Vipassana is an ancient technique of meditation, originating in India more than 2500 years ago, that is now taught in many locations around the world. There are numerous Centers in India and elsewhere in Asia/Pacific; ten Centers in North America; three Centers in Latin America; eight Centers in Europe; seven Centers in Australia/New Zealand; one Center in the Middle East and one Center in Africa. It is even taught in a number of prisons around the world.
Vipassana is taught as a silent 10 day live-in course initially and has a very strict schedule of meditation, eating and sleeping. Once you have completed a 10 day course you are then able to do further 3 day courses and it is recommended you repeat the 10 day course at least once a year. For more dedicated meditators the course is also run as 30 days in some centres.
There are no charges for the course, food or accommodation but each centre is run solely by volunteers and by donations. Once you have completed a 10 day course you are able to donate to the centres and you are then also able to volunteer your time and indeed it is recommended that you give back in this way so that other people can receive the benefits that you have received.
The Vipassana meditator uses his concentration as a tool by which his awareness can chip away at his thoughts and his beliefs about what is true in life. It is a gradual process of ever-increasing awareness into the inner workings of your own mind. As you become more and more proficient in your meditative practice you will also become calmer and more focused in your everyday life.
A course in Vipassana mindfulness meditation is an opportunity to take concrete steps toward liberating your mind. In these courses the participant learns how to free their mind from the tensions and prejudices that disturb the flow of daily life. In doing this the participant begins to discover how to live each moment peacefully, productively and happily. At the same time the participant starts progressing toward the highest goal to which mankind can aspire: purity of mind, freedom from all suffering, full enlightenment.
None of this can be attained just by thinking about it or wishing for it. One must take steps to reach the goal. For this reason, in a Vipassana course the emphasis is always on actual practice. No philosophical debates are permitted, no theoretical arguments, no questions that are unrelated to one’s own experience. As far as possible, meditators are encouraged to find the answers to their questions within themselves. The teacher provides whatever guidance is needed in the practice, but it is up to each person to implement these guidelines: one has to fight one’s own battle, work out what is right for themselves.
This is the reason 10 day Vipassana courses are conducted in silence and no reading or writing materials are allowed. The purpose is to go deeper inside yourself and this happens automatically when you have no outside stimulus to distract your thoughts.
The first few days are the hardest, physically as your body has to learn to adapt to sitting still, however it will learn to adapt if you persevere. As you continue to sit you will start to clean out areas of your mind that you would normally ignore. You will just accept any thoughts as simply thoughts and let them go. The effort, although difficult, is definitely worthwhile.
Vipassana mindfulness meditation, and indeed other forms of meditation, will help you move past the constant thoughts of “If only”; if only I had more money, if only I had a better relationship, if only I weighed less etc. It will help you move to a place of acceptance which is what brings a sense of peace and happiness.
One of the teachings in Vipassana is that change is constant and change is inevitable. Many people fight against this premise of constant change and fight to keep things in their life constant. When we can accept that life is constantly changing, there will always be new things to want and new situations to aim for, then you will begin to find the peace in life that we all strive for.
“Mindfulness is the process of bringing one’s mind to the present moment. When we try to bring our mind to the present moment, we observe its true nature – how it habitually wanders around, day-dreams and fantasizes. We are always preoccupied with the past and the future. The mind is rarely in the present. It is like a mad monkey that jumps from one branch to another. It is swift and jumps around. It is always in a state of flux. It is impossible to observe the mind’s true nature, unless we pause with mindfulness.”
Ven. Dhammajiva: Meditation master from Meetirigala Nissarana Vanaya, Sri Lanka
John and Linda Ballis
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