Having rested well in a deep sleep with a cleansed body and mind, I woke up recharged and ready for the long day of meditation ahead. I was beginning to like the feeling of a refreshing cold shower early in the morning. My wake-up routine was down to a science by now—every minute was counted out for each activity so I would be ready in 30 minutes flat and seated on my meditation cushion in the Dhamma Hall by 4:30 am. The fact that I wasn’t shaving helped knock off a good 10-15 minutes from the morning rituals.
Today’s exercise was to persist with observing the breathing process and learn to recognize the sensations in and around the nasal area. As I tried to focus my mind towards acknowledging sensations like itching, warmth and moisture, more self-observations began to surface effortlessly...
“…I can’t keep reliving my childhood’s painful experiences in my current life. Those must be healed and forgotten, no matter how much hurt they have caused me for a long time. I cannot continue to live my life in their shadows… I must stop inflicting all the angst sitting deep inside onto others in my present life because of what I have experienced in my past. It’s not anyone in my current life’s fault that I had to put up with mean classmates in school and senior students in high school and college…I feel forgiveness and compassion for those who have wronged me, now that I understand that they must have been inflicting upon me what they were feeling on the inside…”
“…My desire to conform to the outside world and its expectations has led me down a path of approval-seeking and reputation-building behavior, which, at best, is insecure on one hand and, at worst, egotistical on the other!”
“…My desire to meet my self-imposed and external standards drives me to additional strain and effort to deliver and expect certain outcomes, which are increasingly unmanageable and purposeless...while the actual actions and activities themselves certainly represent good professional service, my desire to excel at them seems to stem largely from the standpoint of proving my capabilities to the world almost as a form of greed to develop a reputation for intellectual prowess and business acumen!”
With these deeper and somewhat counter-intuitive and stunningly accurate revelations, I was convinced that meditation was no hypnotic activity. The level of clarity and ability to enter the deeper levels of my consciousness that I was experiencing could only be enabled through a hyper-vigilant (and not a trance-induced!) brain. I was almost in a state of disbelief, not only at the nature of the epiphanies but especially with the fact that I was arriving at these conclusions unprompted and spontaneously. The proverbial onion was being peeled further and further towards its inner core.
Having tried various self-improvements (psychological or dietary) in the past where the beneficial effects wore off soon after the initial shot in the arm impetus for the change, I started to wonder if the same might happen here. After all, we were in an extremely controlled environment at the camp—no external contact, no form of communication with others, minimalistic living, an all-day meditation schedule, no distractions or intoxicants, no sexual activity.
Changes experienced while maintaining an ascetic lifestyle can hardly be expected to persist in the real world. Maybe this explained why there were some old (repeat) students who were back to relive the same great experience and remind themselves how good it felt when they experienced it the very first time. I knew that even if my conscious mind recalled how I had felt during the course, my self-doubting and self-loathing inner-self would quickly convince me that the entire experience was a bit of a dream state or hoax, which wasn’t going to last long enough after the course was over.
I quietly grabbed some breakfast, which was chilās (lentil crepes) served with coconut chutney and sat down to eat. I couldn’t think of much else other than how to memorialize my thoughts and feelings so I could motivate and convince myself after the camp was over about the positive benefits from this meditative experience. Little did I know at that time that I wouldn’t need to aid my memory to recall what I experienced in those ten days.