Meditation Mindset Shift

Let’s say the Vipassana Meditation Course was an experience. It wasn’t quite what I expected. I imagined spotless living quarters. I dreamt of a botanical garden type setting similar to Kirstenbosch Gardens in Capetown, South Africa. Of course, on a smaller scale. I envisioned participants dressed in yoga attire. Students and teachers walking around in a euphoric state. My imagination couldn’t be farther from reality. From the onset, I was miserable because the experience did not live up to my expectations. Hours upon hours of meditation gradually changed how I viewed the facility. I experienced a meditation mindset shift.

Female grounds (top left), Female living quarters (top right), students on the day before departure (bottom left), Meditation hall (bottom right)

In The Beginning

Irshad, the driver I attached myself to once landing at the Rajkot Airport, said Rajkot better.

I couldn’t agree with him more.  I simply replied, yes as I observed quietly and tried to take everything in.

As we drove approximately 20 km outside the city center passing what appeared to be two slums, an area that resembled a village, countless livestock roaming in the streets and approached the driveway that led to the gate of the Vipassana Meditation Center. As the gate was opened to the compound by a middle-aged man dressed in all white…..

Gateman (top left), driveway to the center (top right), sign to the center (bottom left), the sign at the entrance (bottom right)

I thought “what have I gotten myself into.”

Sensing I was contemplating how to get the h-e double hockey sticks out of dodge. Irshad went to make inquiries about my stay or should I say my immediate departure. 

Though the email correspondences from the center were in English. Surprisingly, the teacher and Dhamma servers (who were sweet as pie) did not speak English. A game of charades was in full effect.

Teacher (left) and servers

Ishrad came back and said the gentleman in the office stated it was compulsory that I stay. He didn’t speak English either.

Ishrad reassured me on October 20 he will be there at 10 AM to pick me up. The reassurance was similar to a parent dropping their child off at summer camp for the very first time.

It goes without saying it was a tough pill to swallow but for some odd reason, I complied. 

Your Perspective Determines Your Reality

From Day 0 to Day 11, I had a progression of emotions. Vipassana has opened my mind up to an entirely new way of thinking.

Initially, I viewed this place as a building code inspector’s nightmare. Sleeping on a concrete slab wide as my index finger, topped with a thin mattress pad and a dingy mosquito net. A dirt-stained bathroom containing a sink, mirror, toilet, and two buckets underneath three faucets. The hot water faucet only worked twice. I had to use buckets for bathing and the toilet. It had a rickety ceiling fan, I was sometimes afraid to use it.

entrance to living quarters (top left), bedroom (top right), bathroom (bottom left and right)

I wanted so badly to return to the hotel suite I slept in the night before. Unfortunately, it was too late. Ishrad was gone and I had voluntarily submitted my passport, cellphone, and wallet to the powers that be. I decided to stick it out. I laced up my imaginary bootstraps and tightened my imaginary belt. There was no time to act like a damsel in distress. For goodness sake, I lived in Ghana for 89 days. India for 10 days should be a breeze. I got inside my head, saw myself on the other side of this course, reunited with the love of my life. 

Afterward, a letter that was written by Paul, an Apostle from the first century, while jailed, came to mind:

“I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything…”

I set my intentions before leaving the U.A.E. I didn’t come this far to wimp out of personal growth. 

Then nightfall came……

Along with baby frogs and lizards scattered throughout the property. Was I in a rendition of Pharoah’s refusal to release the Israelites from bondage?

Anxiety overwhelmed me.

Why did I choose to do my course here?

I should have looked at the Google reviews more intently.

Are they going to sacrifice me?

Then I realized I wasn’t a virgin.

Are they going to eat me?

Then I realized they were vegetarians.

I heard animals fighting in the dark.

I heard drummings.

What type of ritual is taking place?

I drifted in and out of sleep.

I need to lock the windows.

Fear paralyzed me beneath the mosquito net.

Yes, I used it. I wasn’t going to risk catching malaria. 

The sound of a gong at 4 AM became sweet music to my ears.

Granted, it didn’t happen overnight. Gradually, gradually, gradually (as my husband often says), my perspective began to change about the center. I had a meditation mindset shift. Scales were being removed from my eyes as I unearthed the richness of the facility – solar panels, video surveillance cameras, clean drinking water, indoor plumbing, the food, the people, the culture.

solar panels (top left), female dining hall (top right), water jugs (bottom left), Indian dishes (bottom right)

In essence, the experience was far better than I could have imagined. Indulging in three authentic and delicious Indian meals a day. Observing the older ladies dressed in beautiful sarees and Punjabi suits with several outfit changes throughout the day. Gold jewelry adorned their ears, nose, fingers, wrist, ankle, and toes. For some, their bodies were not only adorned with jewelry but with tattoos. Women who could easily be my mother or grandmother. The majority of the time, their hair was neatly combed back secured in a bun. Every day, all day they adhered to this self-imposed dress code. I now consider it a privilege to have had this up-close experience.

What I once condemned…

I began to appreciate.

Again, I reflected on Paul’s writings

“fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy.”

I found contentment in the butterflies and dragonflies fluttering in the fields, the sunbeams on my face, the birds laughing, the squirrels chattering, ants moving debris from here to there, the lush greenery and even the bark of a tree.  I even learned to appreciate the lizards and frogs. Definitely due to the meditation mindset shift.

Final Thoughts on Meditation Mindset Shift

The Google reviews I read before arriving at the center became akin to my latter thoughts. In the beginning, I didn’t see it from their point of view. After meditating 10 hours a day, my mindset began to shift from negative to positive. Using an excerpt taken from Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, 

 “the human [has the] capacity to creatively turn life’s negative aspects into something positive or constructive. In other words, what matters is to make the best of any given situation. “

Friends I made on the journey.

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