Vipassana is a technique that teaches how to live a pure, harmonious and happy life. You learn about the law of nature; everything is temporary and always changing. "Anicha" is the word he [S.N. Goenka] refers to over and over again. Things always come up in life, both good and bad, pleasant and unpleasant, and Vipassana teaches you how to become balanced and equanimous.
The technique aims to help one eliminate cravings and aversions. You concentrate on breathing and bodily sensations, realizing that everything you feel is changing at all times. The good feelings [energy moving up and down your body] you must not get attached to, as it will be gone and you will become disappointed. Likewise, the discomforts [severe back pain from sitting upright for 10 hours each day!] will also fade. Don't react with anger and negativity toward those. Just accept that which is present at this very moment.
Vipassana is universal, not sectarian. Any person with any religious background can partake in the courses without denouncing his or her own beliefs. No matter which religion [if any] a person follows, one can agree the same basic philosophy; morality. All scriptures talk about living a moral life - love thy neighbor, thou shall not steal, do not kill… They all explain the basic rules of living a happy life.
Vipassana was great for me at this time in my life as I am just starting to form a solid base for my religious and/or spiritual beliefs. I do not have a particular organized religion to which I identify with. Instead, I believe in living a life that is good for myself, others, and the planet as a whole. Energy is everywhere and I try to only have positive energy, even when those unpleasant times arise. It will be interesting to see the next time something goes "wrong", how I will react to it.
The main thing I took from the course is to observe rather than react. Humans and animals alike are creatures of behavior. If something happens, we react. We don't think about how we react until after the time has passed. After this 10 day course, I am making a strong effort to observe my mind / body sensations throughout the day – especially when something very pleasant or unpleasant happens. The course has had a dramatic impact on my life and I absolutely see myself continuing to meditate on a daily basis.
The facility I went to was the first one built in
- The people who work there do not get paid – everything is done by volunteers.
- The course is free to anyone – one can donate after completing a 10 day course but not beforehand.
- You can help in the kitchen,
- Help with cleanup
- Or even with building, which I might do this summer.
Here are some pictures that I took on the last day.
The outside walking area. Those decks are places you can meditate on, though nobody did as we were mostly "new students" who would get easily distracted from trying to meditate outside.
Part of the outside area which we could walk during breaks. It was extremely interesting passing by, eating with and meditating with the same people for 9 days straight. However, none of us knew any of each others names.. even our roommate's! I must have said "thank you" in my head about forty-five times for people holding doors for me and being courteous. But it was great and I wouldn't change anything about the place.
And there was so much wildlife. One student named Ray, when we were able to finally speak to one another [day 10], said he felt like Dr. Doolittle when walking around outside. The squirrels would be running up a tree, a chipmunk would cross his path or be watching him and eating a nut, the birds would be chirping, a rabbit was eating dandelions... it seemed like they were all talking to him. I found that quite funny and could definitely relate, as I observed more about nature during those 10 days than possibly in my entire life combined.
I would recommend this course to anyone - giving up talking is just one of the many great aspects of the course. Before this, I can't think of one 24 hour period in which I didn't speak a single word. We were allowed to ask questions to the assistant teacher, which I did quite frequently (one or two a day), talking, gesturing, or looking any other student in the eye was a rule that we all followed. The realizations you come to are quite extraordinary and I will probably post mine in blog entries throughout the summer, as they will be applying to my everyday life. Please stay tuned and I'm very much enjoying the comments. Keep them coming.