My first Vipassana meditation experience was back in February 2015.

Ten days meditating, 4:30am – 9:30pm. No distractions, No communication, no technology, no writing, no yoga, no luxuries or comforts. Just you, nature, and the mind. It felt a little like a brain boot camp. We do all this exercise and training for our bodies but neglect our minds and then wonder why we fall into bad habits and dark places in life so easily. Finding stillness and teaching the mind new ways to handle memories, beliefs, pain, and expectations was definitely a challenge. I went into this challenge without even thinking about it. “10 days of silence, that sounds like a fun, difficult, and interesting experience, I’m up for it!” I thought. A test of determination and willpower it most certainly was! 

Wednesday 23rd of January 2015, Intro Night:
I arrive in beautiful Pomona, on the Sunshine Coast Qld, Australia. Ironically where life began for me. Our family used to have a farm off Kin Kin Road in Pomona which overlooked Pinbarren mountain. We moved to Brisbane when I was only one and a half, just a baby. When my Mum and Dad split up. Although, I still have vivid memories of those mountains. As even after we moved my Mum regularly brought us back to the region to visit old friends in the area. 

My Dad actually dropped me off at the Vipassana Retreat, so we wouldn’t have to worry about my car not being driven for 10 days. As we drove into town the nostalgic mountains appeared and I laughed nervously and said, “How strange is it that my course is in Pomona of all places.” 

A little overwhelmed himself, and also overcome with old memories and emotion, my Dad responded, “Yes, it sure is strange. I love you Manisha, but, I’ve got to get out of here! There are too many old memories! Think good thoughts and don’t allow your mind to take you to any dark places while you are there. I love you.” He said, and then he left in a hurry. 

I walked in and met a few others in our group, nervously anticipating the mountain ahead of us. The mountain being this full-on course we are about to conquer. It was already so much more than I could have ever anticipated even at this point. 

I made my way to my dorm room, which was shared with one other woman, there was a simple curtain put up evenly between our beds for privacy, it was was all very basic. Just a bed with a sheet and pillow. And a window sill that had some carvings from previous meditators inscribed nearby. I vaguely recall there being a note saying ‘don’t eat too much’ carved onto the wall. 

We had a short introductory talk that evening before dinner. Then the infamous ‘Noble Silence’ began, and we were all herded into the hall for our first meditation session. A recording plays with an Indian chant, it goes for about 15 minutes. I find it extremely strange. “Okay, whatever… the chant sounds kinda weird, but this is awesome!” I excitedly justified to myself mentally. I sat blissed out in the first meditation and headed to bed eagerly anticipating Day 1. 

Day 1: Thursday 24th of February 2015.
4 am, the morning bell rings. I awake tired after an unrested evening of little sleep, I’d been busy pondering the course, overloaded with expectations, eagerness, and excitement. After I woke up I dressed in a long skirt, which covered my knees, a tee-shirt, and a traditional Indian meditation shawl I’d that I’d borrowed from Mum. This is suitable attire for meditation, and it was requested by the facility to dress conservatively. I then head up to the hall. 

4:30 am: The first huge day of meditation officially begins. I am seated in the hall exhausted. I check my watch, 10 minutes have passed. “I’m so tired,” I thought. “My legs hurt, this is fucked. Why didn’t I think this through?!” My mind starts going bonkers. I cannot find stillness! I’m angry, impatient, agitated. Frustrated and bitter. 

My body was screaming at me and so was my mind. “Get me the fuck out of here!” I don’t think I’ve internally sworn so much ever in my life. I hated day one and I hated myself for bringing myself there! “If you can’t handle two hours, how on earth are you going to last ten days!?” I thought. 

Day 2: Friday 25th of February 2015. 
Things got easier, I still detested morning meditation. I could not focus. However, by lunch, I could find stillness, that place of calmness I know and love from my existing practice. “Here we go, okay! I can do this!” I exclaimed mentally. I began to crave my yoga practice, and the ability to write down my thoughts. I started making mental lists of everything I wanted to remember and write down. 

