I had steeled myself, over the weeks leading up to the trip, for an intense mental challenge. My plan was to give Vipassana a serious and thorough try, though I was aware it was unlikely to be an easy fit. I don’t think anyone has ever described me as a natural-born meditator. I’m loud. I’m energetic. I’m spazzy. I crave constant stimulation. “As soon as you finish breakfast,” one of my friends predicted, “your only thought will be ‘What’s for lunch?’ ” But I’d reached the age – I’m 43 – at which becoming a little more contemplative, a little less chicken-without-a-headish, might serve me well. My doctor had said as much.
If you’re feeling stuck, or find yourself depleted after a normal day of work, or simply spending time with your family at home, it might be time to use one of those personal days you’ve been saving up and have some time to yourself to de-stress. And if you don’t have personal days, you might try to meditate. And if you don’t know how to meditate, you might sign up for yoga, or if you’re like Michael Finkel, you might decide to go to India and learn the meditation style known as Vipassana, which is what the Buddha used to reach enlightenment 25 centuries ago. And it might change your life. Or you might discover that you just hate sitting still, and should probably just go see a movie and eat some ice cream.