We all struggle with hard times or low points from time to time. That’s life, right?
Sometimes, the denser emotions like anxiety, isolation, depression or sadness, can feel debilitating or crippling, and we can‘t see a way forward.
If you’ve ever experienced this and you’d like a hand up, then I’d like to share a mindset-shifting-practice with you that has really helped me through those darker periods. I hope it helps you too.
1. Your emotions are like data.
Try thinking of your emotions like data – like a light going off on your car dashboard. They’re telling you something, and it’s up to you what you do with the information.
In the case of anxiety, for me it might mean that I’m doing something I’m not meant to be doing, or, I’m NOT doing something that I’m meant to be doing.
2. Have the “I call BS” conversation.
I try and get really clear on what that is. I call it my “I call bullshit” discussion. I turn and face the situation, which can sometimes take courage, and I ask myself “what is this really about?” and “what can I do about it?”.
This might take a few tries to get to the nub of it because sometimes I’m avoiding/concealing the truth even from myself. It might take a bit of courage and soul searching, but try and get really real with yourself. Is what’s pissing you off reeeeeally what’s pissing you off? Or is there something deeper going on. Are concealing or hiding from the truth, even from yourself? If so, shout “I call BS!” and keep digging.
The reason or cause behind your feeling upset or anxious might not be what you think at first.
3. Be proactive.
In Tibetan Buddhist philosophy they have a saying, which loosely translated means:
If you can do something about it, why worry.
If you can’t do something about it, then why worry?
The more you can start to treat your emotions like a warning light, the more you’ll be able to asses the situation more calmly, take stock of what’s really going on, assess what’s within your power to control. Then, you can choose your response, be the captain of your ship.
4. Make friends with your emotions.
Through the practice of regular meditation, I’ve cultivated the technique of making friends with my emotions, treating each one as a guest in my house.Whether light or shade, high vibration or low, they are all messengers at the end of the day.
Next time you feel it, try it. Welcome them in, listen to them, thank them for the lessons that they share with you and then when you’re ready to, let them leave with grace and ease.
5. This too shall pass.
And finally, remember that all feelings, emotions or experiences are there but fleeting, impermanent. Everything changes, just like the seasons, just as the sun always sets, and the sun rises on a brand new, perfectly untouched day.
You might not be expecting a can of spray paint to inspire philosophical ponderings… and neither was I, but here goes…
I’ve been working on the van this month. Coorie the Camper is currently at the bodywork spa having some TLC whilst I work on bringing the wing mirrors back to life with some rattle cans #DIY.
So far this has involved several hours of learning, patience, sanding, priming, more priming, mistake-making, starting again’ing, more sanding, till finally, I start applying the topcoat and man it’s been slow and arduous – I’m new to this, which means each layer is not exactly right, and each next layer is basically to fix the last, and my topcoat paint was running out fast? That’s weird – till a friend takes a look and notices the nozzle is set to the wrong setting – who knew those little + and – meant something! (I know, it’s so f*****g obvious once you know…)
Suddenly, with just a small twist the paint was misting on like a dream, with ease, speed and evenly spread. “I can have this done today,” I think to myself… There I was, plugging away using the right tool just in the wrong way, feeling frustrated, demoralised, struggling, running out of patience and paint in the process.
It struck me how we can sometimes feel this way in life – stuck, frustrated, unfulfilled, not in-flow – and that instead of focusing on what we don’t have, (the lifestyle, the relationship, the career) if we look at what we do have right in front of us, take a pause and stocktake what we have at our fingertips, maybe get some outside advice, and with just a small twist things can be so much better, faster, easier – boom! we are in flow!
GOING BACK TO OUR ROOTS
This has a lot to do with the root or Muladhara chakra, which literally roots us to our world: the physical and metaphorical ground beneath our feet. The energy of this chakra is so powerful, and it asks us to be our own environmentalists – this means realigning with our truth, gauging the resources we have around us, our abilities and potential, seeing the signs, gifts and opportunities at our fingertips, assessing how we are already supported to come back to a state of wholeness.
