Mind Surgery -10 days of silence,100 Hours of Meditation,Living a Monk’s life

My first experience into non-commercialized meditation concept

How all things connected

In 2009, I visited Singapore and Thailand for sightseeing and to have a happy ending. In 2012 I traveled to Nepal and in 2015 visited sri Lanka. In all of those trips, I’ve ended up visiting many Buddhist pagodas.
Since 1995 or so, I used to listen and watched many Satsang/ Pravachan/Discourses of different gurus on television. Not because I was into that, but I had no choice as my parents liked to listen to them. I have listened to discourses of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Morari bapu, Asaram Bapu, S.N.Goenka, Niruben Amin, Sudhanshuji Maharaj, Jagadguru Kripaluji Maharaj, Muni Tarun Sagar, Avdheshanand Giri Ji, Krishna Chandra Shastriji (Shri Thakurji), Ramesh Oza, Avdhoot Baba Shivanand, Jagadguru Rambhadracharya and the list goes on.
Many discourses adds more confusion. Every guru has his own style, the way of teaching or explaining things. But S.N.Goenka was unique because he used to appear with his wife and for me, both looked like a typical householder from Uttar Pradesh. Not like other gurus who appear well groomed, trademarks on the forehead with a musical group around etc.

In 2006, I met Shiva Shankar who’s a software engineer and he’s an amazing photographer too. Later I came to know he’s a good meditator also. On weekends, many people gather in his house and they practice group meditation. We also visited Hariharapura where he meditated around an hour long with some followers and he gave me a book on Sahaj Marg Raja Yoga Meditation. I never tried to read this because that time I was more into cars, bikes, photography. But I wondered how he can meditate for hours long. I even asked him; he said he knows people who meditate for 6 hours or more in one shot!

Later my interest turned more into traveling. While traveling, I met Marius Samartean who’s from Târgu Mureș, Romania. He was also into software coding. He left his job and for 3 years continuously has been traveling like a local, hitchhiking, walking etc. He stayed in the same apartment where I stayed with my wife and kid at Belgaum, Karnataka. Early in the morning around 5 am, I saw him meditating for a long time. I was stunned to see him in that pose because he was 7 feet tall, and looked very peaceful and calm. Later, he shared his unusual travel stories and meditating experience. He introduced me to Vipassana meditation and told me how it changed his life.

After some traveling, I’ve started hosting, meeting people and also started reading books related to spirituality, yoga, meditation etc. Since 10 years or more, I have been practicing yoga to have good health. Later I found that yoga is all about preparing a body for the meditation. Then, as I got more into meditation. But I failed to meditate for more than 5 minutes. I met some yoga teachers from different parts of the world who showed me amazing yoga poses but failed to meditate properly.

Later I’ve started reading books of Osho (Shree Rajneesh) and I found him straightforward and unique. Then, instead of sitting down and trying to meditate, I’ve started observing my thoughts and emotions the whole day and started correcting them. I think that practice changed me a lot on the surface level of the mind.

I have learned some yoga from yoga guru Baba Ramdev using his television shows and also practiced some using some yoga books. Later, Zoe Larigakis from Vancouver, Canada visited us. She did 200 hour yoga teacher training with Trimurti Yoga in Dharamsala, India. On request, Zoe taught me some more yoga steps which I liked and started practicing. Rohini devarajan introduced me to Headspace, which is a guided meditation & mindfulness Android App which I’ve been following for some days.

I had so much interested in learning more about yoga and meditation by attending some courses or retreats. But, my problem was I hate groups, hate commercialization of spirituality, yoga, or meditation. My thinking is like, a truly enlightened person; love all like Jesus, Krishna, Buddha… give away things and knowledge, expecting nothing in return.

Finally, I found it…

The best things in the world are free. Money can’t buy happiness or peace of mind. I found more about a 10-day free guided Vipassana meditation course, but I was not ready for it. Because being a webmaster, internet marketer, freelancer etc, without internet connection for 10 days, was kind of an impossible idea for me.

In January 2017, I met Ranajoy Goho ,Who left his heavy-paying corporate job and started traveling like a local. His life changed after practicing vipassana meditation and now he practices every day. By talking with him I started feeling the effects of his practice. I have met many knowledgeable people; they know the right things but the greatest gap in life is the one between knowing and doing.

Finally joined the 10 days Vipassana intensive meditation Course

After meeting Marius Samartean, Ranajoy, I started feeling like there must be something in this kind of meditation practice. I found that people who are into meditation are less miserable and more peaceful. So I convinced my wife Shraddha to join me in the course. We did this course (number 391) at Dhamma Paphulla Vipassana Meditation Centre, Alur, Bengaluru (Bangalore). We went together, but we stayed away in a different area, without meeting each other for 10 days. (as per rules)

Dhamma Paphulla, Bangalore, Karnataka, India

Dhamma Paphulla

10 days of silence, without television programs, news, movies, music, internet, mobile, food which we like, away from friends, family, kids is not such an easy thing to do. With loads of rules…like no killing, no stealing, not lying, no sexual misconduct, no consumption of any intoxicants, no speaking, no eye to eye contact, no waving, no hand signals, not touching anyone, cleaning our own plates and room, staying inside the compound for 10 days like in a prison, meditating 10 hours a day, without dinner, sleeping early, waking up at 4 am every day are the things out of our comfort zone!

