Here am I, in Tiruvannamalai, holy city located in the south of India, enrolled for 10 days and willing to reach peace and happiness !

I am not scared. I expect it to be hard and I know why I am doing it. I had to face a burn out a year ago and since then, I kept on experiencing new ways to heal myself and reach inner peace and happiness. I am actually excited about spending 10 days with myself, focusing on curing my crazy mind. I have huge expectations even if I know it is not good to do that…  I can’t help it !

It is Summer time in Tiru, 40 degrees, no trees. I have the feeling that it is going to be particularly hard, but I prefer not to thing about it. When I arrive to Dhamma Arunachala center, I am asked to let my personal belongings at the reception : no phone, no computer, no book, nothing that could be a distraction… For a second, the idea of keeping a notebook and hide it in my suitcase crosses my mind … but I decide to cooperate. I am here to live this experience fully and I will follow all the rules, even if it is not my favorite thing. I am here to learn to discipline myself and to purify my mind. Better to give it a good start !

We start with an introductory meeting. The person who holds the meeting starts to announce the rules. For 10 days, men and women will be separated. We are asked to be on time at every classes, no cigarettes allowed, no alcohol, no sex, no talking, no phone, no computer… I am already not listening anymore. Too many rules, it drives me crazy!

I am here to work on myself and I will accept everything for the next 10 days. After the introductory meeting, it is time to go to bed. It is 9pm. Walking towards the dormitory, I have a weird feeling of being in a prison.  Maybe because of the barbed wire around the dormitory or the dry landscape ? Never mind, I am not here on holidays. I enter my room : very basic. No mattress appart from a very thin futon set down a concrete base…

I really don’t feel like going to bed and the heat is unbearable. I take a good shower and I feel much better. My roommate seems to be nice, but no right to talk to each other. It is  going to be 10 silent days.

Day 1

I am waken up by the sound of a bell.  It is 4 am. I jump out of my solid bed, my body is a bit sore but I am very excited to start. I look around and follow the crowd walking to the meditation hall. It is dark. I can’t wait to start.

First meditation of the day, 2 hours till 6.30. There are 2 teachers sitting in the front of the room and about 100 people here. What an experience, I have never done that before ! I sit down, cross my leg, and try to find a confortable position for the next 2 hours but barely 10 min later, I need to change my position. I try to meditate but my mind keeps on running. I try to concentrate again. I hope they will give us some instructions later !

Finally the first meditation comes to the end, I am waken up by the bell. Time to eat breakfast ! I am very hungry. I am almost running to the dinning hall. I am wandering what is the breakfast ! I imagine iddli or dosa or bred with warm coffee. I would love to have a coffee. But Breakfast is rice with a brown and sticky sauce, tea and white sticky jelly. I feel a bit disappointed but I am not here to satisfy my stomach. I know it is part of the game. First mouthful, I don’t really like it. I hope tomorrow will be better. I remind myself that Vipassana is free from charges also not to give students the opportunity to complain about food ! We should be grateful to have food. I will be a good student and finish my plate. No waste here. Tomorrow I will take less rice and especially less sticky sauce.

8 am. Back to the meditation hall for the next meditation. The teachers start playing a recording. I am surprised. I thought they will teach us how to meditate. But instead, I hear a very strange voice singing a very weird mantra. It is not very pleasant to hear. However I am fascinated by the voice. I have never heard something like this before. I want to laugh as it is unexpected to hear something like that. I start to look around in order to see if other people are surprised too. But everybody seems to be concentrated and captivated by the mantra. After a while the weird voice stops and starts to give us instructions about how to meditate for the next 2 hours. We are asked to focus on our natural breath and especially the sensation we feel around the area of the nose, the triangle made of the upper lips and the nostrils. Whenever our mind start to wander and fly away, we have to come back to our natural breath and the sensations on the upper lips. Seems to be easy but while doing it, my mind keeps on running. I am not able to focus on my breath more than 2 minutes in a raw. I feel a bit frustrated as I am used to meditate. I thought I was good at it but here I realize I cannot focus my attention to my breath easily. I reassure myself : it is just the first meditation, every thing is new, I will adapt soon. 2 hours later, I am disappointed. I got a little bored during those 2 hours and I wasn’t able to focus on my breath. Maybe it is the heat or maybe I am tired. It is 10 am, we have 5 min break to get ready for the next meditation.

I go back to my room and lay down. I am about to fall asleep when the bell rings again. It is time to come back. I will give my best this time. 1.30 hour of meditation. Again we hear another recording. This time, it is shorter. The voice gives us some instructions followed by the weird mantra. I try to concentrated but I don’t know what is going on. My mind keeps on running again and I feel frustrated again. I remember the voice  « Whenever you mind start to wander, pull it back to the sensation of your breath ». Easier said than done ! I know I will get better soon. Time is slow and it is very warm. I am a bit bored. The meditation ends with the mantra. It feels less weird now.