Sometimes we can feel really out of alignment, out of tune, disconnected. This process of balancing, harmonising and aligning with our chakras is really a matter of refocusing our attention on how it is we want to experience life, then look for signs, evidence, or proof that point to the reality we want to create.
What would it feel like to have everything in your life show up just how you needed it to so that you can show up as your best self? We need to plant the seeds of awareness so we can cultivate and manifest our best wilderness.
This is not about wishing for XYZ and then sitting back and just hoping for the best, fingers crossed. This is a dynamic two-way conversation – firstly, it’s about getting really clear about what we’re asking for, what we want to welcome more of into our lives, and then secondly it’s about getting really clear on the steps we need to take once those resources and opportunities appear. It requires our full attention and participation!
A mindset twist, a paradigm shift, a perspective change – all that you need could already be right at your fingertips – turns out you could be just one nozzle twist away from your best self (or wing mirror).
When it comes to packing for holiday I can be a major procrastinator. I’ve been known to take days, putting clothes, stuff & things into piles as I figure out what I need, wheedling it down the essentials (and probably not so essential), inspiration often hitting me at 2 in the morning of some gadgety thing or other or item of clothing that I need to dig out, #swissarmyjess.
Might Needs and What Ifs have been the death of me. I’ve packed and over-packed for holiday so many times as a result, only to later curse the extra weight on my back, or the lack of space in my bag each time I’ve unpacked and repacked the 3 pairs of shoes I didn’t need, or tried to stuff that bulky jumper back in because, you know, “I might want to go trekking in Nepal” or “what if it gets cold in India?”.
Back in 2016, with only a rough idea of travel plans and a 70ltr bag already bursting at the seams, I was forced to go with the Knowns: to only pack for what I definitely knew I was doing or weather I was expecting, instead of the usual Swiss Army Jess M.O. of packing for hypothetical scenarios, borrowing worry from a future as yet unknown. Having said that, the notion of Indian heat is a hard one to grasp when you’re in England, in a cold, slightly damp-ridden flat in London, in January, so there was bound to be some mistakes.
I was the girl who had all the gear for every eventuality, and I’d get a kick out of being prepared for everything. Letting go of What Ifs and Might Needs was hard for this Girl Scout at first, but has become so liberating, almost addictive – I’ve culled my bag of non-essentials and spent items several times over, leaving little bits of me behind all over the world.
It made my load lighter, both physically and philosophically, relaxing my fervour for perfect preparation, made me resourceful (if I’m cold, just wear everything I own), forcing me to make do with what I have (which in most cases turned out to be just fiiiiine), to borrow from fellow travellers, and it’s led me to plunge my grateful hands into the Lost and Found bin.
LOST & FOUND
Most hostels have these tucked away somewhere, and have so often been a treasure trove. The bits and bobs left behind fall into a few categories:
The Rejects: Stuff you’d never be seen dead in, and frankly who on Earth ever bought that, let alone wore it! but proves useful for trashing at Holi festival, or sweating into at humid Lumbini Vipassana retreats.
The Randoms: the unexplained and niche, like a fully reinforced and functioning motorbike jacket, and an apron… true story.
The up-cycle candidates: usually with some kind of defect, like a small tear that can easily be fixed, a small mark that can be overlooked/washed out, or shape/size that can be adapted with chalk & scissors. As my Mum would say, I am my Grandmothers Grandaughter.
The Winners: perfectly fine reusable pieces that have been left behind, either by mistake or necessity, like no more room in the bag.
Casting shame and judgement aside, delving into the Lost & Found has yielded me extra layers when I’ve needed them, a head torch, a replacement pair of flip flops, a fresh pop of colour from a pashmina, fresh tee-shirts that I’ve adapted to suit, leggings to wear to death and throw away, warm socks for trekking, new shorts that just needed a few stitches, guilt-free fashion faux-pas, like the AliBaba (nappy) trousers I wore for a week in Pushkar (guilt-free because I DIDN’T buy them and therefore can relinquish any responsibility for style choice), “clean” clothes, a fresh wardrobe, all with no attachment – I didn’t have it in the first place, so I can just bin it, leave it behind or pass it on – and all for free/exchange.
