Hush Little Baby by Nir Cafri, Israel

Two hundred and forty hours, fourteen thousand and four hundred minutes of pure silence, not one word said by any human being I interacted with, not one word said by me, in the ten days of the Vipassana course.

Vipassana, in the Indian language Pali “to see clearly”, is a guide to life, a set of instructions which are supposed to lead a person to fulfilment. In order to do so, the course tries to establish an alternate reality, disconnecting people from their routines, their worries, and habits. A fresh start. No contact with any other human being is allowed, with intense solitude for ten days because you are responsible for your own happiness, you determine whether you are happy or sad, joy is self-provided and needs to be studied in order to be achieved.

The road has taken – A normal travel routine, hopping on a 48-hour train that brought me to the middle of nowhere, a little village next to a single hill in view. Aurangabad, Maharashtra, India. After a half-hour bus to an even more remote area, we reach some Westernized single room houses spread evenly, a very un-India look. We signed in, and our phones, laptop, passports and the right to speak were taken. Each person got little cabin keys, and we all went to the big hall. I was shown to my pillow, my throne, on the floor, besides the fifty people who took the course with me. I sat at my home for the next ten days, and the teacher began the first meditation lesson.

The journey of meditation- In the beginning you get the principles pretty fast: breathing, relaxing and trying to flow in the vastness of the moment. Close your eyes, and concentrate on your breathing, a minute, two, an hour. Don’t let anything else interfere. If a thought sneaks in, maybe you wonder whether you’re wasting your time, let it slowly decay. Try to establish control over your mind, total command.

Although it turns out to be a difficult mission, time plays its role, and the first symbol of progress is ignoring the pain of sitting still. I started at thirty minutes, and on the fourth day achieved the precious goal, three pure hours of non-movement.

As I think of myself as a boundary pusher, always trying to get out of my comfort zone, with years of new expedition and discovering the unknown, I was amazed by what I accomplished in four days of sitting still. I found out I barely have any idea of who is in control, what is really going on inside my head.

Epiphany, like those who tend to exaggerate call it, is the moment you realize something which you hadn’t realized before. After four days trying to penetrate my brain and my consciousness, finally, I got it. There are no words to explain it, just as there are no words to explain the feeling of hugging a close friend, no words to explain the colour blue and no words to explain why we curse the driver who cut our lane, but we all know what love, sadness, and anger feel like.

The excitement of this discovery kept me awake all night, as I sat on the bench outside watching the turquoise sky light up, mynas birds singing the Lycaenidae butterflies awakening for another day in paradise.

The human eye can detect many colours, double that of a dog, but our brains, they can do extraordinary things if we just keep exploring them, and break all familiar conventions. As I saw the first rays of light filling the universe, another wall, as tiny as it may be, fell in my conception, and even if only by a fraction of a per cent, I changed.

What is it I’m being asked over and over, what is this epiphany, how does it feel, in what spot and how strong? Hshh, stop asking, stop reading, stand in front of a mirror and ask it, who is this person? Now close your eyes, and ask the same question.




This is just one example of the important work produced by YaLa’s citizen journalists, a program funded by the European Union’s Peacebuilding Initiative in order to enable young leaders from across the Middle East and North Africa to document and share their experiences of the region. 


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