Every afternoon, we were required to meet up with the Dhamma and report on our progress. Each day he asked how our walking was going, and how was the sitting. As I mentioned before I was seriously struggling with the sitting meditation. At our first meeting, his advice was just to give it time. At the second meeting he asked if I had been trying to control my breath. Whoops, that was exactly what I was doing! Our instructions were to say “Rising” as we breathed in and “Falling” as we breathed out and I was having trouble hitting a natural rhythm with those words. My new assignment was to add five minutes and increase the complexity of my walking meditation, and keep working on my sitting.
After the short meeting with my teacher, I returned to my newly staked out territory in the meditation hall. It’s a massive room with about a dozen long meditation mats, the perfect length for ten paces of walking meditation. Every morning I headed up to the hall straight after breakfast and claimed a mat with my pillow stack. I refused to meditate outside because I didn’t want to step on the massive creepy insects that were found everywhere and I make for delicious mosquito bait. Meditators were in and out of the hall all day, and I often entertained myself by trying to identify meditators by their pillow stack.
Anyway, I was right back to meditating. I did my twenty minutes of walking and transitioned to sitting, except this time instead of adjusting my breath to the cadence of my words I drew out the words to match my breath. This wasn’t the first time he’d mentioned that we shouldn’t control our breathing but this time it clicked. It still wasn’t easy but it felt more manageable, and thank goodness because the next day I was up to twenty minute sessions.
On my first full day of meditation I managed to accumulate 5h 40m of individual meditation, but by the second I’d hit my stride with 6h 40m. Every day I would try to reach for 7h, but each time I would hit a mental and physical block at 6h 40m. It’s surprisingly easy to motivate yourself to put in the hours. The truth is, when you’re at a meditation retreat you have nothing better to do. I would occasionally give in to the temptation of brushing my teeth again or taking an extra shower, and Katy admitted to doing lots of laundry, but it was difficult to convince myself that extreme hygiene was a better use of my time than meditation.
Unfortunately as my sessions increased in length I discovered that in one significant aspect I was woefully unprepared. While not total shit, my posture needs a lot of work. The back pain started getting noticeable as soon as I reached twenty minute sessions and almost unbearable as I progressed to twenty-five minute sessions. This is actually the number one reason I think that a week retreat was the right length for me: I would have been physically incapable of finishing a longer one.