Unique Vipassana Meditation Experience
On my recent visit to Mumbai, I decided to visit a Vipassana meditation center, to experience this silence-based meditation technique. There are many Vipassana centers in Mumbai, and I chose Global Vipassana Pagoda near water theme park Essel World.
Over the past twenty years, I had many missed opportunities to experience this Goenka-branded Vipassana mediation, and despite my eagerness, somehow I never managed to get on the 10-day meditation course.
Finally I managed to experience Vipassana meditation
I had read about other people's Vipassana experiences, and my friend, who has attended many Vipassana courses, feels that he is a changed person thanks to Vipassana meditation.
So I was keen to try the 10-day Vipassana meditation.
While on this visit to India, I did not have much time because of other commitments. Besides, I couldn't imagine being able to sit for 11 hours every day, for 10 days. This is not because of impatience. This is purely on account of my ongoing back problem. At a stretch, I would have found it difficult to sit in Indian position (cross-legged) for more than half an hour.
So, while I was keen to experience the 10-day meditation course, I decided against it. However, if you are in India, you don't have to be disappointed.
The Pagoda meditation center offers a short course for people like me who want to try Vipassana meditation but either cannot find the time, or are not too sure if it is for them. The short course is merely a 30-minute guided meditation in the meditation hall at the Pagoda meditation center.
So I decided to try that one out, and I highly recommend people to try it before committing 10 days to the full course. It's a shame that none of the Vipassana meditation centers allow you to experience the Goenka meditation in a course shorter than 10-days.
There are shorter courses, but they are available only to those who have completed the beginners' 10-day course. All meditation courses are absolutely free of charge throughout the world .
In fact, Vipassana Meditation Center doesn't even charge for accommodation and food. The Pagoda meditation center is highly recommended in India, because that's the only air-conditioned center in the country where average temperature ranges between 95 to 105 degree Fahrenheit.
Vipassana is a once-in-a-lifetime experience
My experience with Vipassana
When I expressed my desire to attend Anapana Meditation - the 30-minute Vipassana meditation, the friendly staff guided me to the small meditation hall. Yes, there are two halls for visitors - small hall with a sitting capacity of 50, and a bigger hall (the main golden structure you see in photos) which is accessible only to former students - people who have completed the 10-day course.
The bigger meditation hall is the largest of the three sub-domes that comprise The Pagoda. The largest dome contains the bone relics of Gautama Buddha enshrined in the central locking stone, making it the world's largest hollow stone masonry structure containing relics of the Buddha.
This main dome contains the world's largest stone dome built without supporting pillars.
It's a shame that this beautiful dome is off-limits for visitors.
As I waited in the small dome for my meditation, I hoped that I would be able to sit for the entire duration without getting uncomfortable because of my back pain.
I was soon joined by other visitors keen to try Vipassana meditation. Our teacher asked us to sit on the blue pillows laid on the floor. He then provided housekeeping instructions about the meditation, how long it will last, what if we wanted to leave sooner, about listening to the recorded voice.
He then switched on the audio recording which contained meditation instructions given by S N Goenka, the man who made Vipassana meditation popular in India and around the world.
As I followed the instructions, my body began to relax. It was difficult to focus on the audio for two reasons - the dome structure ensured that the voice echoed. Second, it was way too hot in the room.
Fortunately, my biggest concern - my back pain - proved to be an exaggeration. I was able to complete the meditation.
The voice of Goenka guides you very well through the meditation. "Concentrate on your breath. Focus on the area of your nostrils where your breathe enters and exits. Feel the warmth of your breath exiting. Relax."
Goenka had a very soothing voice.
When I came out, I didn't feel much different, except feeling more relaxed. Of course, you cannot expect a miracle from a 15-minute meditation. What it did was to show me what to expect from the 10-day meditation course.
I will be very keen to attend the 10-day course, provided I can feel confident that my backache will not prevent me from sitting for up to 10 hours every day. For that, I have started practising Vipassana meditation every day at home, beginning with 20 minutes initially, and gradually increasing the duration.
Currently, I am doing one-hour of Vipassana meditation with no issues of back pain so far. I will give myself six months, and if I feel confident, I will try to experience the 10-day meditation.
Read This Book Before Attending 10-day Vipassana Meditation
How Does Vipassana Meditation Work?
While speaking to a very informed staff member, I learned about the book "Vipassana Meditation: The Art Of Living" by William Hart. This is not to be confused with the Art Of Living Foundation run by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
On my way out, I visited the book shop inside The Pagoda and picked up the book. This book provides introduction to Vipassana meditation, explains the right way to do Vipassana meditation, and answers frequently asked questions about Vipassana. I highly recommend reading this book BEFORE enrolling for the 10-day course. It is important to understand the principles and philosophy behind Vipassana meditation.
Based on my practice of Vipassana meditation at home, I can say that it is the most difficult form of meditation I have practiced - and I have tried many - from transcendental meditation to kundalini yoga, pranayama and mindfulness exercises.
Why Vipassana experience is so difficult? Because of its simplicity. It strips down your activities to zero. All of a sudden, you are alone with yourself. No phones. No music. No sound. No interaction. No television. Unlike other meditations that may involve chanting, or focusing on something, this meditation doesn't involve any of that. And that's the most difficult part. There's nothing to keep your mind engaged.
All you have to do is focus on the entrance of our nostrils. That's a tough job, and that's probably what makes Vipassana meditation so effective.
Vipassana Meditation is non-religious
Is Vipassana Meditation Right For You?
There are many benefits of Vipassana meditation - the most important being that it helps you achieve peace with yourself, by getting rid of aversion and greed. It helps you to know that all our suffering is caused by our constant reaction to external stimuli.
Vipassana meditation teaches you that all that you need to be happy is WITHIN you. It puts you back in touch with your body. People have often experienced "sensations" throughout their body, like an electric shock, or positive vibrations, while doing the longer version of Vipassana meditation. I am yet to experience any sensations, but I haven't tried meditation for longer than an hour yet.
Is it right for you?
The staff member told me that many people drop out on the first day, and very few are able to complete the 10-day course.
Vipassana requires a lot of commitment:
Physical: to be able to sit for extended hours every day
Logistical: to be disconnected from work and family for 10 days. You won't have any outside contact.
Mental: to survive the 10 days with minimal human contact, and no television or technology.
Even if you are not able to meditate successfully, you will benefit much by simply being deprived of most distractions of modern life.
Where to find a Vipassana Meditation Retreat
Vipassana meditation experience is available to people around the world, without the need to travel to India, where it originated.
Here are some of the main Vipassana meditation retreats around the world, and you may find more information on Dhamma website:
Vipassana Center, North Fork, California, the United States
Vipassana Meditation Center, Sydney and Blackheath, Australia
Vipassana Meditation, Dhamma Java, Indonesia
Vipassana Retreat in Bali, Bodhi Meditation Center
Vipassana Meditation in Spain
What's your experience with meditation?
Have you tried meditation - Vipassana or any other meditation? Has it benefited you? Please share your experience with meditation, or if you haven't tried any meditation, what is keeping you from it?
Please use the comments section below to share your insights.
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