Health, India, Uncategorized, Vipassana, Yoga

10 Lessons I learned on my First Vipassana Meditation Retreat

vipassana meditation

A few years back, when I was just starting to get serious about my digital marketing business, I began a serious pursuit of personal development. Having spent the last several years living ‘da life’, late nights, over-indulging in drink and other nocturnal substances, and generally leading a life of debauchery, I began to pursue a healthy body and mind with the same diligence and single-mindedness that I’d pursued everything else that I’d ever valued in life. Exercise and healthy nutritious foods were no-brainers to strengthen the body, but how would I tone and re-invigorate my brain? Meditation seemed like the perfect option.

 

I didn’t know how to meditate. And I wasn’t of those Indian-garb wearing, all-loving spiritual yahoos… But it made sense to me that meditation would exercise my mind in the same way physical exercises strengthened the body. So I did what I usually do when ignorance prevails – I turned to a book. I wandered into a second-hand bookstore in Toronto, and found a dog-eared book on Vipassana Meditation written by a guru of some acclaim; I studied the book cover-to-cover and set out on a ten-day self-directed meditation retreat, with the intention of exercising my brain back to its former glory. Below are the top 10 things that I learned on my own self-guided Vipassana Meditation course.

 

  1. Meditation is hard work: Although it would seem upon observation that Meditation is a rather effortless acivity, with people sitting passively cross-legged on the floor, eyes closed, and breathing – not a lot sweat accumulation unless one is meditating in the heat of India – in reality meditation is hard work.  Meditation requires much effort (‘Right Effort’ it is called, in the philosophical writings about Vipassana Meditation). When one is training diligently in a Vipassana meditation practice, they are working intensely within. Training the brain to focus is HARD work.  And extremely rewarding.

     

  2. Good Posture really Matters: If you’re just sitting down to meditate for 10 or 15 minutes, your posture doesn’t matter too much. But just try extending that meditation session to an hour, several times per day (on a meditation retreat you may sit up to 10 hours per day), and you find out just how painful the simple task of sitting can become. You have to train your body to sit for these extended periods comfortably – there is nothing worse than being trapped in excruciating pain in the midst of a session, once you’ve already established you’re unwavering intention not to move.  You will get a glimpse of what true hell on earth really is. But knowing that this pain exists, and that it can be overcome with time and training, makes it much easier to withstand it.

     

  3. My Mind is Truly Nuts: Through the practice of meditation, we find ourselves sitting back and simply witnessing our thoughts for the first time in our lives. This may be a very disconcerting activity when you recognize what garbage your mind is frequently preoccupied by… tv shows, innocuous songs, trifling gossip are all among the wasteful nuggets that float across the landscape of our brains. Through the practice of meditation, it quickly becomes clear how much of our most valuable commodity – Time – we are wasting fixating on useless trivial information. The practice of meditation trains the brain to focus, and to become less distracted on time-wasting thought – this enables us to free our minds so that they can become more cnsistently engaged in activities that truly service our soul.  In our society, we have been conditioned to believe that our thoughts are important, sometimes even warranting psychological exploration. Through meditation we learn that our thoughts are not even us, and that the majority of these thoughts should be ignored and afforded no emotinal weight, so that our brain is free to focus on activities that best support our own personal developments.

     

  4. I Like Silence: During my 10-day Vipassana Meditation retreat, I had to remain completely silent. That means no talking, texting or even eye-contact/communication with others was permitted in my program (it was actually pretty easy, since I set up my retreat for a party of one (me!) and didn’t make contact was any human or animal for the entire 10-day duration). I must admit, I was a bit surprised by how little I missed human contact, but perhaps as I was getting to know my most inner workings for the first time in my life, I may have been a tad preoccupied.

     

  5. I am Not Who I thought I Was: The intense practice of Vipassana allows one to peer below all the day-to-day bull that usually consumes our minds, And what we start to find is that there is a purity of spirit that exists beneath the garbage that’s been piled upon us by the influences of life activities and ignorant people. And we learn that the spirit beneath the crap is something we can actually trust. So it makes sense that the more frequently and directly we can learn to gain access to this purity of spirit within, the better we increase our chances of making high value choices going forward.

     

  6. Everything is Impermanent: During the course of the 10-day retreat, as you become enmeshed in painful physical and emotional sensations over and over again, you start to notice that these sensations arise and pass away many times; it becomes obvious that all sensations, whether positive or negative, are temporary. Translation – nothing lasts forever. This realization can have profound impact on the way you live your life as it’s a constant reminder that when faced with difficult tasks, nothing lasts forever.

     

  7. I am the Cause of My Own Suffering: Through my 10-day Vipassana Meditation practice it become clear that there was only one actual culprit to blame for my own suffering, In the past I used to look outside of myself to find the source of my pain – whether I thought some other person had slighted me, or whether I thought I’d been treated unfairly by circumstances, I now understood at an experiential level that my suffering is always the result of my reaction to an event, rather than the event itself.

     

  8. Equanimity is King: In Vipassana Meditation we learn that it is our attachment/addiction to Craving and Aversion that create our pain and suffering. When our mind yearns for something, or when our mind fears or abhors something, it will cause us great suffering. The main key is that we live must with joy in the moment, regardless our current circumstances – this frees us to pursue whatever step is required in our life-development plan, without being swayed by feckle emotions, yearnings, cravings or fears. We must be able to find joy always and know that that ability resides within us – a balanced mind which acts consistently with equanimity is our path to health, wellness and happiness.

     

  9. 4am is Good: Early morning rising is good for the soul. Initially, a meditation schedule that involves waking at 4am with an hour of sitting before a 6am breakfast might be off-putting for some people, but after a few days, I found myself enjoying the schedule. Waking so early really connected me to my more balanced animal nature, which innately seems to relish a schedule more in harmony with the sun cycle.

     

  10. Energy is Everything: Through the practice of Vipassana Meditation I experienced the reality that everything that exists, including our thoughts, are vibrational energy. And once we know this truth at a cellular level, we understand how connected everything is and how the arbitrary boundaries that exist between people and things aren’t real (not ‘real’ in the way we’ve been perceiving them…). We understand that our thoughts have as much power on the direction of our lives, as our words. And we become truly accountable to ourselves and our own highest good.

 

My 10-day Vipassana Meditation retreat changed me in more ways than I anticipated. By gaining a greater understanding about myself and my own motivations, it actually made me a better sales person and more focused and effective digital marketing professional. I find I connect better and faster with my clients, and perhaps because of my enhanced focus, I’m more able to identify their business needs and objectives more quickly. I also seem to have developed amazing self-discipline and the ability to get things done as a result of my Vipassana Meditation practice.  Vipassana Meditation gives a person direct knowledge of things as they really are, without prejudice and without illusion. And the benefits of this enhanced clarity must be experienced to be truly understood. If you’re the type of person who is committed to personal growth and self-actualization, I strongly suggest you check out Vipassana Meditation and consider attending a 10-day retreat for yourself.

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