I just came back from a 10-day Vipassana Meditation Retreat. I met up with a couple of good friends after almost decades on the way to the retreat. And they asked me why I attend these retreats – as they are more austere than spa retreats. They are silent retreats with no electronics, notebooks accompanied by two simple meals and no dinner. Basically, it’s just you and your mind/body for the entire ten days.
The answer to why I do it is best answered by my favourite quote – ‘If Buddha was a barber, getting a haircut would be enlightenment.’ Let me explain some more. I first heard about Vipassana from a work colleague in Bombay. When I heard the word, it resonated with me – and I had no idea what it was, but keeping silent for ten days sounded terrific. I was about to sign up, but my US visa got approved – and it was another five years before I sat my first course. And since then, there’s been no doubt in my mind as to whether I should continue or not. In other words, it is a calling, not a choice. I do not get up in the morning and choose whether to make the retreat. I just attend the retreats.
I am sure we have all had experience with things that we could not – not do. Vipassana is one of them for me. In the course, Goenka Ji says that if you have been practising in past lifetimes, then it comes naturally to you. And to top it all – my husband had sat a course in India even before I had met him. What a coincidence, right? I mean, there are so many Indians who have no idea what Vipassana is all about – and I married an American who had already sat a course, and that too love marriage. Some things are meant to be. I am grateful that I have a partner who also practices Vipassana as it is easier to understand why I leave the householder’s life for ten days to live as an ascetic. And I fully support him in that too!
I got into the practice for the above reasons, but I continue to do it because I have seen the changes in myself. I have been able to change the course of the colorado river in the grand canyon of my mind and bring about fundamental changes. I am a much calmer and more peaceful person. And for the most part, I eat when I am hungry and sleep when I am sleepy. My relationships have improved. The path to personal mastery has become more accessible. My colleagues comment how happy I am most of the time. There is more joy in my life. And for the most part, I am not ruled by my thoughts. My brother and father have also done the course. And I want to grow in practice because, for me, this is what matters absolutely the most. All other things – Career, Family, House, Job, Money – are secondary because I realized long ago that change starts from within. And only when I work on myself will the world outside of me change. If something comes naturally to me, why not embrace it fully? And hence my vision in life is to be a better version of myself every day and inspire others to do the same.
What is your calling?