Vipassana

At one point of our exciting journey we decided to calm down our mind, take a deep breath, leave our little possessions behind (wallets, watches, electronic devices, books, pens and papers) and live a monk life for 10 days in total: noble silence.

Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. It was rediscovered by Buddha more than 2500 years ago and was taught by him as a universal remedy for universal ills. Sounds good, right?

As follow on their website “Vipassana is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind. It is this observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body that dissolves mental impurity, resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion.”
( https://www.dhamma.org/en/index )

Numerous of our friends we met on the way strongly recommended us to go visit one center and check for ourselves.

As in our style we were late for the application online so the day before the course started we found ourselve knocking on the Vipassana center’s gate! Maybe someone who signed in will never come we thought. We offered our volunteer work painting the fence, putting the mosquito nets and preparing the area for the upcoming guests, as the result we were welcomed among the new students!

The first day at 5 pm the silence started. Men and women were never crossing each other’s path, not even while dining. No eye contact, gestures, body language. Morning waking up bell at 4 am, 10 hours sitting crossed-legs, meditating, mastering determination over the physical pain, 10 days in row. At some point you want to escape, it is so hard, it is a serious work. You are asked to keep an attention on your breathing, later on your body sensation, but your mind does not accept the present and it always wanders away, to the past and to the future. I have never had this much time in my life without any external stimulus to think about the way I lead my path, about my family, close friends, childhood. Many vivid memories, in almost scary details come upon the surface. Dreams are also very powerful. It is like a deep surgical operation of the brain, they say: once open you take out all your faulty behavior patterns (like craving and aversion) and impurities to slowly close the scar the last day. You can not stop in between.

The whole experience was very profound and satisfactory. I found it much harder than any volleyball training I have ever had during my semi-professionals years. During the workout there was always someone who could give you a hand, smack your bum and motive you while in Vipassana you are by yourself with your unobedient mind.

The last day the noble silence breaks, you feel soo happy and close to the students to whom you have never spoken. You find yourself much more cheerful, freed from the bondage, patient and alert by even a tiny fly sitting on your forehead.

Check out www.dhamma.org for this donation based centers located around the world. There is also a beautiful movie about Indian prisoners practicing Vipassana (Available online here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkxSyv5R1sg ).

When the course was finished we continued our road to Mausuri,  nearby hill station were together with Antonio we could share our experiences and eat first mango, enjoy the changed landscape and the first mountains during this trip…

We are baaack: Delhi, Holi, Varanasi!

***SPOILER ALERT***

Just 2 fast facts:

1) We are back to Europe! Yes, for real! And so many things have happened in the past 6 months that we weren’t really able to keep up with the blog. But it doesn’t mean we don’t want to finish our story, even from here. So stay tuned and we’ll keep on posting!

2) We managed to make our first photo exhibition of the trip in Chiavenna (Anto’s hometown) and it was a big success! Now we want to make it real in a city environment, Poznan and/or Berlin. Maybe contact us if you think you might help with a tip, a place or anything that could be needed. https://www.facebook.com/events/314171545437870/

***END SPOILER***

This is a special post as it has been written by an other guest: the crazy artist  Ernestyna Orlowska, with whom we shared some of the way:

“It was in the middle of the night. We (My boyfriend Jan and I) had just arrived from Switzerland and took a prepaid rickshaw to Munirka Market in Delhi. And who stood there? Antonio! My dear friend who once did me the favor to kidnap me out of a church in Berlin (no it was not on my wedding… it was something else, ask him when you get a chance). Next to him a polish exchange student, who offered us his couch (or a bed and some floor) for a couple of days. I was my first time in India, so I was very happy to have two professional India travellers to show me how things roll in this place. They introduced my to the Dabbas, Thalis, Chais. They showed me the chikoo fruits that is something in between a pear and a plum or so. They told me not to look at the monkeys, otherwise they would jump in my face or steal my bag. They led me to a Sikh temple, where we all hoped to get free food, instead we got some very strange white kind of sweet (I think dessert is not the strength of the indian culture). Munirka Market was on the outskirts of Delhi, we were the only white people there, except this one time I saw a white, very lost-looking couple sitting in front of an ATM, the girl holding a red rose. What I only noticed later: I didn’t see any cows in Delhi. Probably they swiped them all out once in a dark and foggy night. We took walks in the beautiful parks of Delhi, drank coconut water, tried pan, the digestive spice stuff wrapped in a green leave (disgusting in my opinion) and watched a theater group in a park doing a play about rape. 

