The greatest difficulties I face when leaving a Vipassana retreat, are transitioning back to “normality”, and maintaining my practice.  The closing discourse of the ten-day retreat emphasises the importance of integrating your meditation practice into everyday life.  Practice for two hours a day – 1 in the morning, 1 at night.  Spend a couple of minutes when you wake, and just before you fall asleep observing the sensations in your body, remaining equanimous with the understanding of anicca, anicca.  Everything is impermanent.

Group sittings and “Vipassana days” are recommended to solidify and enhance your practice, and when I first heard all of this – I felt a great resistance.  Too demanding, time-consuming…impossible to sustain.  Second time I heard this I felt a spark of inspiration, motivated by good, but unfulfilled, intention.  Third time round…I feel like this is essential.  When I went to see the teacher for my interviews – uncharacteristically lengthy and explorative discussions – what resounded above all else, was this innate recognition of the importance of really committing to the technique.

I feel, for the first time, in my entire self, without refrain, that this is real.

So why am I finding it so hard to integrate?

Six days have passed since I wandered the streets of Oxford effervescent with love and gratitude, and I’ve already experienced numerous moments of fear of everything I’ve learnt slipping away.  My first real barrier was my complete failure to articulate and share the beauty of it all with the people I love.  How does one translate something that relies entirely on the experiential?

My second hurdle was inner conflict.  Throughout the course you learn such balance of mind, of consciousness…such acute concentration, as you delve deeper and deeper into the subtler realm, with increasing serenity and acceptance.  You learn your inner truths, in parallel with equanimity.  So when you return and are confronted by life choices/situations that challenge these new-found truths, there is a sense of it being unbearable, and in demand of change.  Yet, what of the equanimity?  Must we patiently manoeuver ourselves towards our true paths, or can we surrender ourselves to what feels right immediately?

I’m sure I will find my answers if I could just do what is required.  1 hour of meditation in the morning, 1 hour at night…

I do fear that everything I’ve learnt is slipping away.  That I will return to the reactionary chaos and instability of the life I used to lead.  But perhaps that fear is a necessary trigger.  Something that keeps the wheel turning through the mud.

Perhaps I’m being overly harsh on myself.  It’s a Friday night, Valentines at that, and instead of drinking down the pub I took myself up to my room where I turned out the lights, wrapped myself up in a warm blanket, closed my eyes, crossed my legs and began to feel the sensation of my breath as it brushed against my upper lip, before slowly moving my attention from the top of my head, to the tip of my toes and back again….

That may not sound like a particularly fun way to spend a night, but before I started there was anxiety and sadness inside me.  Now, all I feel is peace and love.

 

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