I’m pretty useless at shopping too, so the Lost and Found bin does me another favour, taking all colour and style selection totally out of the equation as the procrastinator in me breathes another sigh of relief, leaving me time to worry about other things, a fatter wallet and a much lighter load on my back.
Two roads diverge in a forest, and I – I took the one less travelled by, with no expectations, no attachments, into the unknown with a “roll with it” attitude, and that has made all the difference. I just had to let go of a little part of me that was no longer serving to find my way.
You are not a bag of inadequacies to be critiqued or compared at an annual review meeting, your life is a mystery to be loved and lived for what it is. Instead of making resolutions to Be Better, better to simply drop the mindset of negativity, of must do better, that no longer serves you.
Give yourself the gift of compassion, humility and self-acceptance: you are perfect just as you are, and everything is happening just as it is meant to. Take a look back at the last 12 months and write yourself a list of what you achieved instead of how you could improve. Write yourself a Thank You letter – no one has to see it, just you.
Embrace all that you are with humility, and by letting go of that which no longer serves you, create the space for that which makes your soul sing to flood in.
“In order to own the light within us, first we must become willing to explore the shadow –and the bigger the light, the bigger the shadow. This exploration requires humility. Humility is a lifelong process. It begins with willingness. With courage. With vulnerability. It requires that you take a searching look at all that you are. Not just some of you. Not only the pretty parts. The light, the shadow. And everything in between. All of it. What comprises the shadow? Your past wounds. Your unfinished business. Your incomplete experiences. The sadness you didn’t cry. The fear you didn’t feel. The rage you didn’t express. The gripes you allowed to accumulate inside you. Self-hatred. Unworthiness. This is the undigested content that makes up the shadow. The shadow is anything you have been unwilling to embrace as part of yourself. If we are humble, we own all that we are. We bring our baggage into the light of awareness. And when we are able to do this, we become profoundly free.”
It is not about Doing Better, it’s about your state of Being. Life is about creation, not discovery: To Be whatever you want to be – your highest aspiration for yourself – and to produce the right and perfect conditions within which to create the experience of that.
Make a life, not a living
From certain states of Being will spring a life so rich, so full, so magnificent and so rewarding that worldly goods and success will be of no concern.
Begin at once to imagine your life the way you want it to be and move to that. Check every thought, word and action that does not fall into harmony with that, and move away from those.
Align your thoughts with your highest visions
Align your words with your grandest ideas
Align your actions with your best intentions
Create opportunities to Be, Do & Have what it takes to know who you really are. You are free. Infinite. Infinite. Infinite.
For all those who truly want answers and who truly care about the questions; for all those who have embarked upon quests for truth with sincerity of heart, longing of soul, and openness of mind, this blog is for you.
When I reflect back on the last 8 months, my quest to find My Way Up, I can pin-point specific “spots in time” when I’ve experienced change, a shift. Some were small yet significant, and some were seismic game-changing epoch-defining shifts that altered my perception of the world around me, as well as my perception of Self, from where I could operate from a point of ignorance no longer.
I figure I’m currently operating on Jessington software version 36.5.0, and version 36.5.1 is ready to download. Each version has featured its own bug fixes, removing redundant features and replacing them with upgrades.
Jessington Version 36.5.1:
– shadow work: embracing my darker, denser side in the paradigm of duality, true balance.
– discernment: listening to my highest thought: joy; listening to my clearest word: truth; listening to my grandest feeling: love; listening to my greatest messenger: experience.
– exploration: asking my higher-self (from my heart) “what experience do I need to have?” We are all led to the truth for which we are ready by being open to everything, by beingwilling to hear, and remain open to the communication even when it seems scary, or crazy, or downright wrong.
“Feeling is the language of the soul. If you want to know what’s true for you about something, look how you’re feeling about it. Feelings are sometimes difficult to discover – and often even more difficult to acknowledge. Yet hidden in your deepest feelings is your highest truth. The trick is to get to those feelings.”
