People has started smiling. There was a sense of suppressed jubilance in the air. Even footsteps appeared lighter. After breakfast, I was taking my usual morning walk and came across a huge snail in the middle of the path. I kept my glance on it even as I walked on, turning my head towards it so that those behind me would realise that there was something on the ground.
For a split moment, I contemplated on moving it to the side of the path but decided against it for two reasons, 1) I did not know which direction it was heading to and reckoned it would be bad if I shifted it back to where it came from, further from its intended destination than ever, 2) everyone has their own path and challenges – snails included. I was not willing to render unwanted help. I admit I have the tendency to have bizarre thoughts in my head.
An insightful story about accepting unwanted gifts lingered on my mind. Many nights ago, the teacher shared the irrational but common behaviours of human. We have the tendency to accept unwanted gifts. We also have the tendency to give unwanted gifts. If one does not know yourself well enough or have strong resolve, then one would likely accept the unwanted gifts and feel miserable as a result.
Imagine this: a scruffy-looking stranger comes up to you and offer a slice of cake. Most people would reject immediately based on instincts. You don’t know the person after all and first impression did not impressed. Most importantly, your mind is clear and composed. In another situation, if a close friend accused you of something in the heat of moment, you would probably get riled up and upset. Unwittingly, you are reacting automatically and accepting the unwanted gift: anger and accusation. But, why would you?
If you stop for a moment to consider, and walk away from the situation without hurling angry words back, which will worsen the situation, the truth will come to light in time to come. Your refusal to accept the unwanted gift would rid you of misery that would plague if you have reacted negatively.
Lending a helping hand
As I was passing the snail for the third time, a fellow meditator tried to convey her distress by body language. I sensed that she wanted to move the snail but did not dare to touch it. Before I could do anything, she turned to another approaching meditator and blurted, “can you help me to move the snail?” The meditator picked up the snail and deposited it on one side of the path, replying, “it’s just the shell”. I had a strange urge to laugh.
Walking on, I wondered, “Should I have shifted the snail to safety?” Being proactive and helpful is commendable but I would still evaluate the situation before acting. In an environment where adults are practising mindfulness as opposed to an environment where kids run free, I’d rather let nature take its course.
Be careful where you tread.
I was reminded of a drawing that I did many years back. I used to draw on post-it notes during work when I was feeling uninspired or stressed. Practising Vipassana has helped me to become more mindful, and my awareness of the surrounding environment has been improving. At times, we may easily trample upon others carelessly, indirectly, or unintentionally. While I tried not to be a clumsy giant and avoided stepping on ants, spiders, moths, etc. at Dhamma Malaya, I reminded myself it would be of utmost importance to practise mindfulness towards those around me outside of the meditation camp.
Words and actions stem from thoughts. To prevent hurting others, one must be mindful of forming negative thoughts. Easier said than done, but every little bit counts. Our teacher advised that every effort counts; a piece of wisdom applicable to all aspects in life.
Metta and breaking silence
Our schedule on Day 10 differed greatly from the previous 9 days. In fact, silence was broken after the morning group meditation session where we learnt a new meditation technique called, “Metta”. Metta is a loving-kindness meditation to direct well wishes to all beings in the world. With the break of silence, I realised I was not the only one that felt the tinglings when practising metta.
Bright smiles and busy chatters, conversations flowed amongst familiar strangers. ‘What inspired you to come here? Would you do this again?’ Listening to the experiences of fellow meditators, I was reminded: 1) appearances can be deceiving, 2) experience brings knowledge and assurance, 3) bonds can be forged without words, 4) silence can sometimes be louder than words, 5) we all have our own irrational fears (mine was lizards, my neighbour’s was spiders), 6) every moment is transient, and so forth.
Dana; paying it forward
The dining hall has been transformed and communication in all forms were available; visually and verbally. Posters of Vipassana-related information lined the wall, and there were a few service counters for retrieving one’s valuables (which was deposited at the start of the course), arranging transportation for the following day to leave Dhamma Malaya, getting free books and giving Dana (donation).
“According to the tradition of pure Vipassana, courses are run solely on a donation basis. Donations are accepted only from those who have completed at least one ten-day course with S.N. Goenka or one of his assisting teachers. Someone taking the course for the first time may give a donation on the last day of the course or any time thereafter.
In this way courses are supported by those who have realized for themselves the benefits of the practice. Wishing to share these benefits with others, one gives a donation according to one’s means and volition. Such donations are the only source of funding for course in this tradition around the world. Whether a donation is large or small, it should be given with the wish to help others.’”
We were told that we have been living the life of a monk/nun with the strict code of discipline and meditation work that we have been doing for these 10 days. It all made sense now; no killing, the thin, lumpy mattress, specific meal times (no special menu because beggars can’t be choosers), our effort at seeking wisdom within, etc. I felt fortunate that I had this great opportunity to experience and learn Vipassana, and this was made possible because of the charity of others. I felt fortunate too, to be able to contribute and paid it forward for someone else to come learn this way of living. The 10-day silent retreat was not easy, but it has been beneficial.
Walking around the compound of Dhamma Malaya that afternoon, people were all smiles. The teacher has mentioned earlier (through experience) that everyone is always happy and smiling at the end of the course, hinting at some form of peace and harmony within. To be honest, I think the beautiful smiles are attributed to a sense of release. Finally, one could exchange glances, talk, and connect! 🙂
This is the end of my daily recount of the 10-day Vipassana meditation at Dhamma Malaya Center. Thank you for those that accompanied me on this arduous journey and read my personal ramblings till the end. I hope that it has given you a better idea of Vipassana and what it entails. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment. Peace, harmony and happiness to all!
- 10-Day Vipassana Meditation Review: Experience, Musings and Insights
- Vipassana Experience Day 1: Addiction and Breathing
- Vipassana Experience Day 2: Living in the MomentVipassana Experience Day 2: Living in the Moment
- Vipassana Experience Day 3: Pain and Beauty
- Vipassana Experience Day 4: Seeking Truth and Walk Hard
- Vipassana Experience Day 5: Vibrations and Meeting the Teacher
- Vipassana Experience Day 6: Strong Determination
- Vipassana Experience Day 7: How many colours are there in the clouds?
- Vipassana Experience Day 8: Law of Nature
- Vipassana Experience Day 9: True Love