I made it. 😉 For me, the experience of meditating Vipassana for ten days, restricted from the outside world was mentally the toughest period of my life. In many ways this was a similar experience for me than reading for the business school entrance exam. It required a tremendous amount of determination, motivation, patience, persistence… You are so independent, no one will make the work for you. Though I was often playing with the thought of giving up, deep down I knew I’d never do it. I questioned if the prize in the end is worth all this, but I was curious enough to go find out, day by day. Like 5 years ago, the prize definitely was worth it. Learning the technique of Vipassana, gaining so much practical and intellectual knowledge from the Eastern wisdom of life, this experience opened so many new ways of seeing things for me. As a byproduct, I got a good reminder that you can do anything when you have the determination. As a person who loves to start new projects before finishing current ones, this was an important finding for me 😀
But oh gosh it was tough. The daily timetable of meditating from 4.30am to 9pm was consuming itself, yet it was not the hardest. At least this kept us busy – the few moments of free time after meals were perhaps most challenging for me. So tough it was to have your freedom restricted – no communication with others even with body language (instead having to remind myself that I need to wait another week to deliver my thoughts to this person :D), given strict daily timetable, no exercising, no intellectual stimulation, no writing, no option to choose when and what to eat, no contact with outside world… Needless to say I’ve never had such a long separation of my iPhone 😀 I felt so lonely and useless! As a person who wants to constantly learn by sharing stories with others, create something and experience through adventures and trying out new things, this made me anxious. Thus the strict meditation timetable was a blessing. Also the evening discourses in which the teacher from Burma helped us to understand the technique, motivated me evening after evening to do pull off another day.
Freedom is such a privilege, a tremendous gift that I pray for every human being.
I had put no thought or expectations on the actual meditation. It turned out to be anything but pleasant visualisation through affirmations or anything I have learned before. The technique aims to purify your mind of any negativity by transcending into the so called unconscious mind, which however is conscious if you have the skill to access it.
For the first three days we practised sharpening the mind by observing breath. I wish I knew then how helpful it is for Vipassana meditation and perhaps I would’ve developed even sharper mind. The fourth day was Vipassana day where the technique was introduced. Vipassana is about observing the sensations throughout the body by being objective. The key is awareness and equanimity. The intensified body sensations can be sensed with a less sharp mind, but a person who has not sharpened their mind by concentrating on one spot (in Vipassana you start with nostrils) cannot feel the subtlest sensations. During the meditation, you go through the body through awareness from top of the head to tips of the feet. If you’re feeling gross, solified sensations, you keep your attention there for a minute or two by being completely equanimous – not developing any dislike toward this unpleasant sensation. Whenever the sensations you’re feeling are subtler, pleasant, being aware of them through objectivity is again crucial, to not develop a craving towards them. Attachment is the root of all misery. The law of nature is such that everything changes constantly. Molecules reorganise constantly. This is a scientific truth. As a Vipassana meditator, you learn this through practise. One can know this truth on an intellectual level, but it is not valuable for purifying your mind – this has to be done on the deepest level of the mind.
I also learned that no miracles happen in 10 days. Purifying your mind of all negativity that the unconscious mind has accumulated for 25 years needs layers and layers to be purified. Therefore I am dedicated to continue practising on daily basis. People often think that meditation is always about praising a certain god or goddess or any spiritual character, or visualising. Vipassana is purely scientific, based on the law of nature. You do not visualise or verbalise anything while meditating. You simply observe your breath and scan your body for sensations of the body. You eradicate these by focusing your attention to them objectively – with a detached mind. You consider these sensations impersonal – you do not develop a craving or avortion towards them. This is how the sensations lose their power and eventually come to the surface and release.
I was also surprised to learn more strongly than ever how I love to constantly run a movie in my head. In meditations, I was struggling most in keeping my attention in the moment. When your mind wanders, the thoughts are one of two kinds: either memories, or future related. I struggle with both. I guess it is normal to get even very old, unconscious memories when you meditate 7 hours a day. However, I was amazed to realise how much I love to plan the future, develop dramatic twists of potential scenarios or what I’ll do at a certain period of time. My teacher reminded me that though planning is tempting, forecasting future is always just plans – it is unpredictable. Therefore it is so important to be mindful and present in the moment. This is something that I’ll need to focus on, and instead dedicate own times for planning.
The course is definitely not for lighthearted people. It is working hard and diligently for ten days in simplistic environment, without any intellectual stimulation. However, I wish all people would learn the law of Dhamma and practise Vipassana to gain more peace, harmony, love and happiness to their lives. I know I will keep on practising. 🙂