think any negative , Best Wishes for ur Success , With Metta ---Dr T K Sinha , Varanasi

  • Dr T K Sinha wrote ...

    Thank you for sharing your insigh and your merits, walk ahead , don't think any negative , Best Wishes for ur Success , With Metta ---Dr T K Sinha , Varanasi

  • Dr T K Sinha wrote ...

    Thank you for sharing your insigh and your merits, walk ahead , don't think any negative , Best Wishes for ur Success , With Metta ---Dr T K Sinha , Varanasi

  • Dr T K Sinha wrote ...

    Thank you for sharing your insigh and your merits, walk ahead , don't think any negative , Best Wishes for ur Success , With Metta ---Dr T K Sinha , Varanasi

  • Dr T K Sinha wrote ...

    Thank you for sharing your insigh and your merits, walk ahead , don't think any negative , Best Wishes for ur Success , With Metta ---Dr T K Sinha , Varanasi

  • Dr T K Sinha wrote ...

    Thank you for sharing your insigh and your merits, walk ahead , don't think any negative , Best Wishes for ur Success , With Metta ---Dr T K Sinha , Varanasi

  • Dr T K Sinha wrote ...

    Thank you for sharing your insigh and your merits, walk ahead , don't think any negative , Best Wishes for ur Success , With Metta ---Dr T K Sinha , Varanasi

  • Tushal Jaitly wrote ...

    Thank you for sharing. You really motivated me.

  • Pouya wrote ...

    Thank you for sharing this bro enjoyed it :)