This feels like it is becoming a little self indulgent… Oh well I am writing for me, no one else. And this is the last one, so here’s my final lessons learned.
I have a very traditional view on learning. To me it involves textbooks, exams, learning institutions. Both my parents were/are teachers. Many of their friends and family are too. Every day after school, my Dad would ask me what I had learnt during the day. I would say “The captial of Burkina Faso is Ouagadougo” or “I finally understand the Kreb’s cycle”. Never did I say “John, a boy in my class, died on the way home from school in a car accident yesterday and I didn’t feel sad or cry. And I am trying to understand/learn why that is?” Or “Sally said I was strange because I only have one eyebrow and it made me feel embarrassed” I did have the ultimate eyebrows as a kid. Light blonde hair, dark singular eyebrow! In any case I associate learning with facts, not feelings, emotions or reactions.
Of course as I got older I began to learn about myself, about my relationships and about life, through travelling, meeting new people, different jobs and then moving city and moving country. But now it seems quite superficial. It was only when I met Martina (and Lucy F about a year earlier) did I really start to recognise that there was an additional step I was missing. Martina learns through conversation and experience and then she reflects. She looks within and does so often. I have tried to mimick her in a way. I find it an enjoyable and complete way to learn. And it’s better suited to the type of learner I am. Or maybe I am just interested in the topic (me!) and like putting what I learn into practice.
To me Vipassana is a similar way of learning – just without the conversation! It was replaced with sensation instead.
On Day 9 of Vipassana we learned that the following morning we would learn one final part of the meditation and then Noble Silence would end. We would then stay another night and leave on Day 11. Hmmm what was the point for staying an extra night – another day of torture before entering the real world. I think not. I decided I would leave just after Noble Silence ended. I did not want the first words I say to be to strangers. I wanted to talk to Alex and Vas and my Mum and Dad… I also had mentally prepared for 10 days not 11. So I packed my bags, cleaned my roon and went to talk to the Assistant Teacher to tell her I would be leaving the following morning and how do I get my phone back. I prepared what I wanted to say in my mind. I went over it over and over. I felt the anxiety in my belly rise. The teacher calmly persuaded me to stay, saying it was dangerous to leave after such deep meditiation. At the time it made sense, so I agreed quickly and happily decided to stay. But during the evening meditation, pain in my chest appeared. Right side, in the front – just where my tumour is. It had never been there before and this was intense. I wanted to know what it was!? This is where I hold something that has possibly turned into/contributed to my cancer so I wanted to know what it was. I observed. Equanimously. In the silence I was able to see that I was a little angry (maybe a little resentful) and disappointed in myself that I had been convinced against my wishes to stay. I felt like I had done it to please the teacher and not for myself. I hadn’t talked it through. I hadn’t given her all my reasons. And after all she didn’t know me or what was best for me. We had had two 3 minute conversations in 10 days, how could she possible know what was in my best interests! So the following day, noble silence ended. I had lunch, extroverted with the others who I had introverted with and then went to see the Assistant Teacher. I wanted my phone and I wanted to go home.
She said ‘No, I want you to stay’. I defiantly said “Why?” Most unlike me when talking to someone I barely know. I am polite and courteous and respectful. I toe the line, do the right thing. Unless of course I have had 10 glasses of wine. But I lost it. I told her I’d recognised this as a common behaviour of mine and that I think is detrimental to my health. When something doesn’t go as planned or I go along with something to please someone else I hold it inside instead of speaking my mind, defending my position or standing my ground. I was able to watch it move through my body. She said she was not demanding I stay. The fence after-all was a rope. I had come so far what would a few more hours matter. She said you choose what is best for you.
Now I was torn. I also am not a “finisher” and at the moment don’t really like interacting with people I don’t know – perhaps another reason I didn’t want to stay…. If I didn’t stay the course and finish, give it 100% how was I ever going to beat cancer, but if I stayed then was I doing it to please the teacher and her wishes. She told me it didn’t matter to her whether I stay or go. Hundreds of students passs through their doors each year, many leave. The decision was mine. Arhhh mental mind fuck!
I sat in the sun and weighed up my options. I could hear all the other students laughing and chatting. I didn’t want to be part of it but I knew inside it was going to be good for me.
I would stay the extra few hours. I went to dinner and met some wonderful women who were in awe of my achievements. One woman even stole me a pen so I could write before I went to bed. Criminal I know.
The following morning I picked up my phone and got in my car. I called Alex and cried. What a rollercoaster!
Looking back it seems quite trivial, but as you are deprived of so much and your interactions are limited it allows you to see how you behave without the noise in a restricted environment. Like a zoo, or a clinical trial! And if I think about this situation I can relate it to so many others in my day to day life. Maybe this behaviour didn’t cause my cancer, but it’s something that upsets me and if I want to be true to myself then I need to acknowledge it and be willing to look out for it.
Would I do it again? Absolutely! But I think I would take someone with me. Mum, are you up for it??! If not, then Jayson you’ve been nominated!