Vipassana means to see things as they really are. It is believed that the Buddha himself developed Vipassana meditation to end human suffering. This ancient practice has stood the test of time by continuing to attract modern mankind for the very same reasons it did centuries ago.
Liberation is a state of mind. Vipassana is the practice of purifying the mind by accepting things as they are. In observing what IS with an equanimous mind we are no longer self-sabotaged. We become the witness rather than the afflicted, thereby accessing the possibility of reaching the height of our human potential. Imagine holding the key to peace, love, and harmony in a world that is riddled with so much pain and suffering.
The only truth is impermanence, which is reflected in the law of nature. All of creation ebbs and flows with the law of change. Yet our pain springs from reacting to the inevitable pendulum that swings from one spectrum of experience to another.
We want to keep what brings us joy even though it will eventually change. We don’t want to accept pain and misery yet it’s unavoidable. We push death away even though it is the only inescapable certainty in life. We want to avoid what hurts us and cling to what we can’t stand to lose. The dynamic of craving and aversion is the root of our hardships because we are pushing against the blueprint of creation.
Even though Vipassana is Buddha’s teaching, you don’t have to be a Buddhist to practice it. It is non-sectarian and available to all. The quiet practice of observation allows us to identify reactive thoughts and feelings. Cravings and aversions create Sankharas – grooves in our path that trip us up or keep us stuck. If we do not become aware of the trenches we are in how can we ever get out? We would forever be wandering lost in the labyrinths of our own making.
In the Prairies, the day is born from the ground up, almost as if the sun was birthed from Earth. Hues of dazzling orange, red, purple, and pink streak against the bluest of blue skies. The brilliant rays of color reach out to caress mother in her sparkly snow blanket. Soaking in the luminous beauty, my heart cracked open and my eyes involuntarily watered. The ability to be emotionally moved by anything was a positive sign that I was healing.
9:00 AM The gong rang for the next round. I took my seat in my private room convinced that I could sit through 2 hours. Who was I kidding? Within minutes I was already squirming in my seat with an unbelievably itchy face. My right shoulder started its dull, rhythmic throb sending electric shocks into the base of my skull. Like a drumbeat sounding in crescendo the pain magnified and my attention latched on like a blood-sucking leech.
I cracked my eyes open- only 15 min. had passed… then, a tidal wave of aversion swept over me. I slammed my eyes shut and focused ferociously on my flaring nostrils, breathing like a dragon. My mind became a sports commentator announcing the play by play of every breath. Breathing in…that’s good, just take a nice deep breath, now let it out…no, no do it smoooooth and let it all out before you take the next breath in….don’t try so hard to breath….just relax…Am I doing this right? Fuck… Feeling defeated I considered a nap. A full shut down…no one would ever know…
Beast came and set me straight. You are avoiding what you must face! Get on with it! Sit through it! Do it!
There was still about an hour left. I swore then and there that I would commit to sit through every meditation in the Dhamma Hall. No more escaping. I would do it as if my life depended on it. I could not exist in a linear timeline as it would only cause more suffering by aligning reality with the ticking of the clock. The “Are we there yet?” mentality had to go if I was going to survive 10 days. No matter what arose in my mind I would simply have to sit through it. I sparked my oath of commitment and made my way to the Hall to complete my meditation.
An interesting occurrence transpired after that. In the hall I relaxed because there wasn’t any anticipation to go anywhere. Surrender greeted me as I let go. I leaned into discomfort and accepted agony. I sat with every shade of aversion and noticed that feelings came and went. I allowed myself to change positions if I could no longer stand it. I undulated with my experience and sat with all my distractions.
When my attention was fully cocooned in the cave of my nostrils I floated effortlessly on the surface of my breath. My sensations became acute. I felt the temperature variation between my inhalation and exhalation, that subtle difference in how much air passed through each nostril. The little hairs on my upper lip moved like seaweed in the ocean of my breath and carried me to the great emptiness in the space between thoughts. The gong teleported me back to the hall.
Outside, the boundaries were clearly marked and enclosed us from the great expanse of the prairies. Crisp snow cloaked the large field and I could hear the crunching steps of the meditators as they walked off their last sit. They had already forged a pathway around the circumference of the field by the time that I got there. As I joined the quiet contemplators I couldn’t help but feel like another prisoner in line. Perhaps it was the confinement of space and the manner in which we all walked… Were we all prisoners of our habitual mindscape? Are we all imprisoned by our cravings and aversions? Why are human beings predisposed to create our own suffering?
LESSON: “The only conversion involved in Vipassana is from misery to happiness, from bondage to liberation. Real wisdom is recognizing and accepting that every experience is impermanent. With this insight you will not be overwhelmed by ups and downs.” – S.N. GOENKA