Sunday, February 07, 2010

the second vipasana

My first Vipassana experience I had in Bogor was much better than I expected. I was able to unveil a lot about myself, find out the reasons for some old fears, behavior patterns and some mental fixations. Around day 8 or so, I was already feeling weird that it would actually end so soon; when I was just getting used to the pace (or the lack of it!) and meditating. I met some other Vipassana mediators in Chiang Mai and I was telling them how the first course actually made me want more. Then I remembered that one of the meditators I met in Dhamma Java, who has been to more than 10 Vipassana courses recommended Dhamma Kancana in Thailand, saying it had the best food and facilities. I thought “Why not?”. I checked their website and found they have a course with compatible timing for my visa  and applied. I said if I get admitted it would mean that I actually needed to do another Vipassana. If not, it meant that I needed to visit Suzanne in Ray Ley.

10 days later I got the e-mail confirming my admission. I was so happy!  I made my travel and visa  arrangements accordingly and on 20th January morning boarded on the shuttle bus that would take us from Bangkok to the Dhamma Kancana meditation center. After a 6 hour trip we were there. It was spread over a larger plot of land over hilltop and had mixed accommodation of bungalows and rooms in the main building. The rooms were definitely more spacious, had their own toilets and surprise! Own showers with warm water. In addition to a fan, a dressing table and several hangers, there was even a daily laundry service. It was good news but I wondered how else I would keep myself busy if I won't be hand-washing my clothes every day? The answer was quick to come; here we would be washing our own dishes after each meal, I was relieved to hear that.

Dhamma Kancana appeared to be very resourceful and well settled. It felt as if everything was thought of so the students need not worry and just concentrate on their meditation. So that's what we did. There were about 45 female and 20 male students and we were very disciplined with our schedule and precepts

Dissolving of some mental debris already started on day 2. I was able to understand a lot about my relationship patterns and some of my blind spots. I believe things were already quite shaken up during the first Vipassana and now going into another intensive course while they were still loose and close to the surface was a reason that I was able to go deep. Vipassana believes that there is no unconscious; everything we go through is recorded at a conscious level however they may be suppressed for a variety of reasons.

Having gone through several long juice fasts and one water fast, I am quite familiar with the detox symptoms. Despite eating 2 times a day (6:30 am and 11:00am are the meal times for old students, no dinner) I already started going through a deep detox on day 2. I will not write the nastier symptoms related to physical detox. One of the most interesting ones however was at a behavioral level. When one is purifying her body and mind, usually a cleaning of home, stuff etc accompanies it. One may find that he/she is deep-cleaning the home, throwing away the accumulated junk, sorting out invoices, getting rid of old clothing etc. This is even considered as a solid proof that one I really going through a detox. It happened to me too; yet as I didn't have any old clothes or paperwork to sort out, I dedicated all my free time and energy for cleaning. I was waiting everyone to finish their lunch so that I can go and clean the sinks. They did not allow me to do this every day, so on other days I was sweeping the corridors of my level. I was also sweeping my room at least 3 times a day. I wouldn't consider myself an obsessively clean person, however two experiences in meditation centers was fast turning me into one... All my adult life, I had maids or cleaners to do every bit of housework for me, I never cleaned sinks or mopped bathrooms. Here, I was unable to sleep if there was even a single hair on the floor. And it wasn't enough just to pick it up; I had to sweep the entire room to make sure it's clean... One day I noticed that the wall tiles on the showers were not clean and started scrubbing them. Noticing that the cleaner in the room doesn't work well. The next day I took some dishwashing detergent from the kitchen and scrubbed the tiles with it; much better results.
I thought the idea of an ashram or a Buddhist meditation was to liberate oneself from all fixations or worldy attachments; I was fast turning into an obsessive housewife... Something didn't make sense in this picture...

