Vipassana 4 -15 October 2006

My introduction to…
Vipassana was in Guatemala. I had just finished my 3 months retreat in Las Piramides and was mixing with the semi-permanent crowed in San Marcos. All of them travelers and busy discovering the spiritual path. Sharing my experience of two months in complete silence, other people were interested in the same experience. (See also Las Piramides). They were looking for possibly quicker and maybe different approaches to reach the same goal.

Vipassana was mentioned and one week later some decided to travel to South America where the course was thought. I was curious back then but thought it to much to go for the next heavy impact course while my system was still recovering from the Sun-Course.

Sitting still….hmmm
Anxious I waited for their return. The Vipassana participants were very enthusiastic. They talked about transformation, better then anything they had done before. Maybe even better then the retreat I had just finished. Hmmm. I started asking what they had done that made it such a great experience. Basically they had been sitting still. Completely still, putting all there attention on their breath and later on feeling all the sensations in their skin. That was it? Yep. I was very curious.

Finding info

WheelBack in the Netherlands I remembered my curiosity from more then a year ago. Vipassana? I googled and came across the link to http://www.dhamma.org/.

I started reading;

“Vipassana’ meditation. In the language of India in the time of the Buddha, passana meant seeing with open eyes, in the ordinary way; but Vipassana is observing things as they really are, not just as they seem to be. Vipassana was rediscovered by Gotama Buddha more than 2500 years ago and is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. It and was taught by him as a universal remedy for universal ills, i.e., an Art Of Living.”

Old technique in the tradition of Buddha?

“Is the process of self-purification by self-observation. One begins by observing the natural breath to concentrate the mind. With a sharpened awareness one proceeds to observe the changing nature of body and mind and experiences the universal truth of impermanence, suffering and egoless ness. This truth realization by direct experience is the process purification. “

Direct experience of truth?

“Vipassana is a technique not an organized religion and by its nature can be practiced by people from all different backgrounds.”

No organized believe system but a practical technique?

I surfed to the site for the nearest course location.
Belgium.

Dhamma-pajjota
I came across the code of discipline. It explained very well what to expect. The strictness of explanation of the rules made that the rebellious I started protesting however. Call me a free spirit, an independent mind or a law on to myself. I simply cannot follow rules because there is a rule. Making clear that once you start you are not allowed to leave was not helping. Not only a cage but also a closed door. Thinking of the friends who had done the course in South America I decided to walk the line. They are clever and independent as well and made it to the end…

…I felt that I had already made up my mind I would go for it!

The Course
I traveled to Belgium. On arrival we had to fill in some forms and were asked to give in all our valuables, writing materials and mobiles for save storage. I was reluctant to give in my mobile.
Cell not allowedNot because it is my phone but it is also my watch, timer etc. How would I wake up at 04:00? Since I had chosen to share rooms I thought it would work out one way or the other. It worked out.
Every transition in the program is given notice by the sounds of a big gong. No need for any time registration. Just wait for the sound and you make a move. To where? A wallboard always contains that relevant schedule for that day. Nothing the worry about you can concentrate fully on yourself.
What is true for the gong and the wallboard pertains for the complete course. Everything is very well organized to let you have the maximum benefit of your 10 day retreat. The course is completely run by volunteers (according to tradition nobody is paid). Many commercial organizations are not near this level of professionalism.

The experience
An experience is something that you, by its nature, have to experience yourself. The experiences differ from person to person and as the course veterans described also in time. One course can be easy the next very heavy.

Some highlights of my experience:

  • Being quiet: A lot of people cannot imagine them self being quiet for long times. This fear is not based on experience. As it turns out most people are very well capable of being quiet. It may not always be easy but with a little discipline and helped by a silent-friendly environment most people succeed relative easily.

    I had previous experienced 2 months of silence in the Las Piramides course I mentioned before. ShsssstBased on this experience I thought that I would probably be fine with Vipassana and even like the silence again. Vipassana is after all only 10 days. It is however also more strict; You are not allowed to write or draw. That little rule made it a lot heavier for me. One tends to have ideas. Seeing them stock up in your mind makes your head heavy. That little extra rule combined with the discipline of sitting still was the seed to remember: Move structurally, with discipline and attention, beyond thoughts. Not just for the duration of the meditation. Make it a habit all day long! Integrate! Bring the benefits of meditation structural in your daily life. Move from the dense to the subtle and with that from the unreal to the real.
    Or, put practically, use your mind and body only as tools. Put them on when needed and of when done. You are also not having the vacuum cleaner on all day long because you have to clean once a week. It makes a lot of noise, takes energy and is impractical. Clean the floor put it away!

