After 3 days of torture from 10+ hours a day of nothing but observing my breath, discovering new sensations in my body after day 4, on day 7 I thought I was going to leave more crazy than when I arrived.
Day 7 – Phantom bee stings, crazier than when I arrived
Starting the morning of the 7th day, I felt sharp pains all over my body, like ant bites or bee stings. I spent the entire day twitching as my body reacted to these frustrating sharp phantom stings.
At first, I thought I was having an allergic reaction, but there no physical signs of bites, bumps or rashes. I remembered scenes from Black Swan when Natalie Portman’s character was imagining cuts and blood only to realize they were not there.
I was seriously scared I might leave the course more crazy then when I arrived.
Later, the assistant teacher reassured me these sensations are normal and to try to watch my sensations with a neutral mind.
The next morning, these phantom bites completely disappeared.
Other sensations during the course
- Thoughts about a friend. During the first three days of the meditation I found myself regularly thinking about them, even when I didn’t want to be. I observed my body the next time I found myself thinking about them. To my surprise, I could feel a tingling sensation arising from my chest, splitting in two, going up my chest, my neck and to behind my ears (like a doctor’s stethoscope). After I watched this sensation, my thinking about them stopped.
- Cravings for hot drinks in my hand. I’ve always loved holding a cup of Starbucks chocolate mocha while I walk around. I wondered if it was the feeling of the warm drink in my palm, rather than the drink itself I enjoyed, because I felt a similar sense of ‘happiness’ holding a cup of chocolate during the meditation. Strangely enough, I haven’t craved any coffee or Starbucks since then the meditation ended a week ago, even though there’s constantly been Starbucks minutes away.
- Sensations from crying. Old memories from surfaced, from seemingly unimportant ones to stronger memories that made me cry. The teacher told me to observe the sensations on my entire body, not just the obvious areas like my eyes or nose. The next time I wanted to cry, I could first feel the side of my nose warming, my eyes tingling, my throating tightening, my jaw tensing, my chest and top of my stomach warming. As more memories and thoughts surfaced that usually would make me cry, I noticed that I didn’t cry anymore.
The end of silence
When the silence ended on day 10, I didn’t want to talk. I liked the silence.
- My concentration continued to be sensitive. As I listened to people talk, I could feel tingling in various parts of my body.
- A shattered DSLR UV lens filter. The glass of the filter seemed to have spontaneously shattered after I got my camera back from the meditation centre. I laughed at the fact that the camera for months through much rugged conditions and that the filter ended up shattering at a quiet meditation centre, and for no obvious reason. It was as if my old perspective had been shattered and now I could embrace a new one.
- Back in Kuala Lumpur. I had no urge to turn on my MacBook, nor go online on Facebook or Twitter.
- Inbox of beautiful emails. When I eventually checked, I had an inbox full of beautiful emails from both friends and strangers inquiring about my travels and my meditation. While I was gone, my latest article about budget travel in Asia was published on Toronto Star newspaper’s Moneyville website. Apparently there was a link to the article from the newspaper front page and old friends saw it and said hi.
- Re-adjusting and first night at the hostel. I continued to mediate in the hostel. Instead of subtle sensations, I felt “fat” vibrations on my face, arm and legs, like a water balloon vibrating. After a few tries, I eventually started feeling subtle sensations again.
It was a full house at the 20-bed hostel dorm, buzzing energy from travellers and full of chatter and laughter. I fell asleep smiling at how just that morning I was at a quiet, calm meditation centre, and now I was in a a completely different place.
I remembered the mediation teacher talking about constant change and to experience life from moment-to-moment.
I highly recommend this course
It was enlightening and was incrementally life-changing. I had similar epiphanies when I read The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment a few years ago, but this course was a step deeper.
The course is free with a voluntary donation anytime after the course in the form of funds or volunteering at a retreat if you feel you’ve benefitted from it. There are Vipassana meditation centres around the world.
Since the course ended a week ago:
- I’ve continued to meditate, once in the morning and evening, and fall asleep by feeling sensations in my body. I’ve notice I’ve been sleeping very well and I’ve reduced the amount of time I need to sleep by over an hour.
- I’ve continued to notice sensations in my body I didn’t notice before, like tingling when I hugged someone, feelings on the sides of my tongue when I eat, or vibrations when see new sights.
In the last week, I’ve recommended Vipassana to my family, friends and other curious travellers.
Special thanks to the travellers I spoke to after the course, for being patient as I tried to articulate this complex experience.
>> Have you had small epiphanies through meditation, reflection or books? What did you notice afterwards?
- List of Vipassana meditation centres around the world
- S.N. Goenka the leading Vipassana teacher
- Full explanation of Vipassana technique
- Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom