“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.”
Vipassana is a self-transformation meditation technique to purify the mind. It’s a process that trains the mind to see things as they truly are, not as how they should or shouldn’t be.
This technique builds a deep connection with the mind and the body emphasizing the awareness of respiration and body sensations.
It’s not based on religion although it’s a technique passed on from the great Gautama Buddha more than 2500 years ago. Buddha taught this technique without any intentions for rites, rituals, or formalities. He believed you can only fully liberate yourself to reach the highest level of happiness once you have completely removed all impurities from the mind.
Lesson One: The Universal Law of Nature
The universal law of nature states that everything is always changing. By definition, this means nothing is permanent.
For example, the Earth is always changing with seasons throughout the year. All inanimate and animate things that exist will eventually fade away.
This is also true for the feelings you experience throughout your lifetime. You must understand that these emotions and things aren’t permanent and they will eventually fade away.
Lesson Two: The Process of Removing Misery Caused by Attachment
When you experience something pleasant, such as happiness, your natural reaction is to want more. As a result, cravings will start to rise.
On the contrary, when you experience something unpleasant, such as pain, you would want less. Hence, you will create aversions during those times.
The problem arises when you have attachments towards the outcomes of craving and aversion. When you don’t get what you want, you feel disappointed or resentful. Because of the shortcoming, it can lead to suffering and misery.
In the teaching of Buddha, it’s understood that the mind has four factors:
Sensation or feeling (vedana or samvedna)
Reaction or conditioning (sankhara)
Because of the natural tendency for cravings and aversions, you have created many sankharas throughout your lifetime. To completely purify the mind, you must remove all the sankharas generated, including those kept at the deepest part of the mind.
To eradicate sankharas at the core level of the mind, you must first stop generating new sankharas. This process will allow the old sankharas to slowly rise to the surface level of the mind and be removed.
For example, if you want to completely drain the battery life from your electronic device, you would first have to stop charging it. Once it’s no longer charging, the battery will be slowly drained the more you use the device.
Eventually, the battery life will reach zero.
The same concept applies to removing sankharas from the mind. When your brain completely stops generating new sankharas, then and only then can the process of removing old sankharas be started.
Vipassana allows the opportunity to train and reprogram the reaction or conditioning part of the mind (sankhara) at the deepest level (the sub and unconscious mind). By remaining equanimous when feelings of craving or aversion appear in the body, you’re training the mind to see the sensations as they are, not as how you want them to be.
Understanding that these feelings are not permanent, you learn not to form any attachments to cravings or aversion during those moments. Over time, you will form a new habit of remaining serene when pleasant and unpleasant sensations arise in the body.
All external events in your life trigger these sensations. Therefore when they do happen, you feel your sensations and stay calm because of this new habit.
It’s to prepare you for those occurrences in your daily life. That’s the practical application of this technique.
The thinking is, regardless of what has happened in your life, you will remain equanimous knowing that this feeling is not permanent. But you may be wondering:
“What about my desires, wants, and goals?”
Don’t misunderstand not having any cravings in life translates to not having any desires, wants, or goals. It’s quite the opposite as you can still have all of that.
When you have goals but are detached from their outcomes, you’re more likely to pursue them because you will feel tranquil regardless if you achieve them or not. Your cool composure will cause you to be more ambitious by setting goals that not only help yourself, but also others out of love, compassion, and goodwill.
Lesson Three: The Difference Between Intellectual and Experiential Understanding
When presented with a concept, you may easily understand it on the intellectual level. But comprehending it through experience is a completely different story.
For example, a mom may tell her son not to put his hands close to the fire to avoid burning. The child may understand that burning of the hands can cause pain. However, if he has never experienced burning pain before, he won’t truly understand that agony at the experiential level.
Even when you understand you shouldn’t form attachments to certain feelings or outcomes by remaining composed, your mind still does it because it lacks experiential understanding.
But by feeling the sensations in your body while being collected, you understand this concept at the actual level.
Lesson Four: Continuous Practice of Proper Technique to Reach Mastery
When you want to master or simply improve on a craft, it requires a tremendous amount of effort by continual practice. In the book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell states that it requires 10,000 hours of practice to reach mastery of any craft.
That is about 417 days if you spent every single hour of every day practicing. For eight hours a day, you will need 1250 days which is about three and a half years.
In short, being exceptional at something takes a long time.
This makes perfectly logical sense as it applies to many aspects of life. For example, your current body required a lot of time and resources to grow to its current state.
This lesson also serves the purpose of appreciation. If any achievements were to come easily, you wouldn’t discover the real value behind it. You will learn to treasure something if you have spent a significant amount of time and effort to earn it.
The proper technique is as important as continuous practice to reach mastery.
If after practicing for some time and you’re not making progress or achieving the results that you want, then you must reevaluate your procedure. The two possible explanations are that the method is wrong or you’re not performing it properly.
Lesson Five: Discipline and Determination
During the 10-day silent meditation course, there were three one-hour meditation sessions (8 – 9 AM, 2:30 – 3:30 PM, and 6 – 7 PM) designed to build determination and willpower.
The teacher asked me to refrain from making any big posture movements. They included the opening of crossed-legs, closed hands, and closed-eyes despite the feelings of discomfort after sitting for a long time.
To overcome any challenges, the instructors encouraged me to take small steps and slowly build up my mental and physical strength. For example, if I have to adjust my body three times during the first one-hour sitting, then I should strive to limit the number of adjustments to two on the next one-hour sitting.
Over time, my mind and body grew stronger.
By the end of the third day, my body and mind were in sync and I was able to meditate for the full hour without any big posture adjustments. The body pain and urge to change postures were always present in the meditation sessions afterward, but my unwavering determination along with an equanimous mindset prevailed.
This important quality will be invaluable in times of need when you know you have to do something despite the fact that you may not want to. The mind is another “muscle” that needs regular exercise to stay strong and grow. Without proper conditioning, it will become stale and weak.
The term Buddha literally means “enlightened one.” There were Buddhas before Gautama Buddha and there will be Buddhas after him.
Everyone from all walks of life can practice the non-religious Vipassana meditation to be enlightened and become a Buddha. Its sole purpose is to fully liberate people who are in misery to find real peace, harmony, and happiness.
Breaking the law of nature is the cause of misery.
And when you do, nature punishes you right then and there. For example, when you feel angry, the only person who suffers is yourself.
Conversely, when you live by the law of nature, nature also immediately rewards you. When you feel happy, the only person who gets compensated is you.
The truth is this:
You always have complete control of your thoughts, words, and actions.
Instead of trying to change what has already happened, alter your feelings towards that event. This also applies to the way you feel about other people.
Someone asked Buddha, “What have you gained from meditation?”
He replied “Nothing!”
However, Buddha said, “Let me tell you what I have lost: anger, anxiety, depression, insecurity, fear of old age and death.”
The 10-day Vipassana meditation course was extremely beneficial. I learned to see my own internal reactions in response to external occurrences.
It served as a strong foundation to start my journey of lifelong Vipassana practice.
The challenging part now comes as I incorporate two one-hour sessions (morning and night) into my daily life. A five to ten minute Metta (loving-kindness) meditation practice will also be incorporated into my daily practice as well.
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