  • Sitting still and observing: 4 X 1 hour completely still, without even moving an eyelid, and many hours in between. Preferred is sitting with crossed legs on the ground because in the long run it will give you the best meditation posture. Beginners can find the best position for themselves; even a chair is fine if that’s the position your body can handle. Find a position, sit and observe. Only observe. Sensations will come and go.
    Sitting one hour without moving give you very gross sensations as well…………………nice way of saying that it really hurts.
    Those more painful sensations are thought to be the storage of experiences in the body. Every experience leaves an impression behind. Your mind/body system will label it as something it likes or something it dislikes. One big (dis)like or many small one will leave behind a permanent imprint. This imprint will make your body react accordingly in every experience that you still have to encounter. One decision of your mind/body/EGO system a long time ago is the basis of an ongoing, and unconscious, pattern of drama. You just keep on reacting the same way over and over again without even knowing that you are or why.
    Observing these gross sensations carefully and giving them your full non-judging attention will make them go away. A direct experience of the law of impermanence is the result. Nothing will last forever; everything will change “Anitsja”!
    And the pain is strangely enough going away. Day 5 and 6 are the most difficult for most people. Everything is hurting. You are tired and your body/mind/EGO system is fighting with you a fierce battle. Your attention is taken away from fulfilling every whip of this system. You are not thinking and not moving, just observing. All your concentration is needed to keep you observing. Your mind will give you very happy and sad thoughts. Your body will hurt and feel very pleasant. Your EGO will reason with you; you are better then this you don’t need this or you are to weak just give up. Everything is tried and done to get the attention back and with that complete control.
    There is a lot more to this “getting back your control”; why do you want that control? What does it give you? How is it done? Who is the you that is not your body/mind/EGO? Good questions! I have found answers to these and other questions on my discovery trip in spiritual land. I am looking forward sharing them with you. However; nothing beats direct experience. Do a Vipassana course yourself. Read as many books as you can and do other courses. Find the answers yourself. Start the journey and enjoy it!
    Or do you want a decision you made as a child to run your life instead of seeing the things as they really are and decide now?

    Vipassana and me
    As I write this, I haven been on a “Spiritual-discovery” journey for almost two years. Growing up, my rational site took charge and made that I had to understand everything. Embarking on the spiritual path this didn’t change. I would have loved to come up with a nice clean rational philosophy. This is how the world works, what we are and what we should do. Philosophers have come and gone and all there constructs thought us a lot but didn’t give the final answer. I didn’t either of course.

    On that Spiritual journey I stumbled over different roads to answers however. I started investigating things mentally of course but the direct experiences of meditation and being silent showed me a different world, a different path. I immediately understood the spiritual books completely different. That was weird; I saw the world different and learned more and quicker. More books and new lessons let to new experiences and so the journey into the unknown went on. One big adventure.

    I have now reached a point that I can see the road ahead more clearly. I recognize it; see the potholes, the side roads, the beautiful sceneries. Not that I traveled so much on it. I just started but I can see a few steps ahead. (I have been thinking this many time before but the quality and consistency is now from a complete different order. Right till it is proven wrong and revision is more and more just a little tweak.)

    On this point Vipassana is a step stone or technique that is offering me a very sophisticated* way of making a next step. It helps me integrating what I have learned and it prepares me for the next step.

    Since this course I have practiced Vipassana every day. The results were so powerful that I decided to apply for the next course. The confirmation just came back, from 15 till 24 November I will practice some more. I foresee that I will also do a longer course in India, somewhere beginning 2007. (More info at the bottom)

    Is Vipassana better then the course in Guatemala? Like my friends said. Nope. Is Guatelmala better then Vipassana. Nope. No use in comparing they are experiences of a complete different nature. On top of that everybody will experience every course, every time you do them, differently. Get a different experience and as result of that learn new things or the same lessons on a different level.

    *) The number of experiences and lessons that I can integrate by practicing Vipassana are many and have reached a point were words alone are not a suitable medium of bringing the message across.

    Vipassana only Goenke/Dhamma
    No. There are many different Vipassana traditions and organizations. Without a doubt there are differences. As with many things decided for yourself what suits you best.

    Teaser: Movie
    A short video (5.7 MB) about the observation of breath and bodily sensations in this technique can be viewed with the free Quicktime movie player
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    Bookshop
    http://www.Ayana-book.com
    With books, CD and mediation CD’s. The CD’s on the bottom run for one hour in a row. They start with a intro to focus you. Are still in between and 5 minutes before the end the music will help you to get slowly back. No need to time or to work with the remote control. Sit down press play and just do the exercise.
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    Vipassana course in India?
    I am going to India and would love to do another course there. The first option I found:
    February 2 – March 20—45 Day Course
    In JAIPUR, RAJASTHAN, INDIA
    http://www.dhamma.org/schjai.htm
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    Address, links…

    • The assistant teacher for this course was: Andrea Schmitz
    • General websitehttp://www.dhamma.org/
    • Address and link to Belgium
      Vipassana Centrum, Dhamma Pajjota
      Driepaal 3
      B – 3650 Dilsen-Stokkem
      Belgium

      Tel [32](0)89-51.82.30
      Fax [32](0)89-51.82.39
      E-mail: info@pajjota.dhamma.org
      Homepage: www.pajjota.dhamma.org
      Pajjota newsletter Announce-subscribe@pajjota.dhamma.org
      (Sent an empty email. You get an empty email back, reply with an empty mail and you will be regularly informed about Dhamma Pajjota.

      Adress and link to Germany (becoming ELCC)
      Vipassana-Meditationcentre – Dhamma Dvāra
      Alte Straße 6
      08606 Triebel ,Germany (close to the border with the Czech Republic)
      Ph.: [+49](0)37434 – 79770; Fax: [+49](0)37434 – 79771;
      Email: info@dvara.dhamma.org
      Website: www.dvara.dhamma.org
      ELCC (European Long Course Centre) will also be build here.
      To stay up to date about the progress of the ELCC.

      • Information on the organization and communication structure of the planned European Long Course Centre has been made available on the ELCC website. Please follow the link : www.eu.region.dhamma.org/index.php
      • Regular updated information on ELCC including minutes of the trust meetings is made available at www.eu.region.dhamma.org/os username & password required.