Every time someone I love is upset, and doesn’t answer the phone, I panic. I worry that if I don’t reach them, somehow, right now, through a friend or colleague or someone at home, there is a chance that I will never see them again. It happened once, and I will not let it happen again. I didn’t pay enough attention the last time and I lost someone forever. And I don’t think I can live with myself if I ever let it happen again.
Since last year, all of us have been walking on a ticking time bomb of ‘what ifs’. What if we had called before? What if I just sent her a text? What if we’d just listened some more? What did we do wrong that we should have done right?
The answer to that, I’ve found out throughout the months, is nothing.
There was absolutely nothing that you could have done to change what happened. No decision, phone call or angel, would have changed the course of her destiny.
So I’m tired of aunties asking us “Do you know what happened? Did she tell you anything at all? Were there signs? You were her friends, no?” I want to slap them on their confused-ass face and tell them, “No, I don’t know what happened. I didn’t live her life, I don’t know what made her do what she did. I don’t know what it feels like to go through what she did and say ‘oh, if it were me, I would not have done such a stupid thing’. I couldn’t have possibly told you what would make someone normal, like you or me, someone who was just texting us the night before asking to see us the next day for lunch, do something as crazy as jump in front of a train.”
The thing with people is that, no two are the same. The way I react when something happens to me, will not be the same way that you react when the same thing happens to you. If someone as sane and normal and fun and amazing as she, could do something so incredibly out-of-this-world, I do not, for one millisecond, doubt that someone normal, like you or me, can do something just as outrageous.
Since then, I’ve tried to understand why someone would do something that is considered out of their normal behaviour. I’ve run over that thought over and over again; the same way that I’ve run my tongue over and over again on the place where a wisdom tooth is emerging, rupturing the gum underneath. And I’ve searched and searched and searched, and ended up with nothing, except the annoying feeling of an unwanted wisdom tooth. There is no right or wrong way that someone will act in a situation that shatters their world. There is no telling what you or I would do if we were cornered into a cavern where we could see no escape.
So you have no right to say that what she did was wrong, unless you have done the same.
When someone is going through a shit-storm, they just need you to listen to them and tell them that it is going to be okay. Not how if it were you, how you would do it differently. Or how stupid they’ve been or how they’re going to be in trouble.
You just need someone to tell you that it is okay.
No matter what has happened, regardless of what you have done, it will be okay.
Just that one phrase. “It will be okay.”
I wish I had said it to her enough. I wish I had told her some more.
The magical Menstrual Cup is now available in Sri Lanka!
Since I’ve tried the menstrual cup, I’ve been telling any woman who would listen to me, about it! 😀 I’ve cupverted 35 women since I first spoke about this on my previous post Bleeding into a cup in Sri Lanka and so many women have sent inquiries about the cup since then. About 30 women have reserved cups from boondh.
I’m psyched that so many of you approached me asking about it, sending emails and messages back and forth and discussing possibilities of using it.
Congratulations on wanting to take this giant leap!
I guarantee that it will change your life forever, for the better! If you haven’t reserved one yet, please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org. I can’t wait for you to try it out and feel fabulous! ❤ 🙂
Here’s a small summary of what the menstrual cup is for those of you who are new to the idea.
How much is the menstrual cup?
Boondh is a social enterprise in India and I’m just trying to spread the love here. I bought it from them since it’s tested by them plus it serves their cause. Profits will fund their campaigns and make available cups to women in low-income communities. When you buy from Boondh, you sponsor 10+ years of someone’s menstrual product!
Price is 3200 LKR per cup.
You can select colours from Sunshine Yellow, Imperial Red, Fuschia (pink) and Teal.
1 Menstrual Cup
1 user manual ‘How to use your boondh cup’
1 cute pouch to carry the cup with you
How to use your Menstrual Cup?
The first rule of using this cup is that you have to be on your period because the blood acts as a lubricant and makes the cup slide up your fanny — no hassle. There is an instruction manual attached to it also so you will be fine. Feel free to message me anytime and I will help answer your questions. If you send me questions, I’ll add them here as an FAQ too so others can benefit from it.
