After a year of almost no traveling, being in the earthquake in Nepal and doing most of my soul searching at home I signed up for a ten day Vipassana course. Feeling rushed by the speed of my western life I needed a break. The old wisdom from the Buddha, “Know thyself”, begins to unravel its truth while I start my course in Neghampaha, a small village up north in Sri Lanka. After doing a lot of yoga, reiki and other discoveries in India this beautiful island called me. I was curious how it would change me, sitting for ten days, living in complete silence to discover my inner soul and it’s working ways. As human beings we got a great gift, a beautiful servant, yet a dangerous powerful master: our mind. With unknown attachment to sensations felt only by the unconscious mind, no one but ourselves overpowers us.
Vipassana means ‘the Art of Living’. I stumbled upon this ancient old technique by accident, intrigued by its simplicity and pure theoretical insight of our own mind. It works 24 hours, driven by its five senses; hear, taste, smell and feel; they all create a sensation felt only at the deepest level of our mind, the so called sixth sense. Ignorant.. As we get more and more addicted to these pleasant or unpleasant sensations, we get trapped in misery. We don’t cling to an obstacle outside, we don’t cling to our new home cinema set, or that pair of high heels we so badly want; we start craving for the sensation it gives us. When unwanted things happen in our lives we react with so much aversion, creating an unpleasant sensation, which multiplies every time it’s back in your head. It’s like we keep playing the drama at the stage of our own mind. How do you purify this deeply rooted habit, when there are so many beautiful distractions?
Mr. S.N. Goenka brought the vipassana technique back to India where 25 centuries back the first Buddha discovered the magic of knowing what’s happening deep within. The technique got lost and Burma was the only country holding this gem to a peaceful and unanimous mind. Buddha is not a name; Buddha means ‘the enlightened one’. As soon as you start this ten-day course, you start living like a monk. You return your laptop, log out from all your responsibilities and prepare yourself for a journey deep within. Every day you get up at 4. You start meditating at 4.30. Two hours you sit with closed eyes, doing nothing but focus on your own respiration. Breakfast is served at 6.30. After a short resting period you start again. And again.. And again. Your entire day is filled with meditation. After the group sitting and a short discourse after dinner the lights go out at 9.30.
“Vipassana meditation is an ongoing creative purification process. Observation of the moment to moment experience cleanses the mental layers, one after another.”
Observe reality as it is
During meditation, I twist and turn on this simple cushion I spend most of my hours on these ten days. My vivid memories and now more awaken mind make me hungry. Craving food, a soft pillow, a nice cocktail at the pool and at the same time a deep desire to go deeper and discover more. After three days of struggling my mind naturally starts to calm down. The real vipassana, the actual technique, starts on the 4th day. Never knew, never truly felt; mind matters most. Divided in four levels: the unconscious mind, the perception of what is spotted by the mind, the sensation that follows and the motivation. You can hardly repress a reaction, called ‘sankhara’ in the old Indian language, when you are not aware of this process. Connected to our own egos, we are controlled by sankhara after sankhara. When somebody gives you their misery, for example their anger, a sensation follows and we immediately react. If we have a balanced mind, if we know our own mind and are in touch with the sensations felt at the deeper level of the mind, we can choose not to accept this gift and feel compassion for all the other beings that are in deep misery.
The road to enlightenment starts to reveal in front of me. Fighting my demons I cry, I get angry and try to keep a balanced mind while feeling the physical pain from sitting. I know now, this physical pain is also a sensation and by reacting it multiplies. I could hold on for one hour on day 4 and start smiling deep within. It’s just a start, it takes practice, it takes a certain lifestyle where you take five precepts to live a moral and peaceful life: You don’t kill (any being), you don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t perform any sexual misconduct, and don’t take any intoxicants.
May all beings be happy
There is something soothing about the Asian wind. Warm, soft and mysterious with a subtle force that can blow you away in a second. All the other women joining this course where from Sri Lanka. With smiling faces, covered in white dresses they taught me how to slow down my pass, have more respect for the law of nature and how to keep this awareness in a box deep within. The whole process calmed me at a deep and inexplicable level; I was still the same me, I took a break from the rush, dealing with social media, having all these personal expectations that we keep projecting on others all around. The people from Sri Lanka inspire me, one with nature; living moral lives with deep respect for their families. This simple technique, yet so hard to do for ten days, builds a bridge for me. How to deal with this life I understand that I have the key to my happiness right here in my hand. Surfing on the beautiful waves in Hiriketiya, enjoying the most beautiful train trip from Kandy to Ella and spending time to reflect on my new inner wisdom; Sri Lanka has given me a great gift. Liberated and free I leave, understanding that my real journey has just begun.
Article by Hannah Sophia
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