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Thoughts on Vipassana Meditation

February 2, 2013

By Damon Fakhri

The world appears to be a messy place. And it is, until you peel back the layers and see it in all its glory. Yes, there is misery. Yes, there is pain. But there is also beauty, around us, and within us. Every one of us. And mountains of it. The question is how can we learn to truly appreciate this beauty?

I spent years seeking to reconnect with my inner self, to understand the world and its contents, and to reaffirm the joy of living. That’s when I heard about Vipassana meditation and how it teaches you to know yourself better. I figured this must be good for the mind, the heart, and the soul, so I decided to take the plunge and do one of the 10-day courses.

Vipassana meditation has several premises. First, every experience of craving or aversion we’ve ever had (liking/disliking, pleasure/pain) gets stored as a sensation in our bodies. Second, when we stop producing new cravings or aversions, the old ones (known as sånkhāras, or mental conditionings) begin to surface and dissipate. Third, the universal law of nature is that everything is changing, arising and passing, and that pain and pleasure arise and pass like everything else.

For the course, we agree to live by a vow of silence for 10 days – that’s no speaking, touching or even eye contact allowed. We are alone with no mixing of the sexes. The gong rings at 4am with first meditation at 4:30am. There are 12 hours of meditating each day. In between, breakfast and lunch, plus a dinner that consists of a piece of fruit and cup of tea. From day five, there are three one-hour sittings of “strong determination” – meditating without moving, without opening one’s eyes, one’s hands or one’s legs. The idea is to remain in perfect “equanimity.” It takes a strong will, patience, positive attitude and self-motivation to survive.

But the benefits are manifold. One lesson we learn is that attaching a judgement to an experience (like/dislike, love/hate, right/wrong) results in misery. The answer is to give up judgement and instead just observe the experience. The next time you fail at something, or hear harsh words spoken about you, or get bumped into on the street, stop for a second. Notice how your breathing has changed, how your stomach has tightened and you’ve got that intense feeling inside. But don’t react – not emotionally, verbally nor physically. Remain neutral. Recognize that your body has reacted, that’s all. And wait, just wait. Soon enough, the feeling will subside, both the physical manifestation as well as the mental desire to react. Then you will smile. And move on. Simple. Beautiful. Peaceful. You can’t master this every time from the beginning. But in time, you will.

One of the key purposes of the meditation is to undo the “conditioning” we have undergone since first coming into this world, to free ourselves of all the things in our subconscious that control us. The ultimate result is enlightenment, where we understand the true nature of being and our connection with the universe, nature and each other. This 10-day course sets us along this path, but make no mistake, the path is long. As we head along it, we find our mind and heart opening, little by little, like the slow bloom of a flower in spring; and as this happens, we dismiss our previous conditionings and begin to feel more and more love, compassion and goodness. We start to see the perfection in the world, and in ourselves. We stop worrying about what others think and begin to let go, albeit slowly, of the ego, the root cause of our negative emotions. We learn the value of equanimity and living in the present moment.

It’s intense and shocking, peaceful and fascinating. One beautiful effect is a reawakening of the senses. As the mind becomes increasingly tuned, the world around us becomes increasingly vivid. You notice a raindrop slipping down the stem of a flower, a daffodil stretching out to catch the sunlight, the beautiful texture of a leaf that has fallen to the ground, the deep, vibrant blue of the sky, the mesmerizing aroma of a natural forest, the whirring sound of a passing breeze.

Meditation is for anyone and everyone. It has no boundaries, knows no religion, doctrine or agenda, does not discriminate by nationality, gender, race, creed or belief. It simply it what it is: A way of knowing yourself more fully, of calming an ever-noisy mind, of soothing your soul. If everyone learned to know themselves more deeply, to not react when something negative happens, to understand that everything is changing and impermanent, we would live on a planet of higher vibration, of enlightenment, where war, greed and poverty would be things of the past, where everyone would live in peace and harmony. And the answer is simple. It doesn’t involve money, or politicians, or spiritual gurus. It merely requires you to know yourself, to understand that you are the master of your own destiny. You have the power to control your emotions, the way you react to outside stimuli. You begin to understand that nobody or no thing can be blamed for the way you feel inside, no matter what the circumstances.

Don’t relinquish the power. Understand that you alone have the power to be at peace, to be happy, to be in harmony with the world and the universe. Embrace this concept. Never let it go. And rely on nobody and nothing for your own happiness. The answer to everything lies within.

Anicca, Anicca, Anicca (changing, changing, changing)

May all beings be happy.

 

About the author: Damon Fakhri spent 8 years wandering the globe discovering and learning about different cultures, people and ways of life. His passion lies in social contribution. He currently resides in Tokyo and is working on a photo project covering people and issues in the city and country (https://www.facebook.com/iamtokyo.proj). He is also a Japanese-English translator and reiki master.
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