Lunch time !! 2 hours break. I can’t wait to eat again, I am starving and it is an activity ! But same story than breakfast, it is rice with white sticky sauce. It is not really tasty but it is food and I am very hungry. I take a full plate. During lunch, I look around me to observe the other women. A large majority of them are Indian. I try to guess the other nationalities. I am staring at them, happy to occupy my mind with other thoughts. One of them smile at me. Oooops I am not supposed to create any eye contact. I stand up, go wash my dishes and go straight to the dormitory where I fall asleep. The ring bells again. It is 1pm. I wake up suddenly. I am sweating but not time for shower. Plus there is a water penury. No more than a shower per day, I will take one tonight.  But still, I take time drink almost a liter of water, I need to survive ! I run towards the meditation hall and I am a bit in late. Let’s go for 2 hours of meditation. The voice sings again the mantra, I am used to it now. Then it gives some instruction. I will do my best to keep my attention on the sensation of my breath on my upper lips. But after a while, my mind gets crazy. I am not able to feel any sensation on my upper lips, mainly because I am not use to breathe with my nose. Damage of many years of smoking.  The only thing that I can really feel is my sweat that drips on my face. I feel dirty.  I have troubles to focus. Never mind, it will come. I decide to take this meditation time to force myself to breathe through my nose more naturally. It is an effort and the heat doesn’t help. I know that I am not supposed to force my breath but let it come and go naturally. As I am not able to breathe naturally through my nose, I prefer to force it at the beginning and I am convinced it will get better later. I also know that stopping smoking will help me recover  my nose breathing soon. The bell rings. Time passed quickly this time. I promisse myself to meditate more seriously for the next meditation. 5 min break. I go out and look around. It feels good to be outside.

Back to the meditation hall, it feels heavy. The heat, the tiredness of the students. I can feel it in the air. The voice starts again. I make a huge effort to focus on the instructions. I am curious about the person who owns this voice. He sounds like an stoned ovni, the way he talks is very slow. He keeps on repeating the same words 3 times “Work diligently, diligently, diligently, very patiently, patiently, patiently”. Is he trying to hypnotize me ? He is very different from all the teachers I had before. Ooooops, I am thinking again, stop thinking, come back to your breath. Why can’t I just breathe and feel the sensations of my breath ! Is everybody the same ? I start to look around. People seem to be so concentrated. I am the only one looking around. Again I am thinking ! Focus on your breath. This position is painful, I should find a good position. Why can’t I stop moving ? Am I talking to myself? Never mind, focus ! Stop thinking, feel the sensations. I am about to fall asleep. Wake up ! Focus on your breath. When will the bell ring? It is very long. Ah finally, it rings. It is 5pm. 1 hour break. I run directly to my room and fall asleep straight away.

The bell rings. It is 6pm. It is time to meditate again. I go to the meditation hall. I feel a bit hungry. I can’t wait for dinner. This meditation is going to be hard, I know it. I feel bored straight from the beginning and I let my mind wander, I am too tired to make any effort. It is a lot of meditation. And it is painful to sit too. I change my position again and again. Poor woman behind me, I am sure I am disturbing her with my moves. I still cannot find a confortable position. Time passes very slowly. 7.30 pm finally. Is it time for dinner ?

I look for the scheduled to find out when is dinner time… but I realize there is no dinner time. There was a tea time at 5pm but I missed it as I slept instead. I should have listen to the introductory meeting, I knew I will miss important some info. Arf, I deserve no dinner for this ! I will drink more water. Let’s go to class.

7.30pm. I am happy, this time it is not a meditation. We sit down to watch a teaching on a big screen. I am relieved to have an entertainment. A nice indian guy called Goenka appears on the screen and start talking. I recognize his voice, this is the voice I have been hearing the whole day. Finally I can put a face on this strange voice. The teaching is fascinating, I drink Goenka speech. I am very touched by what he says and he reassures me a lot. It is normal to face difficulties the first day. I don’t want to miss a word but still I can’t stop falling asleep and waking up suddenly. My neck is hurting. Goenka closes the teaching with his mantra. What a men ! I like him, I can feel his good heart. I didn’t get everything he said but he gave me enough motivation for tomorrow !

5 min break. It is dark outside. I feel exhausted. 30 more minutes of meditation and first day will be over.

I barely meditate because I am really tired. When the bells ring, I feel a huge relief. First day is over ! It is 9.30 pm. I am proud of myself, but I fell a bit anxious. Am I going to be able to resist 9 more days? One day felt like a year. It is going to be very very long. I go to my room and appreciate the shower, even if it is hot water. I don’t care, I feel fresh and I smell good. This time, I am happy to lie down in my bed even if it feels like sleeping on the floor but I am so exhausted that fall asleep very quickly.

Day 2

4am. The bell rings. I wake up sweating. My back is hurting a bit. I will take my shower now, and try to use as little water as I can. I get ready and go to the meditation hall. I will give my best to meditate. But again my mind is very wild. I am curious about the breakfast, will it be better than yesterday ?

6.30 am. No it is not. But this time I am as always very hungry. Full plate. I particularly enjoy the tea. It is sweet and warm. I take 3 teas and go straight to bed.