Day 3: Saturday 26th of February 2015.
Meditation was alright today. My thoughts were still erratic. My imagination was also going wild. They tell you not to dwell too much into your thoughts, memories, and visions, but I was having so many thoughts it was hard not to. I began seeing lots of animals’ faces, and I’d see deeply into their eyes. Almost seeing their souls. I realised I have a strong connection with animals. On this day we learned about the ‘Law of Nature. That everything is impermanent. When you observe nature you understand everything perishes. Nothing lasts forever. The same exists within our own life. We as humankind are another facet of nature, we too will perish. There will be good times and bad times, but, if you can learn to observe things clearly, you will notice this impermanence. Also, our mind is similar to the roots of a tree. If the root of the tree is rotting the plant will not be healthy. The same works for our minds. 

In this process or technique of meditation, we are opening up the wound of our subconscious mind and digging out all the pus. Over the 10 days, this ‘pus’ will arise as pain, emotion, and memories. And in this technique of letting go, you observe the sensations within the body, as pain, feelings, and emotions arise. While making no judgment and no reaction to whatever arises. What you resist persists. 

When you witness this pain, it begins to pass, as all pain and misery, and good feelings eventually do pass. All things arise and pass. It’s the law of nature. That which arises to the surface is called your Samskara’s – old habits, memories, beliefs, and karma. It is our attachment to these sensations that create our misery. We are either craving for our misery to be over or craving for the good things to commence. Instead of simply embracing the moment, embracing the now. All we have that is real or true exists in the now. 

This evening, in the last sitting we were taught this new technique, observing sensations all over the body from head to toe. I begin to sense a free flow of energy. There is still a pain in my back, but I have overcome it. The energy and vibrations begin to surge to my heart space. And a sensation of lightness and a curious stabbing sensation begins to emerge as an energetic sensation around my heart and chest. It gets stronger and stronger. The session ends and I begin to walk back to my room. There is still energy surging around and towards my heart. I lay down and place my hands on my chest. “What is this?” I thought.

All of a sudden I am overcome with feelings of resentment for my Dad. He wasn’t around when I was growing up. And he was never the ideal Dad I wanted him to be. He was a drunk, alcoholic, with a drug problem. He verbally abused my Mum and he was always angry. I resented him. As I’ve grown up and reached my twenties, my Dad had stopped drinking, stopped drugs, eats healthy, and is sick with liver disease and hepatitis due to his bad lifestyle. He tells me he’s full of regrets. His pain seeps through every pore on every level of his being. He is miserable. I had always considered my Father as everything I do not want to be. He lived a wild, uninhibited life full of excess, and look where it leads? To misery. 

I have a wildness inside me but I fear it. Through my spontaneous actions, and wild nature sometimes I worry that I too will end up like him. He has led a cool, fun, and wild life, and has plenty of stories to tell, yet still, he is full of misery and darkness. His greatest enemy is himself. I sometimes see my brother following dad’s footsteps with his wild nature and alcohol abuse and I worry.

There is a lot of built-up resentment there, and it all seemed to be surging to this space around and within my heart. I suddenly see my Dad as one of my greatest teachers and allies. He has shown me mistakes I don’t want to make in this life, and he has also shown me it’s possible to love a difficult person. After everything I still love him. This love was surging into my heart into this deep cavity of pain. I realised I have all this resentment for the man he used to be. Resentment for him not being there when I was young. For not being a respected, ideal father figure I wanted him to be. For not living up to my expectations. Yet, he is in my life now. He has so much love, compassion, and wisdom to give now and I have instead allowed myself to distance myself from him when all that matters is the present moment. Who he is today. Who he is now. And today he has turned his lifestyle around. He is there to help me whenever I need and he has so much love to offer.

Unconditional love and forgiveness flooded through my heart and to every area of my body. “Woah,” I thought. I physically felt myself letting something go that had been with me for a lifetime. I didn’t realise how deep my own pain had become, due to this situation. I felt a massive release and wave of energy wash through my awareness. My Dad isn’t going to be around forever but I’m glad I got over this now. So I can finally accept him for who he is and spend quality time with him.
Day 3, was the day I realised there is something very powerful about this meditation practice and in these ‘letting go’ sessions. 

