Citation: Joe B. "Vipassana: Goenka Trip: An Experience with Morning Glory & Meditation (exp49542)". Erowid.org. Mar 22, 2006. erowid.org/exp/49542
This story is for those that recognize themselves in it, those who understand that all experiences must be sought with a soulful heart, that success is not measured by pleasure but by knowledge gained.
To properly set the stage for this ten day trip, I must go back a little farther in my life. I was searching, like so many others are searching, from an early age. I was sad that there didn't appear to be magic in the world, and intrigued by stories of wizards learning to control what they thought and didn't think. I developed a love for music, because it seemed to be the closest thing to magic in this mundane world.
In college my quest expanded to include psychedelic substances: marijuana, LSD, mushrooms. The balance was tilted away from the pure pursuit of knowledge towards escapism, but I tried to approach each experience with respect and the willingness to have an unpleasant experience if it resulted in increased knowledge.
A friend introduced me to the books of Carlos Castaneda, and each book grabbed me and sucked me through it to the end. There was a ring of truth, an uncompromising quality to the way of life presented by Castaneda's mentor. I decided to cut the strings of attachment to my friends and family and go off on my own to pursue impeccability as taught by the old man in the books.
I ended up in St. Louis working nights in Barnes Hospital. What now? I quit smoking. I worked a little on lucid dreaming, and tried to live frugally. I quit smoking again. My bank account was slowly dwindling. I had kept my car, and had contacted my parents. My dad offered me a job back at the place and I knew that it was not an option for me. I knew that it was not an option. I couldn't go back. But the thoughts started spinning in my head, until one day I was visited with a clear omen.
I was on the way out of the hospital after my shift, walking against the morning stream of people flowing in across the sky walk from the parking ramp. I met the eyes of an elderly black man in a suit and smiled politely. He said, as we passed each other, “Do you remember Lot's wife?” “What?” I turned around. “Do you remember Lot's wife?” I had read the biblical story, and said “Didn't she turn to salt?”
“That's right,” he said, “because she looked back. Never look back. Lot just kept right on going.”
That should have settled it right there. But the thoughts kept spinning. I went back.
For years I was tainted with the bitter aftertaste of defeat. Castaneda had written something about how the bird of freedom, once it flies away, never comes back. Everything in my life seemed a little gray. I tried leaving again, this time in the company of a girlfriend, but ended up back home without her and even more defeated than before. I was never much of a drinker, but without access to any other emotional painkiller I started to learn. I kept on threatening to leave, but my threats sounded increasingly desperate and hollow. After drinking myself into debt in the fall of 2001 I was forced to move back in with my poor, gracious parents. I would have tried any drug, but in my small town I truly had no access.
I was driving back from the nearest larger town, having driven there to find Heavenly Blue Morning Glory seeds, when I heard the Garrison Keillor monologue that set the stage for that evening's trip. Keillor's stories are set in Lake Wobegon, a fictional Minnesota town nearly identical to mine. This monologue was about a local farmer who, while in at the local cafe, experienced a moment of regret. Thirty years before, he had come back from the army to spend a couple of weeks at home getting his things in order before he set out on his own. He realized now, with a pang of regret, that he had never left. His wife couldn't understand how their daughter, the year before, had suddenly left for Seattle without saying goodbye, without even cleaning her room. But he understood. When you have the chance, you have to take it, or you might wake up when you're fifty years old, experiencing a moment of regret..
A gracious bar friend had given me a tiny bud, and the marijuana proved to be the perfect anti-nausea agent and psychedelic catalyst for the morning glory seeds. The seeds did their job, shoving my face against the glass of my mind; forcing me to observe the non-stop manic rambling of my internal dialog. I knew that this chattering, though a little bit more frenetic in tone than usual, was no different than what occurred in my mind every waking moment. “Who is the storyteller?” was the theme of the evening. Just who is telling this non-stop story, and who is the audience?
