How would you build a model of the universe?
If you were assigned the task, which materials would you reach for? Would you call on some small or vast intellect of physics as a guide, or would the poetry of stars above be your only inspiration? Would God and light somehow be portrayed with fabrics and glitter, or would the scale of marble-impersonating atoms be essential to your model’s success? Would both science and faith play a part in your creation.. your depiction of creation itself… And when it came to presenting your precious model at the hypothetical science fair of life, would you compare your structure to others beside it? Would you begin to question your models validity? Would you start to criticize the form and features of the others? Could you look around the room and just marvel at the uniqueness and mystery that had inevitably unfolded before your eyes…
Three weeks ago, on my birthday, I rode into the mountains of a country I’d never been to before in search of answers to questions of a similar nature. I found myself at a Vipassana meditation centre in the misty jungle countryside of Java, Indonesia. Somewhere amidst the madness and marvels of my life, I had decided the only possible solution to my endless indecision was taking a ten day vow of silence and turning inwards. No technology, no eye contact, no music, no writing… silence.
I suppose, to some, my decision might appear to be extreme. To me, the fact that I found myself feeling at all lost, downtrodden, unfulfilled and unhappy was extreme. On paper, in reality, I was living the life I had always dreamt of. Traveling to all corners of the globe, savoring sunny days with old and new friends, free to enjoy any and every moment of my choosing… I could scroll through my instagram feed or Facebook albums and see years of life that were filled to the absolute brim with love and beauty, and yet I couldn’t really SEE it. So, desperate times called for desperate measures.
Now could be the time where I go into some detail about exactly how my days were spent at the meditation centre. How many hours we sat in the hall each day, what we ate (or didn't eat), or the technique of the meditation itself. I could tell you about the pain I felt physically and emotionally, or about the revelations I had about my life before, during, and after my time there. I could gush with gratitude and try to describe to you the immense sense of peace and happiness I felt at the end of my time there. I could, no doubt, write novels about the intricacies of my path to and through Dhamma… but then you couldn’t walk your own path.
So instead, I’ll tell you about a woman I met on day eleven. Now 37 years old, she was an architect in Jakarta. She was by many measures a "success" and had lived up to the hopes and expectations of her traditional family. But, day by day, she found herself growing more and more tired with life. So, about one year ago, leaving her career and every other component of her life behind, she packed up and moved to a temple in Java to live as a Buddhist nun. Her family revolted. They begged her not to go. When I asked her why, she paused, gently shrugged and spoke . A fellow student translated: “she says, they didn’t love her.”. There was no visible pain or anguish when she uttered those words. Merely a statement of what she presumed to be true. I had one more question. Why? Why give it all up? Why chose to live a cloistered life? She paused again, took a breath, glanced around the room and finally landed her sight on the sky just beyond the window pane before her. A smile crept through her cheeks.
I looked to Rachel for translation.
She too smiled.
I didn’t have any more questions.
We’re all searching. All looking for ways to overcome the pain and misery that somehow burrows it’s way inside of us. All trying to find out how we’ll build our model of the universe.
Each of our quests towards answers will assuredly be different, but what I know for sure is that the path will ultimately lead us back to ourselves. Happiness and fulfillment doesn't live outside of us. It isn't in material achievements or awards. You can’t find it in a handsome husband or beautiful child. Inner peace isn’t how many friends you have or the square footage of your home. Harmony doesn't just live on a white-sand beach. Happiness, peace, harmony, is in you. It is you.
So keep searching. Keep looking for your own answers, keep building your own universe... Just know, that only you can build it. Xx
*For more information on Dhamma Java and Vispassana Meditation visit Dhamma Java's webpage here.*