8 am. Meditation time. Goenka’s voice resounds in the meditation hall and gives us some instructions. Same like yesterday “Focus your attention on the triangle around your nose, observe your breath coming in and going out. Feel the touch of your breath on your upper lips. Let your breath come and go naturally. Work diligently, diligently, diligently ” Fine ! I’ll do it ! After a while, I start to feel a huge pain on by back. It is very painful. The more I focus my attention on it, the more painful it is. Seriously ? Is it because of the bed ? I start massaging my back. I feel very sorry for my neighbors as I keep on moving, trying to get rid of the pain. But it is still here. I cannot concentrate. I am tempted to go out of the hall to lie down on my bed but I decide to stay here to finish the meditation. It is really annoying, I keep on complaining in my head how unlucky I am to feel pain and not to be able to concentrate on anything else. Why am I so weak? I am waiting for the mantra to close this meditation. I am looking forward to hear it. 5 min break.

10.05 am. Back to meditation. My pain hasn’t disappear. I notice that some people got a chair, I am tempted to ask one for me but it is too late. Goenka’s voice starts again. “Be brave and work seriously, seriously, seriously”. But why this pain ?  I feel anger. I try to focus on my breath but soon my anger starts to take all my mind.  Little by little, I feel angry about everything and everybody. Memories and thoughts come into my mind, my old job, people who treated me badly, my family. Arrf focus on your breath Lili. It is really painful for me to sit and I am more and more angry. I want to cry. I don’t understand why I feel so angry actually. I remember Goenka’s teaching of last evening. He said that negative feelings will arise, it is part of the process. Purifying the mind is like cutting a wound to make the pus comes out. It is painful but it is required. The good attitude is to remain still and equanimous. I can’t stop my anger inside me ! It is really time to close this meditation, please Goenka, sing your mantra.

11.30 am. Lunch break. I have no expectation and I am in a bad mood. Rice and brown sticky sauce, no surprise. No problem, I was expecting it. I eat quickly trying not to feel down. I stand up and go wash my dishes and surprise ! There is a small little cute cat waiting outside. I feel my heart melt. I pet him and play with him for a while. It is so nice to cuttle him, I feel joy suddenly. I know I am not supposed to have any interaction with other students, but am I allowed to have interaction with a cat ? I don’t care. It feels good to feel animal love. Another student comes next to me to pet the cat too. Haha I am not the only one who needs some comfort ! I let the little cat enjoy with the other women, it is fair. I move away unwillingly to my room and fall asleep.

1pm. The beel rings. I hate this bell. I still fell pain in my back and it seems to be even worse than this morning. Fortunately I have some tiger balm with me. I take a good amount of it and spread it on my back. I massage quickly the painful area. Back to the meditation hall, I feel my pain more than ever. Behind me, a women starts to cough. I am not able to concentrate because of the pain, but now because of this women who is making noise. She keeps on coughing and now it is the woman sitting next to me. Too much noise around, and this pain is seriously annoying. I am sure my pain is due to this horrible bed. I start to feel very uncomfortable and to feel angry again. Why can’t I just live this experience like everybody else and focus on my breath ? Why people keeps on making so much noise? If you want to cough just go outside and give me some peace!  I turn around to look to the woman who keeps on coughing. I realize she is covering her nose. Suddenly I understand. My sense of smell is so bad that I didn’t realize that the smell of the tiger balm is too strong for others. It is my fault if people are coughing. I feel terribly guilty suddenly. I want to hide. Impossible to meditate again. I feel angry at myself and down. Why do I have to face all of this ?

3pm. 5 min Break. I go directly to my room to wash my back and come back to the next meditation. This time I will meditate and forget about my anger, it is useless. But again only anger comes into my mind for the next 2 hours. I didn’t realize I was such an angry person. I do my best to meditate but time is very slow and my anger is very strong. I can’t help it. Please little cat, I need a hug. I am so bored here, I give up meditating and wait patiently for Goenka to end this nightmare.

5 pm, tea time. This time I won’t miss it ! On my way to the dinning hall, the little cat is here. I feel grateful. I don’t care if I look like a crazy person petting the cat with a depressed face. The tea is particularly good and there is some delicious beans. I am very relieved and I eat 3 cup of beans. I never thought I would love beans so much. I am tempted to put some tiger balm before the next meditation but I change my mind, I don’t want to make other people suffocate again. I will hold on and do it before going to bed tonight.

6 pm, my back is still really painful and I don’t feel very good with all this anger. I prefer to let my mind express itself freely and during the whole meditation I feel bored and sleepy. Time is passing very slowly. How will I be able to finish Vipassana ? It is harder than I thought.

7.30 pm. Time to listen to the teaching. At least my mind is going to be occupied again. While listening to Goenka, I feel better and better. Curiously he starts talking about pain we may feel in our body. Apparently it is normal to feel physical pain during meditation. This is the pus coming out. This is part of the process. It is as if he knows exactly what I am going through. He has the perfect words to give me comfort. Thank you Goenka I really needed it tonight.

No meditation after teaching tonight. Why ? I really don’t care. I just feel grateful. I run to my room and take my shower. I feel exhausted by this painful day. I fall asleep straight away.

Day 3

4pm. The bell rings. I hate this bell. I did a lot of nightmares. I feel tired when I wake up. It is going to be a very long day I feel it. Remind me why did I choose to do that ? Oh yes, it is to feel peace and harmony ! Keep that in mind Lili. I realize I forgot to put Tiger balm yesterday before sleep. What shall I do ? Put some tiger balm now ? I check my back and it seems to be ok.

