Vipassana Day 8: Feliz Dia de Los Muertos aka Realizations (a 12-day Journal of my Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat Experience)

I woke up at 4 AM this morning – woo! I then fell back asleep. Oops. It’s getting colder and colder outside. So glad I found this weird bleached jacked in the Extra Clothes closet. At breakfast, I ate my ‘popcorn’ and as I stared outside, I thought, has anyone studied Vipassana as a detox or rehab method for addiction? I know I am already feeling the benefits, and know it could surely work miracles on others. I walk my four rounds while admiring the fiery sunrise before morning meditation. Meditation is smooth for the most part, but some drama seems to happen when I hear one of the ladies in the back walking about. After about ten minutes, I hear the teacher telling the manager to check on her, and about another ten minutes later she brings her back in. The teachers are always taking notes as we meditate, and I can hear them whispering things to the managers. This makes me nervous because I keep thinking it’s me that’s the problem. For example, I use peppermint essential oils to help my neck pain as I meditate and to keep me awake. I just assume they are going to call me out for being too strong smelling. Or perhaps, I am rocking again or being too loud. But so far, except for on Sunday (Day 4) they haven’t called me out for doing anything wrong. Then I imagine a Vipassana reality tv show lolz.

After meditation, we are asked to return back for further instruction. Goenka comes on the speaker and speaks on the comparison being a root of misery. When we compare ourselves to our fellow meditators, for example, or even ourselves in the past. I completely get this, and it’s the reason I have a slight aversion to social media. These recordings have all been recorded in 1991, by the way. I wonder what Goenka would think of society if he were alive right now, with all of us glued to our electronics.

While waiting for lunch, I notice the men across the way also waiting for the sound of the bell to enter. We are so far apart in everything we do, that I can’t help also making assumptions about them too. Apparently, the pregnant woman’s husband is also doing this, as well as some of the other women. I wonder if they try to look for each other. It would be hard to have my partner on the other side, without being able to communicate.

Lunch is good. Sweet potatoes with baked tofu (perfect with sriracha) which kind of tastes like chicken nuggets. As I am eating, I notice the writer I met on the first day, playing with something outside. I then see the desert squirrel. He/she is back! She is feeding the little bundle of joy seeds. Soon after, I follow suit and bring seeds and get close and personal with this bubble of fur. Others join in on the fun. One of them is the cute older Indian women who is here with her daughter. We are trying so hard not to crack up from the cuteness overload.

While meeting with the teacher, I asked what Goenka means about measuring our success via equanimity. She says our success is measured by how calm and balanced we remain inside and out of our practice. I ask if meditation gets any easier as time goes on, and she responds it gets different. But yes, an hour seems like no time at all after a while. I explain that I came here with certain intentions, but I am not finding the answers I need. She explained, that with further practice, I will gain more clarity. I then ask if any longitudinal studies have been conducted on Vipassana and substance dependence. She said it’s difficult because those who are dependent generally don’t want to to stay clean long enough to complete this. I then think, maybe if they did this straight after rehab, for example, before or instead of going to a sober living home it could be plausible.

Goenka told us a story yesterday of a woman who lost her two-year-old and was in complete denial of it. She went to Buddha and begged him to bring her child back to life. He asked her to bring him a bag of lentils, but only from a home where no one has died. She soon realizes that death is unavoidable, everyone experiences it, and decides to complete a Vipassana retreat and ultimately finds happiness. I walk my two rounds and take a refreshing shower. Afternoon meditation is fine, but I keep hearing the teacher whispering about someone in the back. Lydia’s cough drops are driving me NUTS.

At the tea break, the cute Indian lady looks at me and then looks at where the squirrel was and shrugs her shoulders to say that the cute animal isn’t here, sadly. I want to communicate that they will probably be back tomorrow for more. Tea time is fine, and I take two extra oxy mag supplements because I still haven’t gone to the restroom. Ugh. Meanwhile, I see one of the older woman looking at the posters in the kitchen, skipping days ahead. A few of us get in on this delinquency. We see that Sunday will start at 4:30 AM for all of us in the hall. Yippee. The course is not over until 7:30 AM, which I assume is when we will start cleaning and leave. I fantasize about what I will eat when I regain my freedom. Mmm. Eggs!

I walk a few rounds around the trail and enjoy the sunset, taking a brief seat on the rock facing the mountain, and think maybe I will miss this… then break into laughter. Evening meditation was tough, it felt like forever. I notice my visual snowoften gets in the way, it’s been more active than ever before. For those who aren’t familiar, visual snow is like constantly looking into a kaleidoscope when your eyes are shut, while everything has fuzz on it. It’s super fun.

