Day Four – The day EVERYTHING happened
OK, so not everything happened on day 4 – but it felt like it at the time!
My eyes refuse to open. They are crusted shut. My throat is sore, and my nostrils are blocked. My head aches.
I begin to move and reach down to check the watch that I brought with me to be able to keep time and set an alarm if I felt I needed one.
I squint and read the time on my watch: 6:36 am. S#!T!! I slept in!!!
The gong I am hearing is the BREAKFAST bell, and I have approximately 25 minutes to get to the dining hall, wolf down my oatmeal concoction of the day, and rush back for my shower time slot of 7:00-7:20. I jump out of bed, crust flying out of my eyes, head swimming. Socks are shoved on, track pants go on over my pyjamas, I pull my hat down over my head and throw on a sweater as I rush down the hall to get my coat. In the lobby, I notice that almost ALL of the coats are gone. I groan internally, feeling terrible that I missed the morning meditation and that I’m so late.
As I finish tying my boots and throw on my coat, I stand up and my head spins. Luckily, I take a few moments to steady myself – and for this reason, my attention falls on a sign posted on the door. It read: Please note the change of time for the afternoon group sitting. 2:00-3:00 Group Meditation in the Hall, 3:00-5:00 Vipassana Training. A bolt of excitement runs through me. Today we get to learn vipassana!
The storm clouds that were forming in my head due to feeling sick and being late parted, and a ray of sunshine shone brightly through. I was excited and happy as I bopped to the dining hall for breakfast. How exciting that we were going to learn vipassana today, and how fortunate that I saw the sign, even in my morning haste! It’s funny how your mood can flip in such a short period of time. The universe works in strange ways. This morning it said Stop! Look! It’s going to be an important day!
My morning meditations went well (the ones I attended, that is). Today at 12:00, I had no questions for the teacher, so spent the free hour walking around the grounds. I saw a set of boot prints leading across the snow to the ravine, and followed them. Up until now I had thought that since there was no evidence of people walking “offroad” that it was not acceptable. This set of boot prints got me started on my path-making. I walked slowly and methodically – packing down the snow leading to the ravine, and created a path that anyone could walk on. When I got to the end of the set of footprints, I could hear water, but trees were blocking my view. I turned right, and pushed my path two meters to the right, made a left turn and shuffled forward. What a beautiful view! At the bottom of the ravine was a winding river. The sound of the water was amazing. I made a little circle of packed down snow, and dubbed it “the lookout point.” Now there was somewhere new for people to walk!
For some reason, I ate my lunch rather quickly. Perhaps I was eager to get back outside and make more paths, but now that I think back I think my motivation was to get into the bathroom quickly so that I could brush my teeth before the 11:20 shower slot – when all the bathrooms would be filled. I exited the hall just behind another girl – I had nicknamed her Crazy Hair, because when she took off her hat in the meditation hall, her hair all stood up crazily. Crazy hair held the door for me (with no eye contact) and we began walking back to the residence.
Luckily decided to take the long way around, and walk by myself. I didn’t notice that a deer was walking through the grounds, and as I walked around the long way and turned a corner, Crazy hair inadvertently scared it in my direction. I stopped dead in my tracks. The deer was about 2 meters away from me. It stood there for a handful of seconds and we watched each other before fear took over and the deer began to run away. It bounced lithely through the snow, before hopping down the bank of the ravine. I was speechless (literally!). I stood there for a few moments more, and a smile crept across my face. As far as I knew, Crazy Hair had not even seen the deer, and the rest of the grounds were empty because everyone was inside eating. What a moment! I thought to myself: This must be a sign of some kind from the universe.
[Later, I learned that the entire kitchen staff had been watching the deer out the window, and saw my encounter. One of the guys approached me later to tell me they had been watching the entire thing. Apparently that is the first time in a very long time a deer has walked through the property, and they were all saying how lucky I was to have been out there at that time!]
With a bounce in my step and a smile on my face, I headed to the afternoon group meditation – which was going to be followed by vipassana! This was shaping up to be an amazing day 🙂
Over the first three days, I had been trying to do an entire hour without moving. So far, I had not had success. I estimated that I had made it to about 45 minutes that morning, but I was determined to sit for the ENTIRE hour from 2:00 to 3:00 before Vipassana. I situated myself in what I determined was the least painful position – cross legged – and began to meditate. Part way through the hour, my feet went numb. My butt began to go numb. Then my knees began to throb. My hips chimed in with screaming pain at what I had hoped was very close to the hour mark. At some point I stopped doing anapana and began counting. It was excruciating, but I was determined to make it. Just as I thought I was going to crack, the final chanting came on – I had MADE IT! I sat proudly through the last five minutes of chanting, my joints screaming in pain, my bottom half numb in places, my back muscles burning – but I had a smile on! I had done it! I sat for a whole hour without moving!
After a short break, the time had come to learn vipassana, and I was practically vibrating with anticipation of this amazing technique that so many people talked about. We all settled in and listened intently to the audio. Confusion crept across my face as I listened. I wasn’t sure about this. One thing that I heard made me laugh inside. Near the end, Goenka said “From now on, when you sit for an hour at group sittings – you will sit with Strong Determination: without changing your position.” When I heard this, I was SO HAPPY that I had already accomplished this feat – I knew I could do it again!
The audio lesson ended and we were dismissed, I slowly got up and headed to the dining hall for tea. That was it? This is vipassana? What had been explained to me in that two-hour span did not make any sense to me. I was so confused and let down. A thought occurred to me. That deer from earlier? Yes, it was a sign from the universe. The message was simple: RUN!
After dinner, I headed to my room. I sat on my bed, still confused about vipassana. For some reason, I picked up the little pamphlet we were given on our first day and began to read. At some point, I came to a paragraph that struck a nerve with me, and gave me a little bit more insight into what I had learned that afternoon. I sat there for a few moments, and thought to myself: OK, I have to give this a fair shake. I have 6 more days to go. There must be more to it than what I learned today. I decided then and there to continue to move forward with an open mind.
I’m glad I did! At 6pm, I meditated using the vipassana technique we had learned that afternoon. Not only that, but I watched others prepare for the hour, and learned that I could put pillows under my knees to support them. Sitting was SO MUCH more comfortable now… That evening’s video discourse clarified a lot of things for me. See? I thought to myself. I knew there was more to it!
Despite my cold, and the sniffles it brought along with it, I was feeling happy again. I was on an emotional roller-coaster full of confusion – but only because I wanted the car to go FASTER and FASTER! I wanted to learn everything, to understand everything NOW! I was learning patience… and had so much more to learn and practice 🙂