Vipassana is a true test of determination and letting go. 11 hours of meditation a day presents enough challenges for most individuals on the planet. Anything can become a potential distraction to the practice. My Vipassana took place at the famous Dhamma Joti Center in the heart of downtown Yangon. This part of the city could be very loud, with noises ranging from barking street dogs to electronic dance music. There were plenty of times I was able to get close to having blissful moments, only to be interrupted by honking cars or screaming people.
The noise was not limited to the outside of the meditation hall. There were a symphony of sounds coming from all of the participants in the Vipassana. Burps and farts would vibrate from across the room. Students would moan, sigh, and crack their joints constantly. Each individual sound would test my concentration and patience. It's as if the 4am wake up call, meals of white bread with onions, or feeling like your knees are going to blow from being in one single position for hours at a time isn't difficult enough. Add in unnecessary noises, and you create any reason to get lost in frustration and start grinding your teeth. FYI, this is not the best way to meditate.
I was so grateful to travel to India and visit my teacher Nani Ma before the trip to Yangon. I asked her how she was able to practice meditation in environments like caves and out in the elements of the Himalayan Mountains. Nani Ma told me that she knows where she is going, so she simply goes there. It sounds simple enough, but the task is very hard. This profound statement reinforced the lesson that distractions are not relevant when you know how to get to your desired destination. The real obstacles of meditation are not club music or flatulence, but rather the chatter of one's own mind.
Once I was able to turn the volume down inside my head, my meditation began to appear. The technique and long hours of fierce determination guided me to a place beyond the noise. One of the most encouraging things about the entire experience is to know that this place exists. Consistent practice helps me to efficiently arrive into silence. These moments are fleeting, but the sense of calm and clarity is always there inside of us.