Today, the fourth day of the retreat, we have finally returned to the heart of the subject: Vipassana meditation. The first three days were just a preparation to strengthen and sharpen the mind. The Vipassana is to actually observe sensations throughout his body, by performing a sort of scanning from the top of the skull to the end of the feet. Sitting cross-legged and with eyes closed, you must review each part of the body, centimeter square per square centimeter, as a scanner could do, and observe all the sensations that emerge without reacting, whether pleasant or unpleasant. This neutrality, this detachment from the sensations observed, is what is called equanimity, a word very little used in French, but a very important concept in Buddhism. I will come back to it later. This is a notion that is best understood as the meditation retreat progresses.
From that moment, I have the impression to discover a new dimension of life. The meditation takes the form of a real inner journey, where as an explorer, I go to the discovery of sensations in every part of my body. It’s really different from what you can feel by playing sports, love or any other physical activity since you stay still and do nothing. In appearance at least, because even motionless, our body is actually very active and there is a lot going on, be it breathing, heartbeat, digestion, circulation of blood … A real factory to which we often pay so little attention. A force of work and training, it is a new universe that one discovers.
However, the eleven hours of daily meditation continue to seem endless. It’s hard to stay focused on observing your feelings all this time. The first three days my mind was bombarded with thoughts about my future. Now it is on my past that I reflect. To deceive the boredom, I remake in my head all the film of my life since my childhood until today. I go through all my memories: my school years, my family, my friends, my studies, my different jobs, my love life, my travels … I make a balance sheet on what I liked, not liked, succeeded , not successful, my qualities, my faults … I am conscious of not completely respecting the rules of retirement, since when I think I do not meditate, but I need too much to occupy my mind. Meditating almost 11 hours a day is above my abilities. Thinking is finally the only freedom, the only breach of the rules, that I can discreetly grant myself, since I have the right to speak, write, read or play sports, or nothing at all to tell the truth … Thinking becomes my only leisure.
A novelty in the planning: at certain times of the day you can choose to meditate alone in a cell, rather than stay in the common room. Cells of 2m2, with an opening at the top that lets in some light. At first, I take this as a liberation! Nobody to watch us if we follow the right position. I can sit cross-legged, leaning against the wall to relieve my back; I even use it to sleep, lying curled up on two cushions that I recovered in a shed. But over the days I have less and less desire to sleep. I was tired at first but not anymore. I begin to depress sitting alone in my cell. I imagine what prisoners or hostages held in such a small space might have felt. In fact, I realize I’m complaining for not much. My safety is not threatened, I am fed my fill, and I know that all this ends soon. I can not imagine what those who have lived through this for years have endured.
Finally I prefer to meditate in the common room. The presence of the group gives me more motivation. The instructions for meditation are always the same: observe his feelings from head to toe, while remaining as impassive as possible, that these sensations are pleasant or unpleasant. I must say that it is rather the “unpleasant” that dominates, with the pain that persist in the knees, legs, back, by dint of sitting all day. Especially since on the fifth day, a new rule adds to the exercise a little more. Now you have to be able to sit for an hour sitting cross-legged without moving and without opening your eyes. It’s an hour long without being able to move. It’s called “sitting with strong determination”: sit down with a strong determination. An exercise also intended to strengthen his spirit. At first it’s difficult. At the end of a quarter of an hour I have the circulation which cuts in the feet, I am obliged to extend the legs. Then I can hold half an hour, then three quarters of an hour. It’s an audio tape that tells us that an hour has passed and we can finally get up. We must meditate without opening our eyes, so impossible to look at the time. As I go along, I develop the awareness of passing time while keeping my eyes closed. A few minutes away, I know we’re at 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes … It’s an audio tape that tells us that an hour has passed and we can finally get up. We must meditate without opening our eyes, so impossible to look at the time. As I go along, I develop the awareness of passing time while keeping my eyes closed. A few minutes away, I know we’re at 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes … It’s an audio tape that tells us that an hour has passed and we can finally get up. We must meditate without opening our eyes, so impossible to look at the time. As I go along, I develop the awareness of passing time while keeping my eyes closed. A few minutes away, I know we’re at 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes