Reflection on Vipassana: A Ten Day Silent Meditation Seminar
During the auspicious dates of December 12th through December 23 I participated in a seminar that is focused on teaching the ancient meditation technique of Vipassana. For ten full days, I sat in silent observation of my breath, and the ever-changing sensations occurring in my body. To observe the breath and sensations in the body while remaining non-reactive in thought or action is the simple, yet powerful, practice of Vipassana.
Gautama Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree and had a strong determination to sit there in observation of his breath and the sensations in his body until he reached the ultimate truth: what is the root of all suffering/misery? And that is exactly what he discovered there, under that tree, in perfect stillness without words. He found that the root of suffering comes from three aspects: craving, aversion and ignorance.
Craving is the yearning for something that you do not have in present moment; wishing it were a way that it is not. Aversion is the yearning to be rid of something that you DO have with you in the present moment; wishing it were a way that it is not. Ignorance is unawareness. Reacting because you are not aware of what you are doing. A master once said in his final hour ‘Forgive them, for they know not what they do’.
This is a powerful state of mind that only a master can achieve. We all have the ability within us to tame the mind and achieve samhadi: mastery of mind.
Aversion. Craving. Ignorance. These are the root causes of suffering according to Gautama who sat beneath the tree in his laboratory of self observation and observation of others. Repeatedly he found the same causes and effects. Whether we are wishing for something that isn't there or trying to push away something that is obviously there, we are unaware, therefore, we are ignorant.
Gautama connected that these cravings and aversions come up on the body as sensations. It is our mind that creates the craving or the aversion (attachment-story-drama). "I don't like this" = aversion. "I wish it were this way instead of the way it is"- craving. Both of these 'sankaras' (Pali for "generators of misery") are equally addictive and harmful to our true happiness, peace and harmony.
How to eradicate suffering?
The man who was once called Siddhartha sat beneath the tree until he sorted that out. In this process, he became a Buddha. I specifically say "a Buddha" because Gautama made the following statement himself. He said, "I am one of countless before me and countless after". We all have a sleeping Buddha within. We all have the seed present to be The Master. 2500 years later, these words still resonate. Vipassana is the Art of Living the internal Buddha nature that exists within us all, at the deepest roots and core of our beings.
Vipassana dissects your mind all the way down. Down further.
Further than that.
It may take lifetimes.
This ride is actually so fun/addictive/repetitive/ingrained that it is all you know how to do!
Vipassana is sitting there and doing nothing more than listening to your breath and feeling the sensations in your body and having NO reactive thought to whatever you are experiencing. Your mind will wander. It will wander so far into the past and future that you will forget who and where you are. Good. Then come back. "Oh yeah, I'm breathing." Then you start scanning your body to feel whatever is there to feel. No creation of sensation. Let go of trying to develop any energy or light. It is already there. Feel it. Sharpen your mind enough to feel the air going in and out of your nostrils. That is step one...
Like I said, Vipassana goes deep. I wondered “How the heck you can go this deep without actually ‘doing’ anything?” Then I realized that my mind was doing it all for me all the time.
For me and against me.
For me, against me, with me.
All of it all the time.
This continual ‘doing’ is actually our undoing. The more we ‘crave’, the deeper our suffering goes. The more we ‘avert’ the deeper our suffering takes roots.
I was sitting perfectly still able to focus on my breath and STILL my subconscious mind was running. Running fast, hard and at full steam ahead.
It is now January of 2013. My ten-day silent course ended weeks ago and it has taken me until now, and I am not fully there yet, to integrate all of my emotions and time/space reference points. Actually, in all honesty it wasn't until I consulted with my two hoops and some brand new music on my lil' green iPod that I felt the relief that everyone deserves to feel after sitting on a wooden meditation stool for ten solid days, barley moving and doing all possible to wrangle the monkey mind.
SO MUCH INSPIRATION came to me through my hoop that I started audio recording own voice. The most amazing flow poured through me, and half the time my body was not even in my hoop, and I was mostly dancing freely. That was the most liberating aspect of the experience; music flowing through me, prana pulsing through my veins, and the inspiration of how to take my whole life/the entire world to the next level of existence. I finally 'felt' The Shift.
On the morning of December 21st 2012 I was in the throws of Vipasanna immersion.
Day Nine of Ten.
