My Greatest Challenge During 10 Days of Meditation

(Artwork by H Kopp Delaney)

It was the 10th day of the Vipassana Meditation.

More specifically, it was the last hour where Noble Silence was in effect. After this hour we could talk and engage with the group of people we just spent 10 days with without any communication. We ate next to each other, we meditated next to each other, walked next to each other. Yet we never spoke. What was going through their heads? What hell were they going through, and quite possibly, had they found any salvation?

I was excited to find out and also, I was excited to be done.

It was the last hour of addhittana meditation. But just what is addhittana. Well, consider it the boot camp of Vipassana. Addhittana is translated to ‘sitting of strong determination’. It is the time during which you are not allowed to move your legs, your arms, or open your eyes.

You are not allowed to get up and you are most certainly not allowed to leave the room. It is quite a test of patience and equanimity in the face of distress and disturbance. When you stop running away emotionally and physically from your problems and you just sit down and face yourself, some things reveal themselves to you that you have never noticed before. These disturbances manifest as physical aches and pains throughout the body. And trust me, it sucks to have a front row seat to the action.

Addhittana is practiced 3 times a day for 1 hour each session.

Every hour, I was looking forward to the end. In the beginning I would go into it feeling like I wouldn’t make it through with out moving but some how I always did. I always remained still.

But sometimes I would lose focus. I would victimize myself against the pain I was experiencing and count down how many hours I had left of this.

“Ok, so if it’s the 6th day and I am about to finish the second hour long meditation of the day, that means I have one.. two.. three.. ”

During those times of time counting, I was doing the opposite of what I was supposed to be doing. I would realize this and move my attention back to the meditation. The hours dragged on slowly and sometimes excruciatingly.

Begrudgingly and with a lot of physical work, I made it to the morning of the 10th day. On this day we have three meditations but after the first one we can talk, we can laugh, we can sing, we can fornicate… whatever we want.

I was happy. I was proud of myself. I hadn’t moved the entire trip! I WAS ABOUT TO FINISH and I could proudly say that I sat like the buddha; like a stone.

But something felt off as I got myself comfortable on the meditation cushions and adjusted myself for the physical and mental work out ahead… Had I forgotten something?

If only I had taken heed to the ominous signs that were bubbling inside my soul.

I had forgotten something and this something may have caused the gravest mistake of my life.

‘Bring your attention from head to feet, from feet to head. Always remain balanced and equanimous’. The recording began and gave us its usual instruction.

Balanced and equanimous were about to become the last thing that could describe the mental state I was about to experience. As I slowly shifted my wandering mind to the feeling of the in and out flow of breathe a dangerous feeling came over me.  The answer to the question of what I had forgotten crept its way to the surface of my mind.

I forgot to take a shit this morning.

Now this may sound slight and insignificant but my patience was about to be truly tested. I had been so good about it before! The vegetarian diet that we were living off of was delicious and it felt like my body was being cleansed. And I made sure to poop every time before I started to never encounter a problem with urine or bowel movements while bringing myself to a more conscious state. If I moved for any reason, it would never be for those reasons.

But I was almost finished and I had choked with the game on the line! How could I have been so careless while so close to the end?

The feeling of a bowel movement inside of me triggered anxiety that I believe rivals that of the fear experienced by a submarine crew about to be blasted by an enemy torpedo.

‘I can stop this if I focus on my meditation’

So I set to work to do that. But nothing I could do stopped the missiles from approaching closer and closer to the enemy target. Little by little, the discomfort I was experiencing became more and more real. I had a serious decision to make here.

Do I forget about the past ten days that had pushed me to my limits and forget that I was so close to the end and get up to go to the bathroom? Or do I sit and practice acceptance and let nature run its course? a course that might involve me pooping my pants!

The entire time I had spent at the Vipassana Center in Ontario we were being taught acceptance and equanimity. We were being taught to stop running away from what we considered ‘bad’ and stop killing ourselves whenever we lost the ‘good’. We had to relieve ourselves of our ego.

But was I prepared to relieve myself of my ego by relieving myself? If I was able to stay calm in the middle of a bowel movement in a meditation center, would I become super enlightened? Or just covered in poop?

A battle raged inside me. One part of my mind and spirit was telling me that everything is OK. At the end of the day I will be alright. That is the nature of Vipassana; life has its ups and downs and we have to accept that.

The other part of my mind and spirit was screaming at me. ‘GET THE FUCK UP MAHYAR. YOU ARE NOT ABOUT TO SHIT YOURSELF IN THE MIDDLE OF A MEDITATION HALL’.

They tell us we aren’t allowed to leave but what can they do? I would be saving everyone a horrible experience by showing myself to the bathroom. I had been farting plenty already and I didn’t want to make it even worse for the poor guys that I was sitting next to.

But I also did not want to be the first to leave during addhittana meditation and my heart was torn. What to do?

I decided to stay.

So I sat there and I brought my attention back to the meditation. Little by little, the feeling of urgency was leaving my intestines. I was calming myself. The meditation was working. I couldn’t believe it.

Usually the hour drags on forever but today it made me mad how long it was actually taking. I perceived the instructors as con men who were tricking us into actually sitting for 2 hours on the last day. I knew this was not actually the case but I hated them for it.

Then it happened. The recording went off that signaled the near close of the meditation. There was 5 minutes left. Knowing I was about to finish brought back the sense of urgency and almost pushed me over the edge. Could I hold it in for just that little bit longer?

I summoned all the strength and all the positive self affirmations to mind. ‘I can do this’ ,I told myself.

And I did.

Goenka, the voice of the recording, finished with his meditation, the recording stopped and I immediately opened my eyes and ran straight for the bathroom. Like a demon’s whisper, I whisked myself out of the hall and plopped myself onto the toilet before any other meditator had a chance to open their eyes. I had done it! Oh, what a glorious moment! I was finished. I had conquered the dragon that resided in my bowels.

Now I could revel in my glory and bask in my treasures; it was the greatest poop of my life.

As I sat on that toilet feeling alive and accomplished, I reflected over the experience I had just gone through. I was not the same person I had been. I was a man now.

So there you have it.

Obviously I am being humorous and this was not the greatest challenge of my trip. Vipassana challenged me in much more severe ways than just holding in a bowel movement. But the meditation is aimed at ridding the mind of its impurities and I find it funny, dirty and a little beautifully metaphoric that my body produced physical evidence of this purge.

I hope you enjoyed my little tale but for now I must go.

Nature is calling again.


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