One of my secret desires is that my life should be exciting like a movie. To be more specific like a romantic Bollywood movie starring me of course as the charming and witty protagonist (yes I’m Shah Rukh Khan fan!). Once when it happened, already after a couple of months I was left with memories of a super crazy love story and flight tickets to Malaysia for the trip that me and my ex had planned before we have broken up. To some degree in defiance I decided to nevertheless go on the trip alone. Since I had several weeks to spend on my own in Malaysia, this seemed to be the perfect opportunity to attend a 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat. I was attracted to this idea since I read Andreas Altmann’s ‘Triffst du Buddha, töte ihn!’ (sorry this book only exists in German). However sacrificing 10 days for something about which I had no real clue which benefits it will bring me seemed to be a high price. I decided to go there without any expectations. I only carried a slight hope that meditating might help me at least to focus more easily.
The season when I went to the meditation center was perfect. There was not much rain, neither was it cold, nor too hot. Every participant received a little accommodation there, a small room with a simple bed and bathroom. Women and men are separated and each participant has to accept and obey the rules of the program during the 10 day course. Throughout the course every participant has to keep completely silent and is expected to avoid any interaction with others including eye contact or exchange of gestures.
The program has a fixed schedule which repeats every day. At 4 am one gets woken up by a bell. During the day there are several instructed meditation sessions and breaks including two big, tasty meals and an afternoon snack, being the last meal of the day. Every evening a movie is shown to provide additional background about the Vipassana philosophy. The movie and the meal times were my favorite parts on every day.
After three days of following the program schedule something incredible happened. Suddenly I had the impression that my head was sliced open on top like a Playmobil figure without its plastic scalp. Since my head felt so light, I had to touch it several times to convince myself that nothing was missing. It seemed like these couple of days without phone and pc, without any tasks and appointments and just following the meditation course helped me to let go of my constant worrying and feelings of stress. I felt so relaxed like rarely before in my life. At least it was relaxing for my mind, however sitting so many hours on the floor every day and meditating was of course straining. I was glad to be more flexible than most of the other participants who probably suffered much more than me. After the course some people told me jokingly that when I was sitting in front of them in the meditation hall, they were impressed how I managed to sit there almost motionless like a Buddha.
On the sixth day another remarkable transforming moment happened. During the many hours of meditation I was thinking of many, many things and of course also about my recently shattered relationship. Once in a while I felt anger about what has happened. However on this sixth day all in a sudden all my anger got replaced by affection. I was able to forgive my ex-girlfriend and even felt sorry for her mental suffering.
After this 10 day course I continued to meditate every day for about one hour until today. Roughly one year after I attended the retreat, I was finally able to stop to constantly worry and feel tensed. The meaning of Vipassana is to see things as they really are. The meditation technique encourages to observe oneself and to develop equanimity about whatever one might discover. Whatever feeling or sensation I may notice, I should just accept it. Feeling sad or angry about something bothering me will not change anything, but rather cause my mental misery.
One of the Vipassana teachings helping me tremendously in many situations is to remind myself of the words ‘whatever arises passes away’. This lets me often endure events perceived as unpleasant with more tranquility and optimism. Meanwhile I’m very convinced of the positive effects of Vipassana. I think due to meditation in combination with other insights and mind hacks, I’ve become much more relaxed, less anxious and more optimistic. Plus I’m more focused and occurrences of strong negative emotions such as anger and frustration are converging to zero. I don’t claim that Vipassana is the only method helping to achieve this, but in my case it seems to work pretty well. Moreover during my daily meditation session I often come up with great ideas for my current projects.
The story of how I started meditating showcases the unpredictability of life and I regard it as a great example for trying to see the bright side of whatever happens in life. The breakup with my ex-girlfriend was also the trigger for my decision to apply for a scholarship to study in South Korea having ultimately lead to further fortunate experiences.