I just returned from a 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat from Dec 21st, 2012, to Jan 2nd, 2013, ending one era and beginning another. Yes, this was the end of a world within me as I took a 10 day vow of silence and submitted my will to a full 10-hour per day meditation regime.
Here are 8 experiences and insights that I gained from this transformative experience.
1. Stay curious
There’s no reading or writing allowed, so I had to be more content with the mundane. Therefore, my newest fascination was ant watching. I would find a super highway of ants, squat down, and watch it for 10 minutes straight. So much so, that when I went to sleep at night, sometimes I would see ants walking infront of my vision! Yes, I danced with insanity.
Other amazing wildlife in the Malaysian jungle surroundings included a one-foot long black scorpion, a lizard the size of a cat, and tropical toucan birds (like on fruit loops, yum!). The insight is that if you develop a genuine curiosity for life around you in any given moment, you will never be bored again. Try it yourself.
2. Your words are powerful
I came to understand how many of things I say are completely unnecessary. Light conversation is fine and all, but speaking for the sake of speaking is a negative symptom of a person who has been so trapped by their monkey mind that they can not even imagine silence. A calm and quiet mind chooses exactly the right words at the right time, no more, no less. I believe this is the right form of speech.
I love the power of words and this experience has sharpened my habit of speech so that I may use it positively and powerfully.
3. Surprising past desires will surface
When I was 14, I was very attached to an online video game called Final Fantasy XI (same type of game as World of Warcraft, so you know it was addicting). My best friend Josh and I would play this game every day for hours. They were wonderful memories of adventure, laughter, accomplishment, and it was all super fun. Definitely a golden era of my adolescence.
I realized I still have a very deep desire to immerse myself in this type of fantasy game. Many meditations did I find myself re-living the past good memories of these adventures. At first the thoughts were so random, but then became a leading theme throughout the retreat. Many days did I ponder this game, yearning to play again, and also examining WHY this tremendous urge was still there.
Honestly, I still have to work it out. I love video games, but haven’t had much time to play these days. Priorities change, but it seems that desires remain hidden.
(Other strong and random desires included riding a motorcycle across India, becoming a monk, moving to Japan to learn Japanese, going back to America, learning to paint & draw, and lastly, that urge which no one can escape, the strongest instinctual desire: steaming hot sex.)
4. I kept a hidden hatred for God
By the fourth day my back began aching with severe throbbing pain. I developed such an aversion to the pain that it caused a deep fiery rage to burn within me. My goal here was to meditate, be peaceful, go within, and ultimately grow closer to God, but instead here I am in such pain that I can not even focus for 5 seconds. Such hatred surfaced. I blamed God himself, asking why there was so much pain when I try so hard to do good? This lead inevitably to the great question: Why suffering?
As I sat in this pool of rage, I wondered why would this infinite being of love and compassion put anyone through any experience of pain or suffering. I screamed out with hatred for this loving being I sought so much. I hated God for doing this to anyone. For suffering anyone. Such rage was there, that I had not felt in years. A pure fire that I was completely consumed in. “Why must I suffer?!”, I screamed within.
Luckily I have grown in wisdom and clarity enough to watch all of this happen with a degree of clarity. A part of me always sees these things in an objective 3rd person. When these negative emotions build up unconsciously, they can become terrible burdens. I had developed such a burden over years of craving God.
Once I returned from madness I began to understand more clearly that it was my own choice to harbor such ill-will towards something beyond my comprehension. To understand the mind of God is beyond my current level of wisdom, yet I still lashed out with such rage. So it became apparent, at an experiential level, that:
To wish to know something that which you can not possibly
understand right now, only causes deeper suffering.
I still have a love hate relationship with God, but he’s cool with it. We’ve come to a closer level of trust and understanding. Once I accepted the fact that right now, in this moment, I do not comprehend everything, then everything became easier. A lifetime of built up suffering is a powerful burden, which we must all carry, but at least I can now carry it with a deeper level of acceptance, which means less hatred for the suffering I have incurred, which leads to less suffering.
