Not long ago I finished my second 10-day silent Vipassana meditation course. Now I’m back in the land of normal living, I’d promised I’d share more about my experience and the lessons I took away that might inspire or help you in some way.
And if you’re ready to significantly transform your own life in a short time – or you’re just damn well fed up with repeating sabotaging behaviours, you might want to do Vipassana yourself…
TEN DAYS LIVING LIKE A BUDDHIST NUN…
I can certainly say that it was a pretty intense bubble! Like a nun in a nunnery there were 4am starts, 10+ hours of meditation per day following a specific process, no reading or writing materials allowed, no food after 12 noon… and lights out by 9.15pm!
There wasn’t even a bit of tinsel or anything written anywhere to remind you of the season or the date – it started on 27th Dec.
All that I was aware of were the days ticking by until we would be released, slightly shinier versions of ourselves, out into the world again… Day 1… day 2… day 3… day 4…
I didn’t even notice that we’d reached 2016 until half way through 2nd January!
Not only is there no communication with the outside world, but you hold ‘noble silence’, so theres no communication or eye contact with anyone on the course except with staff and teachers occasionally for practical purposes.
Although I was looking forward to unplugging and retreating from the world for a bit to go inwards, it definitely was no blissful retreat! It was a boot camp for the mind – very uncomfortable, confusing, challenging and physically and emotionally painful at times. But ultimately liberating.
For the Vipassana meditation practice you commit to sitting without moving for an hour at a time, developing an equanimous mind (i.e. you don’t react, but just observe yourself) as the sensations in your body constantly shift and change, going from pain or discomfort… to numbness or blank spots… to rushes of incredible free flowing subtle energy… and back again.
The uncomfortable sensations that arise are the stored negativity in your unconscious coming to the surface to be transformed and released.
As you develop your ability to not react with avoidance to the pain, or craving the more pleasant free-flowing sensations that come up, and you accept the moment as it is without resistance, deeper and deeper layers get transformed and released… like cleaning dirt from a window to allow more of the light to shine through you, and realise the truth of who you are.
And so when the inevitable challenges of life come your way you don’t get derailed into negativity and fear. It helps you experience reality as it really is, not how you want it to be. Because it’s only from this point of truth that real, lasting peace and happiness can be found.
The process deconstructs parts of your ego in order to eliminate limiting habit patterns in the unconscious mind. Because your ego doesn’t go down without a fight – it is your sense of identity after all, as you have known it from a limited mind-made perception – when deeply held beliefs are challenged it clings on like crazy.
They refer to the process as surgery for the mind – I thought it felt more like having a wire brush scrape the inside of mine! And I don’t think there’s a reference to neuroscience in the Buddhist scriptures, but I guess that, with all that repetition of the process for so many hours of the day, over the length of time, new neural pathways are being created in the physiology brain so the old ways of reacting don’t happen.
You can experience some strong negative emotions and mental agitation as the ego loses control, but because you’re in this safe 10 day container where there’s a lot of support if you need it from the teachers, and daily discourses on the practice to help you understand what’s going on inside you, you can easily let it pass through you. And then it’s gone for good.
Sometimes we get so caught up in life’s difficult situations that it’s hard to remember it’s just our minds causing trouble! Here are a few things to reflect on that might help you release the struggle if your life or business isn’t as much fun as it could be…
In the last 100 years or so western science has caught up with what Gautama the Buddha first discovered when he found enlightenment over 2500 years ago… that the seemingly solid and tangible universe we perceive is actually all just sub-atomic particles popping in and out of existence at a rapid rate, being held together by waveforms and vibrations of energy.
Nothing is permanent. All is in a flux. Everything changes.
So with this awareness, what this means on a practical level is that there really is no point craving or clinging to something we want because its ephemeral nature means we will never be satisfied by it for long. And there’s no point spending so much energy resisting what we don’t want because, like the substance of our own bodies and everything else in the known universe, it will soon pass away.
So if things aren’t going as you hoped in your business or life right now… if the sales calls aren’t converting… maybe you’re not feeling aligned with your brand… more money is going out of your account than in… or other problems have shown up that aren’t feeling good, notice if you’re resisting feeling this discomfort and scrambling around in your mind for a solution.