There are a lot of articles and videos out there that show you how to do it, but let me tell you what I do. Will add a short clip here soon too.
I’m filing this space up with questions that you want answered. So please send / comment and so on so I can have it open for everyone who’s curious. We can discuss more when you meet me to pick the cup.
How do you know how far in it has to go?
No part of the cup can be outside your body and you cannot feel it if you have inserted it right. Even the little nob at the base has to be inside, but just within reach when you put a finger. Don’t worry, it won’t go in too far as only liquids can go past your cervix.
Do you put it right when you see you got your period? I can’t predict my period. Just as soon as you see red on your undies, similar to a pad or tampon.
I’m scared it won’t come out. What do I do if I can’t get it out?
Just breathe and push down (thatamanna) as though you’re going to poop or push a baby out. Put two fingers in and pinch the base of the cup. This breaks the vacuum and you can pull it out. It was easy for me to get mine out when I pushed down on my pelvic muscles. If it doesn’t work the first time, come back later and try again. On your first attempt taking it out, remember, do not panic. If you panic, there is a chance that your vaginal muscles will tense and you will find it more difficult to take out.
Does it hurt when you insert it?
Personally, it didn’t hurt, just a slight “pressured” sensation for the first few seconds which is also rather pleasant when the cup is warm after sterilisation till I push it past the flappy bits at the vagina opening. I did a little standing up/ squatting ritual till the rim of the cup was inside and just pushed it and –floop- it slides into place and opens up. And after that, I don’t even feel it. I am not exaggerating. You don’t even feel it inside you. I have got feedback saying that taking the cup out hurts a bit. This is probably because the opening of the cup is larger when it comes out than it goes in.
How often do I have to sterilise it?
Wash hands well with soap before you handle the cup. You can wash the cup in boiling / warm water before the first use in every cycle. Rinse it with normal water between insertions. If I was at home, I just dipped it in boiling water too since I had access to it just cuz I could. But it’s not compulsory.
I have a heavy flow. Will the cup be enough for me?
A woman will bleed about 30 to 40 ml. That’s about half a cup or a few tablespoons. A sanitary pad will hold about 5ml but as you already know, it looks like you’re bleeding a river down there. That’s probably because of the way the pad absorbs, and it gives us the false impression of how much we bleed. The boondh cup holds 12 ml of blood, which is why we can wear it for longer, almost 8 to 10 hours even on the first day.
Do I lose my virginity when I use it? No. And here is a comprehensive article as to why that is a no.
What about Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)?TSS (which mimics flu symptoms) occurs when bacteria grows. This can be avoided by sterilising the cup before you use + only having it inside you for 8 – 12 hours at a stretch.
What if I can’t sterilise it before I use it? If you don’t have the facility to sterilise the cup right before you insert it (travelling etc) you can sterilise the cup, store it in a clean, dry place and insert the cup within 24 hours. Reason being, not everything you stick up there, is sterilised.
You might take a few tries to get to the rhythm of it. Once you do, you’re going to be writing your own blogs and testimonials and buying these magic cups to your girlfriends asll. Trust me on that one! 🙂
I’ve also opened up Instagram and Facebook social media pages to reach more people. So give us a follow to join the talk on all things period. ❤
I am in a revelation. I am on the third day of my periods and I am not wearing a pad! I haven’t been wearing one for this entire period, and I am ecstatic. I don’t have an annoying sandwich-like wad of tissue and plastic in between my legs and I do not even feel like I am on my periods (save for the usual cramps that announce my monthly flower). Before you gag and call me an unhealthy heretic, hear me out because this, my dear, may as well change your life as a woman forever.
When I was in India last year September (a trip I cannot stop talking about because it changed who I am as a person) I met a feisty young woman named Sonal. Sonal is from Chennai and she is travelling across India exploring her beautiful country AND trying to push a cup inside every woman’s body. Literally. She is the co-founder of Boondh Cup, a social enterprise in India that is trying really hard to cupvert as much of it’s female population as possible (That’s 623.72 million women which is 51.5% of the whole population as of 2011). How she does it I have no idea, (a lot of meetings and convincing I suspect) but the fact that she introduced me to the menstrual cup has changed who I am and how I look at myself as a woman forever.