At discourse, Goenka discusses we have five friends: confidence, effort, awareness, concentration, and wisdom. He discusses how we all probably want to tell certain people in our lives about this. Uh, yes. He then talks about blind faith. How it is not realistic to assume that because we believe in something, we will automatically enter into paradise. He speaks about how donating money for future Vipassana courses is nice, but serving at future retreats would be just as appreciated, if not more. This course I am taking was paid for by old students. These courses do not cost a dime, and everyone who organizes and works here is a volunteer. I just think it’s tough for the average person to take time off, let alone when they aren’t allowed to communicate during that time. Goenka is really sweet in his delivery, and I get sad knowing that I will only see him for three more nights and that he has already passed away. I wonder if he ever reached nirvana. The last meditation I spend thinking about this retreat. Later while on the toilet, I examine the contents of the trash and feel compassion for anyone having to do this while on their period.

Vipassana Day 7: Happy Halloween aka Glamorous (a 12-day Journal of my Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat Experience)

I woke up at 1:30 AM this morning, despite taking Benadryl. Bumps and itchiness still present. Those pills have been in my purse for a while, and I can’t find an expiration date. This is the fourth morning I’ve had Fergie’s Glamorousstuck in my head. Great song, but not an appropriate setting. Where is impermanence when you need it? I force myself back to sleep.

For breakfast, I crush up rice cakes and throw on salt, nutritional yeast, and olive oil. If you squint hard enough, it kind of tastes like buttery popcorn (created a recipe for it here). Finally, something savory. When I leave, a group of women are standing facing the sunrise, and are in awe as though watching a spectator’s sport. After I walk around the path a few times, I head in for morning meditation. For about 10+ minutes before we all enter the hall, most of us stretch. It’s amazing how limber a lot of these older women are. I feel like a robot in need of grease in comparison. The mediation goes well. Lydia is quiet, but the women in front of her clear her throat about every few minutes, and makes this gross swallowing sound when she does.

I eat lunch outside because it’s slightly cool and beautiful. They serve red lentil soup with curried peas and cauliflower. It tastes ok. I stock up the salad and rice. As I am eating the manager heads outside holding a white bag and hands it to me. It reads ‘Please give to Christina, it is very important. Thanks, Mom.’ UMMMMM. My mom drove 2.5+ hours to drop off my oxy mag supplements. Who is even worthy of such treatment?! I start to cry… (silently) UGLY CRY. Later with the teacher, I bring this up, partly out of shock from the amount of unconditional love my parents have for me, and the sadness I have for not being able to communicate how grateful and appreciative I am for them. But I keep reminding myself that I will see them this weekend. With the teacher, I also bring up Goenka’s accent, and how I can’t understand everything he says. Like ‘cross sensations.’ She says he is saying ‘gross sensations’ Ohhhh… How about when he says ‘an abortion to these sensations.’ Apparently, he is saying aversion. Well, that makes a huge difference. Both his pronunciations and word choices are just silly to me. I then ask if the sensations we are feeling are old traumas or sakaras. And she said yes. Each time we feel aversion or craving, there is a physical sensation that pops up. That is what is bubbling up. Then for venting purposes, I bring up Lydia yesterday. She said she knows, and that each person is experiencing their own challenges here. After meeting with her, I clean the communal restrooms which weren’t so bad and then shower and do some laundry. Afterward, I walk two rounds and shower again (it’s hot). Really great use of my resting time, I think.

Afternoon meditation is good, except Lydia is playing with a cough drop in her mouth. She also takes forever to unwrap other cough drops. Why not just unwrap them before you enter the hall?! I keep thinking that I have four more days of this. Before walking in, I was stretching on a rock and saw the cutest little creature. I want to say it’s a dessert squirrel (later confirmed as such), but this is the first time I’ve seen one in the flesh. It’s small, furry, and has the cutest curly tail. It has a cactus fruit dangling from its full cheeks, and I just wanted to capture and take it home. Law of nature (Dhamma), right?

At the tea break, I have tea with a banana with salt and cinnamon sprinkled on top. I oil pullas I walk, and nearly choke. Won’t be doing that again.

Each time I am about to enter another meditation, I think to myself, how am I going to last another hour of this?! As I walk in, Lydia yawns and I get a good whiff of her dead tooth. Lovely. That’s what I’ve been smelling this entire time. Yuck. They really set me in a crappy spot, or maybe this is part of the learning experience. If I can meditate next to her, I suppose I can meditate anywhere. Again, she is loudly sucking on a cough drop. I just can’t.

During the discourse, Goenka discusses craving and addiction. If you learn the sensation you are craving, you won’t need the substance. The substance is never what you are actually going after. Frankly, I haven’t had any craving for my Juul (e-cig) since I’ve been here. So I guess something is working? He discussed how Vipassana has helped numerous people in the past. Like the president of Burma, who was an alcoholic. And after finally agreeing to stop alcohol to take the course, he realized he didn’t need it anymore. Then he said our five biggest enemies are craving, aversion, tiredness, agitation, and doubt. He explains we are coming out of the most intense part of the surgery. He then pats us on the back for not running away (I mentally do the same). As far as I can tell, all of us are still here. I’ve literally made up stories for each person, complete bios for where they are from, if they are in relationships, what they do for a living, the reason they are here. It will be weird to finally talk with them and be proven right or wrong. Goenka then mentioned that Vipassana is a science, not a dogma. I can dig that. The last meditation is difficult. I don’t see why we can’t just head to bed after the discourse. As I am meditating, I think of all of the people I know who this would greatly benefit.

