Ten Days of Silence in Pecatonica, IL: See You In About Two Weeks
On Wednesday, I will be leaving for a seven-hour drive to the Vipassana Center in Pecatonica, Illinois. I will be going alone and leaving behind quite a few things I love- my family and friends for one, but also things like: books and other reading materials, pens and paper, COFEE, yoga and other forms of recreational/health-based exercise, alcohol of any type, SUGAR, my laptop and cell phone, eye contact with other humans, and the ability to speak at will without breaking social norms and written agreements. Oh yes, and also yoga pants and leggings- for modesty’s sake.
…So… This should be interesting….
The schedule for a day in the life of a silent retreat is something like this:
4:00 a.m. wake up call
I won’t go on as you probably get the picture
So what is this about, you are probably wondering? Here is the description of Vipassana practice from the code they sent me:
“Vipassana is one of Indiaís most ancient meditation techniques. Long lost to humanity, it was rediscovered by Gotama the Buddha more than 2500 years ago. Vipassana means seeing things as they really are. It is the process of self-purification by self-observation. One begins by observing the natural breath to concentrate the mind. With a sharpened awareness one proceeds to observe the changing nature of body and mind, and experiences the universal truths of impermanence, suffering and egolessness. This truth- realization by direct experience is the process of purification. The entire path (Dhamma) is a universal remedy for universal problems, and has nothing to do with any organized religion or sectarianism. For this reason, it can be practiced freely by everyone, at any time, in any place, without conflict due to race, community or religion, and it will prove equally beneficial to one and all.”
The practice is meant to eliminate causes of suffering. Again, from the code of conduct sent to me, “the three causes of all unhappiness [are]: craving, aversion and ignorance.” Well, I certainly crave sugar and coffee. I avoid things by staying busy: reading, writing, surfing social media. Ignorance? Sure. I have a lot of that.
I am obviously no expert, or even yet a practitioner of Vipassana meditation, so I speak with no authority here, but how can it not be life changing to give up everything upon which one relies, thinks they need, in order to look deeper into oneself and find what is left?
I have no idea what this experience will be like. I have looked toward it with many different emotions. At first, they consisted mostly of dread and fear. Then, I transitioned to acceptance and maybe even a little excitement. Now that it is so close (I will leave in approximately 48 hours) my feelings are shifting again. I feel intrigue. I feel sadness for missing days with those whom I love.
I feel curiosity: what does one do during an hour and a half breakfast besides eating when all forms of human interaction and normal activities have been eliminated? I guess I will find out.
So, this is my temporary farewell as I head into the cold and crisp winter morning into the unknown. I hope to come back with much to share about the experience.
I end this post with the words of my beloved teacher Parker Palmer:
“…a daily walk into the winter world will fortify the the spirit by taking you boldly into the very heart of the season you fear.”
– Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak
I will see you when I return.