On day 9 – I sat down to meditate and I once again began by observing each sensation. The practice had progressed, and now we just had to concentrate on the areas of intensity. While I scanned my body, I noticed some tension in my back. As I moved my mind forward, I felt it in my stomach and chest. I realized, quite quickly, that I knew that pain. I had felt that before. It was the exact same feeling I had when I was diagnosed with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) when I was 22. Basically, the most severe pain I’ve ever had. I couldn’t understand why my mind was manifesting these sensations.
Through the course, I had already cured one physical ailment. My ankle – which has seen numerous sprains, torn ligaments and drunken nights – had regained full mobility and range of motion as a result of the stretching from sitting long periods of time. Something my sports medicine doctor had worked with me on for nearly 9 months after I dropped out of a half marathon due to injury. *this story deserves its own post* I was amazed one night, as I laid in bed and wrote the alphabet in the air with a pointed toe – something I hadn’t been able to do since I was 14.
But this? Really? I laughed inside my head. I told my mind – “OK – you want to play this game? Let’s see how long it lasts.” Well, to be exact, 13 hours and 53 minutes. Every single meditation from that moment out, I was haunted by these feelings. I accepted each moment, trying to put my body at ease as I grazed over each area with my mind. I tried not to crave the subtle sensations, or be averse to these haunting ones. But every time I left the meditation room, the pain was gone. I knew it was purely mental.
I finally got rid of it on the final day. On this day, at 11 a.m. we began to talk again. I didn’t want to come back into this world. I didn’t want to lose the truth and understanding I had come to feel and see and know so clearly.
But the sound of laughter, was beautiful. All the resting bitch faces, disappeared. I was looked at with fresh eyes, with warm smiles. The gorgeous Thai women hadn’t been judging me, they had simply been going through the same things I had. They were fighting their own battles. Struggling to sit through the heat, and focus on the physical sensations. What surprised me the most was how curious they were about me. About the little blonde girl with the tie-dyed bandana around her head.
Beautiful girls gathered around me to ask me how old I was, and why I had come. They asked what it was like for me. And although only a few spoke good English, the questions came from all over. What did I do in the US? And when the older women saw us together, they gathered around me too. Translations flew. They said I was so “neat,” but they meant reserved compared to other Westerners. They commented on how strong I was and how whenever they opened their eyes to look around, I was always calm and my posture was always so good. Ha, if only they really knew.
It was then that I realized, I hadn’t been alone in my thoughts. And that no matter what people look like on the outside, the inside is a crazy, crazy world of its own. After this we learned metta meditation, which is loving kindness. It’s a practice where you send compassion to yourself, and then turn it outward to everyone. An enemy, a mentor, and all beings. It was during this meditation that I realized how important these 11 days had been.
As I sat there, thinking of all the people in my life, the beautiful souls I had just met and those who I would meet, I wept. Silent tears ran down my face, as the once unknown women sent me love and kindness (I hope). I smiled through soaked cheeks and felt endless gratitude for the 11 days. Turmoil, bliss, boredom and fear were all behind me. I allowed everything to pour out of me and into me at the same time.
In a few hours time, I would emerge from this prison. Liberated. Full of energy. Purpose. Unbound understanding of the self.
And I would greet the world with love and compassion.
And I still am.