there is an art in anything we do and in anything we are. to me, being alone in my own company and actually enjoying it – is an art. it takes days, months, or even years to finally understand the importance of loving and needing our own space, to feel the absence of another and the present of our-self.
a year ago, i went to do vipassana, a buddhist ancient meditation method, somewhere far away near the mountain to be completely on my own, with all my thoughts. we were not allowed to take along our belongings except clothes. no phone, or books, or notes, or even a pen to keep us company and distracted. we were not allowed to kill any living things, even as annoying as mosquitoes. we were not allowed to smoke, any kind of cigarette – because the addiction is dangerous to the body. we were placed in a room with six to eight other women – who came from all over the world, yet we could not talk or make any communication gesture to each other. ten days of silent, one hundred hours of meditation. i didn’t think i could do it, it surprised me that i was able to stay until the end, even when i got such high fever for the first two nights. on that first night one of the girls – who eventually became a dear friend, handed me a natural herbs combine into a pill. she was standing silently in front of the bed, i took the pill she offered and smiled while saying thank you for your kindness in my heart. oh the kind human, always, always warms my heart.
every day for ten days, we would have three sessions of group meditation for one hour; in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening. we were instructed to sit without moving and the only thing to do was to observe the way we normally breathe and the sensations all around our body, from the toes to the head. i was confused on the first day, is this me observing the breath? or is this me creating the way i breathe? our mind has always find its way to play trick on us. yet i decided to just follow the breath, until i finally recognized how it came through my nostrils. the tickling feeling of the air, the affirmation that i exist, that i am alive. it was never a concern to me before, i knew how important it is to breathe properly, but i didn’t have the slightest idea on how to observe the breath. after twenty minutes, sitting in the same position without moving even the toes, i started to feel like there were ants around my legs. as i focused more to observe the breath, my legs were already numb, i couldn’t feel any blood flowing through my body. i panicked, and tears streamed down my face – is this how pain actually works? the more i gave attention to it, the more i felt it? my heart felt relieved every time the teacher spoke, it meant the meditation would be over in ten minutes.
each morning at four, someone would wake us up with the sound of small gong to do meditation on our own (it’s optional and suggested, but it’s not obliged), which i never did because it is always too hard for me to wake up in the morning. yet, i woke up by the time for breakfast at around six to seven thirty. we were served a vegan menu for the entire time which was insanely tasty. i especially love the ginger lemongrass tea, i always took it to sit alone in the backyard where i could see the mountain surrounded by the tamarind ray of sunshine. i would sit there for a while and just listen to the quite; the way the birds chirped, the way the wind took the branches to dance, the way the first light of the day shone in my face, it was so peaceful that i did not know how else i want my days will be – i simply want peace, and the rest can be adjusted.
vippasana helped me to realize that everything really does pass. every numb feeling, every pain, every joy, every single thing in life passes. we are here merely to observe what is going on inside us, what is going on around us, what is going on while the earth rotates, and the sun rises then sets. i have not yet able to do sitting meditation everyday, in fact i haven’t done it in a very long time. but i remember the teacher said that even walking is a way of meditation. as long as we are aware of what we are doing, of what we are saying, of what we are thinking – all of them is a way of meditation. and so when i walk bare-feet, i do it slowly and feel how the earth beneath has been kind enough to receive the sole of my feet, and as well as my feet have been kind enough to support my upper body to take me wherever i am willing to go. i remember again to be grateful just by being able to walk. it is one of the things my body do solely for me, and there are myriads of other things my body has been doing to support me, to help me survive through the thick and the thin of this living.
on the eleventh day, after the last group meditation, we finally could talk and interact with each other. our belongings were given back to us. i was not ready to go back talking and holding a phone in my hand. my head was circling, i was not able to create any sentence. i smiled to everybody while trying to look for the way out of the crowd. i walked straight away to the backyard, i felt an immense sadness that i had to get back to the rapid life outside, where times have always occupied my mind. i went to the room, in where i slept for the entire ten nights. i said goodbye to the room and walked out of there knowing that one day i will come back to do this.
it was exactly what i needed to do. i was never going anywhere completely alone, there was always someone else. it was a sudden decision, as i never really plan anything in my life. my first reason to do it was because i heard from people who already experienced it, that they could tame their fear after. so i went with a full hope within me, that i could finally learn to tame my biggest fear. how naive i was to think that one hundred hours meditation would finally help me figure out a way to get rid of my fear once and for all. it takes a whole lot more, it is a process i need to discover by my self.
in my entire life, vippasana is one the best decisions i have ever made. even i am not yet able to stop smoking, even i am not yet able to provide my self the time to do sitting meditation, even i am not yet able to see everything as passing things, i got one of the most important lessons; how to enjoy my own company. i learned the best way to be alone is through observing my self – what i feel like doing, at this precious time with just myself? sometimes, i dance naked. sometimes, i write whatever comes to my mind. sometimes, i just stare at the ceiling for hours and listening to the sound around me – including my own breath. some people could not stand to be alone, it seems like there is nothing to do, which actually is the point. we are always doing something; eating, sleeping, working, talking, you name it. we barely have the chance to digest the sensation we feel in our body, in our heart. there is always a distraction taking our focus away from our-self. yet, our body has a way to remind us to slow down, to step back a little and take the time only for our-self. if we feel sick, whatever sickness we experience, it is one of the ways the organism in our body send the signal for us to stop thinking too much. to hush the noise, to surrender, to let go of that grip of control in our life.
these days, i feel the urge to just be alone, without any distraction, especially the internet where i spent most of my time now. i am afraid that the artificial life would seem more important than the real one that is happening outside of here. i did not say it was not real inside here, it’s just a whole lot more showing than sharing. i think there is a very fine line between those two. for now, i make a promise to myself; once a month, i would rent a room somewhere far away from the crowd to provide myself the time to digest and to observe my whole being. it would be like a review to myself – how much do i grow? or which lesson i seem to always forget?
i am not yet content with who i am. sometimes i still compare, more on the things i have not yet achieved, and less on the things i have gained, and it is simply exhausting.
there is a sound in my head, anicca, anicca, anicca. impermanence. everything that lives, dies. everything that blooms, withers. everything that comes, goes. but so does the opposite, everything is exchanged, transformed.
i marked it onto my skin. a forever reminder.
every time i blink, a moment passes.