Sonal casually brought up the idea and the product itself from her depths and just talked about it. I was curious at first, as in “What is that thing and does it go up in my vajajay?” and “Why the heck should I bother with yet another thing that goes up my vagina?”. She spoke about something that is close to my heart; the environment and the waste we create as menstruating women. I had never thought of it before. I always brought pads, used them and burnt/buried/flushed them. I didn’t think of me leaving such a big mess for mother earth to clean up after. I was horrified to find that baby’s disposable nappies cannot even be burnt because of the material in them (according to my aunt who is looking after her granddaughter and ends up throwing it away from the garbage folks to collect) but I never thought of the impact on the environment that I made.
I began by ripping the pads up (cotton and plastic separately, mind you) and flushing it down the loo. Bad idea because it clogs the drain. I then started wrapping the pad in paper and storing it in a bin to dispose of later. But I had to wait until my whole period was over so that I can do it all in one go. And then this pile would start smelling and attract flies and worms. And then I try burying it only for my dog (or the neighbourhood thalagoya) to sniff it out and bring it to the front yard and make a massive mess on the lawn for me to clean up the next day before rushing to work!? Finally, I tried burning it because Jesus fucking Christ!?! But no, the material in it would only half burn (and the dog and the damn thalagoya happens anyway) so I had to put thinner on it to make it burn but that would also still leave some waste. And I just repeat to myself “It’s just once a month, don’t stress over it, just get it over it, and don’t think about it too much.” Since I moved, I don’t have a backyard and I wondered how the women who live in apartments / don’t have backyards dispose of it. I have never let anyone else apart from myself touch my own pads so no, throwing it out on to the garbage truck is not happening.
Since I was interested in the cup, Sonal was keen on sending me a cup somehow all the way from India. It was only this year, in March too, that I finally stuck it in. -pun- Following is an IG post on the day I received the package including the breakdown of the cost involved in menstruating in Sri Lanka. You might detect a hint of uncertainty in my voice. But now that I have used it, my confidence and faith in this magical instrument evidently blows up in your face.
I have been transformed. I have transformed from that woman who chases after her dog and walks around the humid tropical Sri Lankan climate baking a period soaked pad between her legs. I am now free.
I can swim, an activity I avoided although periods do tend to pause while you’re submerged in water because of the pressure difference. I didn’t want trails of blood following me and any wondering sharks to eat me while I was swimming in the ocean. Since I backpack a lot, I need this kind of magic because I just cannot deal with a pad when I’m hiking a mountain.
I bachata and kizomba, another activity I avoid when I have periods because it somehow made me very insecure to be with a man, most of the times a stranger within that level of proximity to be comfortable enough to dance during my period.
No leaks; once the cup is inside you, it creates a vacuum and seals the hole preventing leaks. When I looked at the pad, I felt I bled gallons. But actually, it is not a lot of bleeding. I don’t even bleed a half cup on the slow flow days and just less than a full cup on a heavy day. The blood is spread out on the pad and also leaks when it’s saturated, which is why we “think” we bleed such a lot. I used to wear pads for four days but now I only bleed three with the cup! I assume it’s because it collected the blood from the inside. Saw that!? Periods even reduced by a day! Whoever heard of a three days period?! 😮
I don’t have to spend on pads, battle with my dog to dispose of it. In essence, I am never sighting a pad ever again in my life. (A moment of silence to a sanitary napkin manufacturer who just lost a customer who would have otherwise paid over 60k during her entire lifetime).
I reduce my carbon footprint by a significant amount.
I can sleep without waking up on the Japanese flag.
I can pee/poop normally, without messing with pads/tampons. If you haven’t noticed, (and one of my dear friends actually went and counted) we have three holes to do three different things. I initially felt worried that the cup would plop out, so I took it out and did it. See, it’s the same motion of bearing down or ‘thatamanawa’ that you have to do when you shit too. But later on the 2nd day and so on, I just pooped with it and it wasn’t an issue. I read this article about pooping with a menstrual cup just to ease the tension. -tee hee-
In short – it feels insane. I am never ever bothering with pads or tampons ever again.