I started writing my thoughts down on napkins, trying to keep up. As the scribbled etchings wound their way from napkin to napkin the realization started to creep in that I would have to leave them there for all to see—my barest, uncensored thoughts; my shame. I would have to disappear leaving everything: the case of uncracked nitrous canisters, the bottle of Robitussen, the frantic napkins. I couldn't let them see these things, yet I needed to let this truth be revealed. Only this paradox could provide the huge shame that would drive me away and keep me away long enough to answer the question. To identify the storyteller who wove my thought-prison and to conquer him.
That night I slept peacefully, and in the morning I tossed my guitar in my car and drove away, leaving behind a messy room and acres of pain for my parents. I had left, so I thought, an explanation in the napkins that they would understand once they read them calmly. But of course they never read them calmly—I had freaked out on drugs and disappeared.
I ditched my car at a gas station and took the Greyhound to Austin, Texas. Living on thin-worn credit cards, I got a job at a hostel on Sixth Street that payed for my bed. I ended up having a really good time there, playing my guitar on the street and going to the bars with my hostel friends, but I felt a tad bit guilty because I wasn't fulfilling any of the high handed ambitions that had spurred me to leave. Then the angel of this story appeared.
She was dark-haired and small, with a crooked nose that she hid with her hand when she talked. Her eyes were shiny and her voice was a whine. She talked with childish enthusiasm about the energy vortexes in Taos, New Mexico and about meditation courses. I almost felt the hair on my neck stand up as I realized that I finally had met one of the shiny-eyed humans that I had read about in Castaneda years before. In her world everything was meant to be, and if a thought came to her that something would happen it would happen.
We spent three wonderful days together, buying groceries together and telling each other our stories. She described witnessing her hands dissolving into her legs as she sat and meditated and understanding that we are all “the same, you, me...this car, we're all the same.” She gave me the website of her meditation center on a scrap of paper. She was on her way to New Orleans, and now she realized why she was meant to stop in Austin: “To tell you about Taos!” I knew that the real reason our paths had crossed was written on that slip of paper.
Her ride to New Orleans was departing the next day, and I started to get the feeling that my time in Austin was short. Sure enough, that night when I came back from the bar the manager had finally received permission from the owner to fire me (I won't go into that story). He stood and watched as I packed my bags and kicked me out on the street at 2:30 in the morning. My time in Austin was done.
Six months later I finally lifted my bag out of a friend's car at the Meditation Center. I was a little nervous. I had never sat cross-legged for more than five minutes and I knew I was in for some pain. Nadia had said it was tough for the first few days and then it got better, but I knew that she was an exceptional human being.
The technique is simple, but difficult. There are no verbalizations or visualizations involved. Just ten days of pure observation, first of the breath in the area of the nostrils, and then a systematic observation of bodily sensations from head to feet.
I worked very hard. It was anything but fun, but I pursued it diligently, trying to make use of every minute. By the ninth day I realized that something deep was changing in me, and I nearly cried with happiness. I knew without a doubt that my search had ended—not at the peak of the mountain but at it's base. A clearly marked path now was before me and I had taken a few small steps on it. I had gotten my first whiff of pure fresh air after living in a smog-filled valley.
I must report that after having sat four courses I have still not experienced my hands melting into my legs. I have, however, experienced hundreds of different forms of discomfort that just seem to intensify the deeper I go. This technique is not for those looking for another pleasurable experience or escape. It is for those who know intuitively that they are running from something and want to stop causing themselves pain and causing others pain. It is for those willing to work hard to put an end to their own foolishness once and for all. It is for those seeking the deepest truth.
In spite of the fact that my hands haven't melted, my life has changed immeasurably for the better. I have returned home once again, this time in victory and with a clear mission: to work for the happiness of myself, my family, and everyone else. I meditate for one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening. I haven't ingested alcohol, tobacco, or weed for almost two years. No more do I experience the creeping depression that once plagued me. I still feel down sometimes, or a little irritable sometimes, but it doesn't last. My problems are still there, but I have a weapon with which to fight, and the problems that were dragons have become porcupines.
Sometimes I walk in the bathroom, glance in the mirror, and see a big smile on my face that I didn't know was there.
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