FYI no one dressed up for Halloween. But as we left to our rooms from the meditation hall, it was cold and windy and a waxing almost-full moon lit the way. It’s as spooky as it can get at in Dhammaland. I think to myself, what would Goenka dress up as? Maybe a priest? Ha.

Vipassana Day 6: Objectivity (a 12-day Journal of my Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat Experience)

I yet again woke up at 2 AM. I suppose my body doesn’t need as much sleep since I am sitting all day. I force myself back to sleep and awoke with everyone else at 4 AM. My appetite is getting worse and worse. I barely had more than a few bites of my cereal. Note to self. I do not like rice milk. I figured I would make up for the missed calories at lunch. I make a few rounds on the trail today. I notice one of my dorm mates wearing a Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga (local yoga spot in San Diego) shirt, and realize, holy shit, I’ve taken her class before. Small world.

I only brought sandals with me (grrrreat idea), and there were no shoes in my size to borrow from the communal closet. So I’m just being salty because I can only go so fast before the sand buries my feet underneath like quicksand on the trail. Forced mindful walking, I suppose. The sunrise never gets old. There is a woman here who looks super unhappy, and I sometimes see her talking to herself. I know we aren’t supposed to smile at each other, but I tried when we both went for the sunflower seeds at the same time, and she wasn’t having it.

This morning’s meditation went smoothly except for my favorite neighbor, who wouldn’t stop thrashing in her chair or unzipping her fanny pack. Also, a pistachio nut she snuck in fell out off of her when she was getting up to leave yesterday. Naughty naughty, Lydia. We were asked to stay behind after, and the teacher called up our usual small group to ask how we were doing with the new Vipassana technique. Lydia said she will try to follow it. That’s because she is still in and out of sleeping, and thrashing around in her chair. I have been stretching and doing yoga poses more than ever before, and hope to continue when I get back home.

I didn’t have much of an appetite at lunch, and I wasn’t feeling the black bean chili they were serving. I maybe had two bites, and I got a few ‘how can she be throwing all of that food away!’ looks. I sadly wasn’t even feeling the salad. At least they compost here. I met the teacher after and expressed how weird it feels not to say ‘bless you’ when I hear someone sneeze. She said we will be able to do so in five days. I then expressed my guilt about not being able to help a woman in our group, who is disabled and uses a wheelchair. I see her struggle getting up the hill to the meditation hall and other places. It hurts my heart to watch. I don’t know what to do, since we can’t communicate. But I’ve seen other participants help her. The teacher said this specific student is capable of transporting herself, however if I see she is having a hard time and struggling again, that I can push her without saying anything. I brought up my lack of appetite, and she said it’s normal. I brought up my guilt of being born into a privileged life, while others aren’t. And she said that is just the law of nature. She said all we can do is try our best to help. It’s their karma. I then brought up my facial hives which are much more pronounced on my face, and super itchy. She recommended that I take a Benadryl at night.

After speaking with her, I walked two laps and took a cool shower and washed my clothes. I had a feeling to then look into the ingredients of everything I was putting on my face, and found that one of the Korean face masks lists copper as an ingredient. Well, I am allergic to copper, so that’ll do it. Since I brought extra face masks, I decided to give them away. The first one went to my herbalist friend, and the other to my friend across the way who gave me the water bottles. Both have been so nice, and I can really feel their energy urging me to keep going. When I went to my assigned bucket in the bathroom, I saw that there were new earplugs in my bag! I knew it was my hallmate. She is so sweet.  I feel bad I can’t acknowledge her gift.

Afternoon meditation was ok. I tried to have compassion for Lydia but failed. I had an urge to just get up to tell her to please stop. I will bring this up with the teacher tomorrow. Tomorrow is my cleaning day. Exciting! Anything to keep the mind distracted, right? We are officially halfway through. Five more full days to go! Tea break was disappointing. I had my Go Lightly tea and a banana. I’m 85 years old, guys. I noticed that some of the participants have lunch leftovers they are able to eat at dinner. I should’ve requested that ahead of time. My stomach is growling and I’ve maybe eaten around 200 calories today. Hopefully, I will have more of an appetite tomorrow.

