Sunday, April 20, 2014

My conversation with Silence!

This was in my mind for the past three years but as they say that the “time” had not come. Well, deciding wasn’t easy for there were enough barriers to consider before taking the plunge; 11days away from my World without an iota of communication wasn’t really an easy option for I-live-a-very-conventional-life type of person like me. Worse, it was very unnerving for the family and folks at work. Getting up at 4 in the morning was not encouraging either; and to add to it all 10 days without the mobile and without uttering a word did sound devastating for the mind. Yes…you read it right! 10 days of silence. To an outsider that more or less sums up Vipassana.

There are times in life when resolve gets the better of us, and better of the games our mind plays to sway us from thoughts of comfort. One such day arrived in my life.
Located in one of the rustic corners in the outskirts of Bangalore, my first impression was not really that great. The environment was not serene; the grass was brown, and there weren’t too many trees; but it is this same environment that I perceived very differently in a matter of few days…more on that later. What helped me to a great extent was that, there was close to a hundred people like me who have given up on fun & frolic (yes, we spent Christmas there!!) to work on their mind.

It was a conscious moment of surrender when I had to hand over my wallet and phone; my heart sank and I felt like a part of me being taken away…so tragic! We humans make material benefits an integral part of our “persona”, benefits that we did not bring into the World, nor we shall be able to take it along with us. As the evening slipped by and the rigor around the rules were pronounced, I could sense my mind’s desperation about the reality of the silent vortex. I told myself again and again…yes, I will make through it, I shan’t give up so easily!

The 4 A.M. wake up bell would be gentle and firm, it wouldn’t give up on you as much as you’d like it to. The cold winter mornings did not help the resolve, but there wasn’t much of an option but to stick to the routine. The breakfast and the steaming chai that followed a two hour meditation were much welcomed especially because it came after thirteen hour break from food. Over days I discovered that I never really enjoyed a shower in a long time as I did enjoy in those 10 days; now that I think, I feel it may be due to the fact that there was really no agenda for the day, the only agenda was ‘self’. Hours of meditation interspersed by small breaks. Lunch was wholesome and far from anything fancy. The last meal of the day was at dusk, and that was chai and some light snack. When the program is about to commence, the general view among all the participants was of great inadequacy of food but it just takes a day for our physiology to make peace with the frequency and timing of the food, and also realize how little we require for sustenance. It is a proven fact that after 10 days of Vipassana, the meditators come out healthy and happy. …and yes, among the hundred who attended the program with me, there wasn’t a single person who was taken ill.

What’s taught as a technique is so simple that it is terribly hard to practice; all one needs to do is watch one’s breath, feel one’s breath, feel the various sensations that we experience and not think about anything. It just takes a few minutes to figure out how weak our mind is. The mind truly has a mind of its own; it flits to the alleys of the past and meanders through the imagined corridors of the future. And one brings it back to the breath again, and again it flies away. I am sure every individual experiences differently, but one thing that is a sure outcome is the increase in awareness and the fact that the mind is a lot sharper by the end of the third day. Through experiential teaching, one is taught everything in this World is impermanent; how awareness and the ability to control reaction will make our life simpler and in turn make us happy beings.

The serenity brought on by the lack of outer communication is as unreal as it can be; for the outer calm ignites a volcano inside. I have never experienced such varied range of emotions in a span of moments. On the one hand there was shame, guilt, regret, fear and also joy and ripple of happiness; the past surfaced like never before. Tears welled up in my eyes for the people and the moments I have lost; my mind was truly mourning and then it was celebrating the small joys that lay buried deep down somewhere which I had completely forgotten. My conversation with myself began. It sank upon me gradually that in my thirty-two years of life, apart from the incidents that brought in sadness, it is my craving for something good that I felt, brought in misery. The urge to hold on to moments, people, material-benefits, causes grief…the simple wisdom if gained has the power to make us a much better person for our own sake.

The nature around us is changing every moment. The colour of the sky is changing, clouds travel from one part to the other, trees shed leaves and new leaves grow, tectonic movements are taking place under the Earth causing changes in the outer landscape. In our body, the cells are dying and taking birth every moment and a new ‘us’ is evolving with every passing moment, much against our knowledge. Why do we let our misery grow, why do we never realize that it is all impermanent?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

10 tips for a Gorgeous Travel Experience!

1.      Politeness & Gratitude – Never forget to thank people, right from the crew at the airport, fellow-traveler to the coffee-shop guy. Great suggestions & unknown trivia come from least expected quarters if we have a smiling, grateful countenance.

2.      Say “No” to distractions – Stay away as much as possible from all Social Media, & IMs. They are a completely in contradiction to “Being in the Moment”.  Trust me, apart from the family & absolute few close & concerned, no one is really interested in knowing what you are up to!

3.      Be Super-adaptive & learn to let go – Flights may not take off, the hotel room may be a lot more shabby than the pic they had in website and umpteen things may go wrong or digress from the plan. Take it in your stride. Accept it, & then it’s all fine. I have experienced some mind-blowing things when my plans have gone awry.

4.      Stick to the local cuisine – The local food is best suited to the weather of the place and it is one way to experience a place. Never try to find comfort food when you travel unless taken ill in an unfortunate circumstance.

5.      Eat less :) & drink plenty of water. Yeah, water… NOT aerated drinks. Staying hydrated is extremely important to adapt to a new place.

6.      Walk, walk & walk. That’s the best way to figure out any place. At the end of the day, you would come across places that no guide book has ever documented, even the Lonely Planet guide.

7.      Strictly follow the rules of that place (especially while travelling abroad). We Indians often make a mess of this one.

8.      Avoid watching news. Nothing much would change if we are not updated with the World’s whereabouts for a few days.

9.      Create beautiful moments as you travel. Surprise yourself. Do some crazy mad stuff. looking back it’s not the photos, but suddenly reminiscing the moments that would bring a smile to your lips.

10.  Travel light. It’s so much fun to have both hands, if not, one hand free…I learnt it the hard way after paying excess baggage of 150 Euros…sigh!!