Our world is a very noisy place, both externally and internally. Externally, the sounds of various machines, technologies, and gadgets are all around us, such as cars, radios, blenders, TVs, smartphone notifications, and you name it. Internally, our minds are in constant states of chaotic thinking and ruminating that prevent us from experiencing true peace and silence.
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 the 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 when we wish to experience 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 spirit.
One type of meditation that takes the power of silence very seriously is Vipassana Meditation. This is a type of meditation that originated from the Buddha and today centers all over the world teach students this ancient and valuable meditation technique. As part of my commitment to my spiritual evolution and consciousness expansion, I am currently preparing for my very own 10 days of silence in a Vipassana Meditation.
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 the 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 the 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 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. Afterward, the student is encouraged to practice regularly on their own for continued growth in insight.
My Personal Introduction to Vipassana
I learned about Vipassana meditation from an online acquaintance, Kaushik Chokshi. As I read Kaushik’s experience, something immediately clicked and I knew this was an experience I needed to pursue. I have been craving to enter a deeper state of being for quite some time now and the ability to experience this type of meditation resonated with me strongly.
As I researched to learn more about 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
Finally, the time has come for me to embark on my first Vipassana Mediation. The thought of spending 10 days in silence, even if it is structured silence, is a little intimidating. I love tranquility and stillness but I cannot imagine what such an experience will be like. Not to mention, this will include waking up at 4 am to start each day, light meals with mild fasting, and on average 10 hours of meditation a day, most of it in isolation, and being completely cut off from all technology, family, friends, reading, or even writing.
I don’t think any of us can imagine what an experience of this nature will be like unless we actually experience it for ourselves. Even then, given its inner-focused nature, I am sure it is deeply personal for each and cannot be compared. Many questions run through my mind. 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?
What I have found 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 even consider such an experience. 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 necessarily outcomes of this experience for me. So in the end, I am holding no expectations, and holding only the intention to be open and experience this meditation in its fullest form.
Post Vipassana Meditation
To know how my experience went, I invite you to read My Experience with Vipassana Meditation: Reflections, Insights, and Overview of the Course.