Even though I now sound like I bloody invented this cup, to be very honest, I was scared at first. It felt weird to even consider doing this thing. Here are a few of the questions that I found myself asking.
What if it gets lost in there? It will not because only liquids go past your cervix. This cup will come out, the same way a small human being pops out of you, or a dick, or a dildo, or your fingers.
What if something goes wrong and something like “American Pie” happens? The worst thing that could happen with a cup is that it might leak due to incorrect placement but no, it is not going to get stuck in there.
What if it hurts when I stick it in? Personally, it didn’t hurt, just a slight “pressured” sensation for the first few seconds which is also rather pleasant when the cup is warm after sterilisation till I push it past the flappy bits at the vagina opening. I did a little standing up/ squatting ritual till the rim of the cup was inside and just pushed it and –floop- it slides into place and opens up. And after that, I don’t even feel it. I am not exaggerating. You don’t even feel it inside you.
And ehem, darling, to keep things in perspective, it’s going to hurt way more when you push a human being out of your fanny for far longer time frame, so a slight discomfort for a few seconds is nothing compared to that. Even if you won’t be pushing a human being out of your fanny, these few seconds of uneasiness is still worth it to eliminate all your period woes. It also feels like inserting a finger or two in there, first, it’s slightly uncomfortable and -floop- then it’s in. Also much like a dick. Or a dildo.
When you’re removing it, you have to pinch the cup and break the suction or vacuum created by it. Then it’s just a matter of pulling it out. Don’t worry though, you will get it right when you use it a few times.
Is it safe? Very much so. The only hiccup would be an infection that gets into your vee vee during the inserting process. This we avoid by washing our hands very well before using the cup and sterilising the cup with hot/boiling water between cycles. I try to sterilise between uses too just to be on the safe side. It’s also safer than having a chemical induced wad of cotton and plastic wedged up against your vagina.
I cook in the morning so I had to wait until all the spicy-ness goes away from my fingers before I handled the cup. Also I noticed that my nail polish was flaking so I removed it because I didn’t want any bits going in there.
What if I lose my virginity? *Takes a deep breath* If by virginity you mean the first time you have sex, the answer is a strict no, you cannot have sex with a menstrual cup for the first time. If at all, virginity is not something you lose. We need to move away from that mindset.
What about Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)?TSS (which mimics flu symptoms) occurs when bacteria grows. This can be avoided by sterilising the cup before you use + only having it inside you for 8 – 12 hours at a stretch.
What if I can’t sterilise it before I use it? If you don’t have the facility to sterilise the cup right before you insert it (travelling etc) you can sterilise the cup, store it in a clean, dry place and insert the cup within 24 hours. Reason being, not everything you stick up there, isn’t sterilised.
Here’s a video that you might want to watch about this whole virginity business. And another one here.
If you have any more questions, please ask me and I would be happy to help you out with it! 🙂
Why do you need a menstrual cup?
I don’t have to specifically jot down the woes of periods. It’s different for everyone. I personally love getting mine because a) I know I am not pregnant and b) it feels ridiculously empowering somehow to gush human blood out of me for several days and not die. It’s not as easy or pleasant for 99.9% of my friends. (I literally know only ONE other human being who LOVES getting her period, she know who she be when she read this cuz we connect over that ish 😀 )
It could be for different reasons for everyone. For me personally, it’s the following three.
Convenience: A tampon can be worn for maximum 3 or 4 hours. A pad can be worn maybe 5 or 6 hours. A menstrual cup can be even worn for 12 hours at a stretch. Sonal said she tested hers for 50 hours, i.e. two whole days. I personally only change my cup maybe twice on the one heavy flow day and once during the rest of the days.
Cost: Bro, need I even begin? You calculate how much you spend on sanitary towels and you tell me. (Or just refer to the above Instagram post) At the minimum, LKR 100,000 per lifetime. The menstruation cup is 3200 LKR when you buy it from Boondh, which is what I did because it supports their work in India. With each cup you by, you give another cup to a woman in India. It is also lifetime investment. You just need ONE for your entire lifetime.