During rest, I collected my dry clothes and made two rounds on the trail, before heading to meditation. This evening’s meditation felt like forever for me. I must have done at least 10 full body scans before he started chanting. I could’ve sworn it was more than an hour, but I didn’t have a watch to sneak a peak, and it just could not have been more than an hour. The discourse was all about physical sensations. Be objective and taking notice, rather than create a craving or aversion for or towards them. Why? Because of nothing last forever aka Anicca. I’m hoping these meditations get easier for me, but each time is different. Our last meditation of the evening was short but also felt dragging. Another minute and I was convinced I would pass out. I would’ve left the first chance I had, but my legs fell asleep and it took me a few minutes for the blood to rush to the appropriate quadrants of my body. As far as I am concerned, Smooth Move doesn’t move anything. I will return back to Fleet tomorrow.

Things I have noticed so far…

1.      No migraines since I have been here

2.     I drink around 120 oz water/day

3.     I eat between 200-1000 calories per day

4.     I walk 1-3 miles per day

5.     I am still pretty flexible

6.     I am able to get in all of my PT exercises, and then some

7.     The ringing in my ear (tinnitus) has transformed into what sounds like a faucet running from afar

8.     No itchy ears

9.     Feet are still dry, despite my daily care

10.   I can brush and floss my teeth 3-4 times a day

11.   Still constipated

12.   No lump in my throat! It went away. Psychosomatics ftw!

13.   Haven’t craved my e-cig

Side note: So much Sanskrit EVERYTHING… Like we get it, you went to India once.

Benadryl is making me sleepy…

BuenQamino’s Summer Playlist 2019

Music has always brought me an insurmountable amount of happiness and comfort. As far back as I can remember, I’ve associated certain songs, or playlists, with moments of my life, like soundtracks. And with the invention of Shazam, an app that is able to listen to any song and tell you the artist’s name and song title, I’ve been able to take snapshots of what moments have sounded like in my life. Thus, the playlists I’ve created are souvenirs from certain periods (adventures included) in my life.

Most recently, I was supposed to travel to South America, a trip we’d been planning for quite some time. This was the first big attempt at traveling, since my diagnosis and treatment of Lyme Disease. Unfortunately, I had a flare-up, and had to make the awful decision of boarding while reacting, or returning home. I decided on the latter. I was relieved, but also quite depressed about the situation. In grieving over forfeiting this long-awaited trip, I turned to music and created a playlist that would reflect what my summer and trip would’ve looked like in South America, as well as the reality of my healing staycation. I described it on Spotify as “…perfect for the beach, river floating, or summer dazing. Mineral sunscreen not included.”

Hope you enjoy! LISTEN HERE 

Vipassana Day 5: You Reap what you Sow (a 12-day Journal of my Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat Experience)

Whoever said Day 3 is the hardest, didn’t quite make it to Day 4. I woke up at 2 AM, needing to use the restroom. The restroom window is always open, and I’m constantly paranoid someone or something is watching me when I am in there. The paranoia continued when I returned to my room. I barely slept and finally woke up around 5:45 AM. Yeah, yeah…I am supposed to be up at 4 AM for morning meditation. Whatever. Tell my body about it.

Breakfast was really light, a little cereal, soy milk, and prunes (that don’t do anything for me). I so want to request rice for breakfast. There was a sign posted that our schedule would be changed for the day. There would be no meeting with the teacher (nooo), and we would be learning the Vipassana technique during our afternoon mediation which would be three hours. I got in a mile on the racetrack. I love watching the sunrise over the desert. At morning meditation, I suffered more than ever before. I nearly fell asleep between my legs and rocked myself to stay awake. We were STILL focusing on the area below the nostrils (anapana meditation) and I was just done with it. I told the manager after meditation about my slow-going to the bathroom. She offered to pick me up something from CVS, but I explained what I need is only sold online. She then offered me Fleet, which I took because beggars can’t be choosers. But, what’s Bisacodyl? No Google to look that up. I really dislike laxatives.

When I got back to the room, I took out my writing supplies and felt panicked. I was feeling super claustrophobic and wanted to be home. Before I could even get my thoughts straight, the manager knocked and barged into my room (can they even do that?!), and said the teacher would like to meet with me. GULP. The sign said she wasn’t meeting with anyone today?! I imagined just telling her I’m DONE. Seriously, done! I can’t do this. I imagined how I would have to wait around for my mom or an uber/lyft to pick me up. I wonder if the manager saw that I had writing material out, and what that would mean for me… Can we write? I still don’t know. Would they collect it? If so, would they read it? Would they be offended by what they would read? Then I remembered, I have the penmanship of a 6-year-old child or doctor? We will go with the latter. They won’t be able to read it either way.

In the meeting, I found out she, the teacher had clearly taken notes on me, and noticed that I suffered during the morning meditation. My subtle rocking, was apparently super distracting to those who had their eyes open (aka just her and the male teacher?). She was concerned because our meditation would be a total of three hours straight this afternoon.  She said she would give me permission to take a 5-minute break if I felt the need to begin rocking again. She asked about my UTI and constipation. I guess the manager tells her everything? My writing! Gulp! She asked if all of the sounds are bothering me, and I responded it is better than it was yesterday. I explained that my butt is numb, and she recommended adding a cushion. After our meeting, I asked the manager if she had any recommendation on how to survive. She did not respond and proceeded into the teacher’s room. I panicked. She is only going to tattle tell about my contraband (is it even contraband? ahh!). Why didn’t I lock the damn door?! Also, good thing I didn’t have my watercolor painting set out (yes, I brought it with me).

