So, it’s been about a year since my first 10 days retreat. 13 months to be more accurate and I was really looking for my second ten days retreat. I had been meditating non stop since I learnt Vipassana and I really expected that being already familiar with the technique, the daily timetable and even the location (http://www.siri.dhamma.org the only center located in Texas) would make this retreat somehow “easier”. I had been feeling feverish a few days before attending and also coughing a lot. So I tried to rest a couple of days at home to make sure that I would not be sick and miss the retreat. I had received an email from the Center reminding all the participants of the retreat that anybody arriving with any symptoms of Flu or Cold would not be admitted and asked to leave on the spot. It totally makes sense since anybody sick would be a hazard to more than 100 people. Three days before the retreat I started to feel better and I decided that I would only drive to the retreat if i felt that i was totally recovered, at least to the extent of not representing a danger to others. I would also assess if i could keep up with the timetable.
So the day arrived and I felt fine. I drove to the Center taking it easy, about 5 hours from home.. I arrived, registered and was assigned my room. I felt really good to recognize the center. I had served during a three days course during the summer, helping in the kitchen. So my last image of the place was very green, with lots of vegetation, crickets and many other insects jumping all over the place. The winter portrays a very different view. It was very windy when i arrived and it was fun to see some baby cows from the adjacent field wearing “sweaters of different colors”. I was assigned a room in the newest section of the Center, which means that i not only had a private room, but also my own bathroom and shower (I understand this is not always the rule in other centers). I dropped my things there, put a hat and gloves and went for a walk in the “men’s walking trail). I followed the path briefly and saw the beautiful Pagoda. I looked briefly at the timetable and felt at ease by recognizing that nothing had been changed. I felt very relaxed and headed back to the Registration room that had been set in what would become the next day the Men’s Dining room. I had a bit of food and sat in a table with some guys. Spoke briefly to one of them who works running start-ups at the University of Texas. I overheard a conversation from two guys who were a psychologist and an accountant. I’ always amazed to see the diversity of people attending these retreats. All races, nationalities, professions and socioeconomic levels seem to be represented there. Some people arrive on a shuttle, after a long Greyhound ride. Others fly and get picked up a the airport. Most people drive. and the range of cars was also very interesting from ran down cars to brand new Acuras and Mercedes. The bottom line: Vipassana is universal.
I had my dinner and kept to myself until we had the introduction in which we went through the schedule and people were asked if we all felt that we could stay there for the ten days. I was feeling pretty good.
That night i was assigned my meditation spot in which i dropped two bolsters to rest my knees and a square meditation pillow (I think it’s called Zabuton) that i normally use.
I was given what i considered a very good spot in case I had to go outside to use the bathroom or anything.
I went through the first Anapana session very smoothly, i felt recovered and my mind started to relax.
Went to sleep and set the alarm at 4 for the first meditation which i prefer to do in my “residential headquarter” as SN Goenka refers to the rooms.
The next day was good and bad.
I mean, I enjoyed knowing the routine and my concentration during the meditation sessions was good. Still, I was coughing a bit and I could feel that I wasn’t getting better. By the time I sat to hear the first day Discourse I had to struggle in order to contain my own coughing.
I did not spend a very good night and by the morning I felt feverish and coughing much more. I still went through the day in the best way I could but I felt that I should not really be there. So after a lot of thinking I decided that I should accept that I wasn’t feeling well and leave the retreat. I spoke to one of the Assistant Teachers and I told him that I felt bad about needing to leave but that ultimately, if Vipassana means to see things the way they are, I had to accept the way I felt and honor it. He agreed.
So I drove back home, and went to the doctor. I was diagnosed with Bronchitis and spent the rest of the retreat time in my bed, meditating several times a day and watching lots of Netflix. To overcome the frustration and the feeling of not being able to control what was happening and how it happened took me a lot of reflection and in a strange way, I felt that there was some deepening in the way I feel when I sit.
Like Goenka says: “if it’s deep, it is deep. If it’s shallow it is shallow”. We have to accept the way the breath is and the way our life unfolds moment to moment.
I look forward to continue to develop my Equanimity and I hope in the near future to be able to attend another 10 days retreat.