Inside the meditation hall, I notice empty seats. Some people left. I can understand. I try to find a confortable position and curiously my back is not painful. Maybe it is over ? My mind start to wake up again. I try again to breathe through my nose and to feel the touch of my breath on my lips. I am breathing very loudly but at least, I am able to breathe a bit better now. I will start from where I am and try not to judge me. I will try patiently, patiently, patiently. Goenka sings the end of the morning meditation. I feel very touched by his voice. I can feel how deep his soul is. I am travelling with him through the mantra to another word, not from earth. Am I crazy ? I don’t care. No one knows what is inside my mind, silence is great !

6.30 am. Breakfast is rice. I eat automatically and go directly to bed to sleep. This time I put a lot of tiger balm and let my body relax while I am taken by the tiredness into a very deep sleep.

8am. The bell rings. I need more sleep. I definitely hate this bell. I don’t want to go back. I want to stay in my bed but I stand up quickly. I walks towards the meditation hall like a zombie. The next 2 hours pass really slowly. I listen to Goenka’s instruction but I am not here. This time I feel sadness. Huge sadness coming. I hold my tears. I don’t understand what is going on. I know it is the pus, but is everybody going through hard time like me ? I would love to talk and ask people if they feel the same. I feel like a crazy person. I am still not able to meditate and it is the 3rd day now. I feel like I am waisting my time. When Goenka sings the end mantra, I feel revolted.

10 am. Pain in my back start waking up. Seriously ? My pain is very strong this time. Even stronger than yesterday. I feel really sad for myself. I try to breathe deeply and calm down. This is the only thing I am able to do right now. Time is really slow, I feel really bored and very sad. I feel tears about to drip but I hold them strongly.

11.30 am. Lunch break. I go to eat like a zombie. My little friend is not here. I feel even more down not having his company.  I don’t eat a lot, I prefer to keep my appetite for the beans. After lunch I go to my room, massage my back a lot and try to sleep. This time I am not able to fall asleep even if I am exhausted. I feel very warm. I turn in my bed again and again, fighting again the pain in my back. The bell rings. I go towards the meditation hall like a zombie again. I know I won’t be able to meditate. My heart is very heavy.

1pm. My back is burning. My head is burning. My eyes are wet with tears. This time I don’t care. I let my tears drip on my face. Who cares ? Time is very slow, pain is very intense, tears are unstoppable.

3 pm. Next meditation. I listen to Goenka as a little child. “Remain equanimous, emotions are temporary, nothing last. You are not your emotions. Don’t react to your thoughts or your emotions. Let them come and go as your breath”. Thank you Goenka but it has been 3 days now that my pain is not disappearing. Are you sure it is working? I really try to remain still and calm towards pain and feelings but it is overwhelming. I can’t help it. I need to cry so I let myself cry like a little baby.

5 pm. Tea time. I will have some comfort with beans, I am really hungry. My little friend is still not here. I am dissappointed. I enter the dining hall, take my tea and surprise, what do I see? Next to the beans, there is an instruction. “Only one per person”. Am I punished? I feel revolted. I am tempted to take 2 and break the rule, I really need those beans seriously. I take my cup of bean and eat it very slowly.  I look like a crazy person watching out people taking their cup of beans with jalousy. I am the last one to leave the dinning hall wishing there will be one cup left.  But no more beans. I feel more depressed than ever. It feels like someone is making fun of me. I go towards my room like a zombie holding my heavy heart painfully and repeating myself the reasons why I came here. I am here to reach peace and harmony and I will do my best for it.

6pm. I feel exhausted. I have a headache. I drink a lot of water and go to the meditation hall mechanically. Some women smile at me. Do they fell what I am going through or is my face funny ? The though of quitting Vipassana cross my mind. Why am I still here if I am not able to meditate AND I still have a huge back pain. Is it worth it to stay?

7.30 pm. I sit down to listen to Goenka’s teaching. Again I am stunned by what he says. It is almost as if he heard my thoughts and my despair. He exactly uses the words I needed. He calms me down so well that it feels unreal. How does he know ? He gives me so much comfort that I forget about quitting Vipassana. If I am not able to meditate, at least I will stay just for the teachings. They are the best teachings I ever had. I will stay.

9.30 pm, I am in my bed, full of tiger balm, refreshed by the shower and I fall asleep directly quickly.

2 am. I am waken up by a strange nightmare and a huge pain in my back. It is horrible. I keep on turning in my bed. I feel again anger coming. I know I feel tired by the pain prevents me from going back to sleep. I put some tiger balm and massage my back.  Eventually I fall asleep around 3.30am.

Day 4

4 am. The bell rings. I wake up with anger. I had a horrible night. I am scared to face this days. I already want to cry. I remember the teaching of last night while I take a good shower. I feel a bit better and go towards the meditation hall.

4.30 am. Inside the mediation hall, I notice more empty seats. Will I be the next one to leave? The meditation starts and I feel heavy. I feel my back pain straight away.  I give my best to breathe through my nose and feel the sensations around it. I am able to feel some sensations on my upper lips clearly but my mind is disturbed by my back pain all the time. I feel a huge sad when Goenka sings his mantra.