When I arrived home from the course, My Dad came to visit me, and I hugged him and told him I loved him. This was very out of character for me. As I’m usually very cold and distant towards him, as I rewrite this today. My Father Tony has now passed away from Pancreatic Cancer, he died in December late 2016, one year after this course. So this realisation and story are very special to me.

Day 4:  Sunday 27th of February 2015.
I started to think about animals a lot more. I considered their pain and feelings and I saw a weird vision of a pig in an abattoir. It was in so much pain. Pain actually flooded through my body as I reflected, I could deeply empathise. I’ve been on and off a vegetarian diet yet I know I can no longer allow myself to be ignorant to this issue. Animals feel pain too. May all beings be happy and free. I will no longer participate in supporting industries that egotistically capitalise on and hurt animals for their profit and gain. I will no longer eat meat and support this. 

We also learned to have good intentions, in whatever we do. You may desire something as long as the desire has good moral intentions to help others and is for the food of the universe and humanity it is a worthwhile endeavor and only good karma will come from this choice. 

Day 5: Monday, 28th February 2015. 
We began learning about the reason for us observing our senses so deeply. It is to help us detach and come out of misery. In life, we become so detached from the constant signs and sensations our body is always giving us. Your pain, your misery, and suffering are due to attachment to sensation. Resistance to this pain builds cravings within us to be without the pain and misery. Yet, unfortunately, misery is a part of life.

There are good and bad, yin and yang, good sensations, and bad sensations. Do not become attached and you will not experience misery. Our misery is simply due to craving something from the past or craving a sensation (desire) for the future. Regardless, it’s a craving or an attachment for a sensation. To how the object, person, or desire makes you feel. When you begin to fully understand and observe your senses in this way, not reacting to pain or bliss. Therefore, when lightness or darkness appears in life, highs or lows, you will give the same amount of presence, awareness, and attention. Remember, This too shall pass. Embrace the moment now, be all in, be present, be here now and feel and experience each moment fully whether good or bad. Because soon enough it will become another memory. 

Day 6. Tuesday, 29th of February 2015
This day was tough! I was overcome with thoughts. The agitation began as I realised how attached I am to many things. I knew I could no longer be ignorant. Yet, I felt overwhelmed in regards to where to start? I began secretly doing yoga in my room and stretched whenever I could. A whole new depth and understanding of yoga developed. We practice the asanas to prepare us for meditation and after spending so much time meditating my body now craved poses like ‘Natarajasana, Dancing Shiva’, positions I’d characterised primarily for balance and beauty. Now I really felt what it was like to be stiff, I felt the true benefits of the practice. 

I was desperate to create, to write! I realised I was also attached to these things. I also enjoyed and looked forward to our meal times, it became the highlight of every day. I definitely ate more than necessary due to my cravings, and then soon after, understood why someone left a note not to eat too much. 

Day 7, 8 & 9:
These were days when lots more emotions, pain, and memories surfaced. I could physically and energetically feel myself working through it. I could sense all of this energy rising to the space in my throat & heart and it felt like my body was becoming lighter as I let things go. I could sense this huge energetic guard around my heart beginning to crack open. As I breathed into and through the pain and let things pass. It was very cool. My discipline and determination were tested sitting such long hours in pain, unable to move in the strong determination sits. In these sessions, you were encouraged to find a position and commit to it. Staying steady for the hour. When achieving those sessions unmoved, I realised how strong my mind actually is. How strong my discipline, determination, and willpower are. With that kind of strength, I know I am capable of achieving anything I set my mind to. 

Day 10: 
At 10:00 am noble silence ends! Meditation sittings still commence 4 times that day. At 10:00 am I stayed in the meditation hall, I was petrified to get up and go talk to everyone. I wasn’t ready. My teacher approached me and said, “It’s time to transition now.” I nervously exited the hall and it felt incredibly strange to talk. I was so elated and happy. Everything was hilarious. Everyone was so open and connected. No guards were up. I couldn’t stop laughing and smiling. It was overwhelming but amazing! We did it! I learned, I loved and I let go. Until next time. To embrace the moment, living with love compassion, good intentions, and happiness!