Meditation and Vipassana

Meditation is a very important aspect in Yoga but also in all eastern teachings and philosophy. The main aim of the various meditation techniques that exist and have been developed throughout the centuries is to eradicate human suffering and to bring happiness and equanimity in the mind. This is mainly happening by sharpening the mind and as much as we need the physical exercises to strengthen the body, in the same way we need meditation as mental exercise to strengthen the mind; therefore meditation shouldn’t be neglected in the west.

Training the mind (conscious and unconscious mind) is such a long process, one needs so much patience and determination but once you start practising you have glimpses of peacefulness and it feels like a heavy load of concerns and fears and thoughts are emptying your head….very very slow process but so so powerful…I intend to use this blog in order to extend more into this subject amongst others. I would like to be able to analyse things in theoretical level (mainly inspired by the Yoga sutras teachings and Samkhya philosophy) but also in experiential level.

Talking about experiential level, the right time came for me to sit and meditate in the Vipassana technique as taught by S.N. Goenka.

10 full days, 10 hours sitting meditation per day, in complete silence, 4am wake up bell, 11.45am last meal of the day, no mobiles-pc-tv-music, not even eye contact with each other, no watches or clocks, just bells ringing. S.N.Goenka described it as a ‘mental operation with no anaesthetics’. Loads and loads of rubbish will be removed…Obviously if you keep practising. 10 days is only the beginning of the surgery. There is no way out these 10 days….You are asked beforehand to understand and read very carefully the code of discipline again and again…once the silence starts that’s it….there is no way out.

The evening audio and video tape discourses from the teacher are really helpful to understand the technique and the philosophy behind it. They are also very funny. The more attentive you are in these discourses and follow the technique properly, the more benefits you get from it. Personally, I found that this technique just makes sense. Simply it makes absolute sense. And I will explain….First of all, it is no sectarian, no religious, no dogmas involved. These 10 days you observe your breath and your senses throughout your body. That makes it very universal, everybody can practice it regardless backround tradition or religion. You can wear comfortable and warm clothes of your choice. The meditation hall was a huge and simple space and the only decoration on the walls was the lightning (no pictures, no status, no incenses). The venue, rooms, surroundings were amazing and very clean. Amazing food….everything done by volunteers…everything. All these things show only one intention: dear customer, you are working with only one object: YOURSELF – YOUR own breath – YOUR own senses..nobody else’s. Everyone’s experience is very different because of that reason. Is there any more truth than that really?

Now… what is the purpose of this discipline and why would one go through this?

The purpose of meditation is to create a harmonious, balanced and sharp mind away from our habitual patterns that exist in all human beings such as fear, doubts, anger, negativity, addictions or misery. We all experience these conditions that create suffering in a small or bigger scale and it is a very humanly experience, we think this is natural. This is not natural; it is not the essence of our being. These are all conditions that have been built up from external influences to our minds and have become strong habits. With meditation we feel a change…something is happening…it is like many of these well established manifestations come from deep down inside to the surface and then they pass away. S.N Goenka repeated again and again: ‘Start again….start again…with a calm and quiet mind….work diligently, patiently and persistently…’ Really hard work. The body rebels, aches and pains everywhere, it doesn’t sit still. The mind wanders off the technique constantly in different thoughts and wants something more entertaining…the mind has learned to look out for different stimuli and this is too boring… A real struggle. One will have to be very persistant and keep practising.

And every day is different…You move the attention of your mind (kinisis of the mind) from the top of the head to toes and back up again and observe your senses. Your mind becomes focused to this movement with no other thoughts and concerns and the more focused it becomes you sense peace and equanimity, the energy flows freely with no blockages. Obviously 10 days is a very short period of time to actually feel this in full, but you have small glimpses of it.

What I personally got out of it? The verdict..

As I said, it is a very personal experience and each person experience his breath and senses differently. Senses like cold, heat, numbness, pain, tickling, prickling, throbbing sensations…They all come and go…they change all the time. For me, realising the impermanence of the senses that Goenkaji talks about makes a lot of sense…*Accept the reality (of your senses) as it is now without judgement…Accept the reality AS IT IS…NOT AS YOU WOULD LIKE IT TO BE….BUT AS IT IS..* He explained the importance of not creating any attachements like craving or aversion but accept the reality as it is. I associated part of the teachings of the importance of ‘abhyasa and vairagya’ from the sutras.

Also personally, I’m not looking for any metaphysical experiences or their explanations…Yet I’m very interested in the mental physical structure and how it works. What I got out of these 10 days was the learning of a technique that showed me a way to listen and learn myself. Delving deeper into myself by breathing and observing, I will eventually gain awareness of myself. I will listen to my senses. And when I will be able to listen carefully and become more and more aware, I will start noticing the changes that happening in my body and breath, the mind and the thought patterns. This process will help me to understand more of what I need so that I can keep my mind and body healthy in every way. This procedure of deep understanding will make me aware of what is good for me and what is bad….in many ways this is self healing and this process fascinates me. I think that in this way slowly we become great friends with ourselves, we understand more ourselves, then we understand more the others around us, we communicate more effectively with others and keep in every present moment being positive and happy.

I was also convinced by the technique that it doesn’t teach me to forget the past entirely or to have no concern for the future. But it will help me to become more attentive and enjoy my present. By meditation you learn to keep a firm foothold in the present reality. With this solid base you can take the necessary guidance from the past and make proper provision for the future.

Goenkaji said in his discourses at some point that Vipassana meditators do not become inactive, like vegetables and I certainly believe that. Instead, they learn to act positively with a balanced and sharp mind. You change slowly your life pattern from reaction to action and this is very valuable.

So be open and receptive, try new things, be ready for the change. Everything is changing. BE HAPPY with no misery. Respect oneself and others in any way. Respect to S.N. Goenka for his sincere intentions to spread this technique to the west. There are various centres that all work with volunteers and donations around the world. If interested please visit www.dhamma.org

I would like to suggest that prior to attending the 10 day sitting a complete beginner to any similar technique should read well the code of discipline and the strict rules that this procedure involves. I would also suggest thinking it through well, find information for the purposes of meditation generally develop some basic understanding of the whole subject. I believe that one should be very careful and highly attentive when it’s time to delve into deeper levels of the mind. As in many things in life, one should proceed step by step and with care…S.N. Goenka’s wisdom takes good care of the step by step process but I just needed to emphasize this point…

BE HAPPY 🙂