Back from Boot Camp for Nerds…

I just returned from a 10 day Vipassana meditation camp. These camps are known for their “noble silence” (no communication not even eye contact nor reading/writing), communal living (bunk beds in a dorm with 8:1 resident to bathroom ratio) and a regimented schedule (4.30 AM to 9 PM).

Not talking was the easy part. Not having email access was harder — it was my first time off the grid for more than a day in 20 years. Not having paper/pencil was even harder — I hadn’t realized how dependent i was on documenting my brain farts! Physically, the camp was hard too: sharing a room with 3 strangers, no meat/eggs for 10 days, confined in a nice but small campus, being told what to do all day… I could go on and on. I guess I have gotten soft over the years.

One of the CEOs I work with asked me nicely “Ashu, I don’t know you that well, but you aren’t the first person that I would think off as wanting to be silent for 10 days”. Someone else asked me “if you are going to take 10 days off from your family, couldn’t you find something more fun to do?

The glib answer (in George Malory’s words) is “because its there”. Its something I tried and failed to complete 20 years ago. Its also possibly the hardest thing I could imagine myself doing voluntarily.

Despite the challenges, it was a remarkably rewarding experience, and I can see myself doing something similar on a regular basis. I have come to think of meditation as “weight lifting for the mind”. Meditation builds mental muscles, and reverses the atrophy associated with aging. Its also a hard skill to learn, akin to learning to read or write for the first time, and a 10 day camp is probably necessary to kick start the journey.

In the context of meditation, I am still learning to read 2 letter words...if you have any advice, you know where to find me…