6.30 am. Breakfast time. My little friend is still not here. I am expecting to have rice for breakfast. But the breakfast seems to be different today. OMG ! Fruits !!  I really needed something like this. No inscription for restriction ! Youhou. I take 2 full plates of fruits and there is still more when I leave the room. This is Christmas ! Funny to be so happy with fruits. I start to understand what is enjoying little things. I wish I could do it in my daily life as a good habit, why do we need to suffer to enjoy little things ? I want to remember this moment when I will leave this place. It feels good to feel joy seriously.

8 am. Meditation time. Pain is still here but this time I am decided to ignore it. I am full of good will. Pain is still here but at least I am able to breathe more naturally through my nose. I do my best to ignore my pain even if it is burning and manage to meditate a bit.

10 am. Next meditation. My pain is even worse. I am still obsessed with my pain but I feel also very tired of it. Now the fight is not to fall asleep. It is too much for me. I am exhausted.

11.30 am. Rice time. I eat as quick as possible to go back to my room and sleep.

1pm. Time to wake up. I had crazy dreams. Seems like I had a complete night even if it was just an hour. In the meditation hall, I try to find a confortable position but my back pain is driving me crazy.  Why do I have to support this pain? I feel really unlucky. It will never disappear. Maybe emotions are temporary Goenka but my pain is real and it is worse days after days. This time I feel a HUGE anger taking me. I want to scream, I want to stand up and make noise,  I want to scream my despair. Heavy tears come out of my eyes. I think about the water penury. I wish to have a tear penury. I am not able to do anything else than crying. I feel very tired and depressed.

3pm. This days is very long, and I don’t want to meditate. I just want to cry. It is a nightmare. I listen to Goenka’s instructions. “Remain equanimous. Work diligently, diligently, diligently”. Yes man, that is what I am trying to do ! But it seems not working for me. I feel exhausted by my feelings. Time passes very slowly. I cannot keep on waisting my time not being able to focus my attention on my breath. I am waisting my time. I am waisting my time here. I will come back when I will fix this back pain. Doubt enters my mind. I don’t want it to enter but I can’t help it. I am not really able to meditate and my pain is horrible. Shall I really continue ?

5 pm. Tea time. My little friend is still not here. I start to be anxious. Is he ok ? Maybe he is dead? Maybe he is starving somewhere. I hope he is ok, it has been 2 days now. This time no inscription for the beans. I am the last one to leave the dinning hall to finish all the beans left. I fill myself with beans and tea and I feel a little bit better.

6pm. Meditation time. I am still depressed. I accept it and I won’t judge me. I will just be patient and wait for the evening teaching. I manage to alternate between anger, sadness, deep breathing and tiredness and fortunately, time passes quickly.

7.30 pm. I feel very tired but I am happy to listen to the teaching, the only thing that I truly appreciate here. It fills me for real. This evening teaching is different. Goenka congratulates us for being still here. “The 4th day is over. These first four days were an introduction. Now we are going to start the real work. Now you are used to work with breath, now you are used to this tool, I am going to teach you Vipassana technic tomorrow.” I feel very confused. How will I catch my backwardness ?

9.30 pm. I am in my bed, not able to fall asleep. I am full of tiger balm and full of doubts too.

Day 5

4 am. I wake up and start to think straight away. Almost half of this experience. It seems to be a whole life. I had again many intense dreams and I am able to remember them. Lots of anger and anxiety are still inside me.

4.30 am. I am in the meditation hall. Pain is still here. I got used to it and as always, I will do my best to ignore it. I feel tired to fight it. I am not here to fight, I am here to feel peace and harmony, what a joke ! I try to meditate but one hour later, I am still thinking. I have a thoughts factory in my head. For the first time I decide not to finish the meditation. I stand up and leave the meditation hall. It is 5 am. I find a bank under a tree and decide to continue the meditation here, next to the dining hall, waiting for breakfast. It is dark and fresh, maybe 35 degrees. But I still enjoy this cooler atmosphere. Sun arises slowly. What a beauty. I am not meditating anymore. I am touched by the beauty of the moment. I see the sun coming out of the mountains and the light of the sun taking over the darkness. It is beautiful. I hear from far Goenka sings his mantra. I am the first one to enter the dining hall. Very quietly, I drink my tea and eat my rice. I don’t want to think anymore, I just want to be brave and be patient.

8 am. Goenka stars to explain Vipassana technics. “Focus your attention to sensation on the top of your head and slowly scan your entire body. Bring your attention to your neck, then to your right shoulder, go along your arm until your hand. Come back to your left shoulder and do the same. Then feel the sensation of your back…” I am not listening. I am still at level one : not reacting to pain and feeling my breath on my upper lips. I listen half of the instructions. I don’t feel concerned. I start to breathe through my nose. Now the nose breathing seems to be natural. My back pain is still here. Like yesterday, I feel my anger arises, my doubts and my sadness but I decide to let them be. I feel curiously stronger. Little by little I feel my backpain getting bigger and bigger, as my anger. But this time something is different. I accept it and observe it. I feel the tightness of my back, the pulse of the pain, how it spread into my whole back, how it reaches my brain. I am observing it. I let anger and my pain express themselves freely and I don’t judge myself anymore. When it reaches the highest point of pain, I am about to explode but I keep control and manage to keep observing, not reacting.  I am switching between willingness to scream and to cry and calm observation when the pain suddenly stops. All of the sudden I don’t feel anything anymore in my back. I am surprised but I remain calm. I am expecting it to come back. I keep on observing my back. Where did the pain go? Is it possible ?

