Recently, I went on a solo meditation retreat somewhere close to the Himalayas for 4 days.
It was a powerful experience and I am glad to have done it.
Since the time of planning and telling relevant people about my plans, this was looked at by some almost as a suicide mission.
A sixteen year old going all alone TO MEDITATE in a new city, a new state, among the cold mountains, with bad connection, chances of landslides, likelihood of being eaten by a leopard, getting kidnapped or worst of all—getting converted to becoming a full time monk and never returning home!
Why can’t you just meditate here?
I’ve always wanted to go to the Himalayas and just meditate there.
In a sort of joking manner, (I say “sort of” because I’m very well capable of doing this) I’ve felt for the longest time that becoming a monk is the best career option on the market.
Monks are like the happiest people in the world! And if nothing works out, I’mma go be a monk in the Himalayas.
The reason I actually wanted to go to the retreat was– well there was no particular reason. I just felt like going there one day. I wanted to go somewhere adventurous, somewhere peaceful. And I wanted to go there as soon as I could.
I realised that nothing was stopping me from actually doing it. If not become a full-time monk just yet, I could still go on a short retreat. With my own money. Entirely on my own.
And so exactly 21 days after the first thought that “I could just go”, I booked plane tickets to my desired location, and a not-so-fancy stay lodge for the period of time I intended to stay there and boom, it was happening.
I’m writing these words on the plane back “home” (I write home in scare quotes because I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. What is home? Is it the place we spend most of our time at? Is it the place we’ve actually invested in buying an actual home and wholeheartedly crafted according to our whims? Is it the place where we get “the best food”? I don’t know. I think the world is my home and everywhere I go, it’s my duty to make it actually so.) That was a huge bracket.
As I write these words on my way back, I feel elated. And humbled. One of my big intentions from the retreat was to get freed again from vanity and recognize the fact that I was no one and no-thing. But of course, pride is such a thing that it is possible to take pride in one’s humility itself. And becoming humbled like most other things (e.g. being happy, calm or at peace) isn’t a one-time thing. It’s like becoming healthy or losing weight. One needs to consistently put in the work to REMAIN in that state.
The reason I feel elated is because I did something truly adventurous. It wasn’t an easy ride. I had my fair share (though reasonably few) of anxieties. Especially when the lights cut out on night #1 of the retreat. That was rough. But I tried remaining calm and that worked. An absence of photons in the visible wavelength of light is generally OK and something I can handle. Sure, the unfamiliarity of the situation caused some concern but if the world were to be my home, I must act like so. The point is, I undertook a serious challenge. And many of the concerns regarding my doing so by family and friends were probably for good reason.
What if something happens to you?
Well, then that would be way better than if nothing ever happened to me. That’s why I never let any of those concerns give me second thoughts about going on that adventure.
All in all, doing something bigger than myself is what makes me feel so elated right now. (Also, on the airport I caught the sight of someone who seemed to be backpacking India. I made up the courage and calm required to go start a conversation with her though she was reading—which is a very good excuse to not disturb a stranger you wish to speak to. “They’re busy.” But I went up and started talking anyway and found out some cool things about her and that again makes me feel quite good. There was no need even for the slightest hesitation. Talk to strangers, kids.)
Now let’s go into the specifics of the retreat and I’ll explain the humility aspect of it.
I experimented with non-dual mindfulness. Not for the first time did I do this but I really wanted to “get it” this time on the retreat and feel humbled by my true first person nature.
I used the Waking Up app created by Sam Harris and meditated for about 5 hours on day #1. The second day, I felt more lousy. The fact that it was raining outside made it a bit worse. On day #1, I went outside and sat on a rock and did my thing. I also walked very intentionally every now and then because you just can’t physically sit that long. Walking meditations are a thing. But on day #2, I had to stay indoors for some time and do the best I could there.
I was almost completely disconnected (but perhaps felt more connected than I ever had been). The only communication was with my parents whom I occasionally had to send updates to via texting. And the two people (and lone dog) at the stay lodge who gave me food and a little company when it got dark and cold.
Otherwise, there was no “work”. I made a resolution to reading no books, writing not for publishing, and of course no social media. I meditated, I ran, and I wrote in my journal. That’s all.
I was there for four days and three nights but I really got only two days to meditate completely. It was peaceful otherwise too.
I’m not sure if I grasped the no-self point experientially. I always got it theoretically though. I just need to feel it. Maybe on my next retreat. Or during a “regular” day of meditation practice.
I want to maintain a composure of humility. I’ve been generally thought quite proud and boastful to an extent and I want to lessen that to a healthy degree. It will take consistent work. Which I’m ready for.
With the present retreat, I got time to rest. And I needed it, not gonna lie.
I’ve been being pulled in many directions for some time now and that stops me from literally doing anything. And so I while away my time checking email and my Twitter notifications for the 34th time of the day and get saddened upon not finding anything quite stimulating.
But without any of that, I actually could take each step on the retreat. And so I intend not to fall back to my frivolous habits when I get back “home”. Instead, I’ll intentionally carve out time blocks for certain activities and actually try very hard to follow them this time around.
I took pictures on my retreat but without caring much on how they came out. I’d just click them during the day and check them in the Photos app at night. I think there’s a certain way to take pictures without being entirely sucked up by the act of doing so and hence not being able to be present and actually enjoy the real view (which FYI is so much better than that on the camera). I tried to use that way of taking pictures. For the sake of capturing moments, as it were.
That’s pretty much it.
I’ll always be a work in progress and always at the beginning. Yet, this was very fun.
Until the next one. But for now, all I have is the here and now. Each step.