What I Learned When I Spent Christmas And New Years Meditating         

I turned away from all things that mean the holidays to the average person. I was alone with myself.

Vipassana calls those who are ready. My time came during the holidays. 

I had heard about Vipassana meditation from a dear friend. So when the universe told me it was time, I knew it was time. I didn’t struggle or run away. I didn’t consult anyone. I just followed the signs. There is no arguing with divine timing or the spirit of Buddha. 
 
Once I registered for the ten-day course, it dawned on me that I would spend the holidays alone. I would leave just after the winter solstice and spent both Christmas and New Years deep in the heart of some wooded glen. I was leaving behind a partner whom I adored. I was leaving behind an apartment aglow with — a dangling red bulb in the kitchen reminding us of so much life stewing. 

I was also leaving behind parts of myself. 

The holidays would be welcomed with silence. Ten days of no talking or eye contact. With nothing else to do but get lost in self, meditation became my job, my new identity. We were, all of us there, sampling the life of Buddha while everyone I knew and loved would be out there, doing holiday things. And I would be still, as quiet as a snowflake falling. 

I couldn’t help wonder to myself if I had made the right choice.  

I won’t talk about my Vipassana experience in great detail. I prefer to remove the details. Some things are better left unsaid, left to the imagination. The mysterious aspects of Vipassana are what captivated me. I went in nearly blind. I went in like a baby, just born, eyes still glossy with amniotic fluid, a tongue untrained to speak. 

And for the ten days I existed there at the Vipassana course, I grew in ways that would have been impossible had I stayed home for the holidays. 

I turned away from all things that mean the holidays to the average person. I was alone with myself. And I had to ask, who was this self I claimed to be?

I learned to be quiet. The world is noisy. We don’t notice it because we’re connected all the time. We love noise, even white noise. A quiet like I had never known before existed in the meditative practice of the Buddha himself. I had seen it. I had felt it. It existed within me and there in the forest. 

I learned I am nothing and everything. I am all and none. I am above and below. I am with and without. How frightening to realize this yet remain ignorant. It’s an oxymoron of our humanness. And I get it — well, sort of.

I learned about illusion. Nothing is what it seems. When I went inside myself, I saw parts of me that had been hidden away, parts of me I’m certain come from another life, another body. I affirmed my belief in reincarnation. 

 

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I learned to be still. In a culture of busy, it’s so easy to get caught up in being or looking busy. The busier, the better. But that’s a lie. We don’t take the time to notice that we’re more than these flesh suits. All it takes is being still.   

I learned about temperance. The holidays center around booze and boozing. I have been a sucker for holiday belligerence for decades. Spending the holidays sober granted me an awareness I hadn’t had in years. It was the first New Years in a long time that I wasn’t drunk.

I welcomed the New Year with fresh eyes and a clear head. 

I learned everything is temporary. We change as quickly as a river flows. I am not the same girl who started writing this piece. Even in the middle of writing, I have changed. And by the time I finish, I will be a different girl. When you finish reading, you won’t be the same person either. 

I learned to let go. Holding on is wasted energy. It’s going through life with other bodies on my back; it’s breaking my back. I found a place to let all those bodies rest. I created gravesites for bodies, a holiday death ritual.  

I learned distractions are everywhere. Distractions have been created to keep us from going inside. Inside is where we dwell. This outside world is just a curtain. 

I learned I’m an addict. Sure, drinking is one thing and so are drugs, but I learned that I’m addicted to everything. I may never break my habits, but at least I can recognize these parts of myself. I can add positive habits to balance my energies and sacred spirit. 

I learned I am several. In the sense that I have been here before, but also in the sense that we all come from the same source. I am everyone as much as everyone is me. And I am also various people based on previous lives and traumas — even from experiences that have happened in this lifetime I’ve created selves. 

Vipassana is being away from everyone and everything. It is having nothing but gaining everything.

It’s disconnecting from the world — from technology, from other people’s bodies, from their gazes and stares, from cravings and addictions, from books, information, hugs, kisses, the things that make our lives comfortable. 

I turned away from all things that mean the holidays to the average person. I was alone with myself. And I had to ask, who was this self I claimed to be?

I am an energy. And for me, that’s enough. 


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