When was the last time you have thought of sitting idle in a room, doing absolutely nothing, and meditating silently? Vipassana, the purest form of meditative experience, will not only detox you from everyday digital lifestyle but will also support to connect you with your inner self!
This blog is my personal journey I had during the 10-day Vipassana camp and I consider Vipassana meditation to be one of the best experiences ever encountered.
What comes to our mind when we speak about Meditation? A Rishi or Monk sitting in “Padmasana” posture for hours without opening his or her eyes ignoring all the external factors and concentrating on mind and body.
Being from the Tam Bram family, I have always been exposed to various spiritual practices like chanting Vedic mantras, offering pooja’s, etc. but even then, I used to wonder during my childhood what people actually do in meditation 😊
I had heard about Vipassana meditation during my college days and had varied views from my friends during that time and I always wanted to try this sometime in my life but never got any opportunity or proper information. After joining the job it was more difficult as you require 12 days of leave to attend Vipassana sessions.
So, there’s a funny story associated with my first-time Vipassana enrolment! This was the year 2014 and I was probably in the 5th or 6th trimester of my MBA. I literally bunked my classes and enrolled for the Vipassana course and later I was called back by the college due to low attendance/mid exams. Phew!
I could only continue for 5 days but by that time I had already completed 40+ hours of meditation and could sense the new change in me 😊. With the sense of incompletion, I sincerely waited for the next possible opportunity.
And in 2015, I got a break to complete the incomplete journey and I finished my first Vipassana course from Gujrat Centre Dhamma Ambika. In 2016, I again went for the same and attended from Igatpuri, Dhamma Giri.
What is Vipassana?
Vipassana means to look into things as they are. It is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation and was rediscovered by Gautama, the Buddha more than 2500 years ago. The Buddha wanted to create an impact in the minds of the people to free themselves from misery and suffering. He discovered that Vipassana was a universal remedy for suffering. This non-religious technique aims for the total elimination of mental impurities and thus result in the highest happiness form of full freedom.
Now, most people when they hear the term Vipassana, they immediately link it to thoughts like – no phone, no TV, no books, no talks, etc. and that’s why probably they don’t enroll or even if enroll, back out in 3-4 days.
Well, it’s much more than that! Yes, you are not allowed to take anything with you but then that’s the sole purpose. Vipassana allows you to spend time with yourself, your body, and your mind. There is a Noble silence to be observed, which means silence of body, mind, and speech!
Vipassana is a self-transformation exercise worked through self-observation and focuses on the connection between mind and body.
It is this observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body that dissolves mental impurity, resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion.
This Vipassana meditative course is free! Yes, you read it right. Right from the accommodation, food, and the enlightenment meditation sessions, everything is absolutely free!
These courses are run based on donations by old meditators, you can donate whatever you feel post completion of the course, but it is not compulsory. The amount which you donate will be used for further courses. It seems too good to be true but there is no catch involved in this.
The journey I am mentioning here is the one I attended at Dhamma Ambika being my first-time experience. I reached the centre around 2 O’clock. After I entered the registration area, I was given paperwork to fill out and a cloth bag into which I need to submit my cell phone and other gadgets. Don’t worry, you will get your phone and other stuff back on the last day of the course. The suggestion is to not carry any valuables while going for this course.
I was allotted a room and beddings were given separately, though I had carried a bedsheet and lock & key, but it is not required as they say don’t carry any valuables. The rooms were decent and tidy. You may get a single or shared accommodation depending on the course location. There were separate premises for Men and Women and both sides were not allowed to enter each other premises.
We had a 30-minute briefing at 7 pm wherein all the rules were explained regarding maintaining Noble silence. You will be allowed to speak only with the teacher and that too during Q&A time and that too if it is essential. After the briefing, there was a short 1-hour meditation session for that night.
Yes, the 1-hour meditation was short as the next 10 days were followed by more than 10 hours of meditation a day.
The meditation sessions are voice-over sessions by Acharya S N Goenka (1924-2013).
Day 1 – 4
During the first 4 days, we were taught ”Anapana’’ meditation. Anapana is the first step in the practice of Vipassana meditation. Anapana means observation of natural, normal respiration, as it comes in and as it goes out. It is easy to learn, an objective and scientific technique that helps develop concentration of the mind.
Initially, we were instructed to focus on our breath. Feel the breath moving in and out of our nostrils, feeling the sensation caused by our breath in the small triangular area between our nostrils and upper lip. We need to focus our complete attention, on this small triangular spot.