Big things happening inside that day for me. I woke up with the morning gong at 4:00am, took a quick hot shower and went straight to meditate. The same creature printed shawl draped across my body as the last nine days. I mounted my same wooden stool and sat perfectly straight with my spine in perfect position. Over the duration of the course I became VERY aware of my pain. Yet, remained objective. Goenka, the main teacher whom taught the course via audio recordings, said the following equation would lead to total mental purity. EQUANIMITY + AWARENESS = PURITY. These are the two keys to actually practicing Vipassana. The intellectual acknowledgement of equanimity paired with awareness is the only way to actually be practicing this very specific and simple technique. Example: I felt these 'dense sensations' in my shoulder and back. I thought to myself, wow, I'm stoked about getting a massage. I actually planned it out in my head. I'll book a massage with so and so at this time. Now, not that there is anything wrong with this thought process, however, it is completely a perfect example of aversion (not wanting the pain there) and craving (desiring a feel good outcome). So, me having these thoughts took me out of my actual practice of BEING AWARE OF THE SENSATIONS WITHOUT HAVING ANY REACTIVE THOUGHT OR ACTION. To continue my example..
Once I realized that day-dreaming about a massage was not going to make me feel any better in the moment, I came back to my breath and replaced that thought with this new thought. "I feel the dense, solid, apparent sensations in these areas of my body. This too shall pass." I continued to focus on my breath and scan all of the other areas of my body, feeling the OTHER sensations that were all over my body everywhere and not give all of my energy to the more obvious sensations of 'pain' in my back, neck and shoulders). There were moments when the pain dissolved and I did in fact has blissful sensations running all throughout. That also passed, and the pains came back. New pain, but in the same places. This is the technique that Gautama Buddha states will eradicate all suffering from the very root of the depth of your mind. Working the surface won't help in the long run. You gotta grab the weed by the roots, not just whack it with a machine, if you really want it out of your garden.
The theory states that as you give no reaction to the sensation, which represents a craving or aversion, you develop a Jedi keen sense of equanimity and awareness. Following the law of nature, this non-attachment also eradicates all sufferings of PREVIOUS attachments, ultimately ridding the roots of the weeds that are causing the garden of your mind to be overrun.
If you react to the sensations, then you generate more misery. If you do not react to the sensation, you do not create NEW misery for your self, therefore by the law of nature the beast of your mind will devour a former nugget of misery, ridding you of one. Now, that is pretty impressive. I understand the science.
Here was the example Goenka gave that enabled me to understand what he was saying...
If you are fasting, you lose weight because you are not giving your body new food. It does not need food everyday because you have eaten enough in previous days to actually keep your body alive for over 40 days without food. Perhaps even longer. There is much to feed off of even if you don't feed it every day. So, to apply this to your own mental misery...if you don't react to every little sensation/drama/word/comment/rejection then you won't create misery in the moment and you 'loose' some mental baggage as well...making you a lighter, centered, balanced human being. When you choose to remain in mental equanimity (not having an averted or yearning thought), you free yourself from the prison of your own mind. This is the basic concept of Vipassana.
On the morning of December 21st I took some time to watch the amazing sunrise. I gave thanks for all beings and sent out massive love and gratitude to all in my life. The pinks, purples and gold hues told me that we would all be just fine, that the world was not ending, and that everything was being balanced into a perfection we can not even fathom. I knew this to be true, because for one within me, I realized that I was whole. I was not craving. I was not in aversion. I was in pure acceptance of all in my life, and truly grateful to be in such a state. I knew that if this was the state that I was in, then it must be true for others in the world. We are a magical creation that can magically create! We are creating each second with our thoughts and words. Let us take some time for silence, and allow our creations to evolve as the Divine would intend. Let us take a break and meditate, relieving us of the need to think and control. We deserve this! It is important in our development as kind & compassionate humans.
I invite you to take on a Ten Day Vipassana course if you are in an appropriate mental state and can dedicate the time. There are many centers all over the world, no matter where you are located. Check out www.dhamma.org to find the closest meditation center to you, apply for the best-suited dates, and go for it! You will have your moments of doubt and fear, but this too shall pass. In the end, you will have changed your self on a level that will reveal itself as the tests and trials come your way. I have found myself very calm and non-reactive in situations where I normally might ENJOY chewing someone out! It is impressive what happens when you put in the work to tame and discipline the mind. Let your mind be a sharp tool that is fully present for you, not a dull gullible monkey that swings erratically from branch to branch looking for the next banana. Don’t wait….meditate! ☺ And most importantly, accept things the way they are and find the gratitude present in every moment.
‘May all beings find true happiness, true peace and true harmony.’
Shellie White Light