(An account of a 10-day vipassana meditation retreat in 2008)
“Just observe,” said the guru’s voice. “Whatever the sensation, just observe.”
I had been seated cross-legged, eyes closed, for what felt like hours and had probably been at least 15 minutes. The pain shooting through my back was excruciating.
“Limit your awareness to the triangular area below the nostrils and above the upper lip.” He had a perfect Indian guru accent and said the word ‘nostrils’ as if it were ‘nose-strils’. It made me smile. My ‘nose-streels.’ I desperately wanted to know if anyone else was smiling, and so for the first time in what had to have been at least 18 minutes now, I opened my eyes.
There we were, 200 or so of us, seated silently on the floor of a vast, wood-walled, slightly drafty hall that was vaulted like a church, but if there was a Jesus up there above the raised dais on which sat the solemn ‘assistant teachers,’ He had been carefully and discreetly covered by white cloth sheets.
Down here on the floor, we meditators were seated in precise rows, as if on a chessboard. I was in spot F-9. The guy on my right, F-8, was starting to slouch forward, forward, to stretch his back. The guy right in front of me, E-9, was unmoving, a solid rock of a meditator. I was surrounded by men. On the other side of the ‘A’ row was an aisle, and the women were seated on the other side of the aisle. Indeed, throughout the entire ten days, the men and women were strictly segregated and we never saw each other. I discreetly glanced around me; many men were silently shifting positions in discomfort.
There were no smiles. (more…)