by Siba Nkumbi
… seeing things as they really are!
I went to Worcester for Vipassana meditation, it’s a 10day course where one disconnects from the world to learn the technique spending ten days in noble silence. The only companion one will be left with is the mind and its old habits.
At first I thought the idea of Vipassana was absurd, I was convinced that it was some type of exercise to control people’s minds (As a human you gotta watch your back and so I went to google for some sort of consolation). As Karma had it, despite my assumptions about the technique I couldn’t stop thinking about how different I’d be if I took the course. In a blink of an eye my life started spiraling out of control from every angle, I decided there and then to give the course a chance.
See I had blues from losing a total of 3 jobs in a space of 3months, things were not going according to my plans and the struggle of finding a job. Push came to shove where I ended up bar tending (bar tending was also a fantasy come true). However, as a recovering alcoholic selling alcohol became less and less attractive because half the times I could predict how the night was going to end for some people. It hurt and so I made a conscious decision to stop. There was good money, people are generous with tips when intoxicated but I felt guilty after every shift. People started preaching about beggars not being choosers (In my mind I was telling them to take their advise and jump off a bridge). Every month since I returned to Cape Town was a nightmare, as much as I was still job hunting I had to think about rent. I had to resort to owing almost all my friends to survive, owing friends was never a spot I imagined myself to be dancing on and that added more stress. I found myself having to sell my laptop which was my workstation to at least cover rent for that month. I was about to go back home (Eastern Cape) to be a taxi driver and give up on my dreams because suddenly everything became too much for me to handle. Being unemployed in Cape Town was taking its toll on me, when I couldn’t get money to return I realised that maybe it was the Universe’s way of telling me to go to Vipassana ( I had always been an earth child to a certain extent). I then decided to give Vipassana a chance and to my surprise, it worked.
Before I go on about how the technique is changing my life everyday, let me elaborate on what Vipassana meditation is…
Vipassana means ‘SEEING THINGS AS THEY REALLY ARE‘. It is the process of self purification by self observation. One begins by observing the natural breath to concentrate the mind. With the sharpened awareness one proceeds to observe the changing nature of body and mind; and the experiences of the Universal truths of impermanence ( The only thing constant in life is change), suffering and ego-lessness. It has nothing to do with any organised religion or secularism, so it can be practiced truly by anyone at anytime anywhere, as long as you abstain from praying or performing rituals for the ten days so that you can give a fair chance to the technique and then decide if it works for you or not after 10 days.
Sounds easy enough?
Far from it…
If you’re willing to take the 5 precepts for the duration of the course (10 days) then you’re off to a great start. The 5 precepts are:
Abstain from killing any being (even insects)
Abstain from stealing
Abstain from all sexual activities
Abstain from telling lies, and
Abstain from all intoxicants
Here’s my experience!
I left Cape Town to Worcester knowing deep down in my heart that I had nothing to lose, should the technique work or not. Also, I wanted to get to the bottom of my addiction (Alcoholism) and see if there was a solution for any type of addiction too. Problems started happening, I was supposed to go with two other individuals but because of money problems one lady had to stay behind (getting yourself to Worcester is your responsibility). Then after struggling with getting transport, on the day before we left ( myself and Christie) we managed to find transport and so it was confirmed that all roads will lead to Worcester the next morning and there was no turning back. I had two main reasons for going to the retreat; The fact that my life was falling apart the more I tried and my curiosity about the psychological causes of my alcoholism. Though writing about it and going to AA helped me cope better, I still experienced cravings every now and then and so I felt like Vipassana was the answer for me to beat my addiction once and for all. Besides, I knew that I wouldn’t handle another relapse so the technique had better work. Vipassana helps any individual to be aware of the law of the Universe through experience and not at an intellectual level. I too was tired of having an intellectual understanding only and so I wanted to experience how life works personally so that I could be the master of my own mind, not the other way around. I got the chance!
