One Mind Dharma is excited to host this post from a guest author, Priyamvada Mangal. Read her bio and find her on social media at the bottom of the post!
From being constantly surrounded by people chatting all around you, to listening to that comfort ding from your phone, forget 10, but spending even a day without phones and/ or talking to people sounds something impossible to do. Maybe some people will find this extremely scary.
Now they even have a name for it – Nomophobia – fear of being out of cellphone contact.
But, as the greatest spiritual people have said and maintained, everything that is, started from a thought. When you are constantly surrounded by technology all around you, you are bombarded with a lot of thoughts. Not only mobile phones, the stimulus to our senses from engaging in the activities of our day-to-day lives, keeps us constantly busy and distracted. So much so that most of us, if not all, have never experienced what it is, to look within. Vipassana is the art and science of looking inside our own being. The timeless wisdom of the Buddha tells us, that all the answers lie within. Advertising, marketing and news are also somebody’s thoughts, trying to coerce you into believing something. An opinion, an idea convincing what you should think, what you should buy.
Photo by Viprachit Walke
When you do not analyze consciously, you feel that all the thoughts that you think are yours. You believe that all of whatever is going in your mind belongs to you.
At least this was what I believed, until I started getting deeper into Vipassana. My beliefs changed after that. I did my first Vipassana course in Gorai, way back in 2012, and to be true to myself, I did not understand the technique after completing the first course.
For those of you hearing about Vipassana for the first time, it is a 10-day meditation course offered throughout the world in Vipassana centres/pagodas. It is a technique passed down from generation to generation by Gautama the Buddha. Vipassana is pure meditation and is not affiliated to any religion or ritual. It is not about becoming a monk and giving up on worldly pursuits but about living in equanimity and being at peace with life. It is totally free of cost, and the Vipassana centers run on a donation basis.
Once you enroll for the course, it is a ten and half hour meditation per day, which you preferably have to do in sukhasana. You cannot speak with any other meditator or even have a casual chat with the teacher/ volunteers. You can approach the teacher for guidance on the technique or discuss logistical issues with the volunteers.
Post the first meditation, I did not think about/practice Vipassana for nearly two years. Not until January 2015, when I saw a Twitter post about a dear friend Pranita asking twitterati where to apply for a Vipassana course, I applied for my second course in New Belapur for May 2015.
The course made me think. Whatever I ever believed or thought, could be a lie. Whatever it is that I have ever felt or am feeling could be made up, unreal.
Suddenly and immediately in those 10 days of meditation, a curtain to my thinking dropped. Only so that I could figure that there were several layers to my thinking. I thought I had gotten there, but I was just chasing something so elusive.
The first step of Vipassana is observing your breath and when your mind becomes sharp and sensitive enough to observe your bodily sensations. You get to experience the mind – matter connection. That is, how your thoughts create sensations in your body. Your thoughts are the basis/ foundation of how you are feeling.
I did my third course in Sikkim later that year. I experienced first hand how thoughts of anger and revenge could pop painful sensations in the body.
Vipassana has helped me calm down my anger. I was a very angry person earlier. It has helped me respond to people and situations and not react. It has helped me understand fear and do the right thing anyway. It has made me realize that nothing is going to last, so you have to do your best right now. It has made me realize no one is going to last forever, so you have to be kind and love hard. All the power of doing whatever that is important to you lies in the present moment. It has helped me to be more in the present instead of swinging back and forth into reminiscing the past or dreaming about the future.
It has pushed me inside my own head. So I get to see the brightest as well as the darkest corners of my mind. Which means at times I can sink into depression and on the other hand, experience happiness like the way it is supposed to be experienced, without any reason.
Research has shown, that Vipassana has helped many people heal their mental framework that in turn has helped them heal their physical conditions. They get to understand the mind-body connection and go deeper within themselves to repair their body. How it works for you as a person and what it does for you will depend on a combination of your past experiences, how much you have understood the technique and how well you practice it.
I have done a total of seven Vipassana courses until now, four of them as a meditator, one I was a volunteer server and two courses for three-days. I try out a different location every time. Gorai, Belapur, Swargate in Pune, Sikkim and Himachal are the locations I have been to for 10- day course and Igatpuri and Markal in Pune for the three-day course. You can take a three-day course after doing one of the 10-day courses. Doing three courses as a meditator and one as a server qualifies me to go for the next level of Vipassana called Satipatthana course which is for seven-days. I will be going to Jaipur this October.
Needless to say, I have explored some amazing locations and met amazing people while doing Vipassana. I am friends with most of the people I hung out with after Vipassana.
To know more about Vipassana and how you can apply as a meditator you can visit www.dhamma.org and www.vridhamma.org.
With inputs from Dr. OP Pathak, HOD at Vipassana Research Institute and Ravindra Mangal.
About the Author This post comes to us from Priyamvada Mangal. Priyamvada is a 25 year old photographer from Mumbai, India. Priyamvada first sat on a vipassana meditation retreat at age 20. Stay in touch with her on social media:< Instagram Twitter Facebook
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Matthew Sockolov is a Buddhist meditation teacher and author. He was empowered to teach meditation by Spirit Rock Meditation Center, and is the founding teacher of One Mind Dharma. His new book, Practicing Mindfulness - 75 Essential Meditations is now available on Amazon.