I’m back in the room and going crazy. I figure they will kick me out before I can quit. I felt like absolute crap.

I go to lunch later than usual, and the manager is waiting outside and asks to speak with me. GULP. She hands me some Smooth Move tea bags and asked that I repeat the question of what I asked earlier because she didn’t hear it. She said that learning Vipassana meditation this afternoon will make me feel better. I then got teary and said I don’t think I can do this, and she responded that I can. I really began crying out of relief, knowing she might not have seen anything, or simply didn’t say anything to the teacher. I am still safe in dhammaland. Lunch is ok. There were a not-so-edible tofu steak, mashed potatoes, and my favorite salad. I didn’t have much of an appetite anyway. After walking, I took a shower to calm me down, as I felt very overheated and anxious.

During the Vipassana technique, I didn’t move once. The extra cushion for the meditation really did me some good. Have I mentioned there is a gal here who doesn’t sit on anything?! I think all of us are in silent awe (ha). Goenka talked us through the entire thing, observing our sensations on each part of the body, one by one. Much more exciting than just the nose. After that, it was time for tea. I got the best seat in the house, outside, facing the sunset. I keep taking mental notes of images I would like to watercolor later (not risking watercoloring while here). I went walking afterward, and it was just gorgeous. People seemed to be walking slower than usual in order to watch the sunset. I walked into the Extra Clothing Closet and picked out a warm jacket to borrow, because it’s getting colder in the mornings and at night, and picked up a blanket, in case it gets cold in my bed. The evening’s meditation seemed a lot easier. With the Vipassana technique, we are expected to keep our eyes shut, to not move our extremities and keep a straight back the entire time.

The discourse was about how our intentions are everything. Good intentions make us feel good, and bad intentions make us feel bad. It’s that simple. If you plant a lime tree, you will have bitter fruit, versus a mango tree. It’s not our actions or our verbalizations, it’s about our thoughts. I can’t tell who the teacher is staring at, at the conclusion of our meditations. I once tried to smile at her, and it didn’t seem mutual, or she didn’t see me. She was really focused. The final meditation seemed long because I was so tired. I never stay after to ask the teacher questions. I finally had a BM! Praise the bowel gods. Maybe, after going through the hardships of Day 4, my body found some much-needed relief.

Upcoming Posts

Well, it happened, with my talented and wonderful friend Christina on board, I fell off updating this blog myself. I’ve missed many Poetry Ptuesdays and I’m backlogged on Spending Breakdown by TWO months! I haven’t completely finished my bench, and my plants are doing all kinds of crazy summer stunts that I’ve not (obnoxiously) updated on. Yesterday I trimmed my sage box and made a lot of dehydrated sage!

 

To make up for my tepid, uninspired “return”, here is a really powerful and gorgeous poem by Jamaican-American poet and activist June Jordan.

*

Poem for South African Women

Our own shadows disappear as the feet of thousands

by the tens of thousands pound the fallow land

into new dust that

rising like a marvelous pollen will be

fertile

even as the first woman whispering

imagination to the trees around her made

for righteous fruit

from such deliberate defense of life

as no other still

will claim inferior to any other safety

in the world

 

The whispers too they

intimate to the inmost ear of every spirit

now aroused they

carousing in ferocious affirmation

of all peaceable and loving amplitude

sound a certainly unbounded heat

from a baptismal smoke where yes

there will be fire

 

And the babies cease alarm as mothers

raising arms

and heart high as the stars so far unseen

nevertheless hurl into the universe

a moving force

irreversible as light years

traveling to the open

eye

 

And who will join this standing up

and the ones who stood without sweet company

will sing and sing

back into the mountains and

if necessary

even under the sea

 

we are the ones we have been waiting for

*

While not quite as brimming with sagacity and strength as the Jordan’s poem, I am working to bring y’all the small and ugly fruits of my tremendous labors. Look out for me catching up on spending breakdowns, finishing my bench repair, and obnoxiously showing off my plants some more in the near future.

 

Happy Tuesday, kitty kats.

