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The Benefits Of Practicing Vipassana Meditation
Introduction to Vipassana
As a person who has practiced Vipassana meditation for some years now, I can definitely say without a doubt that the changes brought upon by this technique of meditation is instantaneous. You will feel the change and shift within you in your first sitting.
I started practicing this technique in 2006, when someone told me about this and I got curious and decided to give it a try. Vipassana meditation is currently being taught all around the world.
A new student will have to take a 10 day course in the retreat provided by them for totally free. Yes that is right. TOTALLY FREE. They do not charge you even one penny for lodging and food. Now you may think that because it is free, people must be going their like ants since they get free food and lodging! Well no. You see, even though it is free, you have to follow their rules to the dot for the next 10 days, and it is not an easy rule. The training for this meditation is not for the weak willed.
Rules and Regulations Of a Vipassana Meditation Course
The rules that they apply is not an easy one. Here are some of the rules that you have to abide by once you sign up:
- No phones
- No reading
- Not allowed to talk to each other (if you need help you can always approach the helpers assigned over there and speak softly so as not to disturb others)
- No chanting or praying (you are here to learn Vipassana meditation for 10 days, do not mix it with any other dogmas or beliefs, lighting incense, etc. After a 10 days course as you go back to your own house, you may continue to practice your beliefs as per usual)
Upon your reaching the retreat and signing up they will confiscate your cellphones, or any religious beads, scriptures, necklace etc, for the reason I described above. You are not to make any calls or read or write anything. Basically no contact with the outside world. Your whole 10 days is devoted to concentrating your self in training this meditation and to allow as little distractions as possible. In case of emergency there is a landline which you can use after getting the teacher's permission.
This is the same reason why students are not allowed to talk to one another. We are learning meditation to study ourselves and our sharpen our minds. Talking and chit chatting will only distract us. The only time we can talk is if we have doubts or need help in which case there are helpers (who are made of students who have take a 10 days course at least three times and want to help others benefit from Vipassana the way they have) in the retreat and we can always approach the meditation teacher during question and answer session.
No phone? no reading? no talking? no praying? No problem! Well good for you, now let me tell you their daily routine which you need to follow:
4am: Morning Bell (good morning, sleepy head. Yes they are aware it is still dark, don't even bother!)
4:30- 6:30am: meditation in the hall or in your room (I always choose the hall, meditating with other people is a more conducive)
9-11am: meditate in the hall or in your room, it depends on the teacher's instructions (again, if given the choice, always choose the hall)
11am-12pm: lunch break
12pm-1pm: rest, if you have questions which you would like to address to the teacher you can do so at this time.
1pm-2:30pm: Meditate in hall/room
2:30pm-3:30pm:Group meditation in hall
3:30pm-5pm: continue meditation in the hall or in your room as per the teacher's instructions.
6pm-7pm: group meditation in the hall.
7pm-8:15pm: teacher's discourse.
8:15pm-9pm: group meditation in the meditation hall.
9pm-9:30pm- question and answer session with the teacher in the hall.
9:30pm: sleep/rest/lights out/good night/see you tomorrow at 4am.
Still no problem? Very good!
I have gone to this retreat and taken their 10 day courses at least three times and gone there as a helper once. It is always recommended that you take at least one course per year to refresh and to strengthen your meditation. I started this course when I was single but haven't taken it again since I got married.
It is not easy to leave all of your worldly affairs and go to a retreat for 10 days. This is why when people ask me how much they charge for a 10 day course I tell them "they charge you 10 days of your life." In that sense, it is a very expensive course and not many people can afford it. You can always make your money again, but you can never get back your days.
Why is it free? Here is why, when you pay something you will subconsciously expect something. and when you do not get what you expect you will seeth and your ego will start going "I paid for the damn thing and this is how they treat me!" So they give you free. So it helps you in avoiding any egoistic perceptions that is brought on by paying for a service. You are not paying their service, you are going there because you need their service in order to have a better and more peaceful life. You need them, they don't need you.
Their retreat runs on donation which they receive from older students who felt they have benefitted from going to such retreats and would like to see other people get the same benefit as they did. They have made it a point to never receive a donation from non-students or from students who did not feel benefitted. This is also to avoid ego. Many people donate to have their name stamped on a building or have a particular building named after them. Ego nonsense basically.
This rule they have set up makes sure that you will only donate because you feel you have benefitted and you want this retreat to keep operating so that others may benefit from it. Your donation will only be received if you have joined at least one 10-day course, feel benefitted and want to help them in providing this course to other people so they may benefit from it the same way you have. It is a "paying it forward" kind of thing.
What is the Benefit Of Practicing Vipassana Meditation
The way we process things are mostly on autopilot. Our senses perceive things: the eyes sees, the ears listens, the skin feels, the nose smells, the tongue tastes. Once any of our senses are stimulated we will most of the time react on autopilot. Vipassana will remove this habit of reacting thoughtlessly.
Many a times when someone does wrong to us, we will be angry and shout and yell at them, it our inclination, but with vipassana we will slowly notice that as we practice Vipassana, we will be able to think and process our thoughts and act accordingly instead of reacting thoughtlessly. We are a slave to our own reactions. Even if we do not react, we will still seeth in anger and just hide our feelings which is not healthy as well.
