In July I attended a 10 day Vipassana Silence meditation. It turned out to be a stunning experience. Back home I got a lot of questions from people about my experience and therefore I decided to dedicate a couple of blogposts to it. In those posts I will describe my 10 days in silence. It will be a personal blog where I also will relate to different theoretical aspects and make a link to daily life.
We all have to face pain and unpleasant situations in our life. How we react to it differs, but in general we tend to fight, flight or freeze as an instictual reaction. Accepting a situation as it is, is another possibility, but this is can be challenging. During the mediation I had to face a lot mental en physical pain, an interesting journey that I will describe in this blogpost.
The course continues
With the moral conduct as foundation (5 precepts), the second aspect of the practice was concentration of the mind. The first three days we had to observe our breath. Later on we had to focus on a small part under our nose. This was just a preparation to become aware of the bodily sensations. The fourth day we were introduced into the Vipassana technique itself which is an observation of the complete body in a structured order, an observation of the mind. Here the third aspect of the practice came in, the wisdom of insight gained by observation of the mind. Only with this wisdom the mind can be purified.
Noble truths of wisdom
During the discourses Mr. S.N. Goenka explained the noble truths that form the foundation of this wisdom. First of all it is about acknowledging that there is suffering in our life and in the world: We do feel pain, we have emotions and sad things happen.
Secondly the cause of this suffering finds its origin in either aversion or craving. When we are in a situation we label it either as being good or bad. When we label it as being bad, it immediately plants a seed of negativity. When we experience a pleasant situation we enjoy it so much that we want it to happen again. This is where the craving comes in. We create circumstances that will allow the same pleasure to occur. This might happen a couple of times but eventually the pleasant feeling will not be the same as the first time. We will be disappointed and it will become a bad experience which will plant a seed of negativity.
The end of suffering is when we stop craving by accepting the principle of impermanence. Every experience good or bad will have the same quality of impermanence, pulsation. This is the same quality as waves in the ocean have, they just come and go. Everything is temporary, the good and the bad. By recognizing that everything is temporary the present moment becomes more valuable. The practice of equanimity helps to free us from the suffering we have. We won’t plant any new seeds of negativity and the old seeds of negativity will automatically come to the surface in order to dissolve. We can only purify the mind when our thoughts and actions are clean and when we are aware of all the sensation to gain this insight of wisdom.
The practice of equanimity
Three times a day there we had to sit still for a full hour. The other hours where less strict. It was all about practicing equanimity.
Not moving was hard. I had difficulties to focus and there was so much pain in my body. My mind came up with 100 different reasons to stand up and go outside. It took me a couple of days to sit the whole hour. It made me aware of how easily I get distracted when I set a goal.
I realized that I sometimes avoid negativity by pushing away my emotions, and also physical pains I can neglect. The last years I haven’t watched the news to avoid all war and misery in the world. I tend to over-analyze all that is happening and try to find an explanation for all I feel and do and then try to fix it. The same I tend to do for others.
It made me aware that I am constantly living in my own created bubble, trying either to hide or to fix. By accepting the pain I also accept what is.
Sit with pain
For me the pain manifested itself as a sharp pain in my back and my hips. While in the beginning I was moving around and contracted my muscle just to get rid of the pain, after a while I managed to relax my body more and more in order to feel. During this process a phrase of one of my favorite poems kept on repeating in my mind: ‘I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it’ – the invitation of Oriah Mountain Dreamer. These words were so powerful to me at that moment that they helped me to stay with my pain.
This made me realize that the pain was not that bad. Just by observing this, at the first sight stinging pain on my whole back, turned out to find its origin on only a really small area, like the tip of the pain. First the pain became more intense, but just by embracing it it started to fade away, to evaporate.
The last years I did overcome a lot of physical and emotional pain, but there was a point I couldn’t break through. The mediation allowed me to go deeper, just by being softer and stop fighting. The practise of equanimity. Where I tend to fight or flight being overwelmed by pain, the mediation learned me how to face the deeper layers of pain deep inside.
And what about you? Can you sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it?
Next blogpost: Planting a seed
This blog is based on my personal experiences and is not a description of the course outline. It is not my intention to teach this practice in any way. The experiences of attending a Vipassana course and the effect from it will differ per person. For more information about the t course you can check the dhamma website.