Conversations with God, Neale Donald Walsch
Denser feelings, such as anger, depression, frustration, are still a part of us (I’m working on this) but they can get in the way of our joy, our happiness, our truth. Here’s some magic: you can choose your response, truly:
Inquire within, rather than without, asking: “what part of my Self do I wish to experience now in the face of this calamity? What aspect of being do I choose to call forth?” For all life exists as a tool of your own creation, and all of its events merely present themselves as opportunities for you decide, and be, Who You Are.
Conversations with God, Neale Donald Walsch
By consciously letting go of redundant features, such as energies, emotions, protocols or belief systems that no longer serve you, you inherently make space to welcome in new ones that better express and embrace your Essence-Self.
In time, and by working on myself a lot over the last 200+ days, I’ve come to realise that so many of the issues, or “miseries”, that I’ve had in my past were a result of decisions I made without even realising it – decisions like carrying around other people’s shit, accepting gifts of negativity, or my ego getting in my own way by trying (and failing) to impress people because of a need to be liked, brought on by childhood insecurities.
Insecurity, anger, frustration, whatever, these are the things that hold us all back; they feed our negative thought patterns, our protocols. They mean we keep repeating the same bullshit stories we tell ourselves over and over, like “I’m not good enough” or “if only that person would change a little, then my life would be sooo much better”.
I’ve come to realise that the only person we can truly change is Us.
Taking that time to work on myself, to really inquire within, to put my ego to one side and hold space for myself means I’m now better able to choose to lead a life that isn’t dictated by my past as much anymore. I choose to live a proactive life, free and liberated. It is such a joy not to be kept awake at night with those kinds of feelings anymore, and instead to replace them with feelings of liberation.
Now, I have the faculty to Pause. I can choose not to get angry, I can choose not to accept gifts of negativity or frustration from others. I choose to be me, to try and embrace both the light and dark aspects of me as a whole unconditionally, freeing myself from the old stories I’ve been told, and to walk in the valley of my own shadow.
All to often we pick up and carry so much of other people’s shit around, when we have so much of our own shit to deal with in the first place. If only we put as much energy into outselves as we do other people.
Por ejemplo: There were these two monks, one Old, one Young, walking in the forest. They came to a river, and saw a young woman struggling to cross it.
Now, they’ve both sworn an sacred oath never to touch a woman, but after a brief pause and without hesitation the Older monk picked up the woman and carried her across the river, setting her down on the other side, and without a word they continued walking. The Young monk was beside himself – he kept thinking to himself how could the Old monk have broken his vows?!
He kept quiet until he could no longer, and confronted the Older monk “How could you pick her up? We both swore a sacred oath never to touch a woman?!”.
The Old monk replied “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river, why are you still carrying her?”.
Along this theme, and to help keep me a shit-free zone, I constantly refer to some powerful and beautifully simple principles, or keys:
1. The 4 Agreements: thank you Anna Cooper, I FINALLY understand them all:
2. Forgiveness: to liberate my soul
3. Gratitude: to open my heart
4. Anicca: The law of nature/impermanence. Everything changes, goes in cycles, so just Let Goooooo of any cravings or aversions: the key here is to accept everything just as it, not as you would like it to be. For example, the Sun will always rise and it will always set: we have no control over that, so just accept it just as it is, and most importantly do that with equanimity: i.e. no labelling it Good or Bad.
5. Pause: Choose your response proactively in every situation, not reactively. Take control. Take a conscious breath. Pause, and the solution will present itself. Be 100% Present – hold space, be in the moment, and your true Essence-Self will be revealed.
Seems relevant at this point to also introduce the Law of attraction/repulsion, as summarised in the video below, which is well worth a watch:
My Moon Course has finished. It’s hard to express the transformation I’ve experienced and feel inside, but in essence the last month at Las Piramides Del Ka has been like spiritual rehab and self-awakening!
By simply asking “Where am I?” in all aspects of self – my physical body, my emotions, my mind, my spirit – I’ve connected, balanced.
By being open to everything, to the other side of creation, and by moving my mind to raise my vibration to have experiences, I have grown.
By meditating, and developing my faculties of observation, intention, dedication and clarity, I have once again been humbled by the sheer power of my mind, of self-mastery, and how to have conversations with myself to find answers.
By practicing Yoga every goddam day I’ve challenged, balanced, energised, centred and connected with my physical body.