At first I was impatient (one of my deadliest traits) and I was shocked that all we did the first day was just breathing. Automatically the mind went wild and that led to panic but I told myself that I will make it work no matter how hard. Little did I know that the breathing that annoyed me so much was a foundation of what was yet to come. From day 2, things became intense it was silent enough to hear the voices in your head as if they were on loudspeaker. As the days went by I grew deep in the technique and concentrated my entire being then things started coming from deep down to the surface, memories about things I even forgot all at once; and then those realisations were followed by intense dreams. I got overwhelmed and I found myself weak and weeping like a baby for a couple of hours as the only option I had was to face the truth. The pain was too much, I couldn’t take it! It was like watching a movie about myself (uncut). However, as I acknowledged reality it became easier to to deal with the things I never dealt with from my past. It was unbearable at first but I kept encouraging myself that it will get better and it did. I experienced many emotions at once,except hapiness. I felt Anger, sorrow, resentment, guilt and an overwhelming amount of frustration towards myself, the people that never understood me or took the time to and the rest of the world. Never in any of those moments did I want to give up, I knew deep down that it gets worse before it gets better and giving up was an option I didn’t have ( I was never one to quit when the going gets tough) and so I continued with my meditation. By day 6 things got clearer, I understood where everything was coming from and how they turned the way they did. I began to make sense of my life from my own perspective and no one else’s (it felt good). I also realised that I was left with one emotion: ANGER
Growing up I isoleted myself, became a bully and slowly lost a torch towards my future as I couldn’t handle growing up with an alcoholic father, I was also mad at myself that I became an alcoholic too. I realised that anger played a huge role in my being a mess for almost 21 years, years there were highlights of great times but the bad times had always outweighed the good times or maybe my focus was fixed on the negative most of the time. I had always blamed father for messing me up, failing to acknowledge that everything that happened in my past made me the strong woman I am today. I intentionally and unintentionally hurt people in the process of protecting myself from life. All in all, Vipassana is broken down into 3 segments: SILA, SAMADHI and PANNA. The foundation of the practice is SILA (Moral Conduct), which provides the development of the SAMADHI (Concentration of mind) and the purification of the mind is achieved through PANNA (Wisdom of insight) all Three go hand in hand. If followed step by step and accordingly Vipassana gives accurate results I AM LIVING PROOF! It is a technique that allows one to come out of their own misery at their own pace, and at the right time.
I realised that I was disappointed in myself, mad at my Dad and the whole world for everything bad, especially white people ( I’m not racist, but I believed the apartheid ruined a lot of lives then and now). However, when the good happened I never voiced out how good the world was. I was Bias! attracted to the negative more than the positive. All I had to do was to accept that life will always be two-fold, the good and the bad balance each other out. My first step to a mystery free life was coming out of those attachments and accept reality, embracing the past and letting it go, acknowledging the future and appreciating the present.
I have began a journey on the path of nature, and in nature everything always turns out the way it should; as long as I will always practice perfect equanimity and will always be aware of my actions. Like the great Gautama (Buddha) one quoted his ancient teacher and said ” Human life vanishes as quickly as a dewdrop on the tip of a blade of grass”, I came to realised that life was indeed pointless, we’re all mere mortals and nothing lasts forever and we were blessed with the gift of death. I am striving to let go of all the attachments of life and detach from all my miseries. It’s a work in progress and I am patient with myself. After 10 days, I am slowly becoming my own master.
I have forgiven myself
I’m on a journey of self discovery
I have finally let go of alcohol
I admit I am human and I will make mistakes
Asking why no longer has a space in my vocabulary
I will never be the same person again
Everything in this life is impermanent, nothing lasts and so whatever hardships anyone undergoes they will always pass. Life gets better, Karma is real and so we must all do well in order to be well. Nothing is ever easy; with determination, faith, devotion and Love anything is possible (especially happiness).
I AM CONSOLED.
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