Vipassana Day 4: Impermanence (a 12-day Journal of my Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat Experience)

Today I woke up at 4:15 AM to wash out the conditioning mask from my hair. I tried to fall back asleep but failed. Today’s breakfast was better than yesterday’s because they had my favorite fall fruit, persimmons! Honestly, I wish they would just serve us lunch leftovers because there is nothing savory for breakfast. Or at least offer eggs (everything is vegetarian at the center). I don’t think I have mentioned that I ran out of my oxygenated magnesium (my magic bm pills), which means I’ve barely gone to the bathroom. Even with eating vegan mush, and the copious amounts of water I’ve been drinking, and laps around the track… Nada. My morning walk was beautiful, but there is this one woman who gives me the strangest look each time she walks by. This is the third day I’ve noticed. Maybe I stare strangely at the other gals? I think we are all losing it. Speaking of communal spaces, sometimes we will hold the door for each other, and we will use our eyes to say thank you or bow, or accidentally mouth it or even say it. We aren’t supposed to gesture at each other, let alone break noble silence, but it happens. Noble habits are hard to break.

There are a mother and daughter here together, who often sit together, and sometimes gesture or whisper to each other. It’s sweet and makes me miss my own mom. Even though I did a conditioning treatment, my hair still feels dry. I mean, it’s the high desert. Also, my face feels super dry, and bumpy, maybe even hive-like. Am I overdoing the face masks, or allergic to something else?

The first meditation today was hard. It just felt longer than ever before. The teacher called us up in groups to see how we were doing with focusing on the nostrils and any sensations that arise during the meditations. I said it feels dry and warm, others said they could feel their nostrils expanding. My loud and older neighbor ‘Lydia’ said she can’t stop herself from falling asleep. We know… We can hear you snoring.

For lunch, I did what I promised I would do, which is to eat an entire plate of salad. On the side, I had a corn tortilla with beans and cilantro. I’ve been taking advantage of all of the seasonings they have to offer. There is the one I really like but I can’t remember the name. And nutritional yeast…mmm. After lunch, I waited patiently to speak with the teacher. While waiting, I realized the rabbits here don’t run away when you get near. They must know they are safe in Dhammaland.

During my ‘interview’ with the teacher, I expressed my frustrations and my agitation regarding my neighbor (Lydia), without naming names. She eluded that she knew exactly who I was talking about, without mentioning any specific names. She said this can be tough and unavoidable because we are a big group in a small room. She mentioned they are probably not doing it on purpose and hopefully, they will figure out it’s disturbing and stop. She recommended I turn my agitation into compassion. Maybe this person is having a difficult time? I then explained that I fluctuate between a feeling of peace and claustrophobia. She said it’s all normal. Just be aware of such, and let it go. Anicca(impermanence aka everything is temporary). After the meeting, I washed some of my clothes with hand soap and hung them out to dry. Kind of fun. Let’s see how quickly they dry. Yes, this is how we party in Dhammaland. I had time to make a round on the racetrack before the break was over. Also, I keep hearing weird sounds like someone is bombing. We are next to 29 Palms military base after all. The dichotomy!!! Real question. Would they stop the meditation if something serious was happening out there?

The afternoon meditation was also really hard for me. I ended up being the noisy one. I kept fidgeting and I just didn’t want to focus on my dry and burning nostrils. I thought about how I randomly woke up at 11:11 PM, and that it must have been a sign. I also thought about how one of the fellow meditators wears shirts with the strangest sayings written on them. I also thought about how it is majority white women here, and maybe just a quarter, or a little more of POC. Why is that? I look forward to the moment Goenka begins chanting (even though he has a frog-like voice) because that marks the end of our meditation. Tea break was same ol’, but I didn’t eat anything, because fruit just didn’t sound appetizing. My clothing dried quickly, but my towel was super hard. I decided to re-soak it and hang it up again.

This evening’s meditation was also difficult, and now I am wondering if it’s because I ate a larger lunch? I didn’t feel full though. That’s a question for tomorrow. Again, I was so ecstatic to hear Goenka’s concluding chanting. At discourse, he discussed how nothing is solid and how everything is impermanent (anicca). We are different people from moment to moment, and you will never touch the same water in a river (unless it’s a lazy river). Same with our feelings. We may feel ecstasy one moment, pain the next. As long as we acknowledge our feelings and do not attach, we are fine. Tomorrow we will finally begin Vipassana practice. Apparently focusing on just the nose and nostrils has been preparing us for this? The last meditation also felt long, and images and feelings of old friends came up, but it was all temporary… Anicca. I forgot to grab my towel and refused to walk outside alone. There are coyote droppings everywhere, and I can hear them digging outside my window at night.