By taking a conscious breath, I’ve opened up doorways in my subconscious, my soul, and opened my mind to experiences we all have access to, experiences that can give us all the knowledge we seek, from WITHIN:
The only prison we make for ourselves is in thinking there is only our physical body – you have to believe it to experience it, just keep calm and take flight.
The simplicity is the truth: everything I need is already within me, within us all – all we have to do is Trust, Believe, Experience, Listen to the clicks (the clues) that are all around us all the time, and when the Student is ready to listen, the Teacher will come.
If you’re in search of answers, ask yourself 4 questions:
1. What is my Ideal, in terms of body, emotion, mind and spirit?
2. If those are my ideals, what do I need to do to achieve them?
3. If I know what my Ideal is, and I know what I need to do to achieve it, what’s stopping me from doing so?
4. Where is the light? How does it manifest? When do I feel disconnected from it? What do I do to reconnect?
Pause, take a conscious breath, balance yourself and answers will come. The Universe will take care of the details in eternity.
All you have to do Today is Shine.
Thank You Las Piramides Del Ka for the greatest and most life-changing gift of all: for teaching me how to find and harness the Light & Life Force Intelligence within me, and that there is more to this World than meets the eye
Infinite Thank You’s to each and every one of my incredible Moonie friends who came on this journey with me, engorging my heart to near explosion and enhancing my experience beyond words. I feel so blessed to have met you all, and I’m lucky enough to take them all with me forever #globalfamily. What a beautiful existence we manifested! I feel so very lucky to be alive, and to have this knowledge and awareness.
Last but certainly not least thank you to Kali for our synchronicity that led me here, to my amazing parents, my brother and TK for this incredible birthday gift, and for making this happen. I am beyond grateful.
New foundations are set. This is not the end, it is only the beginning. Now it’s time to build our way.
I am inside the Silence. The Afterlife is as meaningful as the Present one. The Invisible side of Creation. Pray, really pray with your heart, and prepare yourself for life on the other side. The Body relaxed, the Mind awake. The Breath is the doorway to the subconscious.
Most people believe in only what they can see, but there is a lot more than meets the eye. Pay attention to the voice of the Heart, strip back the veil of mystery – you need to align all your spiritual bodies, words, thoughts, actions, feelings, to open the doors, to change your perception: to live only in the physical body is to be in prison.
Am I dreaming?
The most important thing is to Believe, believe it so you can live the experience. Open, open to everything, open your mind, open your heart. It started with an Astral projection, acting with love and light is your best protection. Ask for the experience you need to have from your Spirit.
Where is your heart? Where is your mind? Be an instrument of higher energy.
In the Simplicity is the Truth, Creation is creating all the time, no end and no beginning: where your Spirit resides. The Tree is a mirror of You, and when we study the system we study ourselves.
If you have true Wisdom you don’t need to shout. It’s something you can’t describe but when you receive it you know, though this is just one language to describe Creation, to provoke experience, clicks of deep understanding.
The World of Emanation, The World of Creation, The World of Formation, The World of Manifestation – all the dimensions give you different knowledge: As Above, So Below. Things related to Spirit and all things Eternal.
What sets you on Fire? When you know, you touch something true to your Spirit, like being in the right place, Here and Now. And as All Things have come from One, Her Father is the Sun, you will seperate Earth from Fire, Energy that helps you evolve.
You’re the bridge between two Worlds, and when the Student is ready to listen, the Teacher will appear. The idea is for you to move your mind, to return home.
I am inside the silence, but in the Astral Plane I speak.
“Welcome to Hogwarts” he said, as I walked through the gate. “This is going to be an interesting month” I thought to myself…
Sometime ago I decided to throw out plans, to Let Go and just go with the flow. India is massive, and in the beginning just choosing what direction to go in was hard enough (FML). I soon realised that if I just shut up, sat back and waited, the solution often presented itself. It was then that I really started letting go of any idea of linear, logical, north/south/east/west routes, and instead to listen to my intuition and literally make this shit up as a I go along.
