For most of us, our world is a very noisy place. The sounds of various technologies are all around us. From cars and planes, to television sets and blenders.
Even in the midst of perceived silence, most of us have noisy chatter that goes on within our minds. A self-talk that perpetuates itself, and fills our mind with noise.
Noise does not need to be a negative thing, but it can be when there is no silence to balance it out. So what if we were to step away from some of this noise, if only for a bit?
Would we act differently? Think differently? Experience life differently?
Would we perhaps allow a deeper clarity into our life? Deeper insight? A deeper knowing?
Moving away from noise, and into more silence, which normally births more mindful thinking and awareness can be highly transformational.
In our Western world, we normally think of meditation, to allow us such states of being. However, in other cultures periods of silence and mindful awareness are a natural part of each day, that help to balance out our mind, body and soul.
One type of meditation that takes the power of silence very seriously is Vipassana Meditation, and today I would like to share with you more about this practice and some of my personal insights as I prepare for my very own 10 days of silence.
What is Vipassana?
The word Vipassana means ‘insight’ – especially into the nature of reality, and it comes from the Pali language of the early Buddhist texts. It is today known as a type of state to be in, or meditation.
Vipassana is one of world’s most ancient techniques of meditation, which has its roots in the Theravada form of Buddhism. The practice itself originated in India and is attributed to Gautama Buddha. It is a way of self-transformation through self-observation and introspection.
Vipassana meditation is today practiced by people from all walks of life and traditions, all over the world. There are Vipassana centers all over the world, and you can find one near you for example through the Dhamma.org site, which is was started by S. N. Goenka.
What makes Vipassana meditation most different from other forms of meditation, is that it is not the typical “calming” type of meditation that is most commonly known here in the West, and practiced alongside yoga, tranquil music, etc. It is a more active form of meditation where the person is invited to cultivate insight including contemplation, introspection, analytic meditation, and observations about experience. It is a most intense exercise in mindfulness.
Over the years it has branched off and differs a little between disciplines, but overall is non-sectarian in nature, and applies to all forms of Buddhism, as well as continues to attract people from all ethnic and religious or spiritual groups.
How is Vipassana Practiced?
To begin one’s practice of Vipassana, one normally studies under a teacher of Vipassana meditation in a Vipassana meditation center.
Satya Narayan Goenka is a leading lay teacher of Vipassana meditation. He has trained more than 800 assistant teachers in the tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin, under whom he studied. Each year more than 100,000 people attend Goenka sponsored Vipassana courses.
Vipassana is a rather serious meditation and is structured like a course, with time spent in silence, evening lectures, partial fasting and abstinence from various physical and psychological things. The minimum session for new students is 10 days of silence in the course, which has been deemed the minimum for the meditation to be effective and internal change to be observed. Afterwards the student, is encouraged to practice regularly on their own, for continued growth in insight.
My Personal Introduction to Vipassana
As I read Kaushik’s experience, something immediately clicked and I knew this was a path I needed to pursue. I have actually been craving entering a deeper state of being for quite some time now, and being able to experience this type of meditation experience resonated strongly.
As I researched and looked up more on the Vipassana meditations, I learned that there was in fact a center here in Ontario, where I live. Everything was lining up perfectly for this opportunity to become real for me.
I also learned that Vipassana meditations run solely on donations. This also made the course that much more attractive, as I have to admit, I felt a sense of deeper authenticity to the work behind it. (Please note this does not mean, that I think charging for spirituality based practices or services is wrong. But it is unfortunate how many spiritual-based and consciousness-expanding courses and services are out there, and not available to most, based on the cost.) Naturally, this only works if people practice openly the abundant source of all that they are.
Preparing for My First Vipassana Meditation
And so the time has come for me to embark on my first Vipassana Mediation.
The thought of spending 10 days in silence – be that structured silence, but still, is to be honest a little intimidating. I love calm and stillness, but I cannot even imagine what such an experience will be like. Not to mention, add to this waking up at 4 am to start each day, light meals with mild fasting and on average 10 hours of meditation a day, generally in isolation – being completely cut off from all technology, family, friends, reading, or even writing.
I truly don’t think any of us can imagine what an experience of this nature will be like, unless we actually experience it for ourselves – and even then due to its nature, I am sure it is deeply personal for each and cannot be compared.
What will it feel like? What thoughts will occupy my mind? What thought patterns will emerge and be released? How will I feel each day or at the end of it all? These are just some of the questions I have floating through my mind, as I prepare to embark on this experience.
What I have found personally, is that if I focus on the present moment, I am in complete surrender and open to this experience. When I start picking it apart and putting myself in its future moments, I can see why so many wouldn’t ever consider such an experience.
So in the end, I am holding no expectations, and holding only the intention to be fully open and experience this meditation in its fullest form. I do hope to experience a deeper cleansing of the mind where old thought patterns and conditioning that no longer serves me are concerned, and a grounding and balancing of my inner state of being. All of those however, are possible by-products, not necessary outcomes of this experience for me.
Thus, I look forward to joining you all in a few weeks after I come back, and sharing more about the Vipasanna mediation and my personal experience with it.
To read about the experience from someone who has already gone through a Vipassana Meditation Course, check out Rahul’s Review of the Vipassana Meditation.