I had the great pleasure of spending my holiday learning how to meditate. Meditation has been on my list of to-doâ€™s for a few years now, but I felt uncomfortable trying and thought I couldnâ€™t â€œdo it rightâ€. My brain would never calm down, I felt awkward and silly, and wasnâ€™t quite sure how sitting and listening to my inner chatter was going to give me clarity, insight and peace.
After several positive testimonials, I decided to give myself a crash course in meditation by attending a Vipassana retreat in
So off I went!
I cannot really describe what occurred, or how it occurred, but I can tell you that one does not leave such a retreat the same person who arrived. 10 days of mediation takes great effort, its true, but the profound rewards of attentiveness, awareness, and clarity are given without conscious struggle or effort. Your objective is to sit and observe, and through this process you somehow release attachments and struggles to emotions, ideas, and expectations. Itâ€™s as though you distract yourself with the meditation process while someone else cleans house (or head, as the case may be). I left knowing I had changed, but not knowing just how I had changed.
In the few weeks since my return to civilization, I have observed the following; I am more calm and accepting of the world around me â€“ traffic, people, weather (the cold bothers me less, Mom!); I have greater faith in the unfolding process of my life, and I hear things I did not hear before such as inflection in tone and that which is unsaid. I am less afraid to be straightforward with my opinions, thoughts, and feelings. I feel more comfortable with who I am, even if others are not.
I might be more daring. I might be less hog-tied by uncertainty. That is not to say I am fearless – but now I know in my gut that itâ€™s a passing phase. It will come up, show its face, and fade away, just like all other emotions and experiences in human existence.
Vipassana, or insight meditation, trains the subconscious mind to accept the impermanence of all things. We can consciously observe and accept that everything changes and nothing is forever but for some reason we still become attached or repelled to ideas, thoughts and habit patterns that, according to Buddhist philosophy, only lead to pain and suffering. Something we want doesnâ€™t pan out, something we did not expect throws us for a loop â€“ these things simply occur; our reaction to them is what ignites unpleasant feelings in our body or mind. Vipassana meditation is reported to alleviate suffering through developing a deeper understanding of the temporary nature of all things through simple observation of the body.
Of course, 10 days does not a Buddha make. While Iâ€™m not walking around enlightened, I can report that if I do get irked at traffic or burned rice it doesnâ€™t last as long. Interactions with others that would normally upset me (rude strangers, for instance) donâ€™t phase me. I can more clearly see how my own thought patterns can lead me to unpleasantness, and Iâ€™m less likely to fall down the rabbit hole after them.
If you are interested in exploring Vipassana mediation, retreats are available all over the world. The centers are run by donation only so that everyone can have access to the benefits of a calm, equanimous mind. For more information, contact me or visit the National Vipassana Website at http://www.dhamma.org/