Having spent almost two hours watching people from the last row of surprisingly ‘banquet’ chairs in this hot desert, avoiding eye contacts which could get me stuck in conversations with complete strangers, I had no intention whatsoever to answer this question hitting me suddenly from the side.
‘More or less the same reasons which seem to bring everybody else here I guess’ were the few words I uttered minutes before stepping for the first time in my life into a meditation hall, from there right into the noble silence period which would last ten days.
Little did I know at this time that this question would come back to my curious and wondering mind at different times during my Vipassana meditation bootcamp.
When I wasn’t swimming in my own sea of thoughts during lunch time, I watched them, their distracted many-times-tired faces, their thousand-miles-away gazes, wondering what would make these moms leave their children and husbands behind for ten days. And what about these working single and newly married women of many nationalities, dropping mentally and physically out of their worlds, giving away voluntarily their phones, blackberries, i-phones, books, note books i.e. all forms of distraction. This discipline is certainly not for everyone!
At times when I felt blank, frustrated at my inability to feel any sensation on my body during meditation hours, I opened my eyes, looked around and wondered again. What shook these people’s lives so violently and drove them to stick to such a rigorous schedule of meditations with days starting at 4 am and ending at 9 pm, feeling repeatedly the pain of the back and the thighs, sharing rooms and bathrooms with strangers, starving for food for long hours between the two meals a day, constantly watching for rodents and snakes in all places.
Even when I could hear clearly their sighs around me, appearing much like my own deep breaths each time I was exhausted at the thoughts which were emerging, I wondered again. What made them so desperate then so determined to transform their lives, digging deep into their minds, descending deeper day after day into this unknown -not necessarily pleasant but most of the time scary- territory. It’s overwhelming spending time with your skull!
I wondered for a couple of minutes each time but never tried to figure them out. Instead, I calmly understood that their reasons must have been as strong as mine and did not ask. None of us did. Conversations on day 10 revolved around how we knew about the Vipassana meditation, never about what made each one of us go for it. There are times in life when some things are better left untold … and that was one of those times.