I gave myself a pooh for my birthday!

Being in the Philippines and turning forty was a big deal to me. It was a chance to celebrate a huge milestone in my life with my Filipino family who I have only just got to know over the last few years. Getting to know my roots in this wonderful country has always been my dream.

My fortieth came and went and not only did I not have this crazy, huge affair, I was completely secluded in a remote area of the country observing complete silence. Yes, complete silence! A group of strangers, segregated by gender learning the Vipassana technique and doing it…again, in complete noble silence.

To describe this experience would not do it justice and can only be given at the surface, physical level. It is something experiential and is best understood by oneself completing a course, which is a ten-day period, meditating for ten plus hours each day. It’s hard work, it’s serious work…but it’s liberating.

There are five precepts to follow along with noble silence, including abstaining from killing any being; abstaining from stealing; abstaining from sexual activity; abstaining from lies and abstaining from all intoxicants. If you complete further courses, there are other precepts, in addition, to follow.

No communication with the outside world and other students; no physical contact; no exercise; no forms of worship; no music; reading or writing. Basically, giving up all forms of distraction so that fair trial is given to learning one of India’s most ancient meditation techniques.

In these ten days, the student first begins by observing the natural breath to build concentration of the mind and then proceeds to observe the sensations throughout the body. It develops the idea of seeing things as they really are and cultivates the understanding of the universal truth of impermanence.

The course is run solely on a donation basis and is only accepted if the student feels they have benefitted from learning this technique. Donations should be given with the volition to help others and so goes towards the cost of a future course for the benefit to be shared by other students.

Food is offered twice a day with no dinner and is completely vegetarian. For me, this was easy to handle and the creativity and variety of dishes was actually impressive. At meal times, I became extremely mindful of how I ate, chewing at a snail pace and releasing my spoon after every mouthful.

Funnily enough, from fully digesting each portion of my food and being aware of all the sensations used to consume nourishment, I was pretty sure that this was the reason that I didn’t have a bowel discharge for quite some time – a week to be exact. Yes, a week! And I didn’t feel any pain or discomfort from it.

So, coming back to the pooh part of the story. On the day of my fortieth birthday (the ninth day out of the ten-day course), after both meals were consumed and I had a bathroom break after one of the meditation sessions, I suddenly felt the urge to go. What elation was felt for this movement. I had given myself a gift!

I gave myself a pooh for my birthday. I also gave myself the opportunity to strip down my ego; accept both the painful and pleasant sensations I was experiencing without craving or aversion; and blessed myself with learning a technique that, if continually practiced, will help me be liberated from misery.

I don’t expect people to understand through just my words. As mentioned, it is something to be experienced and each individual will process and learn the technique at different paces and varying degrees. It is the process of purifying the self by observing the self and this needs to be practiced.

Coming back into society has been both a relief and also overwhelming. My personal goals are to quieten my mind – and also my mouth. The old adage, we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. I intend to listen to others…really listen. I mean, isn’t that how we learn intently and with less of an ego?

I haven’t just become an enlightened yogi who will perform levitation in a pure, meditative state. But I have chosen to be a better version of me. The best I can be. And to continue serving others but without wanting reward and seeking attention for it. May all beings be happy. May all beings find peace.