5. Universal impermanence
One of the primary concepts that Vipassana is built on is that of impermanence. Throughout the course we are reminded to understand, to watch and see, that everything is temporary. All situations, people, pleasures, pains, and sensations rise and fall from our experience of them. Nothing is forever. We are meant to witness this universal truth within meditation in every moment, so that we may realize experientially the wisdom of the concept.
Goenka, the teacher of the technique, introduces us to the ancient sanskrit word anicca (pronounced “an-itch-ah”), which means impermanence. We often fall back on this word during practice to remember that everything within our meditation arises and passes. This understanding liberates the mind from conditioned suffering so that we may make a new choice, from a new state of mind, a balanced state of mind.
During the meditations, with the understanding of anicca, the understanding of impermanence, I calmed the mind into an extremely peaceful and content state of awareness. From this perspective, all aversion and craving stops. The pain of the body is nullified by the pure understanding of the way things are in this moment. Additionally, all cravings for pleasurable sensations, like peace, bliss, or ecstasy (which occur naturally in this state of meditation) do not arise to cause misery producing attachment.
During the few times that I reached a deep equanimus state of mind, I lost most of the feeling of my body, and became very light. It was an unshakable peace of mind where true freedom is felt. No words can describe the feeling of peaceful contentedness that occurred.
The goal of daily Vipassana practice is to bring forth this equanimity of mind into daily life, where it can be extremely valuable in any situation. We all face tough problems, difficult conversations, and unexpected crises, but from this state of mind, anyone can triumph.
7. Universal truth will set us all free
There is a truth to this world that can be experienced by any individual. To be in alignment with that truth is to automatically live in perfect happiness, balanced harmony, and true success. No suffering. Zero. It is possible within each of us.
Vipassana is the second technique of meditation that I have discovered which offers a practical and scientific path towards a personal experience of our Higher Consciousness. This state of being has many names such as enlightenment, awakening, nirvana, self-realization, oneness with God, etc. It is the highest state, the highest experience, and the highest purpose of every human being alive. It is also my highest purpose and the main subject of this blog.
My path has been that of Kriya Yoga, which is a meditation technique of controlling the breath in a certain way in order to manipulate subtle energy within the body. The result is a high degree of concentration which is used to move into higher states of awareness leading towards realization of the Infinite Self.
Siddhārtha Gautama the Buddha, of 2500 years ago, also learned how to do this. He went into the deepest levels of the mind to realize the same Universal Truth. Entering permanent realization, or nirvana, this ended all of his suffering and filled him with such loving compassion for those left in ignorance of their true nature. He spent the rest of his long life spreading this technique of meditation, known as Vipassana.
All religions are good to the degree that they invoke genuine moral behavior within their followers. On the other hand, all religions are dangerous to the degree that they spread misguided truth and maintain ignorance.
Tomorrow’s universal religion will not be of empty rites, rituals, ceremonies, and fluff. It won’t be a religion at all. It will be simply known as the right way to do things in accordance with the laws of nature. Buddha called it Dhamma, which is an outline of the natural law applied to the problem of human suffering. It is universal. It is one.
As our society evolves mentally and spiritually, we will all come to this most logical conclusion. We will live in harmony with one another by following natural moral precepts. Self Realization will be common place and world peace will be an inevitable outcome. How exciting!
8. I am not ready to become a monk
I seriously thought about it a lot and how much faster this life would take me to the end goal. However, I have many responsibilities and also too many desires to experience the wonderful pleasures of the world. That does not mean that meditation practice for liberation is not something a house-holder can do. On the contrary, both of these paths (Kriya and Vipassana) are popular because of their wide-spread practicality for house-holders and people who have to traverse the world.
My path and technique of practice was established years ago already and I will continue with Kriya Yoga. Vipassana is not my path, but it helped me understand first hand the core truth of the Buddha. All of the wisdom I have gained from both teachings only compliment each other. I will continue to walk forth with a mind of equanimity, developing my compassion, and sharing this beautiful truth of life with everyone with ears to hear.
SURPRISE!!! My video tour of the retreat grounds
Learn More Links:
- Dhamma Website to learn about taking your own transformative 10-day course. http://www.dhamma.org/
For best results, read Paramahansa Yogananda’s book FIRST and then you can also view more information online with the links below.