Vipassana Account

When one experiences truth, the madness of finding fault with others disappears

S. N. Goenka

I am officially a victim of my own hippiedom. But Vipassana is the fucking truth.

I recently got back from a meditation retreat at an eco-village in Johor Bahru. I went with my good friend, Ange, from Sweden.

I have found the particular technique of meditation they teach highly beneficial for organising my thoughts and feelings. I feel like everyone would benefit from it.

The technique is from Myanmar. It is the only place where the Buddha’s teachings of Dhamma were preserved. (Obviously the Buddha did not teach Buddhism, just as Jesus did not teach Christianity.) I think most Vipassana courses, if not all, are under the schooling of Goenka.

My personal experience of this has brought me much insight.

It is the infamously hard out course that you’re probably aware of; where you spend ten days in noble silence, just you and your thoughts, meditating for twelve hours a day eating fairly little vegetarian cuisine and very minimal exercise. It was like a boot camp for the mind.

For the first three days, we spent our time focusing our awareness on the tiniest area of our body, the space between our nostrils and lips, feeling the sensation. It is different for everyone but other than feeling the air passing in and out of my nose, a pulsing sensation emerged to the surface.

On the fourth day is when the Vipassana training actually began, and we spread this awareness across our face and scalp moving over the skin to discover more sensations such as tingling, itching, stretching, tension, weight, heat, atmospheric conditions also, all the while understanding the constant flux.

It was stressed that you do not mix any techniques such as visualisation as this includes the imagination. The idea is to know things as they are. Impermanence.

You then proceed to scan through the entire body, piece by piece. (Towards the end of the course, you are able to move free flow and symmetrically.) What I found, was I get stuck at the shoulders a lot, where I carry A FUCK TONNE of pain.

The fourth day was complete agony. I couldn’t believe how much your conscious mind is unaware of, or at least pays very little attention to. I sat there very still for an hour in bodily torture, trying not to break focus and keep an equanimous mind (devoid of craving – the desire to pursue pleasure, and aversion – the desire to avoid discomfort: These 2 characteristics can define all thoughts.)

My body felt contorted and twisted, always very right-side-heavy. A growing pain that I had noticed over the course of last year….

Unlocking one’s unconsciousness to explore the pain fully and in great detail breaks the sensations apart and you are able to differentiate them and understand what makes up the bulk of the pain.

e.g. the pain in my right shoulder gave rise to heat and throbbing and tension and weight and tingling, trickling. At one point, it felt as though I was being burnt with a cigarette from the inside, searing across my shoulder.

As you may have probably guessed, these sensations bring up certain thoughts that circle around in your head, or thoughts you like to ignore, and as you get deeper, old buried thoughts and conditioning right at the root of the stock of reactions. These are like the seeds of trees you planted long ago, branching out into all kinds of behaviours.

After dealing with the preoccupation of some surface issues, I found I was able to trace a trickling sensation down the right of my spine to what felt like deep gash that I could claw open – it was a deep, dense, dull throbbing sensation that pulled tension across the entire right side of my back and around the front of my torso.

The continuation of this practice is helping me to make peace with a lot of things whilst simultaneously furthering my self-knowledge in a calm dissection of how my mind functions.

The things I had come to learn seemed like things I had always known. Yet rather than grasping these ‘philosophical’ concepts (- not even really philosophical or spiritual -) at a mere intellectual level, but at a much deeper experiential level has lifted a huge weight from my shoulders, and offers true wisdom which is knowledge in its purest form.

The pain returns and builds but i can deal to it a lot easier. But at least I can feel my chest has opened, and I feel like i can breathe again. It is all quite uplifting.

As soon as the silence was broken, Ange and I proceeded to have a play fight. Typical!

A sincerely bonding experience no doubt.

Gonkar Gyatsu, Buddha In Our Time, 2007

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