Clean and Elegant

Clean and Elegant

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Vipassana Diaries: Why I Like to Pee Outside

Kino MacGregor insists that you can’t hurt yourself meditating.

Kino MacGregor can pull her leg all the way behind her shoulder and then her foot hooks under her armpit and it doesn’t seem like this hurts her very much.
 Kino MacGregor and I are different
Kino MacGregor and I are different. Just like Margaret Atwood and I are different. Going into Vipassana, I could sit cross-legged relatively comfortably for half an hour. Still, I was positive that sitting for ten hours a day was going to break my knees, and probably also my hips, and maybe a few other parts while I was at it. When I am not meditating, I masturbate on the internet, inhaling thousands of yoga blogs. I have been devouring Matthew Reski’s series WAWADIA: What Are We Actually Doing In Asana. It’s a qualitative study on injuries in yoga. Of course I have devoured the whole thing. In one of the articles, Matthew interviews a guy who went to Vipassana. Someone this guy knew there had to do six months of physio for her knee afterwards. And I’d heard of a friend of a friend who had herniated her disc, just trying to meditate.
A phrase from the internet haunted my head, “Many meditators injure themselves meditating on non-violence.”
I was determined that this violence would not happen to me.  I spent my first two and a half days at vipassana frantically obsessing over the best and most sustainable position. Three cushions under my butt, two under each knee. Vice versa. Two under my knee with the bad I.T. band. Oh but then I’m imbalanced, what if I get compensatory pain? Yes, definitely there was compensatory pain. My vacillations went on and on. As for the pain, well, it wasn’t quite extreme, but I did feel some irritation above my left knee on the outside. And often when I got up, my hip felt sort of jammed, so I had to click it back into place. Although the sound of my hip was disgusting, I'm pretty sure my issues were mostly due to my tight I.T. band and probably not because of some surgery-requiring problem.  Even so, I fretted relentlessly. After two and a half days, I thought, the hell with this; I’m straightening my legs. I propped myself up on a mountain of cushions, and extended both legs diagonally in a v-shape with loads more cushions underneath. Smugly, I looked around the room as everyone else creaked themselves into folded legs and anatomically questionable versions of virasana. “Erica,” I thought to myself. “You have the best seat in the house.”
Surely, I’d be spared of both agony and surgery. Well, you’ll see how that went. On Day Four of the course, Goenka introduced the Vipassana technique. Up until then, we’d been luxuriating in Anapana, the delightful task of observing the breath below our nostrils. During this time, I alternated between being very bored, being very sleepy, being very hungry, being very obsessed about how I would starve because there was no dinner, and being very pissed off at a number of people, including Sri W Ham Wrap who once said that my yoga practice was violent and harmful. (I just wrote Hamful by mistake. How funny.)  What a blast. Then the Vipassana technique opened up a whole new exciting world. Instead of being stuck on our nostrils, now we got to move our attention from head to feet.  It was like going from no internet to suddenly getting a U.S. Netflix subscription. I remember walking out of our first session with immense relief. Thank God, I thought almost laughing. No more nostrils. But it felt like my sit bones had punctured through my ass. And I wondered if maybe my hamstrings were being overstretched.
On Day Five of Vipassana, Goenka wanted us to start cultivating adhittana, which means “strong determination.” Apparently the best way of doing this is to endure one-hour sits of extreme stillness three times a day. No opening your eyes, no opening your hands, no changing your legs. Having taken refuge in rules from a young age, I was all over this. Though my legs were uncrossed, I sat like the stillest Buddha in the world. The stillest and the stiffest. It usually took 25 or 30 minutes before my sit bones started to pierce my ass flesh to such an extent that I thought my ass might start to bleed. The rest of my ass wasn’t doing well either. I could feel intense stretching on either side. One of Matthew Remski’s case studies was about an unfortunate Ashtanga yoga teacher who tore all her glute muscles off her hipbone. She had been doing a bunch of hip openers to deal with a knee injury. Then one day after meditating, she did a tiny wide legged forward bend and pop, pop, pop, went all the muscles on her ass. At the end of Day Six, I felt certain that my injury would be even more serious. Both sides of my ass seethed in horrendous agony. Lying in bed around 9:30 p.m., I decided that all my butt muscles were pulling at my sacrum.  It was only a matter of time, likely just five minutes, before the muscles dislocated from my sacrum, my spine went to hell and then Erica’s greatest fear of being in a wheelchair would come true. I sobbed, alone, in my cubicle of a room.
“It’s going to break.” I said out loud, breaking the noble silence to announce my imminent spinal cord injury. My roommates in the other cubicles weren’t allowed to say anything back. I kept sobbing. “Sorry,” I said. I lay down on the floor, stunned by the torture. Finally the day of my Big Catastrophe had come. Ever since I was really small, I’ve been waiting for the day when something horrible and irreversible would happen to my body. Broken spinal cords, esophageal cancer, the flesh-eating disease. I’ve been anticipating my disaster since my parents took me to the Niagara Falls wax museum and I saw the wax statue of Terry Fox who only had one leg. Now my disaster was happening on Day 6 of jolly old Goenka’s vipassana retreat.
Within about twenty minutes the spasms or whatever was going on in my ass finally stopped. Later, I learned that during that night, I’d called out in my sleep. “I knew it!,” I’d yelled. I don’t remember saying this, but I do remember dreaming about Katy Bowman. Katy Bowman is a biomechanist and author who advocates as much natural movement as possible for the benefit of your pelvis and all the cells in your body. And she thinks that almost everyone in the Western World needs a stronger butt.
“Yah, I was at Vipassana,” I told Katy in my dream. “But it was too much.” While I was dreaming, I also remember having the very clear intention of doing a bunch of butt exercises. Sadly, the time and location never worked out. The butt exercises kept getting postponed. (Kind of like Butt Club in Mysore).
The gong rang at 4 a.m. Although I was quite relieved that I wasn’t yet in a wheelchair, I felt absolutely ready to trade in both yoga and meditation for a lifetime of butt exercises and/or anything else.  My ass didn’t hurt as much, but now I felt certain that there was inflammation behind my right knee, the one without the I.T. band problem. Upon careful examination, I realized that the bulge was merely my hamstring tendon.
I dragged myself to the meditation hall late and left when I had to shit. Instead of returning, I went for a walk in the little loop in the forest. It was pitch black. For someone terrified of a spinal cord injury, this wasn’t the most logical behaviour; however, I figured I’d already survived yesterday’s very close call and I wanted to work on my night vision. After a couple of times around the loop, I had to piss and so I pulled up my skirt and peed in the woods. I thought that this was quite scandalous for a vipassana retreat. I did not get any pee on my sandals.
In the afternoon, I went to see the meditation instructor. It was nice of her to view my body hysteria, not as severe, neurotic dysfunction, but rather as my sankaras coming to the surface. Sankaras are deep-rooted mental or behavioral patterns that tend to lead you into the same types situations over and over again. (The yogis often call them “samskaras.”) Some of my sankaras that fall into similar categories include going to the emergency room to see if my ingrown pubic hair is Herpes,  or imagining having to get my esophagus replaced with a piece of my colon, or worrying about getting a foot infection in India that will end with me losing my legs. When I told the instructor about the spinal cord injury scare, she suggested that maybe I was a bit too strict with myself. “Torturing yourself, this is not Vipassana," she said. “Vipassana is not the posture.” She gave the option of a chair, or a back support, if it got too painful. I considered becoming a chair person, but one of my life’s biggest rants is about the dangers of sitting in chairs. It’s up there with potty training, and sun salutations, and maybe also pubic hair waxing. I decided I would try one more day on the floor. If my sacrum seemed at risk and I had to sit in a chair, well then, so be it. The rest of this story is about how I ended up sitting cross-legged and sort of relaxed for about seventeen minutes. You are probably better off reading this excellent zine that the Boatman bought called, “Why I Like to Pee Outside.” It is so great. I even brought it to India with me and read it to some wonderful Canadians I met in the line-up to register with Sharath.

