In his mid-twenties Ram started a search for understanding. He wanted to understand himself and reality. For over ten years every spare shekel went towards courses and traveling to India. He explored yoga, philosophy, meditation, sacred movements, shamanism, breathing therapy and more. There is nothing he “wouldn’t try at least twice”. His curiosity and gumption eventually led him to the Pacific Crest Trail.
While his search is over ten years along mine has just began.
About two years ago I started my path of self discovery. I wanted to understand myself and to be at peace with that understanding. At that time events in my life led me to realize, to my core, that my opinion of myself is most important. That realization led me to focus more on knowing my own opinion. My main reason for going on the PCT was to know myself and with so little distractions it was the perfect environment. Out in the mountains was the perfect place to wake up.
During my time in Israel Ram and I did a day course of active meditation with breathing therapy. The active part was shaking, dancing, and jumping with encouragement to yell. It was complete chaos at times because people screamed, yelled and cried if it surfaced in them. The room was just barely large enough for all of us. It was really embarrassing and intimidating but I managed to let go more and more as the day went on. The breathing therapy hour impacted me the most. I was really skeptical about breathing therapy. I didn’t understand how breathing could help anyone but Ram took it seriously, so I gave it a try. I laid on my back and closed my eyes. I opened my mouth as wide as I could and started breathing faster and deeper than normal. You do what’s called cycle breathing, breathing with no time between the inhale and exhale. This breathing charges your body with energy and when it’s released tension is released with it. After about ten minutes of this breathing my hands began to tingle and I felt an intense urge to yell at the top of my lungs. You’re encouraged to go with whatever comes up and eventually I got up the courage to do so. This session was the most intense part of the course. Throughout the room everyone was going through there own waves of emotions and energy. I experienced waves of sadness, joy, and anger. Near the end of the hour, after I had cried, yelled and laughed enough, I felt like I had to get the leftover energy out. I felt like I would explode if I didn’t move, so I shook my arms and legs until they felt normal again. I was amazed and surprised that just changing my breathing stirred up so many emotions. The experience was really fascinating. It left me wondering, if I could go deeper into my suppressed emotions what would I find?
After that course I really wanted to do something else. So I searched on the Internet for a meditation retreat. The first thing that came up was a ten day Vipassana meditation course that’s international and free. You are even housed and feed for free. It’s all run off of donations. To my surprise I found one that was only a couple hours from my house! It was crazy because I was sitting in Israel looking for a course nearby but found one close to my house in the US. In order to get in I had to sign up about three month in advanced which happened to be a couple weeks after I go home. I was really nervous about the course and if I had really known what I was getting myself into I would have never gone, so I’m glad I didn’t know. Nine of the ten days were spent in what they call noble silence. You could talk to the staff or teachers if needed but other than that no form of communication (including eye contact) or distractions is allowed. I had no electronics, no writing utensils, and no books. It was easy to be silent but it was really hard to be in my head with no distractions. Other than meals and a little free time, we spent almost all day from 4:30am to 9pm meditating. The point of the course, in my understanding, is to help you change your mind into being equanimous (to not be attached to good or to avert bad). Around the sixth day a personal struggle creeped to the surface and I couldn’t get it off my mind. I obsessed over it for days and began to fear I was actually going mad. But, even with that struggle I felt present and grounded. I learned a few different meditation techniques and developed the ability to meditate for a full hour without moving. Even if I had learned nothing else, I learned I’ve been living in a false reality. I thought I was so well adjusted with no hidden black abyss, but… I was so wrong. It was a humbling experience and I’m grateful for that.
While Ram and I were separated for a few months I did that Vipassana course, I did yoga regularly and mediated often. Since Ram arrived in the US a few weeks ago I haven’t done any of that and I’ve been drifting in my anger. I used to feel this way so often as a teenager and in my early twenties but I changed when I was on the PCT. It was so freeing not being controlled by my anger. I’m extremely frustrated that I’ve taken such a big step back. But, what did I expect would happen when I stopped taking care of myself when Ram arrived? Luckily I have the freedom and awareness to reinvent myself. The only thing standing in my way is my perspective. I’ve been telling myself so many stories about why I’m obligated to put myself second. All these stories turn me into a victim. I’m not a victim. I am in control of my happiness.