We are a slave to everything that is happening. When something bad happens we become disappointed, angry, sad, etc. When something good happens we become ecstatic and even addicted. Bad or good, nothing lasts forever. Vipassana means to see things as they are, and in the process allows us to be more objective and have a mental stability whether we are going through bad times or good times.
How Does Vipassana Help You Achieve This?
The beauty of Vipassana lies in the simplicity of its technique, it is very easy to write it down, doing it and mastering it is a different story all together, which is why they have a 10 day course, and keep in mind that 10 days is the minimum requirement. As a student advances he can join the 15 days and even 30 days course, and after several of these advanced courses he/she is eligible to become a teacher.
In Vipassana we are first trained for the first 3 days to observe our own breath. Not to control. Just observe, the way you would observe a flowing stream. Vipassana is about seeing things as they are not as you would like it to be. So no controling, no counting, no chanting no saying "breath in, breath out." nothing doing. Just observe your breath with a clear concentrated mind. If your breathing is hard so be it, if your breathing is soft so be it. If you are breathing only through one of the nostrils SO BE IT. This is to help you have a sharp mind that will allow you to pierce and observe yourself even deeper as you proceed in the course.
This might sound very easy, but try and concentrate your mind on breathing for just 5 minutes and I assure you it will run to different thoughts, it will go to the past and the future...Then after half an hour you realize your mind is wandering so you bring it back to your breath, then it goes again. As you advance you will be more aware of your mind's wandering habits. And all it takes is awareness for the mind to come back to your breath, but how long you will start being aware is the thing. As you keep practicing the amount of time wanders before you become aware of it will become shorter and shorter.
On the fourth day, as your mind has attained some sense of quiet and objectivity you will be instructed and guided to observe yourself and your body. You will be taught to concentrate your mind from the tip of your head and slowly go down until the tip of your toes, and then go back up. You are told to feel any sensations. It can be any sensation, tickling sensation, prickling sensation, moist, warm, cold. Don't look for any supernatural sensation, only the sensation you may feel in your everyday life.
You are supposed to be observing this all the time going up and down from the tip of your head to the tip of your toes, observe it objectively, the way a doctor observe its patience. If you feel itchy, or sweaty, observe it. Just study is piece meal. Don't scratch, don't wipe that sweat.
Sooner or later your back might ache or your leg might ache from sitting too long. It is encouraged that you do not change your posture but if you cannot bare it then you can change it slowly so as not to disrupt your concentration. When you have ache observe that ache. Do not try to fight it or repress it. But observe, the way a doctor would observe the pain a patient is feeling. Even during pain you should try your best to keep a stable mind and observe. If your cannot have mantain a stable and objective mind or the pain has overwhelmed you then you can change your posture, do not do this too often as your mind will start to wander.
By doing this, and practicing your mentality in the face of discomforts you will slowly but surely have a stronger and more objective mind. But beware, there will come a time, totally unexpected during one of your seatings, where you will feel euphoric and it feels very great, but this will also pass, and when it does you should not panic and worry that you have done something wrong. All good things also must eventually come to an end. If you get the feeling of euphoria thats great, if you don't also great. Don't judge your meditation based on your feelings.
When I was a helper my duty was to translate from Bahasa Indonesia to English as the teacher at that time was from Australia and did not understand the local language. Many students complained that in the previous seating they had such great feelings and sensations but in the next seating all they felt was body ache here and there. "What happened!" they ask with great distress. But the fact is in life sometimes you go through bad times sometimes you go through good times. In both times you need to have mental stability. This is how Vipassana meditation helps us in attaining a balanced and peaceful mind that is able to help us view things objectively no matter what the circumstance.
If you had a great feeling in a previous seating you should not go to your next seating with unrealistic expectations. Your feelings does not determine how much you have advanced in this technique. Your mental stability is the bar by which you measure how much you have advanced and how much you have improved.
Why Should I Go to a Retreat?
After telling you all this, the time table, technique, etc, you might be wondering, "well, why do I have to go through the hassle of joining a 10 day course when I can just follow this article?" It is like asking "why do I have to go to school, why can't I just buy the books and learn everything from home?" or "why do I have to go to the operation theatre to have my tumor removed, why can't the doctor just come over to my house ahd operate it here.
You need to go there because the mind is a fickle thing and there are many such distractions in your house, as such learning Vipassana in the comforts of your own house is ineffective and can even have adverse effects. Because the environment is not suitable.
To learn Vipassana, you need to be in a conducive environment. Vipassana Retreats are normally located in very secluded and quiet places with nature as its surrounding. Totally away from the hassle and noise of everyday lives, where you have instructors and helpers assisting you every step of the way.
The retreat is used for nothing else but meditation, there is no mingling and socializing. It is all about meditation. So our concentration also rises. After a 10 day course, students are encourage to at least do two one hour seatings in their house everyday.
If you are interested in taking a Vipassana meditation course you can register yourself on line by clicking here and finding the nearest retreat from your home.