In this post I would like to share with you guys my profound experience of self revelation and going deep within me in search of harmony and balance. And this was done with the help of meditation, in particular, Vipassana meditation….
10 days without speaking, reading, or writing? 10 days without books, computers, internet, notes or music? 10 days with 10 hour a day meditation and waking up at 4 am every day? 10 days with 2 meals per day, at 6.30 am and 11.30 am? What does it sound like to you?
As frightening or weird as it might seem to many, however this is the lifetime experience I am willing to share with you. And this is a 10 day meditation retreat, called Vipassana meditation.
So, what is Vipassana?
*Entrance to the Vipassana centre,
Dhamma Malaya, Malaysia
Vipassana means ‘to see things as they are’, and the word appealed to me from the start. It is one of the oldest Indian meditation techniques that had been lost to humanity and rediscovered 2500 years ago by Gautama (the historical Buddha). It remained secret to most of us, until S.N. Goenka, a former businessman in search of a cure for his migraine, discovered a small group of practitioners in Burma. One can only learn the technique by completing a 10 day course.
“The Art of Living” through Vipassana Meditation
(taught by S.N. Goenka)
Some say it is the Buddha’s most pure form of practice, without rites, mantras, or any form of worshipping. It has nothing to do with religion or any sort of cult and clearly based on science. A simple meditation made to eradicate the root of our suffering caused by craving and aversion (and ignorance), with the most important element to teach the mind being ‘impermanence’. ‘This too shall pass’ is the message.
Those willing to learn this technique, do not need to pay for the course, however upon the completion they may leave donation. The food, facilities, accommodation, the course itself is provided totally by the donations from previous students. The courses have been established in many countries in the world in all continents, be that Australia or Africa, Americas or Eurasia.
So, this is a 10 day meditation course, that follows a quite strict schedule and rules. First, you are not supposed to have any contact with the outside world for the whole 10 days. On the top of all that, reading, writing, speaking, using computer, internet, phones, etc are not allowed.The so called Noble Silence.
*The Noble Silence reminder
Normally you would wake up about 4 am and will start your first group meditation in the main Dhamma Hall from 4.30 till 6.30 am, after which you have a very nutritious breakfast. Another meal would be at 11.30 am and this will be an absolutely fantastic lunch with many different vegan / vegetarian options. All the food is vegetarian or vegan, as one of the precepts you are obliged to take before starting the meditation is no killing. This lunch will be the last meal for the day with just a fruit and tea at 5 pm. During the time between the meals there are meditation hours with some little breaks. All in all you have to sit all 10 hours a day meditating, whether in the hall with the rest of the students, or separately in your room or cell. The rooms are all individual with all the necessary stuff you might require.
*The walk to the students’ rooms
(the location is absolutely perfect!)
After the first three days of focusing on breathing and sensations around the nostrils, one learns about impermanence by observing how bodily sensations come and go, teaching oneself to stay equanimous towards either pleasant or unpleasant sensations.
The next 6 days all of students (everyone attending the course to learn the meditation or practice it) are instructed to pass their attention from the top of the head to the tips of the toes while observing the sensations throughout the body, be them subtle or gross. When it is not possible to feel any sensation, then just accept the reality as it is, that “there is no sensation at the moment” but stay patient and just observe. Patience and equanimity are the qualities that are highly trained during this meditation and eventually are diverted to our day-to-day life and circumstances we are going through. The main thing is to learn no to react blindly right away. Because as we continue to have negative reactions to situations, we continue to add fuel and the fire never burns out.
Another important thing that we were asked to pay attention to is being aware. Being aware of how you feel, direct our awareness to the body when we weren’t formally meditating, to observe all sensations as we walked, ate, showered, and in bed as we were about to go to sleep.
During the day we normally would have a few breaks, after breakfast, lunch and the afternoon tea / lemon water. Those breaks I would usually dedicate to meditative walking. During those walks I would find myself being totally overwhelmed by the beauty surrounding me.
*One of my favorite paths for meditative walks
The meditation course was in a very nice picturesque nature spot, with lots of different trees, flowers, mountains somewhere in the distance, and the palm tree plantation just behind the center.
*The colors of nature
*The mountains in the background
The sunrise and sunset was amazing every day…
Because the center was quite far from the city itself, I was also able to observe an amazingly beautiful night sky covered by the stars and the shining moon. Honestly, I was amazed by every little thing surrounding me, having developed not only awareness but the ability to observe. I was literally observing everything, the ants and the way they were busy every day with working on something all together, a number of other insects, the flowers and the way they would open up in the morning and close before the sunset…
*The true connection with nature
While seeing all that beauty, it would literally bring tears to my eyes thinking how all this amazing nature beauty, magic is missed and ignored by so many of us due to the routine and hectic everyday life. All these things are free, they are all around us, and we just don’t notice them! During those walks I (and I believe most of the students) can truly say that I was able to connect on a deeper level with the nature, feeling truly one.
*The flowers and the Dhamma Hall
*Within the meditation center
After completing the course, the feelings of lightness, harmony within, happiness were overwhelming. On the 10th day I contacted my family to let them know I was alive, healthy and happy, as they couldn’t hear from me during those 10 days, and then I was not in a rush at all to get in touch with the outside world. Things like Facebook and other social media were so far away from me then, making me feel free and having no need to be there while you can truly enjoy the real world.
*The 10th day of the Vipassana meditation course
(long waited for many)
Eventually as you keep practicing this meditation in your life every day, 1 or 2 hours a day, it obviously brings you so many benefits. All of us are striving to be happy, to be truly able to enjoy life. This happens when we are not letting the negativity enter our mind and body, by simply staying equanimous remembering the message “this shall also pass”.
I have done Vipassana twice, and there is no doubt in my mind that I am going to do it again and again. Whether it will be sitting the course like I did this time, or serving at the course (helping the staff over there). Either way, the peace and harmony regained during the course is priceless.
Highly recommended wherever you are!
Full of Inspiration,