10 days of noble silence at my first vipassana meditation retreat here in Kathmandu. No speaking. No music. No reading. No activities. No communication. Just mostly pure meditation. It was one of the most difficult experiences I’ve gone through but also one of the most enlightening.
Our days would start with a gentle wake up call from a wind gong at 4:00am. We’d meditate in the meditation hall til 6:30am. Have breakfast and a break til 8:00am. Meditate again til 11:00am. Lunch for an hour. Back to meditation until 5:00pm. Just tea, fruits and cereal for dinner. Then meditation again til 8:00pm. This was our routine.
It seems simple but it was incredibly challenging. What was the purpose of this retreat? To master the mind. Be still. Listen to your breath. Be aware of the sensations in your body but to detach and just simply observe. It was a battle field. Just when you feel you’re getting the hang of it, manic thoughts arise. Feeling and memories take over and it’s you against your mind. The only thing you can do is go back to your breath and awareness. Thoughts cripple you. Sometimes even break you and make you feel like you’re losing your mind.
But then there are moments of pure clarity. They maybe just last for a few seconds but they’re enough to get you through. It becomes a game of survival at times. When the grind starts pressing on you, you seek refuge in the simplest moments. Drinking a warm cup of tea. Tasting an apple in your mouth. Feeling cold water run through your hands as you wash dishes. The sun kissing your face as you stare at the sky. Seeing the people around you breathe deeply. Feeling the warmth of a blanket on your shoulders.
Facing your own darkness and inner demons was the scariest part. There’s no running away from them. They will feast on your mind until your down on your knees sobbing for them stop. But you’re reminded of the universal truth of impermanence. That the pain will fade. Just like bliss, it will pass as well. What you want to achieve is stillness and awareness. To observe all these sensations and not attach yourself. Easier said than done. But you do what you can to get by. Sometimes, a thought stays with you the whole day. Other times, a song playing repeatedly in your head helps you get through the tedium of doing nothing.
You’re forced to come to terms with everything you’ve had to experience in life. It plays in your head like a flashback. Then the magic happens. You start to find clues and connections you never thought of in the past. Patterns and synchronicities start to align and you’re just in sheer awe. You feel like exploding and screaming out for joy. All these revelations and insights flood your entire being. And when that feeling of elation starts to disappear, you return to your breath – silent your mind. And just watch how everything unfolds.
Dive into soltitude. Be happy. Embrace equanimity. Spread love and peace. There’s so much to be grateful for.
Words and photographs by Nicky Daez