This post is about my discovery of Vipassana, as taught by S.N. Goenka. According to Dhamma.org, Vipassana is one of the oldest meditation techniques in India, and the word Vipassana means to see things as they really are. Vipassana is taught in free 10-day courses at centers all around the world.
“Every human being is conditioned to assume that the real world is outside, that the way to live life is by contact with an external reality, by seeking input, physical and mental, from without. Most of us have never considered severing outward contacts in order to see what happens inside. The idea of doing so probably sounds like choosing to spend hours staring at the test pattern on a television screen. We would rather explore the far side of the moon or the bottom of the ocean than the hidden depths within ourselves.”
The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation, William Hart
I don’t remember exactly how I found Vipassana, but somewhere around the year 2000, I saw the movie Doing Time, Doing Vipassana (1997). In 2008, I watched The Dhamma Brothers (2008). Both times, although taking a 10-day course appealed to me, I just wasn’t able to do so.
Fast-forward to 2015, about a month after returning from doing a Spirit Walk at The Peyote Way Church of God in August. I’m not sure what brought Vipassana to mind, but I remembered it. I watched Doing Time, Doing Vipassana again, and once more, I found myself drawn to doing a 10-day course. This time I realized I now have the ability to do it! The Southwest Vipassana Meditation Center in Kaufman, Texas is only 5-1/2 hours from my home, and my kids are a bit older now. I’m at a time in my life where I’m ready for some real, foundational change.
I’ve included some links and resources I’ve found helpful in my research of Vipassana. One of the best resources I’ve found to learn more about the details of Vipassana is a book called The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation, by William Hart.
“The highest authority is one’s own experience of truth. Nothing should be accepted on faith alone; we have to examine to see whether it is logical, practical, beneficial. Nor having examined a teaching by means of our reason is it sufficient to accept it as true intellectually. If we are to benefit from the truth, we have to experience it directly. Only then can we know that it is really true.”
The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation, William Hart
I’ve been dabbling in meditation for almost the last half of my life, and although I’ve had some good experiences, and I do see it as beneficial and worthwhile, I still feel like I don’t get nearly as much out of it as I could. During the last 5 years, I have meditated pretty consistently, for about 30 minutes a day. My method, which seemed to work pretty well consisted of laying down in my bed, with headphones, and listening to brainwave entrainment tracks by Dr Jeffrey Thompson. I realize many would not consider what I was doing to have been meditation, but it seemed to be the only way I could quiet my “monkey mind”. I had tried, many times previously to sit in silence and I just didn’t seem to get anything out of it, and I would fall asleep much of the time.
After reading about Vipassana, and thinking about things, I realized that if I do not prepare for my upcoming course, it won’t end up to be nearly as effective as it could be. It’s been about 3 months since I started down this path toward my 10-day Vipassana course, and during that time, I’ve made some significant changes in the way I meditate.
One of the first things I felt I had to deal with was my extreme physical inflexibility, I’ve always been inflexible. Working from my home for the last 6 years, sitting at a desk for 10+ hours a day had made me even more inflexible. My biggest concern was the prospect of sitting on the floor for 10 hours a day during the course. At the time, I thought that was my most likely point of failure that would in going home early.
I decided to find out how I could achieve enough flexibility to be able to sit on the floor comfortably. I found this video to be quite helpful, and I right away I found the “rocking the baby” to feel so good on my tight muscles (glutes?). I am now Loosely following the video, and combining it with some stretching I found elsewhere. I stretch 2-3 times a day, and it has made a world of difference, not just in my ability to sit on the floor, but the pain that I dealt with on a daily basis is 90-95% gone as well! I plan on creating another post that will detail my stretching routine, and how it has all but eliminated the pain I was dealing with from spending too much time at my desk.
I am currently meditating for 48+ minutes at a time every morning. I say 48+ minutes, because I am currently increasing my time by 1 minute each day until I reach 1 full hour. At that point, I might stay at an hour for a few days, but I plan on taking it up to 2 full hours between now and when I go for my course in late February. Also while meditating, I now sit in the Burmese position, seated on a zafu and zabuton, both stuffed with kapok. I tried a buckwheat hull stuffed zafu, and found it to be too firm. The way I see it, the extended sitting is still probably my biggest challenge, so the more comfortable I can become with sitting for long periods, the better off I’ll be during the course. I am also sitting in silence and physical stillness without the use of headphones or any background music, etc. I awake early each morning, and after showering, I sit in meditation. By the time February rolls around, I hope to have the sitting in stillness & silence part down to a science.
Obviously, I’m no meditation expert, but I am trying to learn and grow into what I hope will be a worthwile, lifelong habit. How about you? Do you have any advice or experiences to share? Please leave a comment below this post, I’d love to hear from you!
2 excellent posts from Gabriel at UpDevelopment.org:
My Vipassana Experience – 10-Day Meditation Retreat Review
Second Time at a Vipassana Meditation Retreat
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Doing Time, Doing Vipassana: The documentary that originally sparked my interest in Vipassana. The film details how Vipassana meditation was used as a rehabilitation method at one of the most harsh prisons in the world, and the surprising results.
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Eilona Ariel talks about Vipassana meditation, it’s relation to body sensations, about her own experience with Vipassana, and about how her experience led to her and Ayelet Menahemi making the documentary film “Doing Time, Doing Vipassana”.
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Tom Davison presents 10 Tips for Your First 10 Day Vipassana Course.
Last Updated: October 8, 2017