Silent Mediation Prison : VIPASSANA

India is, to put it bluntly- A shit hole. It's a complete dump. It is a steaming cesspit. Bursting at the seams with the most incredible sights, sounds and smells you can’t even imagine. You just couldn’t make it up- even if you had an amazing imagination you still wouldn’t touch the sides of what India is really like.
Beautiful- destructive. Intriguingly terrifying. Vibrant, colorful, FULL ON. Its like everybody in the world is there and they don't give a shit. They'll just have one in front of you. Nothing is hidden.

 It is exciting, it is marvelous, it is spontaneous and it is inventive. How it works at all is beyond me- Anything really is possible even if everything is held together by bits of string. Your heart will burst with both the great and the unholy-  India will break you and it will make you.  

However much I loved India- 3 months of the non-stop noise, constant attention and pollution from the entire worlds production line was getting a bit much.
So with that in mind I did a 10 day silent meditation course in the depths of Jodhpur.

Ten days silence. … Vipassana. No talking, eye contact, pens, reading or writing material. Separated sexes, 4am get ups and 12 hours of meditation a day. You were fed and you had your own meditation cell. You have to hand in all your dodgy stuff at the door- Books, tobacco, phones, paper, pens anything that would provide stimulation basically. I had purposely withheld my sellotape, glue, scissors and Kama Sutra book. I could live without a pen, but not without scissors and sellotape. Besides, they weren’t on the list.. . So on the 21st of Dec 2012, a friend and I went in for an alternative Christmas/New Year. Just in time for the end of the world.

My meditation cell with en-suit bathroom

Bearing in mind I've never done any sort of meditation in my life, this really was throwing yourself in the deep end.  I have tried once or twice-but never really saw the point. I like what goes on in my head. It entertains me all day long. What am I supposed to do with nothing in it??? The only thing I said I couldn't live without is something to do, and here I was sending myself into a place with nothing to do.
Apparently this type of intense meditation sends people mad. They reach the depths of despair; it throws up issues and internal complexes that you just have to deal with…. ‘BRING IT ON!’ I thought. I whole-heartedly wanted to go mad. I wanted to loose my mind and myself in this Vipassana thing. I was ready to see what was under this super thick skin of mine. I was ready!!!
But nothing really happened

The first day you focus on breath, pure breath. The sensation of breath. Breath. BREATH. Did I mention breath 50 millions times a day? Every time your mind wandered you had to gently pull it back and focus again on this breath of yours. Sat in cross-legged position, you weren't allowed to move. At some points I felt like I was giving birth through my legs. Seriously, that's how much pain I was in. But you must ignore the pain. It is just a sensation. It was like a physical analogy to life. If something hurts you. Don't react. Don't react. It means nothing. Why did it hurt you? Because you have feelings. To have feelings means you have an ego and egos are bad. Desire causes dissatisfaction. The more you want, the more you are likely to loose. The more you desire, the more you will generate bad feelings if it doesn’t happen… This I can understand. I have no feelings. I have done a very good job of squashing them.

After 3 days of pure breath, we graduated to feeling the sensation on the top lip. Have you ever tried to feel the sensations in your top lip? No? It's surprisingly subtle.  After the top lip came the rest of the body and finally pushing these sensations through the body in one flow. I could feel the sensations and I could move them round and round- Easy peasy. Now what? What do I do for the other 11hrs and 45 mins? I was board.

In the beginning I was trying, Really really trying to work though this seemingly pointless task but I just wasn't getting it. I really wasn't. I wasn't going mad and nothing really deep was happening. I was just getting annoyed at the slow pace.

They said that the mind was like a wild animal that needed to be trained. I decided that my mind was like a whole heard of antelope- with rabies…So even if you did catch and train one- it’s head would explode anyway. After day 4 my rabies mind exploded and I decided I should just find my own way mentally through the next 6 days.

 There were so many rules. So so many rules. I can't stand them. It was like a whole list of red flags. Rules just weren't made for me. So even in silence I ended up getting into trouble for some reason or other. I decided that I didn’t have to sit cross legged anymore. I made myself a den out of pillows, legs akimbo in a nice crevice of a wall. It was a really good spot. I could probably see most of the room. Your supposed to keep your eyes closed until the special bell goes but I just kept them open. I found it easier to concentrate and people were pulling some really funny faces. They had their eyes shut anyway. I only fell asleep a few times to be awoken by a silent prod and the glaring eyes of our mentor.
 The next 6 days were incredible. I had the most amazing time EVER. I was having such a laugh in my own head it was unreal. As I had so much mental time on my hands, I decided to play out my entire life. Every single one of my happiest memories ever. It was insane. I was crying with joy. Pure joy. I’ve never felt anything like it.  In the silence, tears were streaming down my face thinking of everything. Everything that had ever happened. I was blissed out. Totally. I felt so overwhelmed with love I could burst but instead I burst into tears.  Not once did I let a bad thought into my my mind. I was focused. I did devote one day to thinking about sex. 
 'Pure Bliss' Mental purification water- This kept me going.