Comfort: DUUUUUUUUDE. You cannot feel it. You cannot. (If you can feel it, you might be wearing it wrong.) No more feeling of a sandwich stuck between your legs. No more diaper rashes. No more sweaty and overcrowded groins in this hectic heat. It’s as though you are just you, no periods. Just you.
Here is a video about the things we don’t know about sanitary napkins. And the truth is quite shocking.
Another short video about what the menstrual cup is done by Boondh.
Finally, why am I orchestrating around writing these lengthy blogs and texting my friends like I suddenly found the solution to all of the problems of women? Because I feel like this is it. I feel like this is the answer. Not to all the problems of all womenkind in the world, by God no, but the solution to some of it.
I think this menstrual cup magic should just spread like the bloody bubonic plague until it reaches all women across the globe. Sometimes we forget that bleeding for you and I is not the same for another woman somewhere else. Women who do not have access to safe menstrual health, girls who have trouble going to school because of various socio-cultural and emotional aspects of menstruating and as a result, lag behind in school work and education thereby further reducing their ability to work and create wealth, women and girls who cannot afford the heavy cost of sanitary napkins, women who are not confident or comfortable enough to do sports or go to school or go about their day because they are bleeding. It is enough that bleeding is painful to many, but to deal with all the other complications of it is just too much.
Bleeding does not mean that you are weak or dirty, it means that you are functioning and beautiful and courageous and powerful.
I also feel that I want to share this new found experience with all my lady friends, the same way I heard about it from one of my lady friends, thereby creating a chain of support and awareness, and hopefully positive change. A huge shout it to Sonal and Bharti who founded Boondh and are pioneering a movement to move away from the stigma of menstruating and to promote safe sanitary options for bleeding women in India, and now Sri Lanka and recently I heard they sent ten cups to the Netherlands so the happiness is spreading!
One thing I wanted to do this year, was to push myself. I promised myself in January that I would push myself to do what I am afraid of doing, to do things that I would not have otherwise done out of fear of failing or ridicule. It is not that I am not afraid. Oh, I am very very afraid. But I choose to overcome it. Because it is always the choice.
If by reading this blog, you felt that this intrigued you by 1%, please don’t be shy. Talk to me and we can discuss how this magical menstrual cup can change your life. We can arrange for a menstrual cup to be delivered to you too. Do a lot of reading on it to get an idea of it, talk to people who use it, watch videos and do your research and just bleed happily!
This is me yammering on about the cup to lifeonline after one of the cupverts wanted to really get the word out there. ❤
How to get your own magic menstrual cup?
There are two types of cups sold by Boondh. As it is a social enterprise, the profits of each sale will go to fund their campaigns and make available cups to women in low-income communities. With each cup you purchase, you will sponsor 10+ years of someone’s menstrual product! Price per cup is 3200 LKR. And with each cup you purchase, another cup will be sent to a menstruator in a low-income community in India.
If you’re in India, place an order here to get it delivered right to you. Yay!
If you’re in Sri Lanka, email me on email@example.com with your contact details and I will get one delivered to you from Boondh. I will keep you on the list and try to get it before your next period! 😀
You can also buy a cup online too. Brands such as moon cup, diva cup and juju are all good. Prices range from $2 to 50$. Just check if they have the relevant certifications. Since I haven’t tested any of those, I can’t comment on it. I feel the design and size (12 ml) of the boondh cup are ideal for me, so I recommend it to you also. The cup has to be made of medical grade silicone that doesn’t react with the body. Read some reviews too.
I’ve also opened up Instagram and Facebook social media pages to reach more people. So give us a follow to join the talk on all things period.
Store it in a cool, dry box/pouch when you’re not using it
Before every cycle, wash it well and sterilise it using boiled water. I don’t sometimes boil it on the stove as seen in the video, but just plonk it in a cup with boiling water at office/home/ travelling.
Wash thoroughly with soap and water after your cycle is over. There are small holes near the rim of the cup that you need to make sure to unclog and clean well. I’ve highlighted the holes in yellow in this pic. >
I don’t usually use soap to wash the cup before or during my period because I try to be as chemical-free as I can. I use soap only after every cycle before I store it away to get rid of any odours and grease. But it’s up to you. A gentle baby soap is fine.