10 am. Next meditation. I still don’t feel pain in my back. How is it possible seriously ? I have space now to focus on my breath and I am able to feel the touch of my breath on my upper lips very clearly.  But other thoughts disturb my work all the time. What will be my future? Where will I go after Vipassana ? Is it possible that a pain disappears like that ? Time is again very slow. I feel bored, but at least I feel quieter than yesterday. Maybe the pain disappeared but the amount of thought has increased. How lucky I am ! I react straight away : I won’t complain. I am still puzzled by the disappearance of my back pain.

11.30 am. Lunch time. Look who is here, my dear friend ! I feel relieved to see that the little cat is alive. Where were you ? I needed you ! I am really glad to see you again cute little thing. I pet him a while and go to eat my rice.

1 pm. Walking towards the meditation hall, I notice a girl hugging a tree, eyes closed with a smile. I am not the only one to be crazy here apparently ! Back into the meditation hall, I am ready to meditate. But again, many thoughts come into my mind. This time I am dreaming about chocolate cake. I can feel it in my mouth, its sensation, its effects inside my throat, I can’t stop seing images of chocolate everywhere in my head. It is very hard for me to concentrate on my breath. Many emotions now. Hope, sadness, anxiety, what a mess ! I am full of thoughts, past and futur mix together. I cannot stop thinking. Pain was hiding all of this and now I have to face all these thoughts and be honest to myself. I am bored with my own thoughts. All the same. Complaints, fear, hope, projections and despair. I am glad nobody can  hear what is going on in my head. I feel a bit ashamed when the bell rings.

3 pm. Goenka starts again the Vipassana instructions. I am not here yet man ! Give me some more time. I feel already happy to breathe normally and longer now but I feel really bored. Thoughts factory prospers inside me but I give my best to come back to my breath again and again. I also try not to fall asleep, it is particularly warm today. 43 degrees at least. I am tempted to go out but I prefer to change my seated position and finish this session. Finally Goenka starts singing his mantra. Ouf, I was really waiting for it more than chocolate cake. I like this mantra. I feel like singing it too !

5pm. Usual tea and beans time. Always a pleasure. Little friend is not here, I go straight to bed to have a rest.

6pm. Evening meditation. I am wondering if I can make it till the end. It seems to be a year I am here. The heat, the faces, the habits, the meditation hall. No more surprise. And I am still not able to meditate properly nor start Vipassana technic like everybody. Already before entering the meditation hall, I realize I am lost in my thoughts. This mediation is going to be hard. 1 hour and a half later, I was right. A feeling of shame and sadness enters my heart, I feel down. But I know tonight ’s teaching will be my best help to hold on.

9.30 pm. I go to bed with hope. I will manage to finish this Vipassana. I did half of it. I will finish it. I collapse in my bed. I don’t bother to close the mosquito net nor to take a shower. I am way to exhausted for that. Tomorrow will be another day.

Day 6

4 am, Wake up bell. I feel a bit lighter. I know I am entering the second phase of Vipassana. My roomates stays in her bed. I am tempted to wake her up.  After a shower and a liter of water,  she is still in her bed. I am wandering if she is ok, but she remains immobile. I go towards the meditation hall in advance. As if I will finish quicker by starting sooner. It is 4.20 am. I am waiting for the others to join me in the hall.

4.30 am. Meditation starts. I am full of good will. This time I can breathe properly and feel my breath on my upper lips. The more I breathe, the more I am able to feel the air entering my throat, I am very curious about this new feeling. it feels really good. As a smoker, the only sensations I used to feel in my throat the last few years are burning sensations, disgust, suffocation and tightness. I realize not only I don’t really miss smoking but it feels really good to fill my throat with air, clean air. If I am not able to work on my mind, at least I have the feeling to heal my body here.  I am now able to feel the sensation of the air inside my lunge. The more I breathe, the more I can discover the  capacity of my lunge. The more air enter my body, the better I feel. It is like a game. I play with my lunge and try to feel how deep the air is entering my lunge. I feel curious and excited about it. It is the first time in a while that I can actually feel air inside my lunge. Maybe because I am paying attention to it. I know I am not meditating, but I don’t care. These new sensation are way to precious not to focus on them. I want to remember them for the rest of my life and never smoke again. But  as soon as this thought emerge, my mind starts to wake up quickly. I have a heavy feeling inside my heart, I cannot identify what is going on. I start wandering if I will remain non smoker after Vipassana, if I will be strong enough. Many memories of my past failures come into my mind. I feel anxious. I do my best to focus again on this wonderful feeling of breathing for the rest of the meditation.

6.30 am. Breakfast time. I am hopping to have fruits but it is rice again. It has been 5 days that I haven’t been to the bathroom. I take just a little amount of rice, and drink many teas. I have a weird feeling into my stomach. Better to go to bed and sleep until the next meditation. When I enter my room, my roommate is still in her bed. She hasn’t moved. I hope she is fine. I would like to talk to her and give her warm words but I resign.

