As the New Year was approaching, my husband Marco and I started discussing the celebration plan. We received a few invitations from friends yet were hesitant to accept – we both do not drink, do not enjoy big loud groups and dread the Dubai traffic. Then we received an email from Vipassana meditation organisers saying there was a three day course happening in Ajman from the twenty ninth of December until the first of January. Although it sounded a little crazy to our friends, we knew that turning our phones off, observing the Noble Silence and meditating ten hours a day would have tremendous benefits for us in a long run so we sent a confirmation email.
It was quite intense for us, especially since we were both taking the course simultaneously and could not communicate – there was a segregation between the sexes that had to be followed strictly. But we would see each other in the meditation hall and during out walks in the garden-afar, with rare stolen glances. At the same time I felt deeply in peace knowing that my husband was walking the same path as I was and we were on the same page in our spiritual discoveries.
Long meditations can be challenging both physically and mentally and we had to be extremely determined to make it through every day taking as much as we could. We start with Anapana or the breathing meditation to prepare our mind and our ability to focus. Vipassana meditation is basically a body scan meditation through which the meditator inspects their body sensations by simply observing them without any reaction. This process breaks the chain of blind reactions of cravings or aversions that in turn make us suffer. It is an extremely powerful tool of purifying one’s mind and our goal is to develop equanimity and stay calm both in meditation and daily situations.
As certain memories of the past were arising, we would experience pleasant or unpleasant sensations without giving any preference to them. The same with the expectations and worries about future-we had to focus on our breath and continue to observe the sensations.
After the ten and a half hours of daily meditation we would listen to the teacher’s discourse.
S. N. Goenka, who brought the Vipassana technique back to India and then the whole world, would explain the connection between mind and matter with through the audio recording. This is pure science, which I know already after taking multiple online courses on mindfulness at western universities. Yet it is through our sitting meditation that the intellectual truth becomes experiential truth as one walks on their own path of liberation.
Three days have passed, and having attained a certain level of inner peace and harmony, we gather for the final Metta meditation. Metta translates as loving kindness from Pali and we are all happy to share the loving vibrations with our loved ones and anyone who needs it.
Soon after the meditation we could talk to each other and I rushed to my husband. A soft embrace was a little warmer than usual and I felt overwhelmed with peaceful joy. We had so much to share, so much to plan and felt endlessly blessed to start a year in such a mindful and peaceful way. Together, one breath at a time.