Meditation Boot Camp

Friday evening to Sunday morning, a silent meditation retreat with my sister.  We’d get away, learn to meditate.  Relax.



We arrive at 7:30 PM, take off our shoes, and are led to our room, a freezing cold split with four bunk beds and a bathroom.  At 8:00 PM, we meet in the main room with 12 or so others and our leader, a fit guy with a shaved head and cute stories about his son.  There, he informs us that Noble Silence will now begin, which I recognize from watching The Dog Whisperer: “no touch no talk no eye contact.”  Then we meditate for an hour, which goes like this: focus your mind’s eye on the area beneath your nose, refocus as thoughts or bodily pain create distraction, and don’t move.  The body begins to scream within 10 minutes and never lets up.  We are released to our rooms at 9:00 to do whatever we want, provided is doesn’t involve looking at anyone, speaking, or reading.  Lights are to be out by 9:30.

9:00 PM

“Your room is really cold” — a message of truth from previous occupants.

I’m in a room with Angie and it’s so weird not acknowledging each other at all. It probably would be better if we were in different rooms.  I want to tell her of my experience, discuss how freezing cold our room is again, and tell her there’s yogurt and fruit in the kitchen.  She’s doing some yoga.  I think that meditation was really hard on her back.

I think we may have meditated for a whole hour.  Or it could have been 20 minutes… I’m not sure.  But it’s the first time I think I’ve truly experienced meditation.  I felt a lot of pain and just refocused until I didn’t notice it—my knee, my tailbone, my back.  My legs falling asleep.

Hitler Stache
“Focus your mind’s eye on the area just below your nose… the small area between your nose and lip.”

Lots of things would take off with my thoughts, and I’d refocus.  Weirdly, he has us focus on the area between our nose and lip, which is where Hitler’s little rug of a mustache sat, and I referenced a photo of that just this week on a Facebook post.

I feared falling over from sleep once or twice.

Up at 5:30 AM for an hour of meditation before breakfast, but do we set alarms?!?!  How to know…


6:30 AM

Alarms went off at 5:15 AM and we met in the main room to meditate from 5:30-6:30.  Yogurt granola, and fruit has been set out in the kitchen for our breakfast break.  Many teas to choose from, as well.  I find a table in the main room to write and process.

Noble Silence
Suffer generously.

Well, it’s still pretty weird.  Not acknowledging people feels uncomfortable to me.  Rude and awkward.  I’m very aware of it, so it’s distracting.  Takes more energy from me, it seems, to not make eye contact or acknowledge than it would to be friendly.   Also, at this moment, there is the joy of people eating in the same room: click, clack, scrape, crunch-crunch-crunch.  One person has loud sniffs every other bite, too.  If I could truly be alone right now, or at least have some space, I feel I could maintain a more self-reflective mind.  Right now, it’s a cacophony of Not Aloneness bombarding my awareness.

29066749_10214203759061623_1505639410253692928_oThe room where we meditate has pretty nice views, and has a couch, love seat, and two comfortable chairs.  But there are about 12 of us here.  I’m at a table in the same room.  The only other physical spaces I could be in are my room where Angie may be, which feels so awkward ignoring, and where it’s about 60 degrees, or the kitchen.

OMG—a new cruncher.  Who the hell through granola in shared silence was a good idea?

I’m feeling pretty annoyed feelings come up.  The chewing.  The lack of a place for me to relax and exist until 8:00 AM, when we again meditate.

The chewing.  Why should it bother me?  Am I Nick (my stepdad, who could be driven insane throughout my childhood by the sounds of a child chewing)?  People chew, it makes some noise.  That shouldn’t bother me, I don’t think.  “Should.”  Ilona, my therapist, might point out that that’s a judgment.  No judgments, only descriptions.  In that case, nothing about the sound of someone chewing their granola, or scraping milk from the bottom of their bowl, is, to me, rude, personal, or inappropriate.  But it does, however, make my body tense up and want to punch their head in.

Angie looks very cute over there, standing at the window, looking out at the impending sunrise over the lake, and holding a cup of tea.  She looks relaxed and very confident, and I have never seen those bootie slippers on her feet, but I like them.

IMG_1552Nobody else is writing, just so you know.  I wonder if writing like I am is a distraction, if I shouldn’t use it that way.  I know I shouldn’t, but him… (note: I later learned that writing is not allowed in a true Vipassana meditation course).

Also, omg, the carpal tunnel.  No wonder I stopped writing!  So eager for the surgery.

I don’t even want to get myself something to eat, because I feel bad making stomachs clench and fists tighten around me.  I guess I’ll go freeze-eat in my bunk, because Angie is here, lying on the floor.

9:00 AM

Just ended another hour of meditation.  The physical pain is a surprise.  Pretty heavy physical pain.  The mind stuff is a lofty level to attain at this point.  I’m primarily enduring severe pain, with respites of dreams and visions.  Also, the whole “what is my purpose” remains a stagnant prompt for me.