Your cup will generally be odour-free if it is washed and cleaned well.
Here’s to all the women who bleed proud, bleed blessed and bleed just fucking bleed. ❤
I am happy, so blissfully, carelessly, temporarily, happy. It was close to midnight, again, as many interesting things happen close to midnight. I was surrounded by love. People in love, people who had lost love and people who sought love, endlessly, compassionately, selflessly. Like a seething horizon disappearing into the sky, love flowed through our veins, like alcohol or electrons and love was present in the air around us. There is love in the most absolute, insignificant of places, and I had forgotten. For a fleeting second, I had forgotten that the world is good and that it will continue to be good and that there will always be sadness. There will be sadness when you lose someone, unexpectedly, unfairly. When someone decides that it is enough, and everything changes. Everything tumbles out, lose and disobedient. What changed? She got lost, and I lost a part of me with her. At times I am okay. I am alive, and I am happy, going about my day and focussing on my things. But at other times, and these times are rare, I sink in. I sink into a hole inside me and I think I will never come out. This is a hole inside my chest, where my heart used to be. I can feel it sometimes, existing within me but when I fall, I can feel it beating and I relive that day, horribly, irreversibly, unforgivingly. Like rewinding chapters in my favorite book. We are back in school, and we are buying elvalu roti, vegetable roti. We don’t have money, so we ask our teacher who loves us just too much but doesn’t say it out loud, and we buy elavalu roti and head back to class, elated that our prayers have been answered. We head back to share our prized possession with everyone, vowing to ourselves that when we grow up, we would have plenty of money to eat whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. Our bubbles burst when suddenly, out of nowhere, a crow swoops in, pecks at our hands —we scream— and drop our food, only for it to be carried away, hopefully, to feed some starving crow babies. And that was the end of that. I am here again, in the present, and there is happiness all around me. The fondness of the memory fades away slowly, and while I try to cling to it, I can feel it slipping through my fingers. No matter how hard I try to hold on to its innocence, I can’t. Our lives seem to have a “before and after”. Before her, and after her. I have unknowingly categorised my life’s memories into two parts. Before her, after her.
When I recall something from my past, I would wonder if she was there somewhere in the world and if yes, this memory would be innocent. A carefree, peaceful time. A time when I didn’t know of sadness. No matter how much emotion that was involved in it, this is a memory of innocence. But if she is not there, this memory is somehow, cruel, dirty, ugly. Regardless of how happy the memory was, how passionate it was, or how exciting — if she was not present somewhere, there was no innocence. And I can feel myself falling into this hole, and it is that day all over again. I feel tired and I can’t move. I hold myself, wrap my arms around myself so my pieces don’t fall out and spill across the grass. Slowly, gradually, I allow myself to sink in and see her. I see her at school with us, being a pandithaya, a “know-it-all”, I see her buying jeans at Kelly Felder, I see her wringing her clothes after a dip in a pond, I see her on my back as I carry her and she clamps her hand over my mouth because I am saying something naughty. Laughing, eyes closed as she always blinks exactly at the wrong time, and she is asleep in almost all our pictures. Sometimes, I wish I had more memories so I can visit them again and again and it is beautiful again. I wish I had paid more attention, recorded them in a mind cassette somewhere. And other times, and these times are rare, I wish I did not remember anything at all.
When I am with her, I notice her neck, and I craddle mine in assurance. She is wearing a beautiful necklace — it goes right around her neck — and I am standing next to her, watching her sleep in her wooden box and all I notice is the missing neckless. She is not wearing it, only a small gash on her right cheek to remind me that this is the memory. The memory that I will never forget, and yet, the one I will always want to forget. This is the reminder that I am not Alice, and this is not Wonderland. When I wake up, there will be no fairy tale, and I will be empty even though I feel alive, so. very. alive.
I travel when I need a break. When the noise is too loud and things get messy, it feels good to get out and get away. It helps me keep things in perspective. In February 2018, I embarked on an unusual adventure; one unlike any other that I’ve experienced before. Instead of charging out into the wilderness like I usually do, I dived within.
