Yoga: Vipassana… it just got harder and harder inside my head – Part 2

For the next three days, we were asked to focus on our breath. The gong would sound at 4am giving us half an hour to shower and brush teeth if we so wished before dragging ourselves into the meditation hall where various, misshapen lumps sat wrapped in beige blankets in various states of rest/unrest. Our first ‘stint’ was for two hours before we broke for breakfast where we were presented with fruit, warm soaked prunes and sultanas, muesli, porridge, cereals and toast. I found that it took me a couple of days before I could work out the right amount to eat without finding myself in discomfort from sitting for so long. Generally, the rule that worked for me was a slice of toast with fruit spread and nuts and seeds and sultanas with a tiny bit of muesli and fruit. A cup of tea and a shower would see me through to the next gong where we would have a few more hours of focusing on our breath before breaking for lunch.

Breaking for lunch at 11 seemed impossibly early but I guess it meant that we ate before reaching the point at which our stomachs started grumbling and preventing us from focusing. I would generally find the mornings incredibly difficult to retain consciousness and discovered a few times, that I was able to sleep sitting perfectly upright. As the week wore on, so did the internal battles. We were lucky on a few days to find the sun blessing us with her glory enabling a sense of relaxation and peace as we lolled around on the grass in various states of ease, some of us discreetly practicing yoga poses to stretch out our gnarled bodies. I was lucky to have my own room as although we had signed agreement to leave behind any prayer or devotional practices, yoga was accepted as compatible but due to a lack of dedicated space being made available for it, we were asked to refrain however, I was able to stretch myself out a little in privacy.

As the week progressed, we moved into the vipassana practice, life just got harder and both the pain in my body and frustration in my head multiplied. There were a few sittings where I felt I could have cried out in pain with a stabbing sensation in my right glute and left shoulder due to issues in the way that my body is built. Equally, I was tormented by nightmares and experiencing flashbacks of images too grotesque even for my imagination. It was as though they had originated outside of this planet but were somehow tied into my history. Past life perhaps? So I knew that, simple it was yet impossible as it seemed, this process of observing sensations in the body and following the precepts we’d taken which, even in our controlled environment turned out to be a great deal harder than they seemed (having woken one morning after a horny dream and restrained myself not to ‘relieve myself’), were incredibly powerful. The only saving grace was the nightly discourses which we would all lap up hungrily, sitting against the wall as Goenke’s round, luminescent face smiled lovingly at us, willing us forward, holding us in love, reassuring us that each and every one of us were struggling through the same experience and each and every one of us wanted to leave. How on earth could I keep going? Find out in my next blog!