11:00 AM

Pillow stacks grew taller by the hour, looking very Princess and the Pea by the end, meditators teetering on veritable towers in futile efforts to stop the pain.

Just finished a two-hour “meditation.”  Again, the potential for a meditative state seems improbably at best when fighting back tears from physical pain.  It was bad.  There were times when it wasn’t, and when neat stuff happened, but the pain endurance, at this point, was not worth it.  The worst pain has been in my legs and butt, I think from no circulation.  And it’s hard to mind-over-matter that and blame my legs for attempting to distract me, when they just aren’t getting blood circulation.  I don’t know.

The neat parts were visions/dreams and the designs/images/pictures/structures—whatever that I could see.  So very detailed and intricate!  Like a sci-fi movie, only better.  Just amazing.  Also, faces.  Some real (like this scary girl who popped up and made a mean, teethy face at me), some in the designs/structures.  I do love looking at that.  I used to when I was little—when I was still me.

Going for food now.  I’ll bring it back to my bed to eat; rather not hear all the chewing out there!

Oh, and also, ignoring each other is not getting any more comfortable to me.  It feels so unnatural and cold.  I really don’t like it.  And doing it with Angie is the worst.  I wonder if it’s bothering her at all.  How she’s doing, what she’s thinking.  I’ll bet it would be easier for her if I wasn’t here—easier to be impersonal when it’s all strangers.  Okay, food.  Then you again—you’re all I’ve got!

(Stupid carpal tunnel hand is numb and painful already from just this much writing.  Surgery on April 4th for my writing hand.  Hooray!)

Lunch in my bunk, free from the chewing sounds of those I don’t see.

Back with my food.  You won’t believe this: they are all sitting at the long table together, eating, while totally ignoring each other and avoiding eye contact.  In total silence, except for the chewing and fork-scraping sounds: no music, no talking, no television, nothing.

I guess it creates a completely selfish mode, intentionally, and that feels uncomfortable to me.  Because a deep fear of mine (that I “let go of” in the last meditation session) is to be not physically alone, but “unconnected.”  (I think Angie is secretly checking her phone right now.  She came into the room.  I don’t blame her if she is.)  (Now she is putting on her coat to go for a walk.  I, stupidly, did not bring a coat.)  Anyway, being selfish means, to me, why would anyone want to stick around with you?

This reminds of stuff, this being alone in silence during the daytime.  It reminds me of naps.  And Great Grandma’s house.

Being ugly and fat feels like the most important part of me, most of the time.

5:00 PM

The torture continues.

My bunk.

We have an hour now for tea and fruit (“try to keep it light; a little bit of granola if you need it”—I’m so hungry… shamed myself with a little bit of granola AND an orange).  The past three hours were more of the same.  My hands are very swollen.  I wonder why that is.  They look like crazy.

Two more hours of meditating before the day is over.  I fear how much we’ll pack in tomorrow.

Even though I would probably never do this again, some good visions/memories/thoughts have happened.  This time:

  • Denise Shirkey from elementary school. Where is she now?
  • Jeannie Priester, same.
  • Mike Hansen, same.

Bunch of those people from back when I was more the real me.

Also, I want very much to lie on Dawn’s couch and listen to her talk and let her girls climb all over me.  I hope she’ll let me.

7:55 PM

We just watched a movie on Vipassana, the meditation we are doing.  Turns out, you have to take a 10-day course to really experience it.  Oy vey.  Pretty compelling documentary, though.  Transformed the word’s largest prison in India.

One more hour of torture.  My butt hurts so, so badly.  I laid on my stomach during the movie.

Note: Shocked there have been no farts in all this silence.

Last Day

6:50 AM

Just finished my breakfast.  We meditated from 5:30-6:30 and start again at 7:00.  Since we leave at 11:00, you’d think today would be light.  There are many hours of agony one can pack in when starting at 5:30 AM.

Pretty outside.

Breakfast was yogurt and granola.  I joined the crunchers today since we only had half an hour.

Now that I know from the movie last night that actual Vipassana isn’t possible until Day THREE or FOUR, I’m going a little easier on myself this morning.  Adjusting positions, etc.

It’s horrible to be in a silent room of people, focusing on the area beneath your nose, and have a whistling nostril.  Let me tell you. 

Carpal tunnel is a nuisance.  Both hands have little sharp pains in them right now, and bands of tingling numbness.  I’m so excited to have unlimited-by-pain writing capability again.  Right carpal tunnel fix is April 4th, left is March 7th.

Stuff that’s floated into my mind today and dreams last night:

  • 28796087_10214203757861593_6900315795151126528_o

    Write Club and those kids.  What to name it, how to present it to them for recruiting.

  • Rolling Hills Writing The Unthinkable workshop.  Maybe, like this Vipassana, I am cutting their experience too short for people.  A full day at minimum is how Lynda’s done it, I think.
  • Relationships.

We were surprised with a rap session after breakfast, and then released back into the world of the speaking.  Angie and I made haste to Starbucks and talked for a few hours.  We both agreed it was physical torture, the likes of which we’d not known before.  And that we’d do the 10-day course.

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