Vipassana cut short to a world on lock down

March 15, 2020




Every day is a new day, every day brings it’s wonders and challenges.  Today brought surprises and a complete change of direction.  The times, it seems, are a’changin’.

I was sitting in a Vipassana meditation retreat in Poland, it was day three of the 10 day course.  I had served the previous course, being kitchen manager… one of the toughest 10 day period of my life, Vipassana, no matter what you do, serve or take a course, always brings new learnings, new teachings and personal growth.
This morning, as usual, after the gong sounded, we silently walked to the meditation hall, sat down, waiting for the daily instructions when our teacher said, “We have an announcement to make…”  He explained that the management was forced to close the center as the corona virus spreading through Europe had reached Poland and that the government demanded that all group gatherings and public places be closed.  There was also the matter of borders being closed in many countries and because many of the students come from many different countries, closing early would help them reach their respective homes.

I gasped.  “No!” I thought.  I really wanted to get this course done… then the next thought was… uh, what do I do now?  Where can I go? I had a vague plan of slowly heading towards France, I had thought of going to Normandy if possible to see the land of my ancestors… but, can I travel there?  With closed borders, cancelled flights and interrupted international bus travel…. My mind was kind of frozen for about one hour…

We all gathered in the dining hall, handed over our locker keys an got our phones back, in a matter of moments everyone was on their device trying to contact family and friends.  A woman was trying to find a way to Russia as flights were cancelled and the  border closed, another small group going to Estonia left in a hurry as they were told that  there was the possibility that the borders would be closed.  It was a strange sight.  Only 20 minutes earlier all of us in silent introverted meditative state, were now negotiating the current situation, the bizarre new reality that was now ours.

I went to clean my room.  Pack my bags, I realized as I was removing the bed sheets from my mattress that my anxiety came from the fact that I didn’t know where I would sleep tonight.  Where will I go?  Many were going to Wroclaw, but that city is expensive…

OK,  I thought, first I will head back to a familiar place, back to Poznan and from there I can get up to date with the situation in the world and be able to make a more informed decision.
I managed to find a ride directly to Poznan, we rode three of us in Arturo’s car, a Polish man, a Russian and a Canadian, sitting in a car on a highway, I burst out laughing, to the incongruence of the moment, the wildness of life, this strange sense of the multitudinous possibilities life holds.  Every micro moment, every single factor can change, and we change along with it.

In Poznan, upon arrival it was eerie, my hostel is situated right in the center of town, on a Saturday, that would mean streets filled with pedestrians, stores running swift businesses.  I got out of the car, said my goodbyes and loaded my bags on my back and started to walk towards the hostel. The streets were empty.  A few people, most stores closed.  I walked to my favorite coffee shop: closed.  hmm no espresso to be had.  I realized it may be a good idea to buy some food for a couple of days.  I went to Biedronka, a grocery store, there too, it was eerily quiet, some shelves were empty, as if the store was going to close.  People stayed at a safe distance from each other, the clerk at the self check out was slightly freaked out, pulling a mask on her face every time someone addressed her, reaching with her arms out in front of her as if to put an invisible barrier between her and her interlocutors.  I asked her if the store was going to be open tomorrow, she got angry blurting things in Polish at me, a man turned around and asked in English: is there a problem?  I asked him about the store, he said: “yes, they will be closed for 2 days”  “Oh!” so my hunch was right, I bought food for a few days.  We will see.
What to do?

Annitcha, annitcha,  this too will pass.  It is time to practice the tenets of my meditation practice.  In  physical world, all arises then passes away.  The consciousness remains, the physicalities, the emotionalities, the conceptualities, rules and civilizations come and go.   The blessing of life and wonders of this world are there every moment to be appreciated.  Deep breath.  So I guess I will discover more of Poland than I had planned.  It’s time to sit at the computer and see where I can weather the next few weeks, let that wave roll and crash on the shores of life.
I’ll keep you posted.



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