On the fourth day a jhana manifested itself for the first time. Jhanas are pleasurable (sometimes very) mental states reached through intense concentration. Completely natural and not banned by the government too. The same day was marked with the start of sittings of strong determination, where you are not supposed to change a posture or open eyes for one hour. Pain from sitting was not really a problem, as I knew the suffering would go away anyway. I felt very sorry for a chap, who had asked an assistant teacher about the sitting pain the day before and had got the answer “Just change a posture”. Subtle form of humour maybe? Towards the end of the retreat I got so cocky that sat in a posture that hurt straight from the beginning not bothering to fix it. Familiar feelings lost their familiarity and became just sensations. From the fifth day on things started getting into an uncharted territory marked with strong and solid meditation sessions with no movement or breaks. A urge to slouch the back is just another sensation after all and thus can be safely observed without a reaction. Blissful meditation sessions were followed by periods of intense fear and infinite sadness just like that. Mind changes so quick. Nothing is permanent, even if the mind tries to make it so. Not even that incredible pain in the left leg.
At some point I developed enough energy to practice lying meditation and not to fall asleep. Oh the pleasure of staying two extra hours meditating in the warm bed in the mornings followed by a walk in the forest and a breakfast. The need for sleep diminished to the point I had problems getting asleep towards the end of the course. Why sleep after all, when you can meditate? The meditative jhana state became the baseline. The line between sitting sessions and breaks blurred. On the ninth day the mind was quietened to the point of no mind. “I” (who is this I anyway?) knew what to do at each moment, no mental processes needed. The function of the mind was reduced to the silent observer. Fascinating and scary at the same time.
On the last day the silence ended and fun and excitement began. So many things to share with other people, so many stories to tell. It is fascinating to see people of all ages and all backgrounds. Wandering travellers, a doctor from Oslo, a school teacher from Luxembourg, a musician from Togo, a company executive leading a stressful life, an accountant from Holland and so on. There is no vipassana type people. It is like one of those travel destinations (read Hat Yuan), where you can expect meet anyone. Social status or background does not matter here.