8am. I wake up suddenly. I again did a lot of heavy dreams. This nap feels like a whole night, what a weird feeling. I go out of the bed to go to the meditation hall. My roommate doesn’t seem to be ok, she is lying on her back and watching the ceiling. I am troubled. Is she having a worser time than me here ? Apparently yes, I am afraid she gives up. I let her facing the ceiling and go to the meditation hall. Inside, Goenka starts giving his instructions. I listen to them carefully even if I know I am not able to do be here yet. But still I would like to try this time. Goenka insists on the fact to remain immobile. “If a pain arises, don’t react to it. Remain equanimous and observe the pain until it disappear”.  I remember my back pain and I know he is right now. But staying in the same position for 2 hours seems to be impossible for me. I have to move every 10 to 15 min, and I have to fight against the feeling of falling asleep / being bored. It has been 6 days now and I am not able to meditate correctly for 2 hours in a raw, nor use Vipassana technic. I feel sad and disappointed when Goenka’s word resound in my head “Don’t multiply your misery by reacting to your thoughts. No cravings, no aversion, remain equanimous while observing your sensations.”. I won’t multiply my misery Goenka, I will try again and again, until I get it. I am here for that. I want to be brave, I am fed up complaining and being a victim of my mind. It has to stop. When the bell rings, I am again lost in my thoughts. Never mind, I am happy this meditation comes to the end. I come back quickly to my room to check my roommate, she is still in her bed and doesn’t seem to come to the next meditation…

10 am. Going towards the meditation hall, I enjoy the feeling of being able to walk and to see. I notice few flowers who survived in this arid climate. I have respect for them. They are survivors. In front of the meditation hall, other girls are hugging trees. A judgmental thought comes into my mind. I feel ashamed, I am not here to judge anyone appart from myself. But I can’t hep it. It is weird for me, even if I know trees have a huge energy. When I sit down in the meditation hall, I have a firm intention to remain in the same sitting position for the whole meditation. But after 30 min, it feels like a torture. I am bored and it is way too painful. I wish I could meditate properly. Looking around me, I notice many people left the hall. It seems to be hard for all of us. I feel a bit better. And again, I feel ashamed that I have to compare myself to others. I should stop doing this. Here in Vipassana and more generally too. This is not a competition, I know it. I do this for myself, so why this urge of comparing myself to others ? Bad habits. I remember I have not always been like this. When I was 20, I didn’t care about what other people think about me, and I was feeling free. People used to admire me for this quality. I remember being proud of myself and detached of many things. I was really strong but I changed a lot through the years. I became very sensitive to how people perceive me. What happened to me ? I can’t remember… When the bell rings, I realize not only I moved my position many times, but also I spent the whole meditation thinking. I feel disappointed.

11.30 am. Lunch time, rice time, no cat. I want a hug. After lunch I don’t want to come back to my room and I don’t want to sleep. I know I should sleep as afternoon mediation is demanding but I need to be outside. I lie down on a bank and let the sun spread on my entire body. I feel the burning touch of the sun all over my body. When it is time to go to the meditation hall, my head is heavy. I feel like a zombie again. My roommate is out of her bed. She seems to be willing to continue. I am relieved for her. Walking towards the meditation hall, I am fascinated by white butterflies flying and dancing right in front of me. I am amazed by their beauty. I wish I could kiss them and fly with them happily, freely and beautifully.

1 pm. Goenka sings the usual mantra. It goes straight into my heart. I am very sensitive and I can feel every syllable of the mantra penetrating my soul. What a mantra! “Focus your attention to the top of you head, scan your entire body from top to bottom, bottom to top. ” I wish I can do it too. But no cravings, the threat of multiplying my misery rings out loudly in my head. I will just do my best. My head is heavy, I don’t really feel like meditating. I regret the hour under the sun, I already feel thirsty. I prefer to focus my attention on the touch of my breath on my upper lips. I accept to be where I am. A beginner. I cannot do better, and it makes no sense to keep on judging myself.  2 hours later, I realize I had a good meditation this time. I know I spent more time focused on my breath that on my thought, and I enjoyed the breathing sensations. I feel proud of myself. What a relief ! I had to wait for 6 days to be able to have a correct meditation. I am still not able to practice Vipassana technic but I don’t care. I did a progress and this is what counts.

3 pm. I would like to try Vipassana technic. I know it is too early but I am impatient to catch my delay. But after 20 min, I am not able to feel anything on the top of my head and my attention is taken by too many thoughts. I am again dreaming about chocolate. It is too early to start Vipassana technic and I knew it. Now I have troubles to find again the sensation of my breath on my upper lips and inside my lunge. My mind is agitated. It is a nightmare. Only 40 minutes has passed, and I change my sitting position many times. I am very tired and the heat makes it really hard. After an hour, I decide to leave for the second time the meditation hall. I want to drink water and have some “fresh” air. I feel very lonely, bored and sad. What a shame. I am waisting this precious opportunity to exercice my mind and get purer. What a shame ! I feel very alone and lost. Outside the hall, I realize I am staring at a tree. I am tempted to hug it. I look around. No one is here. Let’s try it. I come closer to the tree. Many ants are running on the trunk. Maybe I shouldn’t. I come back inside the meditation hall and try to come back to meditation while waiting for Goenka to end this painful time.