That decision led me in directions I never expected, led me to simply fabulous people and places I might never have met/seen otherwise. By being open to absolutely everything and going with what felt right in the moment meant I never shut any doors.
I just stopped thinking about travelling in geographical terms and instead as a field: I can go in any direction I want, I just have to follow the feeling and find my own way. Plan B was everything else, Plan A was just being present in the moment and going with it.
7 months later, I followed a feeling and flew Guatemala from Nepal, to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. ok ok, Las Piramides School of Yoga, Metaphysics & Meditation in San Marcos La Laguna. They’re basically the same thing.
I’m halfway through week 2 of the 4-week Moon Course here at Las Piramides, and I’m certain it was the best decision I ever made.
I’m doing Yoga every goddam day, meditating, getting in touch with my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual bodies, learning about metaphysics, dimensions, astral travelling, lucid dreams, channelling, Reike, Kirtans, healing techniques, mantras, I’m chanting Om Mani Padme Hum and I understand why, I’m opening my 3rd eye with Ommmmm meditation, I’m learning breathing techniques and Pranayama, I bought a crystal the other day and I’m living in a fucking pyramid!
I feel like Hermione Granger as I note down the instructions for Lucid Dreaming and Astral Travelling, dictated to us from one of the coolest, most authentic 60-ish year olds I know off’ve the 70’s (with the best anecdotes, FYI). We’re not even halfway through the course yet, and we’ve still got another 5 dimensions to learn about! It’s fascinating.
I know what you’re thinking… “She’s gone full Hippy now”, and up until very recently I would have agreed with you.
To back-track a little…
I came to San Marcos two years ago, sat in Shambala coffee shop, observing many cliches around me: Ali baba trousers, dreadlocks, and all Peace and Love maaaan. My friends and I laughed a little at the time, remarking how we thought those kind of people had died out in the 90’s, and as it turns out they’d all retired to San Marcos to set up organic coffee shops. I scoffed a little, and called them “Hippies”.
Now I’m on the other side of the fence I’m beginning to understand where “they” were coming from, and what they were aiming for, and I’m wondering – when did Hippy become a bad word?
I’ll fully admit that for me it had slightly negative connotations at the time. They were different, perhaps weaker for some reason I couldn’t express, alternative, running away, new age, definitely out there and something I judged because of ignorance.
Labelling puts us into categories, segregates Us from Them. It happens all over with things like job titles, fashion statements, religion, race, whatever – they’re all just ways we fit in, all different vehicles to use, and all subtly perpetuating apartness, a separateness from the Whole, in both positive and negative ways.
I didn’t want to feel separate from my friends or my family just because of a new perspective I was getting, so I began thinking “there should be a new word for this”. I wanted a word that could encapsulate the beautiful essence of what I’m experiencing and seeing so clearly, without having to feel different, or separate, because I’m not different exactly. I’m still me, I’m just becoming more of me.
I’m here with 20 other like-minded people who are just as cool, grounded, funny, and normal as my mates from home. We’re not bonkers, I promise. We haven’t flown away with the fairies. We’re all very grounded, normal people from normal backgrounds (who still take a pinch of salt in their diets), we just all followed a feeling: we’re here because we want to find out more about ourselves, and ultimately to make a positive contribution to the world. If that’s what being a Hippy is all about, then yeah! I’m all for it!
Then I thought about it some more. Why does there need to be a new word, or a word at all? By finding a new word I’m just perpetuating that concept of categorisation, the idea of separateness, difference.
So instead, I prefer to think of it like this:
We can be everything. You don’t need to label it, you don’t need to close any doors. Life is a field remember, and we can all go in all directions.
You could be the Grande Fromage of a big corporation, wearing a suit from Monday to Friday, or a person who just really likes video games, whoever, we can all embody the essence of what we’re learning, which is basically a way to be, a way to present yourself in the world for your own benefit and to make the world a better place. It doesn’t need a name, you can just Be it, be the example.
Keep the doors open, and Be the change that you want to see.
Om shanti shanti Om, peace, peace, peace, love, light, freedom and compassion for all beings, light and blessings for your day, Namaste.
