Imagine a situation where you are secluded in a remote location with twenty other women. The location is self-sustaining, as in you have your room, your bathroom – food is provided. All the basic amenities are provided. And for nineteen days, you do not speak to each other, keep your eyes downcast and spend time looking inwards – within yourself. And on the twentieth day, you look up, speak to other folks and realize that there is no awkwardness; instead, there is this deep connection where it feels like you have known each other for lifetimes. The conversation is filled with joy and laughter, and even the silence is companionable.
This situation is what exactly happened in the twenty-day Vipassana course I just attended. As some of you know, I practice Vipassana and do a course almost every year. And for the last few years, after I would finish a ten-day course, the desire to sit for longer remained, so once I had met my requirements, I decided to sit a twenty-day course this year. And as you can imagine, it is long – twice the usual time but more profound and intense as well. The twenty-day course is for old students who are serious about practice, so there is no settling-in period like the usual ten-day courses. As soon as you sit on day one, you are all in.
And as a group, you meditate – there are no phones, no internet, no books: just plain you, your body, your mind and your thoughts. To minimize distractions, every meditator is also provided with a cell. If you do have to communicate for basic needs, you write a note to the course manager. For those familiar with Eastern culture – this is the modern version of living like a bhikku or a monk. There is something amazing about meditating with a group of people on the same path as you. So, when you emerge from meditation, the interactions are equally enriching and fulfilling. You find yourself talking as if you are talking to your best friend. It did make me wonder why the other relationships in my life don’t feel as incredible or satisfying.
I am incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity to sit for twenty days and experience the reality as it is within myself.
I had a close friend who is not a meditator ask me once – why I meditate. Why would I want to do it for twenty days? I don’t recall what I told her then, but I do remember thinking afterwards – that she was building a bigger house. And nobody asks her why she is building a bigger house. But if somebody wants to meditate for twenty days or longer – then it is worth wanting to know why? We live in a society where it is acceptable to fulfil your worldly desires but not so much to move away from worldly desires. Whereas the reality of the world around us is that we have more than we ever did – cars, mobiles, planes and now even AI and yet – we have a war where humans are killing each other.
Maybe it is time to shift our focus from outward to inwards, and maybe that will save humanity, the planet and the world itself.
How would you classify your outlook – inward or outward?