I had two very deep meditation sessions on day 5 and felt things that I've never felt before. There was no knee pain, no wish to fidget, no thought of any kind. I don't know how long it lasted but I knew that as a result of that experience, I was changed at a very deep level and felt very blissful. During the break, I went back to my room to take a quick rest. Lying on the bed, I looked at my hand and remember thinking “this is not my hand”. Weird? The hand looked quite familiar, then it must have been “my” which changed and became unrecognizable even for a minute? This sequence of thought took less than  second probably but realizing what just happened I freaked out. Yes, I knew I was changed but to that extent? Was I totally disintegrating, was I losing it? I got so scared and started crying. I didn't know what was happening and I was sure that I would not ask that to the teacher. What was I supposed to say? “For a moment  I didn't recognize my hand and then I realized that the hand was the same old organ but my sense of identity and possession appears to be totally screwed up, what can you say about that?” No way... I had to deal with this myself.

However I was scared, too much that I could not meditate at all for the following days. At one level I was telling myself that such experiences were normal, I was just getting rid of some unproductive mental patterns and one needs time to settle to the new ways of thinking. At the other level however I wasn't buying into any of that stuff and was constantly worrying where that would lead?

6th day onwards, things started going for worse. I started craving for stuff. During meditation sessions, I was constantly thinking how much I missed my car, my life in Dubai, my friends, talking in Turkish, the high heel shoes, ease of life etc etc... I spent almost all my meditation sessions trying to convince myself that I had enough of this Asian crap and now it was time to go back to Dubai to find a proper corporate job in order to pick up from where I left. Treat this whole thing like an extended holiday and go back to a life where I would count days for the weekend. Everyone else was doing it, what made me think that I was so special and can pluck myself out of the system? I was scared of the future, the lack of security, not knowing where I was heading and wanted to put an end to all this ambiguity. There was however still a weaker voice inside that told me to hang on, continue trying to meditate and not give up. Feeling very powerless and totally screwed up, I followed that voice.  I was crying in bed every night but stayed in the meditation center, continuing to clean the sinks and the floors.

After the first Vipassana, I was saying it wasn't enough, that there was still a lot that I could change and wanted to sit for another one. No one guaranteed that it would a pleasant experience; quite the contrary no deep cleaning job is ever enjoyable. I wanted this and had to deal with it myself. I just didn't know where to start; it was simply too much to deal with; I faced my demons; attachments, cravings,  possessiveness,  need to control, unproductive relationship patterns... At one level, I am very happy to have discovered all that. However I can't help feel that it was just too many stuff discovered at a very deep level in one go. I am not sure how to handle all that.

What do I do with my demons once I face them in daylight?  Especially when light doesn't make them any less scary and doesn't give the spells to banish them away forever?

It's been over a week since the Vipassana finished and I could only complete this entry line by line within that time. It was hard even to write it. I know things will eventually be alright and once this process of change is completed I will feel much better and stronger. It feels like some mental vaccination; a tolerable dose of the sickness is injected so that I will be immune to it for a very long time; It's causing me weakness and dizziness while I learn how to handle it.

And some photos from Dhamma Java in Indonesia:


Toilet cleaning squad (hopefully) on fast track to Karma cleaning:



  1. Hello ! Thank You for all the information ! Me and my girlfriend are joining a course in Dhamma Kancana and are a little concerned about finding the meeting place in Bangkok for the bus to the centre. Leng restaurant ? Was it hard to get there ?

    Peter Jonsson, Sweden

  2. Hi Peter,
    Hope my answer isn't very late. I was lucky that the taxi driver knew the restaurant but otherwise it's not really easy to find, because I figured that how you pronounce "Leng" makes a lot of difference. I suggest that you take the print of the address in Thai language with you instead of verbal directions. Once you find the restaurant, it's very easy to find the buses.
    I wish you a wonderful Vipassana, Kancana is a great place to meditate!

  3. Hi!

    I have undergone a Vipassana course almost 10 years back in India. I wanted to do one at Dhamma Java and wanted to know about the food facilities. I ask this because I am a vegetarian. In India there was no issue - I got veggie food. How has been your experience with food facilities at Dhamma Java?