I awoke to the gong at 4am as always and realised this was the last full day of the Vipassana course…the last morning of silence. Wow, where did that time go!
Today would be different from all other days on this course as today we get to break the vow of Nobel Silence. I really wasn’t sure how I felt about that, after all I had gotten to know these people through silence not conversing with them.
Also for the first time in my life that I remember, I was very deeply conversing with myself. I had really enjoyed the silence, stillness and meeting Me. It was good starting to get to know all of Me.
We started our day in the usual way 4:30am – 6:30am Mediation in the hall, followed by breakfast until 8am. We were back in the hall for meditation and discourse as S.N. Goenka’s words and stories helped us to learn and grow. He told us a story about the black stone. I had, had a question for my teacher in the first few days, that had not been fully discussed nor had I had a satisfactory answer, due to the lack of time to discuss. She had asked me to listen out for this very story that would help me.
The Story of The Black Stone
This is a very brief and crude version of that story, that I give you…The Black Stone.
A mother in India prepares a wonderful sweet dish for her young son. She puts it down to him and he looks at it and says, “I won’t eat that.” She asks him why and he says “it’s not in my own dish.” So his
mother transfers the wonderful sweet food into his own dish and places it in front of him again. He says “I won’t eat that.” She asks again why he doesn’t want such a delicious sweet dish of food. He says “I don’t like that black stone in it.” His mother then says “that black stone is cardamon pod and makes the food taste so much nicer.” “I don’t like it,” explains the boy. “Then take the black stone out and enjoy this delicious pudding.”
The point of this story rang true for me. Just because there was one part of the teachings that I was not understanding or not willing to accept, didn’t mean I had to through the whole technique out. Just as the boy not liking the black stone didn’t mean he had to through the whole pudding out. Just remove the black stone and enjoy the rest!
Aha! I at that moment relished that I had actually already taken out that black stone, as I had forgotten all about the question throughout the course and just concentrated on the Vipassana technique. This was very unlike me…dog with a bone springs to mind!
The learning for me here was, at times my mind holds onto things that really doesn’t matter and I was capable of letting go of the small black stone and enjoy the learnings of this amazing technique.
We also learned about Metta (self love, good will, loving kindness, developing unconditional love for all beings), which helps with gratitude, happiness and developing a pure mind.
tWe learned that Metta is now being done for 5 mins after each meditation. This is a beautiful part of Vipassana, taking time for gratitude and sending out what you want into the World/Universe. Metta was now to be practiced after every sitting of Vipassana and it is a beautiful way to finish off a session of self discovery by focusing on others and all beings in this Universe. Giving thanks, being grateful, feeling deep joy and sending that out to the world.
The Breaking of Noble Silence
After this discourse, it was explained the Noble Silence was to be upheld in and around the meditation hall but that we could speak to each other around the rest of the centre. So Noble Silence was now, no more and we had about half an hour before our two hour lunch break at 11am.
I sat in the hall as people headed out, I was one of the last to leave. As I stepped out of the meditation hall I could here people speak, laugh and it all seemed so loud. As I stood listening to what sounded
like a gaggle of excitement, I realised I just was not ready to speak. So I headed back to my room, where I cleaned my living space and prepped myself to meet and speak for the first time to others in 10 days.
This was really weird as I speak and present to people for a living, and find people really interesting, I had fully expected to be excited and looking forward to chatting and finding out more about these strangers, who I had shared so much with in silence. However it was the opposite. I really didn’t want to talk yet. I didn’t want to break this Noble Silence. It must have taken about 20mins before I was ready to start reintegration into normality again.
A few people have asked me what my first words were. I hadn’t really thought about what I would say, it just came out. As I got ready to meet the people who had given me strength, courage and love through our time together in silence, I walked down the path, through the trees and came across three women standing on their porch. I looked up at them and with a great big smile I said “Congratulations Ladies, what a great experience and achievement we have all had.” They smiled back and returned the congratulations. We all knew what we had been through individually and now had great empathy of each other.
I continued down towards the dining area as lunch would start soon and encountered a few more people, greeting everyone with a “congratulations.’ We all started to share, find out more about the the people we had just shared an extraordinary experience with on a very individual and collective level.
We exchanged the names we had made up for each other each other. Most people had done what I had done and made up names for people that we had not met before we started on this amazing journey. We laugh, chatted and explored our experiences, both out in the real world and in these past 10 days together.
The Revealing of Pocahontas
As I headed for the dinning room, I found the woman I called Pocahontas taking with a few other women. She was actually my next door neighbour. I found that out when I saw her heading into her room next to mine a few days after I had seen her coming out of the bush.
Approaching her and the others I greeted them in the same way as everyone I had met so far “Congratulations ladies!” She turned around and with a beautiful big smile she said “Congratulations to you too neighbour.”
We laughed and started chatting, as we talked I told her about the day she was dressed in grey and floated out of the bush and how she had reminded me of Pocahontas, so that’s what I had named her for the course. She looked very surprised and then an enormous smile appeared on her face and she said “Oh my…that’s what they used to call me at school!” At that moment one of the other ladies came into the contestation and said “Did you say you named her Pocahontas? So did I.” We all fell about laughing and happily chatted on some more.
I found out that she had also given me a name too…it was ‘Warrior.’ Something to do with her being behind me and every time she saw me I was sitting so upright and still, in my black and white poncho blanket, she said I looked so strong. Funny how looks can be so deceiving eh!
Breaking Bread Over Conversation & Our Meditation…A Very Different Feeling!
Lunch was so different to all the other meal times we had shared together, as we chatted over food; not breaking bread together in silence as we had so many times, but in exploration.
After lunch it was back to our meditation routine that we had become so accustomed to. Although we were in Noble Silence in the meditation hall, I realised how different the meditation was. We were being prepared to go back into the real world; where people, things, emotions and sensations were going to play a bigger part in distracting us. I could feel the difference in trying to settle into my Vipassana when we sat together in the meditation hall now in different circumstances.
Our connections to each other had grown again in a different way and we were meant to be concentrating on ourselves. If I was going to carry this through into my life, I must learn how to switch into my new technique from all the madness that happens in everyday life. Now was the time to learn how to do that and I only had a few session in the afternoon, evening and tomorrow morning to practice.
Back to the serious business of practice and dedication that S.N. Goenka asked of us at each session.
Next Blog: What Happens After The Last Day Of Vipassana Meditation Course
Vipassana (insight – seeing things as they really are) is a different experience for every individual, as we are all so unique and interpret the world around us and within us so differently. We have also had our own experiences in life that are unique to us. So this article is all about Mags Bell’s experience and self discovery through Vipassana.