Day 1: Mindful Breathing
Even though I hadn’t slept too well, which was expected since it was a new place and the temperature in the room didn’t seem to subside below 38 degrees C, I had to wake up at 4am. The ‘sevikas’ (Senior Vipassana participants who have completed one or more courses and have volunteered to serve) walked along the dormitory corridors, helpfully carrying a tiny bell in their hands to wake everyone up.
We were told last evening what we were expected to do in the first session — observe your breath, as it is- anapana. As soon as I had freshened up, I stayed in my quarter with my feet stretched out on my bed, comfortably leaning on the wall and began my practice. I had heard the assistant teacher (AT) say that the group session was at 8am which is when I supposed she would expect me to join the others in the meditation hall.
It was only breathing and I had managed well for 47 years, I was sure I didn’t need any supervision.
However by 5 am, one of the sevikas came to the room to fetch me and said I didn’t have an option to meditate where I chose to and that I had to be in the hall.
The AT had a console from which she could pick tracks to play to the group. She chose an audio track for Day 1 and Goenkaji’s voice boomed soothingly and reassuringly. I cannot say the same thing for the translator’s voice who translated everything Goenkaji said into Tamil for the benefit of the locals who didn’t speak English. Particularly when I began to notice the interchange of a few consonant sounds, and I was waiting to spot all the errors, the voice began to bother me. I also noticed Goenkaji had a low frequency vibration at the end of every chant he sang.
Back in my room, I noticed Jamuna my roomie, was a big believer in Baba Ramdev. She seemed to own every product of Patanjali.
Observing your breath for a continuos two hours in the morning was not easy. My mind hopped from one random thought to another. I vividly remember worrying for Johnny Depp and his divorce, hearing an imaginary Facebook notification and regretting not packing my linen pajamas.
Both the meals I ate today were wholesome. We were only going to eat two meals a day so I saw a lot of my peers going back for second servings to make sure they wouldn’t feel hungry later in the day.
By the 2.30 pm group meditation, some people began complaining about swollen hands, headaches and being unable to concentrate on their breath. We were allowed to talk only to the sevikas or the AT in soft whispers, but not everyone was whispering.
We were divided into groups of six people each. So we had seven groups in all. The AT had tried to make all the groups harmonious- I could see she had bunched all the expats into one, about six women who looked over 65 in one, the young 20 somethings into one group and a few groups that had some similarity in the members comprising the group.
I wondered what she found similar between me and the other five in my group
The day ended at 9 after a 90 minute video discourse by Goenkaji which was undoubtedly the best part of the day for me. He assured us that by just observing our breath, we will begin to train our minds to observe the gross and subtle realities of our bodies.
I looked forward to experiencing the truth.