5 pm. Youhou Beans time. This time, cups are already filled with beans, and I know there will be one per person again. Why do they do that seriously ? Women come little by little to take their beans. There are 2 left. I notice that one women took 2 cup and I feel angry against her. How can she dare ? Suddenly I want to laugh on myself. Am I jealous because of beans ? I am tempted to take one of the 2 remaining cup of beans but instead I  take just 3 spoons in my empty cup. I want to act the good way, I am serious about it. This is a temptation and I will resist. I need to learn to control myself, and I truly want to become a better person. It starts with small little thinks like sharing the rest of the beans with others right ? I eat the 3 spoons very slowly and appreciate them as if it was my last meal. It feels good to take my time and it is more tasteful than ever. It is very powerful. When I leave the dinning hall, I feel really proud of me even if I know it was just beans.  I missed this feeling of being proud of me. Walking towards my room, I feel joy again, I enjoy the touch of the sun on my face, I am smiling. I lie down and fall asleep very profoundly. When the bell rings, it feels like a whole night again and I don’t feel tir. I am surprised to realize how powerful can be a 20 min rest.

6pm. I know there is only one hour and a half left before the evening teaching. It gives me strength to be patient. This time I decide to give myself only one goal. Remain in the same position for a whole meditation. I sit down and embrase my knees with my arm. I know it is not a standard sitting position but I feel I can hold the position only like that. I start focusing on my breath and breathe naturally. After a while I feel the pain starting to tickle me. I am tempted to move but I won’t. Pain is more and more horrible but I don’t move. Suddenly, before I realize it, I change my position very quickly. It happened before I could realize what I was doing. I decide not to blame myself. I am very glad I could stay quite long. I will do better next time.

7.30 pm. I am almost dancing walking to the meditation hall to hear the teaching. My favorite part of the day. Even more than beans time ! Listening to Goenka’s teachings, I am fascinated. I know why I am here, and I know Vipassana is changing me very deeply, I already can feel it. I feel very grateful to be here. Time passes very quickly, and I fill myself with knowledge and truth. I am not the type of person who is impressed by Gurus or Movie stars, or whoever. But Goenka is different to my eyes. What he says is simple, authentic, logical, true, powerful, full of love and beautiful. I am very touched. I remember my childhood convictions. It is very close to what he says. How did I forget all of this when I grew up ? Goenka’s words resonates deeply inside me. I can feel he is waking me up. No one did that before. It is so strong that I am about to cry.  But from joy this time. Thank you so much Goenka. At the end of the teaching, I feel very grateful and very lucky for being here.

9 pm. Last meditation of the day, I feel peaceful. I remain immobile for 30 min. I can’t wait to be tomorrow and practice again. I feel a new kind of strength inside me. It has been ages I haven’t feel this.

9.30 pm. Inside my room, my roommates is cleaning the room. Suddenly, she starts screaming very loud. I am panicked. What is going on. She starts throwing out the clothes form her hand and run to the door. Now she start to hit her head on the door. I feel completely panicked. Did she go crazy? What is going on ! She starts talking to me “I know I am not supposed to talk but I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.” In 5 sec, I am wondering if I should talk too, and break my silence to help her. Of course I will, I can’t let her in such a distress.

•Me “What is going on?”

•Her “There is a huge spider in my backpack. It is HUGE. It is too much for me, It is too much, I can’t, I can’t. I am not scared of spider usually but today it is too much, I can’t”

I start looking for the spider. I don’t feel confortable as I have also an arachnophobia. I hate spiders but one of us has to be brave to face the spider and it seems I am in a better condition for that. I start to move the clothes very carefully, my roommate is hiding behind me. I would like to tell her I am freaking out too but … I keep on looking for it with a lot of concentration. It is there. A huge black spider. I feel a strong shiver all over my body. I can understand why she was screaming like hell, I want to scream too. I am not able to help her. Suddenly the spider starts running. We both start to scream. What a situation !  A women for the dormitory enters our room, she is panicked too. Her eyes ask us what is going on ? I recognize her. This is the women who took 2 cup of beans. Life is really funny ! We point the spider out but it is not here anymore. Together we start looking for it. It is under my roommate’s bed. The women start holding a shoe to kill it. I scream “Please don’t kill it” but she seems not listening to me. I feel guilty I should have be brave and get rid of it. I should have use a glass or a tissue before, but the women hold the shoe firmly and in one move kill the spider. I feel really sad and ashamed.. I am also quite impressed by this woman who didn’t break her silence and helped us in less than 5 min. Her eyes are really warm and I feel she is a very kind person, even if she just killed a spider. Tension is going down. Both my roommate and me start to breath again. My roommate tells me “I won’t be able to sleep I can’t”. I answer “Try not to think about it and just go to sleep”. Why did I say something like that ? It is really useless. She looks at me strangely, I know that my words were useless and ridiculous. I should have remained silent ! This time, I meticulously arrange the mosquito net and realize I haven’t used it the last days !! Just because I haven’t seen any insects I thought there was no danger. Deny is dangerous !!  For 1 hour, I can hear my roommate turning around in her bed. She has troubles to sleep. My words were really useless, I should have say something more useful but what ?  Silence is better than words.