I knew the Vipassana 10 day meditation was going to be a challenge the moment I stepped on to the grounds of the Dhamma Joti Center in Burma. The humidity was thick and the center was located right next to a swampy pond. Needless to say, there were tons of mosquitos swarming the property. As I was filling out my information before I was shown my room, I looked down to see several mosquitos eating away at my ankles. These little buggers were so big that every bite felt like a needle penetrating my skin. It was intense and uncomfortable to have this be my introduction to the center.
The meditation training began in a large room with over 100 people. Within the first few hours I could feel little needle pricks all over my body. It was not a nice feeling being a sitting target for these blood thirsty pests. I was feeling overwhelmed since this was only the first day of the 10 day training. At a certain point, there was a biting sensation on my hand that was so intense that I opened my eyes to swipe the the mosquito away. I looked down and noticed there was nothing there. I closed my eyes with hope that I could sit in peace. Once again, I felt a stinging sensation on my hand to only see that nothing was there. After the meditation, I observed that I had no new bug bites. What was happening here?
This process occurred to some degree throughout the training. I realized that my mind was so consumed by the paranoia of mosquito bites that I began to feel something that was not there. Aversions can be the catalyst for creating fear based illusions. The sensations can be so real, which reminded me that there is a thin line between sanity and insanity. Imagine someone being in a public place swatting imaginary bugs off their body. It would be a highly strange and unnerving thing to witness, but we all have the capacity to fall into this trap. Many of us are already in the caught up in this web of illusion in one form or another, but we aren’t even aware of it. One of the ways to overcome fear is to ground ourselves in reality. We must continue to build the discernment to what is real and what is not. This is the way out of the trap.