The Dirty Details of Vipassana Meditation

 

Have you ever wondered what life would be like if you meditated for 10 hours everyday? Probably not. But I did. And, as with most things weird, wonderful and often darn right alarming that I encounter along my spiritual path, I had a mild curiosity which required satiating. The curiosity calling me?

 

Vipassana Meditation.

 

For years the term had crept up in the circles of nomadic souls I find myself socializing with, and this was the month I felt ready to answer that call. Of it I knew nothing except it was a silent retreat that took 10 days and involved some sort of meditation. And wow am I grateful I didn’t quite know what I was letting myself in for or else I may not be writing this post right now.

 

To summarize, my 10 stages of Vipassana Meditation flow a curvy line as follows:

 

Stage 1: Bemusement

 

Stage 2: Mild terror

 

Stage 3: Rejection

 

Stage 4: Acceptance

 

Stage 5: Pain. Everywhere.

 

Stage 6: Must. Accept. Pain.

 

Stage 7: Am I STILL here…

 

Stage 8: Who is “I”?

 

Stage 9: Rejection

 

Stage 10: Acceptance

 

The 10 days was a roller coaster of inner illumination, outer detachment, inner confusion and outer deception. We meditated from 4 in the morning until 9 at night with breaks for regaining smidgens of sanity, silently solacing ourselves with the sight of monkeys swinging in a giant jackfruit tree. During dinner times we tentatively nibbled our food as we stared blankly at walls, avoiding eye contact with the blank faces around us.

 

One rain cleansed evening the sky turned a brilliant shade of yellow. Bewildered I began to doubt whether this was real or I had just been meditating too hard. And then I had to ask myself, what is real anyway?

 

The 10 days was strewn with such existential turmoil.

 

With the deafening scream of silence strumming our ears, we were forced to rely on other senses in interpreting our reality. People were no longer constructed from strings of words, self-selected stories from their past and overheard murmurs. Identities were formed with limited access to how we actively choose to portray ourselves to the world.  Masks were shed aside, and as we learnt to see others in a purer form, so too we slid through the many layers of our own selves. Until we reached the center, or somewhere thereof, and this center was made from pain.

 

Pain in the right knee, pain in the left shoulder, pain in the bones of the bum and strangely enough pain in the left eyeball…? Don’t ask.

 

So much pain in so many areas that you start to question why you are there on that same flat pillow, eyes closed, mind strictly focused on all sensations in the body. But it was Pain who was the true teacher that guided our meditation.

 

The purpose of Vipassana Meditation is two fold:

  • To fully realise the governing universal law of Impermanence – everything that arises must also cease.
  • To cultivate equanimity so that you can free yourself from craving and aversion.

 

By observing the breath and the rise and fall of sensations in the body, you learn to objectively view yourself as a conglomerate of ever changing atoms. We are never the same one moment to the next.  And this pain that has arisen, will, by law, also cease.

 

The lessons then? To not attach ourselves to pleasure through craving and to not detach ourselves from displeasure though aversion. To free ourselves from this constant fluctuation of human emotion so that we can continue our lives in a peaceful and equanomous manner.

 

The verdict? Buddha’s got it going on, but I may need a couple more lives to master this one.

 

———

But, just as I did, don’t take anyone’s experience of Vipassana Meditation as any indication of what it’s all about. Book yourself in and become your own source of knowledge. And pain.

 

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