Two years ago I learned the Vipassana meditation technique, taught by S.N Goenka, run by The Dhamma Organisation. This is a very specific technique including taking a vow of silence for the 10 days duration of the course. I wrote a blog about my first experience which you may like to read. It was both very rewarding yet extremely challenging.. So much so that I referred to it as equivalent to climbing Mount Everest.
My first experience on Vipassana was very insightful. I loved that I was brave enough to sit in silence for 10 days. That alone was a feat in itself along with being awed by the technique and the deep realisation/understanding of True Self over the ego mind which likes to think it’s the true self. One observes mind and matter, the rising and falling of everything in nature and how everything is in a constant flux of change.
I was curious to know what would happen if I sat a second course. I also have to admit my meditation practice had deteriorated and I could see myself slipping back into old habit patterns of the mind including stress, fear and pointless reaction to unwanted experiences. It was time to sit in silence once again, to reset my mind and soul.
My recent experience on Vipassana was completely different. Now I realise the first course had merely blown the dust off the surface of my true being. I could feel a huge difference. The technique penetrated at a deep level leading to profound awareness of how beneficial the practice is. I could now measure against the changes I felt since the first course.
While on Vipassana I experienced moments of pure joy when a smile would spontaneously spread across my face and stay there for hours. I had moments of pure boredom, frustration and desperation to get back to normal life. I spent a couple of days crying. Uncontrollable tears poured down my face. I became fully aware of stored sorrow and pain that was only now coming to the surface and passing away. It was a powerful release. For a few days on the course I felt the most peaceful I’ve ever felt. A wave of calm poured over my body and mind. I was in a state of utmost tranquility. It was a wonderful moment. However the practice of Vipassana teaches that everything is constantly changing. Therefore I knew my inner state of bliss was going to change so I practiced accepting and enjoying it, without holding or attaching on to it. How I felt throughout the course did change again and again and again . Although there was a constant state of inner clam that enveloped every uncomfortable thought, sensation, moment. This is Vipassana.
Vipassana is the practice of keeping the mind balanced or equanimous, (as our teacher Goenka likes to say). Through continued effort one learns to master the mind so it remains equal to sensations in the body or to thoughts whether they are pleasant or unpleasant. One experiences through observation of the physical body that every action, every thought, every feeling rises and passes away.. Every moment rises and passes away. Every person rises and passes away. The universe is rising and will eventually pass away. This is the observation that one immerses into over ten days.
To understand this on a physical and emotional level brings new light to the spiritual practice of non-attachment. Why attach to anything if nothing lasts? That is not to say that we shouldn’t enjoy life, relationships, wealth and abundance of all kinds. It’s the level of un-attachment that is important. (I will get more into this topic in my next blog).
The Dhamma Organisation recommends sitting* for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. Until now I didn’t understand why it has to be an hour, surely a half hour is enough for a daily practice. With experience I now know it takes an hour to reach the deeper layers of body and mind through this technique. The first twenty minutes is only a warm up comparable to the sun salute on the yoga mat. Since back from Vipassana I have been sitting for an hour in the morning and sometimes a half hour in the evening. It’s enough for me to work with for now, a huge achievement in comparison to the half hour I used to sit a few days a week. To be honest I’ll see how long it lasts. I often start out new practices with great intentions that can often fall away. Although this time I am aware it is different. I notice a shift. The early morning meditation is most precious to me. If I don’t get around to it, which I haven’t once or twice, I miss the calm, peaceful, centred lead into the day. It’s worthwhile getting out of bed an hour earlier even if that means a 6.30 rise.
Its funny how people look at me sideways when I tell them about sitting in silence for 10 days. A look of half admiration, half concern that I have reached a state of madness. I wont pretend it’s easy… It’s not. Every moment is challenging, every moment is rewarding. It is the climbing Mount Everest Version of meditation. Really though, in a lifetime ten days is a very short time. The practice of Vipassana offers invaluable levels of awareness, peace and freedom. This is the art of living taught by the Enlightened One, The Bhuddha. Think about it.
Be Happy, Be Peaceful, Be Free.
* To Sit is the modern term used for a meditation practice.