If you are then you are actually increasing the discomfort because you’re saying “NO” to how things truly are, and that creates tension within.
If you can take stock, put your attention on your breath and feel yourself in your body, you will connect with the present moment. Next, allow the discomfort to be there without pushing it away or wanting it to be different than it is, in the knowledge that this too will pass.
Life has it’s ups and downs like the peaks and troughs of the waves on the ocean, one endlessly turning into the other. To stay aligned to your true path – the path which will lead you towards your greatest life – you need to embrace all that life brings; the easy and the difficult, the pleasant things and the unpleasant. If you avoid feeling the low feelings, and you let something more palatable distract you, then you’ll find that you’ve stepped off your true path, and sooner or later you’ll feel lost and more miserable than before.
When you avoid ‘what is’ and resist what life has brought you, you are holding back the flow of life. Not only are you holding back what you don’t want, but you’re holding back all the good stuff that’s lined up for you too – which may be why success can feel so close you could almost taste it – but still just frustratingly out of reach.
The greater intelligence of the universe knows what it’s doing when it comes to organising the systems and processes that run your body, that manages the creation of nature and creates the stars and planets. Like any seed in nature, it causes an acorn to grow effortlessly into a mighty oak tree (given the right conditions), and it knows what it’s doing when it comes to growing the seed of potential that you were born with too.
So you can trust that life has your back. It is bringing you every situation you need to help you become the person you are born to be. You just need to get your head out of the way and let go trying to control everything so that it’s comfortable or acceptable to you.
When you lean into the pain or discomfort and release resistance to feeling it, you tend to find that the fear of pain has inflated your perception, and once you’ve let that go it really doesn’t take long for the discomfort to pass.
It might take a few minutes, a few hours or a few days, but the discomfort can’t last once you’ve accepted the situation as it is, rather than what you want it to be. Once you’ve stopped feeding the situation with fear, which underlies all craving and aversion, the situation will eventually change because there’s no more energy going into it to keep it alive.
A client of mine emailed me after a big realisation about this saying that once she’d really looked at her pain as it was, it was uncomfortable but not that terrible. Shorlty after she’d stopped resisting it she had the energy and inspiration to end a relationship that wasn’t serving her but that she’d been painfully clinging on to, she finished a book she was writing, and published it shortly after she was writing – the flow in her life was restored!
She said, “If I can accept discomfort and negative emotions, the world is my oyster.”
I think that sums it up perfectly!
It’s claimed that this is the only practice you will even need – ‘nothing has to be added or taken away…’, and to have a true experience of it we agreed to cease doing any other kind of practice than Vipassana.
Having completed it, although it’s clearly a powerful technique, I don’t honestly think practicing it in a devoted way is my true path. I think there are easier, more accessible ways to experience the Truth and Source within us, and I know from personal experience on many, many occasions that we can access the Infinite power of the universe to help and support us when we need it. We don’t have to make it so hard.
But since the course ended I feel much lighter, and have an even deeper trust in the flow of life. I’m much more patient, I’ve let go the need to control as much (a work in progress!) and I’m less in a hurry to make everything happen NOW!
I know that I can handle anything that shows up, that life has my back and I’m supported. I’m not reacting to the things that would have normally wound me up, I’m feeling really peaceful.
So it was incredibly worthwhile.
If you are ready for big changes to the way you think – especially if you experience a constant cycle of negativity that you can’t get away from… or you want to experience more happiness, peace and harmony in your own life then this is an incredible thing to do.
All courses are free to attend. All the people serving on the course are volunteers. And all the centres around the world are built and run through donations from past students who got profound benefits and want to give back to help others.
After completing the course, if you feel you received benefits you can make a donation to help someone attending the next course, and you only pay what you can reasonably afford.
It’s a truly humbling experience, and an amazing gift.
If you’d like to find out more about courses held in the UK or anywhere else in the world you can follow this link for the main Vipassana UK centre in Hereford
I’d love to hear your comments, questions and thoughts, so hit reply to this or send me an email.
To your extraordinary life,