Spirit Gulag

Over the holidays I want to a rural center for Vipassana. I was looking for a reset button, a fasting for the mind, a brain starvation. Ten days without�language, tasks, errands, technology (internet!), nonverbal communication, nothing, just meditation. A perfect tool get through years of accumulated debris, the geology of past experiences, to excavate the deeper self. But maybe some of us need stronger tools than our own breath to arrive at nirvana, because for me it was like clawing at permafrost with nothing but my fingernails. I didn't survive the ten days. Meditation flunky. Bring on the saffron robes, polyphonic chanting and the crashing of atonal cymbals! If the tibetans, who live simpler and quieter lives, need these trappings to deliver them into profound headspace than I certainly do. Or at least some rosaries to count, or an "om mani padme hum" to repeat, or some kind of trick more than my own feeble respiration. In the absence of new input the mind turns into a car stereo scanning for stations, jumping every few seconds between bits of memories. The worst racket came from ex's broadcast, pumping out a thousand watts of noise that reduced most of the other stations to intermittent static. After a few days I realized that I'm not the silent meditative type, and what I crave is a a soundtrack of my choosing, not radio silence, to find internal peace. All day I looked forward to the evening DVD "talk" from Goenka, the founder of this particular branch of meditation centers. He's a portly south indian with hair neatly oiled and combed to one side. Even via the awkward delivery of a zero-budget video production he dripped of wisdom and calmness. A woman often sat next to him of similar ripe age, we presume it's his wife. She never said anything, just stared at the camera, only stirring to itch herself or adjust her sari. From the florescent light and the sweat that gathers on his brow it was obviously shot in India, and it's hard to imagine him anywhere else... how does a spiritual master look when he's sitting on the London tube or in the shopping in the pet supplies aisle of a Walmart? Goenka, the onsite instructor, and the other students all deserve the deepest respect. There's no doubt this is an effective technique for most who do it, and is completely without the bad odor of newage, cults, or hucksterism. But If you, like me, are both hyperactive and just went through some intense emotional disasters, then you might want to start more modestly and work your way up to a vipassana.