Vipassana Day 3: The Wild vs Tame Elephant (a 12-day Journal of my Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat Experience)

The goals I have for this retreat (meditated on this in the AM):

1.      The root cause of my anxiety

2.     The root cause of my IBS

3.     The root cause of my Tinnitus

4.     The root cause of a recent lump in my throat

5.     Figuring out what I truly want in my life (work, relationship[s], family)

6.     The root reason of why I am always searching for something better

7.     The root cause of my impulsiveness

8.    The root cause of feeling guilty

9.    The root cause of feeling shameful around having money

I woke up at 6 AM, to my own alarm. I clearly didn’t hear this morning’s gong. Oh well. I am extremely tired and dry, inside and out. I am hoping to manifest some rain or at least humidity. Breakfast was breakfast, and I got a prime seat in front of the window, where I watched the sunrise over the mountains. The manager asked for the tea bags she gave me back because they apparently belonged to one of the servers. I happily returned them, unsteeped. I accidentally put Tahiti sauce on my rice cakes, which I recommend never doing. FYI, S.N. Goenka says the reason why we skip dinner during retreats is that you apparently meditate better on an empty stomach. Interesting. After breakfast, I did my usual walk, four rounds total, or one mile. This takes me around 20 minutes, depending on how slow I walk and also includes me stopping to stretch.

Luckily, S.N. Goenka gave us further instruction on how to focus on our breath for hours. Tomorrow will apparently be the last day of Anapana Meditation. I keep fantasizing about texting my parents and partner. I am luckily feeling better thanks to the Vitamin C, cranberry supplement and over 100 oz of lemon water. Lunch was f*ing amazing. Split pea soup with carrots and herb roasted potatoes (fries) and salad. I never know how much to eat at lunch, considering we don’t get dinner, and I had barely eaten breakfast. Does meditation burn calories?

After lunch, I went on my nature walk. The usual suspects were there. Some mindfully walk, while others borderline jog. It was so hot, and I decided to only walk two laps and get my stretch on. It’s interesting to see the men on their own natural path down aways. We are so separated from them, left with only glimpses of their silhouettes, except during meditation, where we are in the same hall, but still physically separated. They actually put a wall in between us while we eat. I sat down with the teacher and brought up my UTI and asked if that might be some of my ‘gunk’ coming to the surface. She said maybe, or maybe not. She asked for me to take it seriously, and to take care of myself. If this turns into a kidney infection, I will have to see a doctor, and leave the property and won’t be allowed back into Dhammaland. My heart sank at the thought of leaving. I then asked if I will know when I’ve encountered the root of my suffering and pain. She said it isn’t necessarily a moment of figuring it out. It may be emotions and physical sensations that come up over the course of the retreat. So much for an easy solution.

The afternoon meditation was a lot easier. After going on my walk, I realized that the grass may be greener on the other side. The men appear to have a better view of the southern mountain range, bordering Joshua Tree National Park. Whatever, I’ll just breathe through my saltiness.

Evening meditation was ok. I kept thinking about and literally salivating over the thought of lunch. Sorry, but fruit is NOT dinner. Concentrating on the area around the nose is challenging, especially when you’re still hungry. In addition, it was louder inside than ever before. I ignored it as much as I could, but my older neighbors to the right are aggressively loud. They are constantly clearing their throats, yawning, adjusting, sighing, coughing. The men’s side was also loud. I will have to talk to the teacher about this tomorrow. I kept wanting to stand up and yell STFU, but that wouldn’t have been very Vipassana-like of me. Tonight’s discourse was awesome, though pretty long. S.N. Goenka was the only one in the frame this time. He spoke of wild elephants, and how a tame elephant/mind can be extremely helpful, and the most unhelpful when it’s wild. He spoke of how when we feel or think negatively, we are punished by nature. For example, if you are agitated about something, you’re the only one left feeling crappy (ahem… my loud neighbors). In addition, living a ‘noble’ lifestyle means not intentionally doing anything to harm something living. The last meditation of the day was short and sweet. I got to shower and do a conditioning hair mask before heading to bed.

Poetry Ptuesday: All Those Gold Leaves by Anis Mojgani

[Whoa! I missed TWO Poetry Ptuesday. Guys, my bad! Here’s a fun one though.]

*

All Those Gold Leaves by Anis Mojgani

My piano coat unbuttoned

and all my pianos fell into the leaves.

I was picking up pianos for hours

when you walked past

your skin glowed like a loud dog.

In your smile this dog had a fence

to push his face up against.

What happiness he barked.

With pianos filling my arms

I followed through the neighborhood

and up onto the dark green porch of your home.

I stood in the doorway

and because they wouldn’t fit through the frame

I laid the pianos in piles outside.

You led me up the stairs into your room.

All our robbers were asleep

in a different part of the house.

We lay in your bed like cash bills after a heist

and listened hard

to hear if the pianos

had been playing the whole time.

This happened in the fall.

*

[Mojgani is a spoken word poet based out of Portland Oregon, and born in New Orleans, Louisiana, coincidentally two of my favorite cities in the United States.]

 

Happy Wednesday, kids.

Vipassana Day 2: Know Thyself (a 12-day Journal of my Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat Experience)

Well, I woke up multiple times throughout the night and was officially wide awake at 3 AM. I never thought I would look forward to a 4 AM bell. It was barely audible when it finally went off. If you didn’t read yesterday’s entry, this twin bed is anything but luxurious, and I would recommend bringing a mattress pad if you ever attempt your own meditation retreat. The pillow I brought from parent’s home is strangely shaped, and totally wrong for me, thus killing my neck.