Zine: “Why I Like to Pee Outside,” by Amanda Stevens,
bent from its long trip to India
The Author Amanda Stevens made the zine at a 24-hour Zinemaking Challenge in Halifax in 2008. “Why I Like to Pee Outside” describes the Unnamed Protagonist’s journey of how she grew to love peeing outside. It is full of informative and compelling diagrams, lists and essential techniques. The unnamed protagonist used to be afraid of peeing on her pants or on her shoes. She even considered getting “one of those spouts that make peeing outside easier for people with vulvas.” But she practiced and practiced and now she can do it the way it’s meant to be done.

Peeing Outside, the way it's meant to be done. Watch out for pee splattering off the ground
“It’s a bit of a thrill,” says the Unnamed Protagonist. “It feels slightly transgressive and unladylike, especially when there’s a possibility of being seen doing it. It also makes me feel like I’m getting back to my natural self.” This is how I felt when I peed outside at vipassana. Thrilled, transgressive, and unladylike, and more like my animal self. 

Peeing outside: Thrilling, Transgressive and Unladylike
As fate would have it, peeing outside happens to be excellent for your pelvis, butt muscles included. Katy Bowman recommends peeing outside as often as possible. And I think that she would be happy with Amanda’s squatting diagram.
At the end of “Why I like to pee outside,” the Unnamed Protagonist dresses up as a Girl Guide for Halloween and her friend makes her a badge for peeing outside. Overall, “Why I like to Pee Outside” is a thoroughly satisfying read. I tried to contact Amanda about where people can find more copies. If you’re in Mysore, you can borrow mine.
If you have interesting techniques for peeing outside or a peeing outside story to share, you should email Amanda at And/or share them at the end of this blog.
In India, people pee outside all the time. In Mysore, for the most part, you only see dudes.
The End.
I’m not sure how I mentioned so many things in one blog.  Perhaps to some of you, this is not all that surprising.
I don’t have time to edit because my father and his girlfriend are visiting and they are way better tourists than I am.
Oh well, think of all the people I promoted:
Kino MacGregor
Margaret Atwood: Once I wrote a story called, Why I am Different From Margaret Atwood and What I Don't Gain From Humping Duvets. It used to be all over the internet. Now I can only find a version with very strange formatting. Well, if you're dying to read it, I can hook you up, perhaps for the price of three coconuts. Haggling welcome. 

Amanda Stevens, author of “Why I Like to Pee Outside.” I messaged her on Facebook raving about her Zine. Unfortunately, I got the wrong Amanda Stevens. Better luck next time.

And Myself:

The Vipassana Diaries: Bus
The Vipassana Diaries: Day Zero
The Vipassana Diaries: Food Belly
Vipassana Diaries/Ashtanga Memoirs: You Cling To Things Until They Die (Ham Wraps, S.I. Joints Etc.)

Do Not Kill Your Baby


Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor
I Let Go, my $2.99 self-help book
Don't forget to send me your peeing outside stories!!!

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