Vipassana meditation: before you go
I’m driving to a place called Woori Yallock in two hours to sit still, or slightly fidgety, for three whole days.
I call it “sitting still” because saying “going to meditate” unsettles me.
I fear it comes across as showing poor judgement or new-ageyness, both of which could be dangerous.
Article 26 in the Journalistic Code of Ethics, right below phone hacking, and lying about phone hacking, expressly forbids: “hippydom, white-boy dreadlocks, and using ‘vibe’ to describe atmosphere.”
Telling people you’re going to meditate feels a bit like telling them you’re a veggie … which I am … oh shit, it’s not looking good.
I know what Vipassana meditation involves because I did a ten-day course in 2008.
You can’t speak to anyone, look at anyone, touch anyone, write anything, read anything, listen to music, play with your phone, receive messages, yank your chain or kill anything. (The last one’s a particular strain).
You eat what the course volunteers cook you, nothing else – which is bearable for me because I’m a veggie.
You get woken with a gong at 4.30am and do ten hour-long sessions a day.
You sit on square cushions with poor yield, close your eyes and feel searing pain in all your joints.
You learn things about boredom you’d never have imagined, but mainly that it’s incredibly boring.
On the plus side:
There’s no special breathing.
No demand for the lotus position.
No guru, unless you count SN Goenka, who delivers infrequent pep talks by rolling VHS.
No lighting of candles.
No leap of faith.
What goes through the mind during the sittings? What doesn’t go through the mind? Lot’s of stuff goes through, then returns for more, the majority of it utter bollocks.
Last time I noticed the White Album playing on repeat in the outskirts of my head: I tuned in for the Lennon tracks but Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da grated pretty badly after, ooh, five seconds. As for Piggies … I still can’t go there.
Of course, the album was remastered in 2009 so I’ll be listening this time for any small changes – less static, more hand claps, burps …
By day three, your monkey has nothing left to hide.
So why am I going?
I need to take stock.
I live in a living room.
I’ve lost a much-loved gran.
I’ve gained a son.
I’ve seen another son growing into a little man.
I’ve started a new job.
I’ve got lost driving/ on foot/ on trains/ in conversation many hundreds of times.
Insights? Yes, yes, fine. But I was already sold with the promise of sitting in a room, in silence, doing nothing for three days.
Part 1 of 2. For part 2, click here.