Before I get to my experience let me build a little background as to why I went for a 10 day vipasna meditation.
Knowledge in any field can be broadly divided into 03 sects.
1) Book knowledge:
2) Intellect. Power of reasoning.
3) Experiential. The practical way.
Book knowledge: Of course nobody comes ready from mom’s womb. (Actually in case of spiritual progression, may be past accumulations and deductions must weigh but that is a seriously grey area so let us leave that aside). You got to start somewhere. You read on the subject. You explore the area. All this happens at a very sub-conscious level, the AVAILABILITY HUERSTIC plays a big part here. Unless you are lucky, you would read what is available. This is the time in your growth when you are most susceptible to fraud. The reason is that genuine guys are rarely good at marketing and marketing mavericks are rarely genuine.
In financial world, this time of your growth, you would come across TV analysts, noskininthegame jokers, no accountability clowns, MLM scamsters, promising the moon technical analysts. In the spiritual realm, you would find babas, gurus , tarot readers, card readers, vaastu, Tuesday fasts, sadhus that can cure your ailing mothers etc.
Slowly and steadily through your own mistakes and vicarious learning one graduates to the next level in the book knowledge. This is that part of your growth where you are reading the right stuff. In the financial parlance, you are reading free resources like Warren buffets Annual letters and Howard marks, books written by actual practitioners, following people who have skin in the game.
In spiritual realm, you are getting more interested in self awareness rather than any outwardly god which can be bribed. You are reading and inclining towards non dogmatic, not ritualizing way of living. You are now more interested in learning the Art of living rather than searching for an oracle who could tell you your future.
Intellectual Learning. This is the second stage of your learning process. With the tools of REASONING and not CONFIRMING (ability to question status quo, question everything)
You start separating wheat from the chaff. In investing parlance, you stop quoting warren buffet blindly. You start realizing there is more to a given situation that what appears to the eye. You realize he is not a buy and hold investor. You start appreciating the role of luck, survivorship bias and simple narrative fallacy surrounding around success stories of today. You also realize that position sizing, risk management and asset allocation is much more important that actual stock picking. In spiritual parlance, you are truly coming of age. You are realizing that farther you are from religion, closer you are to your god. organized religion is just like any other organization (Big, hierarchical, corrupt and marred by incentive)
You soon realize that self realization has to have a separate path. Budha was not a budhist, Guru nanak was not a sikh, neither was Christ a Christian.
This is where the third part of knowledge comes in. All this knowledge while definitely greater than sheer ignorance amounts to nothing more than intellectual masturbation without practical application.
In financial parlance, you would be able to write good blogs and books, but your CAGR would give a different story. (Your excel sheet where you keep score would show you the mirror)
In the spiritual field, you would be able to hold a conversation alright, claim that FREE WILL is an illusion, declare that you are not the doer, see that the world is a happening. BUT All this is at a intellectual level. You know how a self realized man would feel but you don’t feel it.
So to attain this final frontier, you need practical play. In Investing, paper trading amounts to nothing as 95% of the game is played in the mind.
As Muhamad Ali once said everybody has a plan before they get punched in the face.
It is one thing to say that i can withstand a 50% drawdown and totally another to not pee in your pants to see 30% of your corpus evaporating into thin air.
Now to Vipassana.
To play out this 03rd part of my knowledge, i had gone to a 10 day Vipasna meditation.
Vipasna is the art of observing things on AS IS basis. The idea is to develop deep highly concentrated mind over the first 03 days and then use that concentrated mind to observe the bodily sensations, one body part at a time. While witnessing these sensations, the whole premise of the technique is to hold the steadfastness of non judgment which is to say don’t feel bad/sad for the pain, just see it as a pain and similarly don’t feel happy/euphoric for a pleasant feeling, just see it as just another feeling.
By not attaching any emotion to them, you start realizing their inherent fleeting nature. This then is/can be applied to any and all emotions, relations, feelings of your individual life.
Doing this practice burn all your karmas and propel you towards self realization, essentially a stage where you have basically burnt all your past actions, and every corresponding action you do does not latch any destiny since you are not attaching any pleasure (greed, desire) or pain (fear) to that action and simply witnessing your own self act without attachment.
If you are not following the above mumbo jumbo, that is alright, point is even if the ultimate goal is far off and not achieved and maybe it is not even what you want, claim is that vipasana can make you a more focused, detached and concentrated individual which of course is good for any profession.
WHY I CHICKEN OUT on DAY 6.
What the above goodness does not account for is the Downside. Meditation is mind alteration and is not without its perils.
On day 5, I started getting bad dreams, crazy nightmares, hallucinations,extra terrestrial projections. Those of you who have tried Psychedelic drugs can relate to it with a concept called a ‘BAD TRIP’.
Essentially a Psychedelic experience can be good or bad depending on a lot of host factors, trust around people you are doing it with, body chemistry at that time, your mood just before the intake etc. If it is good, you feel VAST, one with the UNIVERSE, compassionate, unconditional love emanating from your soul, altered state of consciousness, a sense of well being and a feeling of tranquility. The quality of that love is so pure that you feel it for strangers even a tree for that matter. A bad trip on the other hand can suck the daylights out of you. Right from paranoia to depression, it can take any shape. Luckily it doesn't last long (I guess)
I got pretty scared on DAY 5 but was still OK, I spoke with the acharya there and he said, its your bad “Vikaras” that are coming out and it is bound to happen, in fact it happens with everyone.
And then it turned WORSE. On Day 6 at night, those dreams turned gory and creative. The thing with these trips is that it is not a dream per say, it is simply an OVER ACTIVATED MIND projecting the subconcious like an altered world out there. If you open your eyes, there is nothing, as soon as you close it, the LIVE CREATIVE SHOW starts. It was so creative that probably the best Hollywood director can take tuitions from me.
I confided in my friend Daya and told him my decision to quit. He said, he is going through hell as well but this is our mind playing games with us, we need to be strong.
He suggested that at night he would sneak into my room and sleep if its any consolation. Tempting as it sounds ;), i told him my demons are inside and not outside, it is not some ghost I am scared of.
Being a true value investor he said, this is a temporary phase and we have to ride it through
I being a trend follower didn't relate to this and decided to cut my losses.
You see, if my hand hurts, i can motivate myself to come out of it. (may be free will is an illusion, but I like that illusion). We use our brains to project the world outside. That is the only way we see the world, if something happens to your brain, ITS GAME OVER isn't it and so I decided it is time to pack the bags.
In conclusion, I would like to say that I learnt 01 thing from the entire episode.
I agree with Swami Partha Sarthy 100% that meditation has become a billion dollar industry, it is marketed as a one stop shop for all the diseases. While meditation has benefits, there has to be a quantifying mechanism to figure out a person’s readiness and dosage. You cannot fit one size to all. If something as harmless as marijuana is illegal, how can SERIOUSLY altering the mind act outside the ambit of law??
Meditation is the natural progression of an already tranquil mind and one should not subject oneself to concentration camps to fasten the process as it might have serious side affects.