Talking, snacking, sleeping in, sporting, seks, reading, working, listening to music. These and other self-evident activities were no longer for me. Voluntarily I distanced myself from it all. Not because it’s so much fun, quite the contrary. Abstinence from any form of distraction is an essential part of a ten-day Vipassana meditation course – which undoubtedly applies to other forms of meditation as well. As a down-to-earth Dutchman and naive beginner, I was skeptical at first. I considered this measure to be totally overkill. The opposite turned out to be true after experiencing the effects firsthand; it’s a requisite to evoke something essential. Up to this point, I thought I know myself well. I was convinced that I can be good on my own, that I handle silence or seclusion well. I believed that I have enough mental space for deep observations and clear thoughts. Or – even more laughable – that I have complete command over my mind. Ha, ignorant joker. These (and comparable) illusions were completely shattered in a mere ten days. Ouch, that hurts. Merciless revelations about all the unnecessary ballast, subconscious escapism and irrational parts of my autopilot were very evocative. Just as ruthless was the restless howler-monkey within my brainpan. My state of mind shot from one brain lobe to the other like a pinball. Memories, thoughts, desires, judgments, pain, pleasure, aversion, boredom, fun, intellectual games or sentimental drivel: truly nothing was out of mind. Real peace was an exception rather than the norm. Jeez, what a sobering confrontation with this undisciplined and incoherent mess. An obvious and truly painstaking project awaits me, a daunting task that will keep me occupied for a while. All fine to me, bring it on.
Returning to the ‘normalities’ of daily existence was awkward. Fortunately I didn’t face this ordeal alone. Apart from the introduction and finale, I didn’t speak with Noctoman. Or even cast a glance. We didn’t need words or glimpses to communicate: energy sufficed. It clicked immediately. He offered me a place to stay once the course was over. Alright then, let’s go. The beginning of the journey was very harmonious, partly because of New Zealand’s mesmerizing landscapes. But the atmosphere changed once we entered the wilderness of urbanity. Everything became more noisy, fleeting and hurried. The outside world claimed an overwhelming amount of energy and attention from us. Everything was so intense after emerging from a deep meditation-buzz. Countless stimuli, impressions and realizations overloaded us. Even visiting a regular burger joint became a memorable event. We were in the mood for a proper slice of meat after sticking to a vegetarian diet. After making our orders we patiently waited with attentive observation. Hmmm… ”You little, you little dumb ass bitch, I ain’t fucking with you!!”’ echoed through the place. Further up some boys were enthusiastically regurgitating the lyrics while the adults sat in dead silence – deeply sucked into their smartphones. In style with the music, some guys had a quarrel on the street, which was a lot of barking without biting in the end. Wannabee Vin Diesel’s blasted through the block with their tuned discotheque on rims. Meanwhile, our sauce-drenched hamburgers were dumped on the table: enjoy your meal. Holy cow, his last round could’ve been more honorable. While dozens of such observations went through me, we exchanged a glance. Countless thoughts were expressed in the fraction of a second. I nearly choked in laughter; tears were running down my cheeks. Yes, a glance can say more than a thousand words or thoughts…
It was on the tip of our tongues: what kind of insanity is this? What the hell are we doing? Not that we were any different, far from it. We were part of what we were laughing about. The silencing of our rattling bellies didn’t go thoughtfully: we shoved in those calorie bombs as if we were a bunch of starved paupers. But even with this uncivilized behavior, I remained attentive about my burps and the ketchup-smeared corners of my mouth. My position suddenly swapped from an alert spectator to a passionate participant. Once again I was part of a crazy show with a seeming lack of directing, tragicomic acting, recurring blunders and chewed-up scripts of predictability. Ah, me and the world around me. Just let go already, it’s the way it is. With true acceptance of reality, I was able to deal with the changing of the guard. I’m just someone who tries his best with the resources and knowledge he has. So go on, keep munching and jump back in the car. Put on some speaker-blasters, turn to a deafening volume, all windows open, pedal to the metal and hang out of the window like a cheerful doggy. Freedom tastes so much better after ‘captivity’. Act dumb while burning some CO2, oh yeah. Just act ‘normally’, then you’re being crazy already…right?
From One Tree Hill we enjoyed the illuminated Skyline of Auckland. Although we looked at skyscrapers, we focused on the lives taking place within them. Human lives in which everyone tries to achieve happiness and fulfillment in their own way. We spoke about the lives filled with (unpursued) dreams, disappointments, toils, successes and setbacks. Suddenly I thought of a local who picked me up as a hitchhiker before I went into monk-mode. I was in for some R&R with her after all that abstinence. So I suggested to hang out, who knows where it leads to. After sending the message, I went home with Noctoman to watch something politically incorrect. After watching an entertaining episode of Family Guy, we closed the day with an hour of meditation. All kinds of thoughts, realizations and questions came up – as usual. To which extent do I want to tame my bewildered mind? Do I want to live without a healthy dose of craziness or imperfection? What would we have without sacrifice, discomfort or pain? Is it… *my attention went back to observing the breath without judgment*. That’s all it was. Brushing teeth and crashing someone’s guest-bed, hopefully without contaminating it with a (soaking) wet dream. Yeah, the calmness of a meditation center is very pleasant, calming, healing. It’s certainly worth another visit. But still. There’s so much more to experience with all the psychological sores and struggles of humanity. No, I don’t want to be a perfect son-in-law or an enlightened monk. Just give me some struggle, suffering, spirit and impurity. I find that anything but a punishment. I’ve experienced something very essential though, and I keep practicing with applying it continuously. Under real acceptance, I will experience the multifaceted reality fully and with awareness. I’ll do so without neurotic controlling, compulsive clinging, quick judgments or a maddening (and lengthy) list of expectations, obviously.
So, in two weeks you can learn way more than many years of ‘education’ or work experience.