For the first few days (aside from ridiculous amounts of meditation) the friend I had come with became my reason to live. It was her birthday on Christmas day so I made it my mission to make her the best present ever out of the trash and random odds and ends I scavenged in silence.

I gathered bits of tree from the wilderness and set about decorating it. Every mediation break I would run to my cell, back to the tree and pour myself into its branches. I called it the tree of enlightenment. 

I made her a crown out of the inside of look rolls, crafted a beard out of toilet paper, put my best red frilly knickers on my head as Santa’s hat, put the stones in a sock and at 4am on Christmas morning knocked as silently as I could on her door. Needless to say she was speechless- speechless though laughing so hard. Silent laughing obviously because if we had been caught that would have been it. After the main event ( her birthday being my only reason to live) I was kind of stuck for things to do….
Until I found salvation. 
The greatest sin of all. . . . . .

 I found a secret pen. You cannot imagine the feelings I felt. It was the most amazing day. Finally I could free my mind and mouth and pour my soul onto anything that would take the nib. I wrote on anything I could find, the inside of boxes, loo roll, random trash. The more my resources dwindled, the more creative I became. Suddenly a whole world of opportunity opened up to me!

Over the course of the 10 days I wrote poems, made collages,  created sculptures, did butt crunches and had loads of wanks. All these things are illegal in meditation prison. But I just couldn’t help myself. You can’t lock someone like me up in a place like that-It’s uncivilized. To deprive yourself of colour and light, of music and song. . . Why? What is the point? What is the point in having eyes, ears, senses in the first place? To be truly enlightened you just have to ignore them. It’s a bit more deep than that.  I’m quite a way off yet to be honest.
Bird sculpture out of twigs.
Even though it really wasn’t for me. I had the best time ever. I went places in my mind that made me feel so fucking great. The best I had ever felt. I laughed so hard and for so long that it hurt. Silent tears streamed down my face at the internal joy I was experiencing. Made even better that no one else was having as much fun as me.  They really weren’t.

In my cell I could be myself and more. One day I was a ninja, another day I was a bird. I must have looked like a crazy person but no one could see or hear. I was playing like a little girl again. My imagination is amazing and they wanted to squash it! They tried to bully it out of me but I wasn’t having any of it. Lots of things they said(every night we got to watch and indoctrinating video right before bed about life philosophy’s and about being a good person etc) made an impact. Just about being a nicer person really. We learnt a lot about karma and not to generate bad feelings, in yourself and others. To only say nice things. To be honest, I’m a bit of a bitch- I say deeply insulting things all the time under the guise of humour. That’s my sense of humor. I never mean the things I say; I just think it’s funny to say them. Apparently this is wrong.

Another thing they said was wrong is using animals. Eating them, selling them or generally being in an industry that takes advantage and profits from them. 
I felt really bad after this. Animals need to be respected and in essence I have mot been respecting them. Sure I don’t eat them or anything to do with them and I try to be as ethical as possible whenever possible but I do make things out of them and I do make them do things that make people feel…Well a bit sick. So in terms of meditation prison that’s 2 massive no no’s in karma terms- generating bad feelings AND using animals to create them! Uh oh. So I had a bit of a dilemma. My reasoning- like it always has been is that these animals I use have died of natural causes or are bi-products of a horrible industry that really does exploit them. My work is challenging, horrible, dark etc It confronts you with the reality of death and no one likes that.
There are also many different ways to say things.  You don’t have to scare people with a message. But the thing about scare tactics is they work. If you’re all frilly and nice about things- If you cover them up and just dilly dally round the subject- No one listens to you.  If you assault the senses then people have to listen and they can’t help but look…But this is wrong. By transforming these lives I generate bad feelings so I have to change. I must now only make people feel good. By making and spreading nice good wholesome karma.

The only problem with this is I have written a master piece. I HAVE WRITTEN SOMETHING SO DEEP AND DARK IT CANNOT BE IGNORED. If it was made...Wow. The world wouldn’t know what had hit it. One Night In Peckham is nothing on this beast. But I use animals so I can’t make it. Bummer. Instead I must only play with colour and light, sugar, spice and all things nice.
I hope you look forward to the new improved/semi enlightened me.
Love from
Charlie Gates


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