Coming Back To Life

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How an ancient technique of Vipassana Meditation helped me make the dreaded comeback!

Photo by Grace Russmann from Pexels

Two years back, I left my job to search for something that I thought was missing from my life. I didn’t even know what the missing bit was. Maybe the missing bit was the purpose (or at least passion), I would often think. And I thought somehow, somewhere, with the passage of time and wandering, I could find one.

Today, two years later, here I am, writing about my journey. And no, I haven’t found the purpose that I was looking for. But I have realized something important about time, re-entry, and life.

It’s interesting how we love to visualize our lives in terms of milestones. Two years ago. Four years ago. Leaving that job. Meeting that person. And so on. Two years before leaving my job, I had returned to my country Nepal post-graduation. Filled with hope and uncertainty, I had returned home as a 25-year-old boy-in-a-man, ready to mark his new chapters in what was a blank slate career.

In the following two years, the chapters did come in thick and fast, and I enjoyed most of the chapters that had filled the blank slate. And yet, there were days I would feel restless and agitated with questions, questions ranging from “Is this how the rest of my life is going to be?” to “Am I actually wasting my life doing all this?”

Unaware of the root cause of restlessness, but constantly aware of the underlying restlessness, I decided to leave my job. (Just to make it clear: I live with my parents. So, leaving my job was not going to affect my immediate survival.)

So, anyway, I left my job to buy some time, with the hope of spending that “bought time” wandering and exploring. But guess what, just a few months into my wandering, the pandemic happened.

Soon, I turned into books, and for the first time in my life was reading just for the sake of reading. Reading helped me cultivate the habit of writing, and writing helped me see “work in life” beyond the normal work-life.

But the restlessness that was bugging me would still pop up at times. And while I was happier for the most part of my sabbatical, a new question had popped up in my life: “If I was drifting too far away from the normal life each passing day?”

That’s when I luckily turned to the other direction of wandering.

All our lives, most of us wander in one direction. Maybe it’s natural to search for whatever you are searching always outwards. This is where the technique of mediation—and the subsequent inner journey — becomes unique and important.

I slowly developed a daily mediation habit of 10–20 minutes. Although the changes were not immediate, understandably, I could gradually feel the small changes inside me.

That’s when I decided to jump into the abyss.

Having thought but dreaded about experiencing the Vipassana retreat for about two years, I finally joined the Silent Meditation retreat of 10 days.

There’s plenty of apprehension and misinformation about the Vipassana retreat out there, so let me just clarify about Vipassana in short. Vipassana is an ancient technique of mediation that was rediscovered by Gautam Buddha 2500 years ago. Taught as a 10-day intensive meditation course, Vipassana is just like how any intense 10-day swimming (or coding) course would be.

Of course, if you have never jumped into the water, any intense 10-day swimming course is bound to surprise (and shock) you, as you will not only learn the techniques of swimming but also learn about water, and more strikingly yourself.

Therefore, as I was practicing the technique, it was normal for thoughts to bubble up inside me. Thoughts. Flashbacks. Flashbacks I was unaware of. Flashbacks I just wanted to avoid. And amidst the flashbacks, thoughts, and thoughtlessness, realizations would pop up, realizations concerning my life.

I had realizations about things I could control in life and things I could not. And above all, I had the realization of the main cause that was causing my agitation, which unsurprisingly fell under the “things I couldn’t control” category. The root cause of all my restlessness and agitation was time. Or rather, my constant worry and concern about the passage of time.

If we recount moments of happiness from our lives—or more specifically, activities that led to such moments— most of the activities would be the ones associated with timelessness. Playing outside as a kid. Watching our favorite movies. Meeting our loved ones. Moments where we lost the track of time.

I realized it was the same case — at least in my scenario — with life too. I was way too concerned about the passage of time, achieving this and that milestone by this and that age, which meant not only being restless and agitated but also not enjoying the moment.

Then, there was this “purpose” or “passion” thing constantly fueling the agitation, as I would often worry if I would miss my purpose in life doing “pointless” other things. I realized the importance of seeing every little activity of life as life — beyond the normal work-life and big milestones—however random or insignificant.

It’s one thing to have these self-realizations at the conscious level, and most of us are already endowed with such knowledge through books or listening to others. But when engulfed in strong feelings and emotions — positive, negative, irrespective — our conscious level knowledge and realizations easily get overwhelmed.

This is where I found meditation more effective in making me calmer, and this is where I will trust meditation to take care of me even at the unconscious level, by faithfully maintaining the habit of meditation.

Just a few days back, I returned home after completing the course. I could not find the purpose that I was looking for. But I found the enthusiasm to see purpose in every little act that I do. And more importantly, I found the much-needed peace and composure to make the Re-Entry into my work life.

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