My mind was is a mess. I do not, for the most part, understand it’s nature. It jumps like a monkey from thought to thought, and while writing helps me cope with it on rare occasions (such as this) it’s very nature or purpose eludes me. Each of us is forced to grapple with our daily ups and downs, and we cope with it differently. Some smoke, some pray, some eat lavishly, some stay silent, some go out too much, some even quit life. I assume this is the nature of the mind. But surely, surely there is a way to contain it? Surely there is peace somewhere?
As I shed the kilometres from Colombo to Kandy; 8 hours and 200 kilometres away, I tried to release my grasp from the things that held me down, like a flower shedding its petals. I travelled to Ududumbara, about three hours past Kandy to a place called Nisala International Meditation Centre to find some answers, some sort of meaning to my shaky interiors.
Last year was horrible. I lost someone permanently. I cannot seem to comprehend loss. I know it happens. I know it is natural and that it happens to everyone. I also know that life goes on. I know that I will be me again, my balanced self. But somehow, losing people brings me great sadness. I feel I lose control of what is happening around me and I become unhappy with that change. This was my journey to make sense of it.
The Meditation Retreat
I didn’t think I could do it at first, but this year I had made a promise to myself that I will do things that scare me or pushed me out of my comfort zone. Stepping into a setting that is completely different to what I am used to, helped. And now, after my second four-day residential retreat, I am happy that I made the leap the first time.
The retreat is an intense four day, silent, residential retreat on Vipassanā meditation; to see. I arrived in the pitch darkness at 8pm on Friday night and was taken by a gentle tuk driver assigned to shuttle visitors back and forth. The Acharin (short for Kamatacharin or spiritual teacher) gave us instructions on how the following four days would go by. We are to wake up early and be in the meditation hall ready to meditate by 4 am every day. We are not to talk with each other. We are to speak with the Acharin about what we are feeling after each meditation exercise and ask questions relating to our experience. We are to be honest with each answer. We are to maintain discipline at all times. And most of all, we are to enjoy and immerse ourselves in this experience.
To search within, you must first switch off. When I first heard about the “no talking” rule, I was worried. I’m a very chatty person. How could I even imagine staying silent for four days when I can hardly shut my mouth for four hours!? By the beginning of day one, I found this to be the most peaceful of all breaks. Communication devices are the next to go.
Now you are on your own, free to explore your own depths. I was terrified at first. Inside my head, all alone without anyone or anything to distract me and keep the monkey inside me entertained. But it turned out to be the most liberating discovery. No one even looked at the other person and nodded. You’d think that was very rude but on the contrary, I think we all felt it. A certain respect for each other’s presence and own individual journey in discovering oneself.
How is the meditation?
I’ve heard and read of the merits of meditation, been forcefully compelled to do it once a week for about seven years at school. It seems like an awful lot of effort and frankly, I didn’t want to do it because I just got sleepy 99% of the time.
After this meditation retreat, I realised that all the meditation that I’ve ever done in my life was wrong. Had I done it right, I would have wanted to keep doing it.
The peace that comes with stilling your mind cannot be explained, it can only be felt.
You know how you are asleep and everything feels really good and relaxed? To me, it felt as though I was asleep but fully aware. I was not weighed down with any of my worries and concerns, and I just was. I just am. For just a moment, there is no inner chatter. There are no thoughts, emotions or memories. There is no white noise. No checking phones for messages, no scrolling social media endlessly, no thinking about anything really. We are so used to constantly think, think and think. One after the other, a never-ending train of thought. It felt heavenly to take a break from all that fluff inside my head.
Acharin says “You are on a platform. You see trains come and go. You do not get on these trains, but watch from the platform.”
And that is exactly it.
I don’t want to spoil the fun for you. This is something that you must feel on your own. It is a journey that you, yourself must feel intrigued to follow.
Did I get homesick? No. I’m used to staying away from “home” so I wasn’t. To me, home is where I am most peaceful. And among these strangers, several hours away from my friends and family, I found the peace I was looking for. I feel I need more practice, for sure, because I did have thoughts inside my head, I did get distracted. But this is a positive start, and I am hopeful.