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone

In late March till May 2017, I traveled with my kid Shrida like a local, leaving our comfort zone [ complete Travel story ]. The experience was great, unforgettable. After that, I found this quote is for real.

Most people may think this kind of meditation is to get instant peace of mind. But, here you are kind of fighting with your mind. Vipassana means to see things as they really are! That means you have to be in the present. But, mind like to travel to the past and to future. No one else is doing anything for us. We are practicing, experiencing things and accepting things as they are. By this technique, we are actually purifying the deepest level of our unconscious mind.

Most of the people who come for this course with lots of expectations like quick relief from stress, to be happy, feel peace within, left it within 2 to 6 days because of the tremendous pain on the body and mind due to sitting down, and tired of fighting with the mind. Most people who stay till the end are people who are motivated by the evening discourses of Goenkaji who really seems to understand how this mind dances and what it exactly needs.
After 6 days, the pain goes more intense because of “Addhitthana”: 3 times 1 hour of a group sitting where you are meditating like a Buddha (without moving any part of the body). After 6 days, 60 hours of meditation, it was not a hard thing to do.

Strongest position you can be in is complete surrender

Vipassana is not another commercialized meditation center. There’s no need to take money or anything. Only important thing is, for 10 days we have to surrender…Surrender….surrender to the master/guru who is S. N. Goenka. He lives no more, but he teaches us the technique by audio and video. There are male and female teachers who will answer all doubts and questions, but most of the things are cleared by goenkaji.

What I really benefited from it

It’s too early to say but these are immediate benefits.

  • Traveling inside me: I have traveled around India and some countries. But by using Vipassana and Metta meditation practice I have learned how to travel inside me and experience new things, day after day!
  • Learned how to sit for meditation: After meditating for 100 plus hours in 10 days, I exactly learned to meditate properly. Now, meditating 1 to 2 hours a day is a cakewalk for me.
  • Silence: I practice Ekadashi fasting once in a month. Not to please anyone but to give rest to the machinery of the stomach. One day, I’ve fasted with a full day of silence. The next day I felt very refreshed. I always wanted to practice silence for more than a day and it is almost impossible to practice it with a family and a kid. This was the biggest thing I got from this course and I really felt very refreshed and had the happy ending.

Thank you Howe Rokofsky, Trainer & chai walla at rokofsky.com for proofreading and editing this post.

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Journey of Ganesh with a Monkey

A Travel story of me and my 6 Years old son Shrida, traveling around India for 48 days long.

“Hey bhaiya!….Kya khaooge?? …..Paan khaoge? ……” This is what my 6 year old son shrida started saying after coming back from a 48 day long trip.
After UKG (Upper Kinder Garten), before going Class 1 (First grade), shrida had a 60 day vacation. So I thought it would be great to take him for an adventurous trip around India. Our main target was to see the Himalayan hill range from a distance. However, our plan was not fixed, we had no list of things to do. My main interest was to meet people, to learn new things, to see different cultures, and, well, my kid likes to ride trains, play with people, musical instruments, bicycles, etc……

How did this plan came out of me….?

Last year in May 2016, one of my cousins got married. The girl was from Gulbarga, on the north side of Karnataka. My wife Shraddha has travel sickness in the bus or plane, but she’s very comfortable in the train. As there was no direct train to Gulbarga, I decided to go slow and visit as many places as possible.
But, we ended up traveling for 40 days long, using sleeper-class train, meeting and staying with amazing people. That experience was amazing and unique for me, much more surprising than I’d expected (yet to pen it down). Thanks to such an amazing experience, I got addicted to meeting people, which I’ve started enjoying more than my old style of traveling. Which was sightseeing major places, taking pictures using DSLR, mirrorless camera and posting them on Flickr. So I thought it’s better to go for another trip and planned for this one.

Why did my wife Shraddha not join us this time?

Where is his mother? Why didn’t she come? How is traveling with you and without a mother? …. These kinds of questions were asked again and again by different people. As my wife, Shraddha was kind of tired during the last trip where she walked a lot (even though she does not like to), going from one place to another in 2 days, staying at strangers’ houses, this is not really her kind of taste. So, instead of joining our crazy trip, she preferred to stay at home and gave us her blessing to go on this journey.

How did I dare to take a 6 year old kid with me?

This was a challenging part for me. As you may know, I’ve hosted more than 100 people at home from different countries. I spent a lot of time with these people and learned many things like how to travel with less bags, how to handle situations and, more than that, I got motivated by my guests who came with 3-year-old kid from France, A couple from London who came with 2 kids around 5 years old were on world tour, a family from England who stayed with us with 2 kids around 5-6 years old and lady was around 5 months pregnant!….and many more.
Before this trip, even though my son was excited and ready for the trip, I never had that much confidence in his ability to adapt. So I decided to test him before this long trip. I took him for 10 km walk around the beach side which he completed with us in around 3 hours. I also took him for a 3 day trip without his mother to Kozhikode (Calicut, Kerala) where we stayed with a stranger, who become our friend, for 3 nights. My boy Shrida was comfortable and relaxed in both cases. So I was very clear that he can travel or stay without his mother, ready to adjust with available food and basic facilities.

