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Vipassana Experience Day 9: True Love

Day 9. I have lost track of dates. ‘Is this Friday or Saturday?’ I wondered and started counting the dates with my fingers. Friday. It was after our evening discourse* and we were walking back to the Main Hall for the last group meditation session before turning in for the night. It had been an uneventful day with the mind going on jaunts during the meditation sessions.

*A discourse was held at the end of each day and comprised a video explanation by Mr. S.N. Goenka on the meditation purposes, techniques and related learnings. 

Who do you love most in this world?


Earlier, I have been reflecting on the words of our teacher regarding pure love. As usual, the mind has sneaked away periodically during meditation sessions, especially those in the afternoon. Lines of silvery light peeked through the cracks of almost-shut windows that lined the main hall. For the umpteenth time, I wondered why the windows must be shut to the point that they were (even though I knew that was to make the space more conducive for meditation). Shrugging away the petty thoughts to focus, I closed my eyes to enter my personal vault. Birds chirped, crickets sang … deeper and deeper I went.    

A myriad of emotions surfaced with the faces of those whom I held close to heart. Familial love, philia love, self love. Love comes in many forms. There are so many definitions from different perspectives. I was hesitant to put a label on love, and I did not know how to. But what Mr. S. N. Goenka was right.

Pure love is a one-way traffic. You don’t expect anything in return. You just give.

Who’s the most important person in the world to you? Most would say MY parents, spouse, lover, siblings, etc. Unfortunately, these mentioned people would likely be the unfortunate ones to have expectations set upon them in order to be justified for their importance in your life or your ‘love’ for them. Think about it: why are they so important?

Could it be for their loyalty and companionship to always be by/on your side? Could it be how they give you a sense of security? Could it be their tender actions towards you?

Now, what happens if one day this important person takes on a different stand? What if he/she stops paying you as much attention as before? What if he/she act against your wishes? Would this person still be the most important one in your life? Would you get upset by this person? Would you still love him or her?

Truth: I love myself the most

The truth is, most of us love ourselves and not others. I admit I love myself the most, and I am conscious of how self-centered I have always been. Pure love is unconditional, where one’s interests are placed at the topmost priority irregardlessly. E.g. No matter how the ‘love’ of your life has let you down, you still wish him/her well.

But, how many of us can give so unconditionally at all times? In order to do so, I think one has to have a balanced mind. A mind that is not swayed by cravings (or aversion). 

I have been very fortunate to have good, loving people around me. No matter how much distress or heartaches I’ve brought her, mum still loves me. No matter how I was unable to commit to my dearest friend, he still remains a part of my life. I questioned myself, “what have I done to deserve the love? What can I give?” Contrition filled me, not for the first time.

I have been seeking love on my terms, unabashedly receiving without much to give. As I sat in the Main Hall, my mind a million miles away from the supposed session of focus, a favourite poem since teenage years was recalled:

If thou must love me… (Sonnet 14)
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1806 – 1861

If thou must love me, let it be for nought   
Except for love’s sake only. Do not say,   
“I love her for her smile—her look—her way   
Of speaking gently,—for a trick of thought   
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day”—   
For these things in themselves, Belovèd, may   
Be changed, or change for thee—and love, so wrought,   
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for   
Thine own dear pity’s wiping my cheeks dry:
A creature might forget to weep, who bore   
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!   
But love me for love’s sake, that evermore   
Thou mayst love on, through love’s eternity.

Anapana: mindfulness of breathing

Mimosas (shy plants) lie aplenty at Dhamma Malaya.

I straightened my back while keeping my eyes closed. I was restless and couldn’t stop myself from fidgeting. Trying to stay focused, I reverted to breathing slightly harder and observing respiration. Known as Anapana, this breathing meditation is the primary exercise that we’ve learnt since the first day, and we were told to practise it when we find ourselves unable to focus. Breathe in, breathe out.  

The ½ hour session seemed almost unbearable, a mere 5 minutes after the previous hour’s motionless sitting. Even as I focused on my breathing, I was aware of the mind slipping away. Half and half, multitasking; like a mother keeping an eye on her child at the playground while she chats with another. I marvelled at the mind for a split second and wondered if it was trying to create a smokescreen and sneak off when I least expected.

Apparently so.

Different types of love

The mind was relentless in exploring aspects of love and relationships. Unwittingly, memories of last December came and went. Conversations with my young but wise friend was recalled. Six months back, I consoled myself, “There’s a kind of love called letting go”. Was that pure love? Irregardless. Sometimes, we find love when we least expected.

Pondering more on the concept of love, I questioned (not for the first time) Man’s ability to complicate things. Ancient Greeks expressed there are eight different types of love. In modern times, there are limitless definitions perceptions. It could be pure love, compassionate love, discounted love, selfish love, romantic love, platonic love, etc.

But, perhaps whatever love may means, the truest of which would be that you seek. Plato’s words rang true for me:   

“… … truth and authenticity are a higher value than either reason or love, which aim at them, and a higher value even than happiness, which is merely the manifestation of their presence.”Plato on True Love by Neel Burton 

So, stay true. I reminded myself. Recounting these experiences also serve as a good reminder to me now. Stay true, be more aware, more kind, less demanding and try to put others before self. 

What about you? … … What’s your truth?

One more day

Just one day away from the end of this 10-day silent meditation retreat, I felt almost like a child that’s expecting the arrival of his/her birthday. Much as the camp has forced brought personal insights, there are people whom I missed and would like to exchange my thoughts with. I was ready to be released from prison get back to civilisation! Even as I wondered what could happen in less than 2 weeks, I knew from experience that things would remain the same. Life always goes on.    

[To be continued]

If you have enjoyed the above article, please stay tuned for more as I will be sharing a series of my daily thoughts on the 10-day Vipassana meditation at Dhamma Malaya Center along with some useful tips to know before going. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment. Peace, harmony and happiness to all! 

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