When I stepped out of the meditation hall, I was greeted by the most beautiful view of the Knuckles range that I had ever seen. Flowers scattered throughout the compound and I went about ‘witnessing’ these elements in my surrounding and just being present. I did not think about back home, my losses, my ambitions or my worries. It was just me, present in that moment.
Mist engulfed the range in the morning, just before the sun poured it’s rays and took over.
Why do you need meditation?
The reasons were different for everyone at the retreat. You don’t have to be depressed or upset or in a state of unrest to try it. I don’t know what it would be for you, but it is an experience that I think everyone should go through atleast once in their life.
Meditation is the art of stillness and mindfulness. You need mindfulness to survive in the world, regardless of what your mental state is. When you go about your day being mindful of what you’re doing, there is less clutter and more clarity. Ideally, it should be taught in every school. Seeing as how Acharin’s youngest student is only seven years old, I’d say this is something really worth looking into!
I have been trying to convince my close friends to try this since I was convinced by a friend too. Some of them strictly refuse, saying that they will get bored and tired. But I keep asking them to give it a go because it will change their life. It has changed mine, and the way I look at the things that happen around me. I still can’t control the things that happen to me. But I have started to accept these changes, and not get frazzled by it. Or atleast, I try not to. I’m still learning. There are times when I still lose it. But I try to stay still and mindful of whatever it is that is making me go crazy.
As with many things that shape who I am, it was my mother who first encouraged me to try this, and for it I am grateful. It is beautiful to see how we support and connect and inspire our inner circles to be great. It is probably the second in a long list of positive things that she has influenced me to do. Third and fourth points being vegetarian and inspiring me to write respectively.
If you would like to experience this, Acharin G. Wijenayake conducts a one-day meditation session at the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress on the 3rd Saturday of every month from 9 am to 6 pm.
Email Dilrukshi on firstname.lastname@example.org so that she can you to their mailing list and send a reminder email every month. She is the second student of Acharin (when he started teaching 10 years ago) and the present Director of Retreats. Food and refreshments are provided on a donation basis and you can sit on chairs (not cushions on the floor as in at the retreat) and have an introductory session to meditation.
For more information, call +94713876444. Come for a one-day session and experience it.
I want to live an artist’s life. With watercolors and guitars and Latin music tucked safely inside me. I want to wake up to a messy room with a table full of pencils and brushes and pieces of cardboard cutouts and paint, so much that I have to swipe my hand over the wooden surface and roll everything over to a side to make some space for my book. I want to trip over my dance shoes from the night before and to not have space in my very small room for any more music equipment.
I want to spend my time lost—not in thought, but the art around me. ❤
The mornings are the best. There is the smell of cow dung, roses and sunlight everywhere. When I wake up back in Sri Lanka, I will yearn for this. After a brutal night of freezing cold, the mornings are welcomed with open arms, and I will forever remember this ying and yang of pain and delight. I find myself full of thoughts as though I am a vase; mud, clay, porcelain, and life fill me up and as I write, I bloom. I shed away my old skin, drop my petals and expose myself to the words I write. It is scary. I do not trust everyone with my thoughts, but you gentle lover, I trust you with my brokeness. You will treat it with kindness, not judgment. Compassion, not cruelty. Tread softly, for you are walking on the eggshells of my soul. Without a pen, I would not have made it this far. The pen is my knife and I cut myself every once in a while to release me. Ink flows out of my veins and I am complete. I understand why she kept a diary. It is for release. Life is sometimes too overwhelming, too fast and too full to hold within you, that you need to break something, even a small slit in your mind to let it all go.
There are friends and lovers and family all around me. I feel the sun and its wisdom upon humankind. It washes over man, woman, child, animal and plant, and it releases us all. A steady drip drip of life trickling down to us and we are alive. And safe. I would live here forever. There is music here that wraps around me to keep me safe; a musical cocoon of melancholy where I meet her, again and again. There are now no words here. Only a silent understanding as his hands reach out to me, around my broken heart and cradle me so that atleast, for now, the broken pieces inside me are held together in place.