When was the last time you tested your boundaries, to see how far you could push yourself? Or totally switched off from the grid, no screens, no contact, no news, no talking, no looking even. On the 25th June, I completed a 10 day Vipassana Meditation course in Nepal, and it was one of the most game changing experiences of my life.
So what is it?
The word “Vipassana” means seeing things as they really are, not as you would like them to be. It’s a process of self purification by self observation, a technique developed and taught by the Buddha. It’s free and available to absolutely anyone, regardless of your ethnicity or religious tendencies. It’s a universal technique that teaches you a way of life, a code of conduct, an art of living. The goal is to learn how to live peacefully and harmoniously, how to have control over the mind, and how to live with the spirit of the mind full of love, compassion and goodwill (man). To learn, all you have do is surrender yourself to a meditation camp for 10 days, and agree to 5 precepts:
1. To abstain from killing any living creature
2. To abstain from stealing
3. To abstain from all sexual activity
4. To abstain from telling lies
5. To abstain from all intoxicants
Let be honest, we’re all just worried about #5… Ohh, and the 10 days of Noble Silence… Yeah, that… No talking, no gestures, no eye contact, no reading, no writing. Just you, your thoughts, and S. N. Goenka’s dulcet tones.
The schedule is demanding and, like Pavlovs Dogs, our days revolved around bells – some made us salivate, others made us “starrrrt agaiiiiiin”… the 4am wake up bell, the call to meditation bell, the “time for food” bell, from 4am to 9pm every day, 11 hours of meditation and noble silence.
The first few days are all about breathing…. Like, a LOT of breathing, but just your natural breath. I couldn’t get my monkey mind to shut the fuck up – it’s surprising when you try reallllllly hard to not think of anything how much comes into your head.
The conditions were challenging: the humidity was about 80% and the fans worked occasional, which meant I sweated my arse off for most of the day, sweating out all my impurities and toxins. Purging my system inside and out. It was like rehab…
Soon the schedule, the structure and the technique started to take over and I entered into almost a dream-like state. My inner world became so huge when I fell silent and just observed the world around me. In the beginning, I did anything to keep my mind off the deafening silence in between the meditations, but after a while I found pleasure in stopping to smell the flowers, to watch the ants (FIFA), to just listen to the birds. I know, I know how funny that sounds, and trust me I was as amused as you, but as I shut out the distractions, I left a quiet and peaceful mind, a mind that started to feel so vast and powerful, so full of potential.
It’s not necessary to have to do the lotus pose for this meditation, just to find a comfortable sitting position that means you can sit for a period of time. Despite months of sitting on nothing but divans, my western body still cried out in pain in a crossed leg position… My Knees, then my back, a numb bum, pins and needles in my feet on constant rotation.
I made the ultimate mistake of looking around and comparing myself to my other inmates, who of course all looked so serene and comfortable, certainly not fidgeting every 5 minutes like me. Seriously, How the fuck are they all doing this? I tried so many cushion configurations I lost count. By the end of the course, everyone had their preferred set up, and watching them get them ready before the determined 1-hour-absolutely-no-moving-allowed sittings (that were introduced on day 4, 3 times daily) was like watching a golf pro set upfor that a drive of the 1st tee. A check-list of about 40 and everything.just.so.
Why did I do it?
What was I expecting? Some kind of transcendental journey that would answer all my questions and give me some kind of out of body experience. I feel a little foolish to think how much I wanted from it, how much I expected it to be like a magic wand, to fix me and take me places, a way of finding all the answers to all the things I worry about. There are certainly some meditations/methods that can do that, this just isn’t that kind of thing.
I hoped it would help me achieve stillness, strength, clarity, balance, help me tune into my emotions and intuition, to see my own potential and to hold space for myself. The good news is, it helped me achieve all these things, and the technique was so simple, so real, and as a result wayyyy more visceral.
How did it make me feel?
Initially, I felt apprehensive, frustrated, uncomfortable (sitting down for 11 hours may seem easy, but I challenge any of you to sit on the floor for even 15 mins without fidgeting); by the end I felt so happy, relaxed, peaceful, grounded, and more in control of my mind. Ultimately, I guess, a whole lot more aware/sober – it’s a 100% natural high.
