My year at a Vipassana Center: Part 7. We attract what we fear – Insect or Insight?

It has been more than 10 years since my year as long term server at a Vipassana Center. I still try to sit and serve 10-day courses when I can, however these days the centers are so booked that one has to book well in advance.

A few years ago I was visiting Bali and  there was a ten-day retreat during the time. I applied to serve. Upon arrival, I realized that it would not be the regular course I’m used to, for several reasons, one being that the center ground was independently rented for those ten days and came with its own management, cooks … and energetic vibrations different to the specific calmness and order of a Vipassana center

I was appointed “female manager,” which means  that the female students could speak to me about any practical needs they may have during their stay.

Now, by reading through the last several posts, by now you must be used to the theme of fantasy, projecting and disillusion. This is how we operate most of our lives. We believe a thought, or collection of thoughts. It becomes our experience, our reality.

If disillusion is a bit of a strong term for you, maybe you prefer thinking of it as limiting beliefs – beliefs that are not necessarily true, and that are not necessarily serving you. Well, sitting through a 10-day Vipassana retreat will bring those beliefs to the foreground of your experience. You’ll get to deal with them in a very visceral way. Once in a while a belief may be so deeply engrained in your psyche that it may seem to be real.

Then again, we all know what happens with strong beliefs, they manifest themselves, reinforcing the very belief that may or may not serve you.

Day 5 and 6 are known for shaking up these beliefs pretty hard. It was at one or two in the morning on one of these days that someone knocked on my bedroom door.

“Help” she said. “Im freaking out, there’s something in my ear!” She was freaking out. Her face signaled one message and one message only: PANIC!

I understood that she was truly panicking. Yet, it was 2am on day 5 or 6. We were in a foreign country, out of our comfort zone, surrounded by insects and creatures we are usually not used to seeing in our insulated city apartments. Here’s this girls sitting on my bed, freaking out because she once saw a horror movie in which some insect crawled into someone’s ear, where it proceeded to lay eggs and claimed the ear canal as its new home. Ok, hang on, I thought. Lets just be reasonable here.

“Are you sure there is something in your ear?” I asked. “Yes,” she said. “Tell me about this movie. Is it possible that somehow your mind recreated this sensation as you release the (slight traumatic) memory of the movie?” I had to ask, but she was sure that some creature was in her ear. Ok, well what to do. I grabbed the torch and flashed it down her ear. I could see nothing.

I had no idea even where the nearest hospital were. To be honest, I didn’t really know how to get out of the property we were on. The only person I could think of asking for advice was the male assistant teacher. How would that look, I wondered? Crossing over to the male area of the course, knocking on the teacher’s door in the middle of the night, breaking every code of conduct necessary to keep the course continuing to completion, and what if in the end there was nothing in her ear?

Panic never helps. In fact staying calm was the only solution I could come up with.

I had access to hot water and gathered that I could offer her a cup of sugar water to calm down and the rest we’d figure out afterwards, but then it hit me: Hot sugar water!

I had a plan. I ran downstairs and came back with a cup of hot sugar water. “Drink it really fast,” I said. “Drink it so fast that whatever creature is there in your ear cannot stand the heat and has to crawl out.”

It wasn’t long before the feelers of a long flat insect appeared, followed by the rest of its body, escaping the overbearing heat of her ear canal. We did it. I could hardly believe what I had seen that morning, but we did it.

The course finished as if nothing had happened and the rest of the students only found out about the insect-in-the-ear incident on Mettā-Day, when everything gets revealed.



3 thoughts on “My year at a Vipassana Center: Part 7. We attract what we fear – Insect or Insight?

    1. Hi Satyajivana. Thank you for you interest! I think that slightly nervous is a very appropriate feeling before a big journey like that. Yes, I do have some tips. Enjoy it!!!! You are going to be meditating for many hours, so remind yourself that meditation is an incredibly rejuvenating and enjoyable practice. My first question usually to anyone who shows interest in sitting for ten days is whether they enjoy meditation. Then everyone is different and every person has their own motivation and inner drive which calls them on this path. My tip is to enjoy the meditation.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Great thank you! Yes I do really enjoy meditation and I am interested in getting to know myself on a deeper level. Thank you for replying though:)


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