Frankly, I felt bored doing this for the next 3 days. Yeah, the feeling was good but there were a lot of distractions in my mind and my body also started aching. And over that, I was also not allowed to run or exercise. Instructors told it would lead to distraction of mind. Anyways, I followed every instruction with full discipline and surrendered myself to this new form of meditation.
Learning happens when you learn to surrender!
Day 5 – 9
Things changed after the 4th day when we were introduced to actual Vipassana meditation. Now the focus was on the whole body instead of the triangular portion. You fully scan your body from top to bottom and reverse, observe your sensations, and still don’t react to it.
The four days of observing breath will sharpen your mind. The Anapana days were basically preparing you for a deep process, Vipassana!
Just observe, the sensations! You will probably experience mixed feelings, Happy or Sad, but whatever you sense, will not be permanent. This is called the Law of Impermanence. We were doing this repeatedly for the next 5 days.
The only thing that was relatable at that moment was my breath and the sensations going on and off across my body.
Everything was changing, all the time, but it took me some time to realize what are we doing with these body scans. What are we trying to achieve? Why are we doing this for 10 days rather it could have been taught in 2-3 days also. There were a lot of questions in my mind, the answers for which I got after a couple of days.
What is the root cause of suffering?
Craving and aversion are the root cause of suffering. We crave those things which we like and we create an aversion for things that we don’t like. We get angry if we don’t get something which we want which leads further to suffering.
What are we trying to achieve by observing sensations across our bodies?
By observing the sensations in your body, good and bad, and not reacting to them, we are training our minds to be “Equanimous” in all situations of our life. By regular practice, our mind gets trained and it gets a different viewpoint on handling things in our personal and professional life. “Being Equanimous” is the key to live a peaceful life.
“The mind spends most of the time lost in fantasies and illusions, reliving pleasant or unpleasant experiences and anticipating the future with eagerness or fear. While lost in such cravings or aversions, we are unaware of what is happening now, what we are doing now.” ~ S. N. Goenka
“Every sensation shares the same characteristic: it arises and passes away, again arises and passes away. It is this arising and passing that we have to experience through the practice.
We must experience sensation’s nature, understand its flux, and learn not to react to it.” ~ S. N. Goenka
Why are we doing this for 10 days?
During the practice, the pain in my legs intensified and it led to aversion, but how can you observe the pain. Well, that’s why the practice is for 10 days as it is a deep operation of our mind. This course can be done in 2-3 days, but you won’t get the actual benefit of Vipassana in 2-3 days. You need atleast 10 days to train your mind to be Equanimous.
The course during the initial days was of 30 days, which was the apt time to train your mind for being equanimous but as it is difficult for people to get leave of 30 days, it was reduced to 10 days later.
We need to understand that these aversion and craving are temporary and are ever-changing. If you start acting to these things in an equanimous way, life can become more peaceful.
Everything in life is temporary even the pain and happiness so just observe and don’t react. Observing, without any craving or aversion. Living in the present is the key.
By the completion of the 9th day, I got a new perspective towards life which I had not got for the last 30 years. From childhood, we are taught many things and we tend to believe whatever is told us. Buddha’s way was very simple, Just believe what you see and experience, don’t just believe what others say.
Day 10 – Metta meditation
Metta means positive energy and kindness. During the last day, you are taught Metta meditation. It’s basically giving back to society and sharing your positive energy and kindness to the universe. The practice is also known as loving-kindness meditation.
The goal of metta meditation is to cultivate kindness and love for all beings, including yourself and family, friends, neighbours, acquaintances, difficult people in your life, animals, etc. Meditation involved reciting positive phrases towards yourself and other beings and be grateful.
For most of us, Meditation is the last recourse available, to bring us back into life. Mass of the people I see in the meditation sessions, come to recover after being severely affected by something in their life. It could be a job loss, a breakup, a drug addiction, or probably any failures in personal or professional life or it can be as simple as being lonely.
While it is good to come to the course during these times, but I would suggest if you take up this course before happening of any event then it would help you to cope up with the failures elegantly and be strong.
Well, I found this meditation very helpful and continue to practice it regularly. It helps me to handle stress and connect with my mind and body.
Thank you for patiently reading this long post. It was difficult to summarize the entire experience, but I tried my best to keep it short and sweet 😊
I would recommend you take up this course whenever you get an opportunity and give it a try.
The experience won’t be like mine or anyone else, but it will be unique for you.
If you have done Vipassana before do share your experience with us in the comment section.
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