It felt like I was unlocking parts my brain, taking a journey of insight. The mind is a muscle, it’s like I was exercising and relaxing it at the same time, like teaching it a new trick: Developing my faculty to focus within. Just to be, rather than trying to be. To meet with pleasure and with pain and treat those two imposters just the same: it’s allllll about equanimity baby. It all balances out if you just let it go, and you feel so much more free.
If this made me happy, does that mean I was un-happy before? Yes and No, but for me this gives me a new way of seeing the world and a way to slowly eradicate negative reactions – there’s something in that. It needs a few more goes to practice and to figure out how I realistically integrate it into my everyday life, but there’s definitely something in that.
Am I happier now? Yes. Am I free from having wibbly moments of erratic emotion, tearful pathetic moments of ineptitude or flashes of anger? No, I’m not out of those woods yet, but am I coping with those moments a lot better? Yes.
“Good for you” I hear you say, but why should you care? How could this help you?
It’s been useful to understand that everyone has a different experience, that everyone takes from it in a different way, and that you can only learn through your own experience.
Having said that, if you could see that there’s such a simple way to liberate yourself from tensions, you’d wish that for everyone. I know not everyone can surrender 10 days to experience this for themselves. I know I’m incredibly lucky to have been able to follow my curiosity. It’s not my job to tell you to go, or to teach you the technique, all you need to know is that Vipassana is a universal technique that can help you exercise a healthy mind, happiness is a nice side effect.
It’s NOT some cult or sect or religious rite of passage. I’m still me – I’m just trying to be the happiest me I can be (cheesiest comment I’ll make all day, probably).
The main aim is basically “May all beings be happy”, which is basically a nice thing. It doesn’t turn you into some reaction-less vegetable, it just turns you on to a different way of thinking. It’s a sort of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which gives you choices about your thoughts.
One week on, and I’m reflecting on that pure joy feeling I had as I walked out the meditation hall for the last time, and how to adapt/apply this to my every day life. It’s going to be a challenge, but one I’m happy to undertake.
In the words of 90’s band En Vogue, “Free your miiiiind, and the rest will follow!”
Day 112: Kolkata – India’s second biggest city: simultaneously noble and squalid, cultured and desperate, and I fell in love instantly. A much welcomed friendly tonic following the Hyderabad fiasco, and I threw myself into the madness.
Poverty’s certainly in your face here, more so than I’ve seen elsewhere, and starkly contrasting with the colonial buildings, air conditioned shopping malls and old fashioned service. The streets are packed with your usual market traders, mechanics, people beavering away fixing this or that, always enterprising. Most places in India seem to have “A” thing you then see repeated on every street, here it seems to be welding (no masks, obvs), Enfield bikes and mechanics.
Kolkata’s streets are also paved with bhar – the standard vessel for chai. Fragments of the handmade dusky orange clay cups lie everywhere, remnants of a piping hot 4 rupee chai that’s been smashed back into the ground from whence it came, only to be replenished the very next day with a fresh batch, knocked up by the bhar wallahs. Street vendors conjure up who-knows-what Bengali food that tastes delicious, if you’re willing to take the risk (I did).
It’s a much leafier city, with plenty of parks and open spaces that seem to make it easier to breathe in the 39 degree heat. Getting around is super easy too – your pick of an efficient air-con metro, bashed up trams, bashed up buses, bashed up Ambassadors, TukTuks, horse drawn carts or man powered rikshaw, all vying for their space on the same road to get you from A to B through the busy traffic, of course beep beep beeping all the while. Or better yet, a good old fashioned stroll down the back alleys where I got a much better feel of Kolkata.
The light skinned Indian’s just left for Delhi, and I’m off to Varanasi tonight – just a short 14 hour/760km overnight train journey away. By morning, I’ll be by the Ganges River, with a whole new gang of Steves. They say “Brace yourself. You’re about to enter one of the most blindingly colourful, unrelentingly chaotic and unapologetically indiscreet places on earth. Varanasi takes no prisoners. But if you’re ready for it, this may just turn out to be your favourite stop of all.” I say, it’s got some hefty competition, and I’m ready for the challenge.