If I have to pick one thing that had most significant influence on my life so far, it would be my first experience at Vipassana in April 2008. Soon after that I got married and couldn’t keep up with the daily meditation practice but the whole experience surely left a long lasting impact on me. It changed what I wanted out of life.
Finally I had a chance to go there again in October 2012 and the experience was as beautiful as the last time. I truly wish that everyone can feel this bliss at the least once. The bliss doesn’t last forever if you don’t practice but at the least you know what our natural being feels like. You can read more about Vipassana meditation here. Here are couple of my observations and things I learned:
When you really want something, all the visible and invisible force conspire to make it happen: I really really really wanted to go this time but I wasn’t feeling well for last two months before I went for Vipassana. I wasn’t even sure If I will be able to go but I did register 1.5 months in advance. With the family and work life, it wasn’t easy taking a complete break for 10 full days with no access to the rest of the world. It wasn’t easy to convince my family to go there all by myself. I didn’t want to fly so was looking for a center which was at a driving distance. Finally I found a center which was like 5 hours drive from my place. All of a sudden I started feeling great when it was time for me to go. When I went there, I found out that it was the last session at that center since they were closing that center and starting a new center which would open after like a year. It made my belief stronger that when you really want something, all the visible and invisible forces come to your help.
Either you control your mind or your mind will control you: Their schedule is definitely not easy to follow. You get up at 4 AM and meditate for 10 hours a day. I volunteered to wake up everyone in the morning by ringing a bell outside their doors so I used to get up at 3:45 AM everyday and go around everyone’s door to wake them up for 4:30 AM meditation session. My mind kept on telling me -”You are not feeling well so take it easy”. I fell for my mind the first day and skipped the afternoon meditation and slept instead. I thought about it. I realized that it wasn’t really tiredness that made me skip the session and sleep instead but it was my mind that was making me feel that ways. I decided that very moment that I will strictly follow their time table and wont skip even a single meditation session. My mind did try again to trick me into skipping more meditation sessions and get up in the middle of the session but I didn’t listen to it afterwards and after a while my mind stopped bothering it. I also realized that when you give in to your mind’s reasons, it definitely gives you short termed happiness but when when you are able to overcome your mind, the feeling of accomplishment and victory over mind is much more worthwhile than that short termed happiness. It happens everyday in our lives. For last two months after I have come back from Vipassana, I have been getting up between 4:30 AM and 5 AM, six times a week. A lot of times, my mind tries to give me many reasons to sleep in but when you stop listening to all the reasons, your mind stops bothering you. I am very grateful to Vipassana for helping me to build this will power.
How less and simple things are better than abundance: Everything you get there whether its food, water or shelter has been donated by someone so that makes you value the simplest things you get. Everyone enjoys even the simplest food and other things that we take for granted like sunshine, clean bathrooms. These days we get everything in abundance and we have stopped valuing small things because of that. There even a small peanut butter sandwich tasted better than a 20 $ meal because we used to take time to eat and enjoy it. If we have less and simple, we will at least value what we have.
How acceptance can be so powerful : I knew this for a long time but you know it exactly when you apply it. This center I went to wasn’t a proper center but a rented camp ground. Couple of my friends told me that camp grounds here can be really scary and very unhygienic. At first I got scared and discouraged. Then I accepted the fact that it is what it is and I will take however it is. It wasn’t just verbally but mentally I accepted the center for whatever it will be. It was such a peaceful feeling and my fear for this center not being good was gone. When I went there, to my surprise it was such a nice center and no less than the one I went before.
Two days before I had to leave for Vipassana, someone told me that I need to carry my own meditation cushion. I ordered one online that day itself and paid extra for one day shipping. Next day I get an email that due to bad weather, I will receive the shipment after one day. At first I felt bad and then simply accepted that its not in my control. Again the feeling of anger and sadness changed to a feeling of peace. When I reached home that day, my meditation cushion was already delivered.
I am not suggesting that everything changes when you accept things for what they are but it surely is a peaceful feeling and things do change at times when you accept them completely not just verbally.
We have all the answers inside: During our breaks , I used to take long walks there, it was so amazing that I got answers to so many of questions from inside. I felt that we have ALL the answers inside but they are covered with the layers of ignorance, ego and other negativity. Whenever we are at peace and those layer are removed and we are able to access our infinite source inside which has all the answers. I read something which was somewhat similar to this. “Everything in the universe is within you. Ask all from yourself. – Rumi”
A happy heart naturally wants to serve - I have experienced it lot of times that when you are genuinely happy from inside, you don’t want to hold back anything and you naturally want to serve. The love inside you makes you more thoughtful and kind. Its difficult for a heart in anger and sadness to serve. If we really want to serve other people, the first thing we need to work on is ourselves. When we have love and peace inside, we will naturally serve without any force. This whole meditation experience brings love and peace (which is always inside us) to the surface and almost everyone there wants to serve others. On the last day of our meditation, we were so much full of love and compassion that we all genuinely volunteered to do something to help them pack up.
An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching: I have been mainly been talking about meditation for last 3 years instead of actually doing it which doesn’t do much good to you. Vipassana emphasize a lot on actual practice. They say if you apply a little bit of it in your lives instead of just talking about, it will be worthwhile. I met lot of people there who have attended these 10 day courses more than 7-8 times but still they don’t see much difference because they don’t do daily practice. I met other set of people who have attended only 1-2 of these sessions but stick to their daily practice and they see a significant difference. There are lot of us who just keep talking about good things but applying them even a little bit is what is going to help.
Mental volition behind the act is more important than the act itself:
Its so amazing how our intention behind the action is more important than the action itself. No one else might know our actual intention but we know it and the nature knows it and that’s how we are rewarded. We might be doing some charity work but if its all driven by ego and selfish interest then it might help the people you serve but not us. Bhagavat Gita emphasizes on the same thing – The intent of our action is more important than the act itself. There is a doctor who might be using scissors on some patient to save him but the patient dies and a robber might be using the same scissors to rob him and the person dies. Its the same action but different intent will give them different fruit from their actions.
Not just effort but effort in the right direction is important I heard an interesting story there. There were four friends. They all were drunk and started rowing a boat in the middle of the night. They did that the whole night. In the morning they found out that they were still at the same point where they started because they never untied the boat from the harbor. Whether its meditation or or any other activity, its not only important to make an effort but effort should be in the right direction.
I have so much more to write but I guess I should keep that for later. I feel so thankful for being given this chance to do this meditation once again in my life. Vipassana meditation is a perfect example of “Self transformation through self observation”. Its a very very slow process but at the least you know you are one step closer to your goal than you would have been without it.
One sincere piece of advice to all of you- ” Please don’t just keep on thinking, reading, waiting or planning. Take the first step towards your goal, no matter how small it is and then things automatically start to fall in place. If you fall, start again and again”
If you plan to go for Vipassana meditation and would like to talk to me more about it, I will be more than happy to do that.