Somewhere in the middle of 2003, after having lived my first working year in Hong Kong, I did a 10 day silent Vipassana meditation retreat. It was in what was called a gypsy camp in the New Territories in Hong Kong. It was called a gypsy camp because of its simplicity; a make shift retreat centre made up of 2 rooms filled with metal bunk beds draped with mosquito nets. One room for the men, and one room for the women.
Roughly built shower units sat in the courtyard, separated by corrugated iron sheets, and a small concrete patch sat in front, reserved for the women to walk around on. We stood silently on that concrete square during break time, watching the handful of male participants sauntering around a square of farm land in the near distance, cordoned off with tape.
We were not permitted to integrate any other practices or movements, although I didn’t have a regular yoga practice at this stage in my life.
I shared a room with several Cantonese women and an Indian woman. They were all much older than me. I slept on the top bunk, and spent a considerable amount of time staring at the small rips in the netting. We had handed in our phones and any writing and reading material at the beginning. They were not permitted either.
The morning meditations kicked off at 5am, after a late night of learning and a flimsy herbal tea and fruit dinner that left me feeling triggered. When the gong went off at 5am it was the hardest thing to drag myself out of my top bunk and sit. I moved constantly to accommodate the pain in my hips and knees, and relieve the pressure from my ankles against the floor. My legs flooded with pins and needles, and I could barely stay awake. I remember my head bobbing, as I caught myself dozing off.
One morning I sat beneath an air conditioner at the back of the room. From memory it was so I could lean on the back wall for support. A few minutes in, small flying ants started to fall onto my head, neck, shoulders and lap. They created a pitter patter rhythm as their free fall began to pick up pace. I subtly opened my eyes, feeling creeped out, and brushed the ants off me. Eventually I waved at an assistant to ask if I could move. “No”, she said. They were obviously there for a reason (as if they had chosen me), it was obvious it was part of my practice.
I quietly suffered on. My feeling not good enough magnified.
Years later I reflected back on this experience, and how in many moments in my life I have continued to push through, suffer, and be uncomfortable to a point where it is not serving me.
Why you ask?
To prove myself. To prove my strength. To prove that I am enough.
I could have moved. No one was physically holding me down. I held myself there beneath a strangers belief system, and my own shame. Feeling as though I had to prove my enough-ness.
Isn't it bonkers how we flail around in our own struggle, only to perpetuate it?
I only needed to get out of the way of those falling bugs!