Since I was up super early and wasn’t planning on going to the hall to meditate, I decided to use this Korean foot softener concoction that I would have to leave on for two hours while I ‘meditated’ before breakfast. While ‘meditating’, I fantasized about having to clean the communal bathrooms/showers on Day 6. At least I will have something to do? When I was finished meditating, I decided to re-organize everything I brought with me, because why not? As far as clothing is concerned, I definitely didn’t bring enough for the occasion. Typical me. I guess I will HAVE to hand wash my clothing at some point then. More things to do… bummer. As for spa products, I was excited to finally have time for self-care and to use a deep conditioner in my hair, and take advantage of using face masks. I was also excited to find time to do my daily stretches and physical therapy exercises. Every day, I plan to use all of the above, in addition, oil pull (coconut oil? oops), cleanse and exfoliate my face, brush and floss my teeth multiple times a day, etc. Self-care meets boredom FTW.

Walking to breakfast was beautiful, but a little chilly. The sunrise greeted us all with spectacular colors on the horizon. Breakfast was plain as to be expected. I sat facing the wall, as to avoid eye contact and the temptation for talking. I ate corn flakes with soy milk (didn’t know I was sensitive to soy at this time). I walked the quarter-mile walking path and stretched along the way afterward. I know I will become a Limber Lilly (is that a thing?) by the end of this.

The first group meditation was, well, challenging. I felt like I was meditating for the first time ever. I kept thinking, how am I going to survive doing this multiple times a day for the next 10+ days?! One breath at a time, I guess. S.N. Goenka kept repeating ‘diligence’ and ‘patience’… Also, ‘you are bound to succeed.’ Am I though?!!! When I finally got up from this meditation, I felt like a baby giraffe taking its first steps and nearly tumbled onto my neighbor.

Lunch was good, especially the salad. I can’t help but judge my fellow dhamma sisters by what they are choosing to eat, and how they eat… too fast, too slow, the way they chew. I assume we are all doing the same thing to one other, or maybe not. I really need to be up against the wall again. I was first to meet with the teacher at lunch. She said things should get easier, or maybe they will get harder before they get easier. It depends on each person. She said this will be one of the hardest things I ever do, but also the best, and welcomed me to return back tomorrow. I decided to just walk the trail over and over again, during breaks. But wow, could they make this a little longer than a quarter mile? One girl on the race track does not quit. She even stretches while she walks. After walking, I tried to take a nap and then failed. It’s hard to quiet the mind.

The second meditation seemed slightly easier to get through. I decided to focus on a year of my life for each meditation or to at least acknowledge it. Otherwise, we are only supposed to diligently, attentively and patiently focus only on our breath, and the nostril region. The one thing that makes the meditation uncomfortable is the fact that I am still presenting with early symptoms of a UTI. This isn’t good, because I don’t have any medication or the proper essential oils with me, and I have had a UTI turn into a kidney infection in the past. The teacher had us newbies stay after the meditation. The teacher looks JUST like my manager at work, and their voices are the same. It’s uncanny. She also has the prettiest ocean blue eyes. She invited us up in small groups, as the rest of us continued to meditate. She asked how we were doing one at a time, and explained that we had a choice of returning to our rooms for further meditation or staying in the hall after our small discussion. I don’t understand why anyone would stay in the hall. It’s too noisy for me.

At tea break/”dinner”, which consists of just tea and fruit, I gulp down some Kirkland Vitamin C that is available for us to take. I make myself a Mexican fruit salad, with fresh lime juice, salt, and cayenne pepper. So glad they have all of the spices. I go on a walk after tea, and when it’s time for evening meditation, I briefly talk to the manager about my predicament. She is awesome and says she will find me cranberry supplements. The meditation isn’t too bad for me, and after a short break, it’s time for our exciting evening entertainment; our first-day discourse with S.N. Goenka. This is the first time I have seen him, or at least a 90’s televised version of him. I can finally put a thick accent to a face. He is sitting next to a woman on a stage (his wife?) who looks super unimpressed, so the cameraman finally chooses to focus only on him. Good choice. He explains everything we are probably going through, like a psychic. That our discomfort is our body essentially detoxing. It is as though we are performing surgery on ourselves, but without anesthesia and that we are in fact letting the pus (toxins) come to the surface. He actually has a great sense of humor. He says that we will get to the root of our misery by doing this, and that just like a doctor wouldn’t abandon a patient during surgery, that we shouldn’t abandon ourselves (aka quit). This hour and a half long video hurt my eyes. Afterward, we had another 45-minute meditation, which I and everyone else barely stayed awake for. My manager slings me some cranberry pills and special tea, and I am all too excited about it. I take my evening shower, that no one ever signs up for, and head to bed. I survived the first day, and hopefully will survive this UTI!

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