Superhumans, Sensations, and Supposed To

I’ve been doing Vipassana for just under a month now and it has changed my life. The most dramatic experiences occurred while I was at the meditation centre and in the first week or so after leaving; I felt like I had tapped into my superhuman side….for a bit. As an assistant teacher assured me would happen, the sharpness of my mind has indeed started to dull. While I’m not surprised by this (as I’m not focused on meditation 18 hours a day anymore), I do feel a pronounced desire to return to that state of clarity. Desire, not attachment.

In many ways, my practice at home feels like the first three days of the course all over again: my brain is full of chatter, songs, images, and never seems to tire of wandering. Again, this is no surprise as my short term memory banks are being loaded with information all day. The pins and needles sensations I felt during the course have transformed into barely tangible ones and the peace and calm that permeated my being have also begun to dissipate. All of this was to be expected. But despite expecting all of these events to happen, they are nonetheless difficult to accept. I truly loved the new state of being I had experienced.

During the course, the student in me was thirsting for evaluation. Am I doing it right? Am I progressing properly? What is supposed to be happening? The teacher seemed reluctant to be very specific with her answers and I found this immensely frustrating. However, after speaking with all the other meditators on the last day, it became clear why the teacher was not telling me what was supposed to be happening: everyone’s experience was decidedly different. While there were some commonalities, it was almost impossible to verbalize “what happened”. I’m grateful for the way things unfolded, but it wasn’t easy.

A major challenge during the course was self-evaluation. With no one to grade me, I suppose I thought of the one-hour sits (during which we would not change positions) as the quizzes of the course. On the first few of these sits, I leaned forward an inch or two on a few occasions to alleviate discomfort. The part of my mind that seeks to identify and interpret was particularly harsh with me. Q: “What is it?” A: “A ten degree bend forward.” Q: “What does it mean?” A: “You are a weak-minded fool!” As the course progressed, I learned the value of equanimity, the power there is in abandoning the addiction to evaluate everything as good and bad, right and wrong. The headwaters of peace flow from such places.

As I begin to practice at home, I am trying to take comfort in the realization that there is no “supposed to”. What’s happening is what’s happening. The practice changes from moment to moment. This almost made me laugh out loud because the course had already taught me (over and over again) that the moment is as it is – not as I would like it to be. It is always changing. This is comforting because it alleviates the need to have my performance evaluated. It simply is. My meditation is as it is from moment to moment. No check marks. No exes. No gold stars. Just the simple combination of awareness and equanimity.

For now, the goal is simple: practice daily and pay attention while doing so. The glimpse of my previously unexplored abilities is incentive enough to keep persisting through patches of frustration. The superhuman is still there. The sensations are still there. The moment is there, waiting patiently for my awareness to make contact. The screaming “supposed to” is beginning to become subtler and subtler. Soon, I think, it will have vanished.

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