Happy New Years All!

I just returned from the most challenging, rewarding, fascinating, and life changing experience . . .  I attended a 10-day Vipassana Meditation Course in Bloomfield, MI.  It truly was a fantastic experience.  Below is a summary of the course, taken from “Introduction to Vipassana Meditation”.  I would be happy to share personal experiences and answer any questions you may have – just give me a call!    I highly recommend this course to everyone!  See the Vipassana Meditation site or www.dhamma.org for further info as well.

The technique of Vipassana meditation is a simple, practical way to achieve real peace of mind and lead a happy, useful life.  Vipassana means “to see things as they really are”.  It is a logical process of mental refinement through self-observation.

From time to time, we all experience agitation, frustration and disharmony. When we suffer, we do not keep our misery limited to ourselves, instead, we keep distributing it to others.  Certainly this is not a proper way to live.  We all long to live at peace within ourselves, as well as with those around us.  After all, human beings are social beings, and we have to live and interact with others.

Vipassana is one of India’s most ancient meditation techniques.  It was rediscovered 2500 years ago by Gotama the Buddha and is the essence of what he practiced and taught during his forty-five years of teaching.  In our time, Vipassana has been reintroduced by Mr. S.N. Goenka. (To learn more about Mr. Goenka, go to the Vipassana website)

To learn Vipassana meditation it is necessary to take a ten-day residential course under the guidance of a qualified teacher.  Ten days of sustained practice has been found to be the minimum amount of time in which the essentials of the technique can be learned for Vipassana to be applied in daily life.  For the duration of the course, students remain within the course site, having no contact with the outside world.  Students refrain from reading and writing, and suspend any religious practices or other disciplines.  They follow a demanding daily schedule which includes about ten hours of sitting meditation, with many breaks interspersed throughout the day.  They also observe silence, not communicating with fellow students.  They may speak with the teachers whenever necessary and they may contact the staff with needs related to food, health and such.

There are three steps to the training.  First, students practice avoiding actions which cause harm.  During the course they undertake five moral precepts, agreeing to abstain from killing living beings, stealing, speaking falsely, all sexual activity and the use of intoxicants.  This simple code of moral conduct, along with maintaining silence, serves to calm the mind which otherwise would be too agitated to perform the task of self-observation.

The second step is to develop a more stable and concentrated mind by learning to fix one’s attention on the natural reality of the ever-changing flow of the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils.  By the fourth day the mind is calmer and more focused, better able to undertake the third step, the practice of Vipassana itself:  the observation of sensations throughout the body, the experiential understanding of their changing nature and the development of a balanced mind by learning not to react to them.  One experiences the universal truths of impermanence, suffering and egolessness.  This truth realization by direct experience is the process of purification.

The entire practice is actually a mental training.  Vipassana can be used to develop a healthy mind.  Students receive systematic meditation instructions several times a day, and each day’s progress is explained during a video evening discourse by Mr. Goenka.   Complete silence is observed for the first 9 days.  On the tenth day, students learn to practice metta (loving kindness meditation) and they resume speaking as a transition back to their ordinary way of life.  The course concludes on the eleventh day.

All courses are run solely on a donation basis.  There are no charges for the courses, not even to cover the cost of food and accommodations.  All expenses are met by donations from those who, having completed a course and experienced the benefits of Vipassana, wish to give others the same opportunity.  Neither Mr. Goenka nor his assistant teachers receive remuneration; they and others who serve the courses volunteer their time. Thus, Vipassana is offered free from commercialization.

Although Vipassana has been preserved in the Buddhist tradition, it can be accepted and applied by people of any background.  The Buddha himself taught Dhamma (the way, the truth, the path).  The technique works on the premise that all human beings share the same problems, and that a pragmatic method which can eradicate these problems can be universally practiced. Vipassana teaches those who practice it to be self-dependent.  Vipassana courses are open to anyone sincerely wishing to learn the technique, irrespective of race, faith or nationality.

Vipassana has the capacity to transform the human mind and character.  The opportunity awaits all who sincerely wish to make the effort.

I hope you will find the time in 2012 to take part in this wonderful experience!