Meditation Series – Chapter 3: Vipassana
While continuing my experiments with different forms of meditation, I came across Vipassana around 2015. I suddenly got an opportunity to join Vipassana camp.
Vipassana is an old Buddhist tradition of Meditation, as was taught by Gautam Buddha himself. I had heard a lot about it. Sounded like the toughest experience out there, more of an adventure than meditation. Many people think that one session of Vipassana and you become a sanyasi on a yogic path like Gautam Buddha. Frankly, it is a stupid conception but about that later, first, let me elaborate on my experience with Vipassana.
How Vipassana challenges you every minute.
Vipassana is seriously a mind-blowing experience and the toughest thing I ever did in my life. One has to completely dedicate to the session for 10 days and stay in the ashram during this period.
Program highlights are: Wake up every morning at 4 a.m., not talk to anyone for 10 days (of course which means no mobiles or tv allowed), and last meal at 12 noon – no dinner, only a snack in the evening… Well, all are deal breakers for me. I am not a morning person, in fact, I can’t even wake up at 9 easily, forget about 4 am. To me, 4 in the morning means not sleeping the whole night. 😀
I will never know how I woke up at dot 4 am during Vipassana. Many a time, I take a pause and reminisces about this lifetime achievement of mine. It is still unbelievable!!! Then comes the food part, I am someone who is perennially hungry, someone who starts planing for dinner immediately after lunch. 😀 I did keep a few biscuits with me for an emergency, but the instructors stress on truthfulness, so I reluctantly decided to not go ahead with it. Anyhow, one day in meditation and I stopped having any cravings or hunger pangs. Yeah! it is that effective. Soon, it got easier to continue with the food schedule. Once again, I here take a pause to wonder about my achievement. With so many pauses, I wonder if this is my slowest written article ever 😀
What more? Hmmm, not talking to anyone was not a deal-breaker, as I have a strange combination of a chatterbox and statuesque personality. So acquiring one personality for a small period of time is not so tough.
And yeah, I forgot the most important part. The whole day, just meditation. And meditating is not about mantra recitation or counting breaths, which if you ask me is far easier. No, instead it is just observing yourself (better to learn the exact process by joining the meditation camp). Meditation from morning 4 to night 9, with just a few breaks in between. Every minute of the day you have to observe yourself, with no one to audit. No one to see if you are following the instructions properly. For dreamers, all this will be a cakewalk. But the onus is on you. If you want to see the power of this meditation, you would dare not cheat. And that makes the process tougher. Your will power is continuously trained.
How I overcome my first couple of days.
I have no idea how I was able to sit there for such a long duration. The first few days were really tough, every moment I would think of quitting. In fact, some did quit during this period.
Initially, I had just one motivation, to cure my health concerns. My breathing and migraine issues were not frequent anymore but I wanted a healthy life. I had issues with heavy breathing since childhood. Heavy breathing would lead to panic – that breathing can stop anytime. A vicious cycle of breathing and panic attacks.
So the initial motivation was a healthy life but this motivation is not strong enough after a couple of days. Instead, I started challenging myself every day. Just one more day, and I will be the best in the world 😀. Well, after that 10-day session my confidence is at a different level now 😎. This experience has also taught me the golden sutra – One day at a time is the way to live life.
To outsiders it sounds simple, you just have to sit there the whole day, what is so difficult about it?
No dear, sitting simply the whole day thinking and dreaming may be easy, but to not think is quite tough. Try if you want. I wanted to get the best out of this once a lifetime opportunity. If it was as miraculous as it was known to be, then I have this one opportunity to get it right. Hence I would not just sit, I would try to meditate as much as possible. By the last day, I was able to meditate for long hours. To avoid you assuming anything further, let me tell you clearly, except for in Vipassana camp I was never able to replicate such long states of Meditation ever again. Yeah, so that’s what I meant by – you cannot be Buddha with just one 10-day camp.
Meditation helps you achieve inner peace and self-control. Vipassana especially makes you less reactive and more active. It is the art of not reacting to our situations, instead, observing and carefully choosing our actions. If you want this to be further elaborated with examples, let me know in the comment section.
Coming back to my experience, not only did I successfully complete it once, but I also went for Vipassana in 2017 again. It was not as tough as the first time but was still rigorous.
Vipassana has been one of the most beautiful experiences of my life and had a positive impact on my health and personality for more than a year (without the daily follow-ups). I continued with the meditation after the program for a few days afterward, but the daily schedule was again a concern. They recommend 1-hour sessions twice a day. And I again digressed. I loved Vipassana, and I regret not being able to practice it continually. They may not even allow me a 3rd time, as I have not been practicing it regularly. Also, they do not encourage mixing 2 different kinds of meditations.
While I have continued to my next chapter of Meditation, I still regret putting a full stop to my Vipassana chapter. If only, I was able to continue with it daily…
I believe that every person has a type of meditation that suits them, and I am on a journey to find my right one. All the techniques I have encountered till now are really good ones, but… I am still searching.
An excerpt on Vipassana: Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India’s ancient techniques of meditation. It was taught in India more than 2500 years ago as a universal remedy for universal ills by Gautam Buddha. In the modern-day, it was reintroduced and taught by S.N. Goenka, in the tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin. The technique of Vipassana Meditation is taught at ten-day residential courses during which participants learn the basics of the method, and practice sufficiently to experience its beneficial results.