Mindfulness & Pain: What I Learned On My Second Vipassana 10-Day Meditation Retreat
December 16, 2018
What is Vipassana Meditation?
Vipassana meditation is an ancient Indian meditation technique that focuses on gaining control over the corporeal sensations in order to see reality “as it is” and thus achieve inner peace.
Different schools of Vipassana meditation are widely practised in South East Asia and currently gaining international followers through efforts from organisations such as Dhamma.
Vipassana meditation focuses on experiencing sensations (awareness) but eliminating our reaction to them (equanimity).
Experience reality “as it is” and not “as you would like it to be”.Goenka
Dhamma’s 10-day meditation bootcamps get you started with Vipassana technique. However, successful meditation takes time and effort. Luckily, one can sit the meditation course multiple times, and improve his or her meditation skills progressively.
What Are The Goals Of Vipassana Meditation?
One of the main goals of Vipassana meditation is to stop reacting to experiences and sensations. In practice, this is extremely difficult, since we are “programmed” to react to what happens to us. Reactions guide us towards the good but tell us to avoid the bad. When we stop reacting to sensations, we are fighting against our own constitution.
Instead of reacting, Vipassana teaches us to observe the sensations “objectively”.
The technique of Vipassana meditation focuses mainly on increasing awareness and equanimity. Awareness refers to the degree of sensitivity to corporeal experience. Equanimity focuses on the ability to experience all sensations without reaction.
My First Vipassana Meditation Retreat
My first 10-day meditation camp was extremely eye-opening — and painful. I emerged from it with a clearer mind and felt clear-headed and tranquil for a few weeks. I kept a diligent daily practice, yet slowly I stopped my mediation practise.
Vipassana feels like a new pair of leather shoes, they first hurt a lot — but with time they become manageble.
Thus I felt I needed another try, so I decided to enrol for my second Vipassana meditation.
My Second Vipassana Meditation Retreat
This second vipassana meditation retreat felt quite different; much harder mentally, but somehow also physically. In fact on Day 4 I felt I was very close to abandoning altogether — pain, pain, and more pain. Yet I pulled myself together and managed to finish — with a big smile on my face.
Seating & Physical Pain
A comfortable seating position is key to fruitful meditation. Those with lucky genes that possess docile muscles and flexible articulations will save 95% of the pain. Others, like me, will suffer, suffer, and suffer.
Make sure you get this before embarking on your second Vipassana: find a seating configuration that works for you over longer periods of time.
Mental Fortitude & Concentration
Once you are familiar with the Vipassana technique and Goenka’s evening lectures, the discourses become quite boring and it’s harder to keep focused. A constant fight.
My mind was often lost for long periods of time where all kinds of old memories would resurface and puzzle me. It was hard to focus on my breathing.
This second time the mental element proved critical and harder to manage. Many other second-time students confessed to feel the same.
Fasting & Sleep
Old students will only eat two times a day, so make sure you manage to intake enough calories to keep strong. During the first retreat I lost a lot of weight — I felt completely exhausted as I require a massive physical effort to seat adequately.
This time I adopted a different eating strategy: I loaded fats in the 6:30am breakfast and carbs in the 11am lunch. This way I avoided feeling overly hungry. Make sure you eat enough.
How I See Vipassana Meditation
In my experience, Vipassana meditation represents a tool, like a window, that lets us peek into the world of existence without consciousness. Being — without human conditioning.
Vipassana is like a window to an existence without conscience
In a way, Vipassana meditation’s objective is to turn you into a “plant” — a living organism that just exists – but without reacting to what happens around.
Thus, when one practices Vipassana successfully, one opens a window that shows how is it to exist without consciousness.
Takeaways: What I learned On My Second Vipassana
The most important thing : Vipassana does not turn you into a plant. Vipassana is about NOT reacting. Yet that does not mean one needs to be passive. The key is to NOT simply REACT, but ACT when necessary.
And yes, I’ll be doing a third Vipassana.