Sunday, January 20, 2008

Vipassana Meditation

I've just experienced a remarkable 10-day long Vipassana meditation course. What is Vipassana? I'll let their website explain:

Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India's most ancient techniques of meditation. It was rediscovered by Gotama Buddha more than 2500 years ago and was taught by him as a universal remedy for universal ills, i.e., an Art Of Living.

This non-sectarian technique aims for the total eradication of mental impurities and the resultant highest happiness of full liberation. Healing, not merely the curing of diseases, but the essential healing of human suffering, is its purpose.

Vipassana is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind. It is this observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body that dissolves mental impurity, resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion.

The scientific laws that operate one's thoughts, feelings, judgements and sensations become clear. Through direct experience, the nature of how one grows or regresses, how one produces suffering or frees oneself from suffering is understood. Life becomes characterized by increased awareness, non-delusion, self-control and peace.

It should be clear, then, why I as a widower was interested in attending. I wanted to undergo the mental healing promised by this technique.

I first heard about this course from a friend I made while I was in Ecuador last year. He really didn't say much about it, other than that it was 10 days of total silence, that it was challenging, and that it was very worthwhile. He seemed to have gotten a lot out of it, and he recommended that I look more into it. Ever since then, I have been trying to fit it into my schedule. It just so happened that the past week and a half was a good fit for me.

And what a week and a half that was! First off, I wouldn't consider myself a morning person. If I can drag myself into the office by about 10 a.m., I consider that a good day ;-) Also, I really needed caffeine to get myself going, and stay going. And I know just about every vegetarian joke out there ;-) My favourite: "I didn't fight my way to the top of the food chain to eat vegetables." So I really wasn't sure how I'd do getting up at 4 a.m. every day, no caffeine, and only two vegetarian meals a day.

Well, I quickly adapted to the new schedule, and my break with caffeine actually occurred 4 days before the course began — I knew the course would be challenging enough without going through caffeine withdrawal simultaneously. And the food quality was excellent, even if it was just breakfast and lunch. They did allow new students (those on the course for the first time) to eat some fruit at around 5 p.m., so I'd have a banana and orange and some milk to take the edge off. I did lose weight though &mdash about 4-5 pounds, nothing major.

Did I experience that promised mental healing? Yes, and much, much more. I'll explain fully in my next post...


Anonymous said...

Vic, did this really help? How much did it cost? Where is it located?

Thank you!

Vic said...

Hi Anonymous,

Vipassana really helped *me* -- your mileage may vary ;-) Courses are offered free of charge; once you have graduated from the full 10 day course, you may make a donation so that someone else may attend. Courses are run all over the world. The home page,, gives a number of links for choosing a meditation center close to you.

Vipassana turned out to be *the* key that I needed to complete my healing. I encourage you to investigate more and see if you too might benefit.


Unknown said...

Hi Vic, im a deeply grieving mother. I lost my nearly 1 year old son 10 months ago. Om considering joining such 10 day course too. But i have read some people wrote that vipassana is not suitable for fresh grief. I dont know should i take part in such a course or shoud i wait, i know every one grieves his or her own way but just want to know if it really helped you