The polish exchange student, Lukasz, lives in a 6-story house, and sometimes we would do some Yoga up there, and Anja even did a laughter yoga session with us (on our way back to Switzerland, we were one more time on that rooftop, and the monkey clan was having a gathering up there. We filled a banana peel with toilet paper and taped it together, so it looked like a normal banana. We placed it on the roof. One monkey after the other came, eating the content of the banana peel, spitting it out, and trying to eat it, again and again. They just didn’t get it).

We moved to another couchsurfer, Nawaz, a young indian artist who paints shoes, trashcans and much more. Here we discovered the pleasure of Tibetan Food Home Delivery Service. Anja and Anto took tours in having fever, and me and Jan left to Vrindavan. We took a rickshaw to the exit of Delhi and wanted to hitchhike, but a few minutes later we found ourselves in a local bus with a little indian kid on the lap, driving to Vrindavan. Because: We wanted to spend HOLI, the feast of Lord Krishna, in Lord Krishnas birthplace.

On Holi, people throw pigments on each other, because Krishna got poisoned mother-milk and turned blue. Then he was very depressed, because he thought, he would never find a girlfriend. His mom was so annoyed with his whining, that she told him to color some random girl. So he colored Radha and they became a couple (poor Radha, stolen the chance to find another hubby).
Holi in Vrindavan was aggressive, and I found out, that I did not appreciate people throwing buckets with colored water, using water machine guns with colored water or bad smelling color foam out of the spray can in my direction. We were hiding in a Hare Krishna Ashram until that thing was over.
Meanwhile, Anja and Anto spent a really nice Holi in a Delhi neighborhood, winning money in games that were played in the park.
We moved on to Varanasi, where they joined us again, a few days later. It was so hot, and we spent the days meeting basic needs and walking along the Ghats. My sweetheart stopped smoking and was in a bad mood, so to cheer him up, I invited all of us on a boat ride on the Ganga. But what did my dear boyfriend do? He jumped into the Ganga. In Varanasi, the Ganga is 2000 times more polluted than what the World Healt Organisation calls the maximum. No wonder, with all the dead people and cattle and ashes. Here they burn dead people, and a few meters next to that, people wash their clothes and themselves. The water contains a lot of silver (from the spring, it has an antibiotic effect or something like that), that is why it has not become a bigger disaster with the pollution, so far.
Every evening, the Ganga Aarti is being performed: Priests dancing with all kinds of items in their hands, loud music and incense. All for the worship of the holy Goddess Ganga.
Varanasi is the place where I found the most annoying kids, trying to sell their swimming candles in flower baskets. They just didn’t let go of you. It was quite fascinating. Once they spotted another tourist, they went off to torture them, but only to return to you, after 2 minutes.

Not to miss in Varanasi is the Bhang Lassi at Baba Tandais place, a Lassi that you get together with a green, wet ball that smells like shit and probably contains all parts of the marihuana plant. I could resist the temptation, but Anto and another traveler that we were hanging out with, had their fun with it. Or was it rather bad? I think Anto wished to have ordered the smaller portion.

Then we said goodbye to A & A out there, and moved on to Nepal, where we experienced all kinds of adventures (weddings, dramas, dead people, lakes, waterfalls, rivers, the 10th highest mountain of the world and village life like 1000 years ago) to be told another time.”