What did I pack?

We started on 30th March 2017 and came back home on 17th May 2017. I packed 4 shirts, pants, 2 t-shirts, and shorts, around 5 shorts/pants and t-shirts for shrida, 1 set of winter clothes for both of us,  2 Quechua Arpenaz 25 deg C camping sleeping bag and Ultra compact microfibre bath towel by Decathlon. Other basic things like toothpaste, brush, Pills for fever, cold and for Stomach Pain, small book, pen, torch, laptop, mobile, chargers etc. I took 2 bags. One for me around 40-liter AdventureWorx laptop bag  and Arpenaz 10 liter Day Hiking Backpack for shrida. I used mobile internet, video and for taking pictures.

How did we travel over these 48 days?

As I’m in process of being a minimalist person, I wanted to keep my travel budget low as possible. So Rs 10,000 was my maximum spending limit for this trip. So, for long distance, we traveled using unreserved train coach (UR / General ) or Passenger Train (Pass).

The advantage was, such trains tickets are very cheap. Just cost us like Rs 80 to Rs 120 for 500 km trip. More than that, there’s no need of advance booking and we will be connected with lots of people in a train, which was a kind of added bonus for me. For short distances, we used local buses, auto rickshaws (tuk-tuk); most of the time we walked up to 3 to 5km in one shot.

where we stayed?

39 days out of 48 days of the trip, we stayed with amazing couchsurfing host all around India. 1 night in the train, 5 nights in my cousin brothers house in Ambernath which is near Mumbai and 1 night each in a hotel and in a guest house. Couchsurfing is a concept of cultural exchange and meeting people, tourist, travelers to exchange things or knowledge. In return, host allows us to stay in his house with his family or whatever accommodation or provide things possible from his side.
Hosting or staying purpose or intention might be different for each person. I’ve seen couchsurfing hosts who hosted us to know our culture, to know more about the things what I do, some hosted us because they are curious on how I travel with such a small kid, some hosted me because I’ve hosted many, some just like to meet us and listen to our travel stories…etc

For me, couchsurfing is kind of life-changing concept. I joined it in 2014, hosted and stayed with many people. I keep on learning new things from the guests I’ve hosted or from hosts with whom I’ve stayed. My lifestyle, thinking, hobbies, habits and all literally changed in past 2-3 years

What are the places we visited?

As I was traveling with 6 years old son, I preferred and tried my best to stay with a host who hosts inside his family, interest matching or with a traveler who really understands the concept very well. So, 3 months before, I started finding perfect hosts for us. Meeting people was the first thing and visiting places or sights was secondary for me.

After selecting hosts, we ended up traveling many places around India. We’ve started by going to Goa, then Hubli, Hospet, Toranagalu, Prodattur, Tirupati, Guntur, Vijayawada, Visakhapatnam, Bhubaneshwar, Kolkata, Mayapur, Siliguri, Guwahati, Varanasi, Lucknow, Bhopal, Surat, Mumbai, Arambol. The places where we stayed with the couchsurfing hosts. we also visited some interesting sights like Colva, Hampi, Ahobhilam, Tirumala, Vipparla Palli, Konduru, Tiruvuru, Marlakunta, Lambadi Tanda, Dhenkanal, Nabadwip Dham, Mirik, and Sanchi…You can read my travel reviews  on TripAdvisor.

 

How much was my total spending?

As I said earlier, I had a maximum budget for this trip of Rs 10,000. But we ended up spending Rs 10,240, including everything. However, one of my couchsurfing guests from London contributed Rs 4,000 for this trip. Which is a very rare case on couchsurfing. So total traveling expenses came to Rs 6,240. More than that, most of my selfless couchsurfing hosts around India helped me to cut down the cost of traveling by hosting us, providing food for us, showing us or guiding us around and did many things as much as possible by them.

Bottom line…..

Our trip was very challenging but we completed it without any major problems because of incredible blessings from lots of people. I have seen amazing people in the train who provided a seat for me or for shrida. Sometimes they carried him on their lap so he could sleep for a while. All people who hosted us gave so much love and care to me and shrida.

I have learned many things from hosts and also seen some strange things like chakka (Hijra/eunuch) forcing, or even getting naked for money inside the train, a man trying to molest a young woman inside a fully packed train, smoking inside the train even though it’s not allowed, fights everyday in Kolkata streets, felt so much positive vibration around Tulsi Ghat, Varanasi, unbelievable care and love by locals in Arambol, Motherly love by some of the couchsurfing hosts and much more…

Credits: Special thanks to my friend Ranajoy Goho for motivating me to write this post. Thanks to my another good friend Cake Vivek for the title of this article. Thanks a lot for Howe Rokofsky for proofreading this article.

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