10-Day Vipassana Meditation – Vipassana Briefly Explained

I posted a video on my YouTube providing a brief explanation of Vipassana. I just wanted to provide a transcript for the video in case you’d prefer to read, rather than listen. Also, since I made reference to certain terms that may be unfamiliar to you, this transcript may serve as a companion to the video.

Vipassana is the form of meditation that Siddhartha Gautama (commonly known as The Buddha) practiced thousands of years ago. The Buddha is actually a term that means enlightened one, so anybody has the potential to be The Buddha. Anyway, that’s a whole other discussion. For now, I just want to focus on some of the basic concepts of Vipassana. So, without further ado, here’s a brief summary of what I learned from the discourses that we watched every night from Goenka, the preeminent teacher of Vipassana meditation, who I found out just passed away on September 29th at the age of 89.

Gautama saw suffering everywhere and sought to find the cause of suffering. He discovered that whenever we have a craving, whether it’s to cling to a pleasant sensation or to wish an unpleasant one would go away, we suffer when that craving is not fulfilled. In other words, whenever there’s attachment, there is bound to be misery, and the greater the attachment, the greater the misery. To get to the root of this suffering, he investigated within himself. He discovered that everything we encounter we register through our six senses–the five physical ones, as well as the mind, which generates emotion. Because of our senses, everything produces sensations in our body. Some sensations may be settle, others may be gross. Some are buried deep down, others are on the surface. Whenever a pleasant sensation arises, we like it and want it to last forever. Whenever an unpleasant sensation arises, we don’t like it and want to get rid of it and if we can’t we wish it away. These momentary reactions of liking and disliking develop into craving and aversion, respectively, which are both forms of attachment. Because of our attachments we generate strong reactions, called sankhara, which make deep impressions in our mind and causes suffering. So the source of suffering is this habitual reaction to sensations in our body that arises from everything we encounter in our day-to-day lives. He calls this habitual reaction ignorance.

According to Gautama, the way out of suffering is to break this chain of ignorance, in which every sensation gives rise to a reaction of liking or disliking, which develops into great craving or aversion, which causes misery. So, instead of habitually reacting to sensations, we learn to just observe the sensations equanimously with the understanding that “whatever arises passes away” (this understanding is called anicca). So instead of ignorance, these sensations now give rise to wisdom. So the entire purpose of Vipassana is to change the normal habit pattern of the mind of constantly reacting to sensations with craving or aversion, generating one sankhara after another. In order to do this, Vipassana meditation is a systematic way of becoming aware of the sensations in our body. Sensations refers to ANYTHING you can feel physically in or on your body. And by anything, I mean anything. It can be the dryness on your lips, a pulsing sensation on your temple, moisture around your eyes, an itchy sensation on your forearm, a sharp pain in your back, soreness in your muscles, warmth from wearing a winter hat, etc. Anything!

I won’t get into the particulars of the meditation, but the idea is to feel these sensations in your body in a systematic way and train yourself to be aware of all the the sensation in your body, but not to react to them with craving or aversion. To remain completely equanimous. In other words, the purpose of Vipassana is to develop your level of awareness and equanamity so you break the chain of ignorance and stop habitually reacting to situations or events that arise in your day-to-day life. I know some may think Vipassana is trying to train people to be a bunch of passionless vegetables, cause that’s what it sounds like. But it’s not about turning people into unfeeling beings. It’s about getting you to not be a slave to your habitual patterns of constantly reacting to everything you encounter so you can see the big picture. Because when you’re constantly reacting with craving or aversion, you’re too busy reacting you can’t see the big picture of what is happening in the moment. Eckhart Tolle, the writer of The Power of Now, says, “Right now, there are no problems.” What he means is that there are only situations, but your mind makes a problem out of these situations. For example, if your car is stuck in the mud, that is a situation. But when we generate aversion to the situation, then that is our mind making a problem out of the situation. In other worse, because we dislike the situation of our car being stuck in the mud, we want the situation to go away, so we keep focusing on how much we hate the situation and how much we wish that situation to not be so. This is what it means to generate a sankhara. But when we come out of our habitual pattern behavior of constantly reacting we see the situation for what it is and we come up with a plan to get out of the situation, rather than continue to cling to how much we hate the situation. I hope that clears things up some.

10-Day Vipassana – I’m Built for Vipassana, but Not Sure if it’s for Me

So far in my previous posts, I haven’t exactly explained what Vipassana meditation is. So I will attempt to do that now as briefly as possible.

Siddhartha Gautama (The Buddha) saw suffering everywhere and sought to find the cause of suffering. He discovered that whenever we have a craving, whether it’s to cling to a pleasant sensation or to wish an unpleasant one would go away, we suffer when that craving is not fulfilled. In other words, whenever there’s attachment, there is bound to be misery, and the greater the attachment, the greater the misery. To get to the root of this suffering, he investigated within himself. Continue reading

10-Day Vipassana Meditation – How My Ego and Weightlifting Allowed me to Experience the Wisdom of Surrender

People think of meditation as something you do to relax. And these people aren’t wrong, because there are meditation methods that are all about relaxation. Vipassana is not one of those methods–especially not in the beginning.

The way they teach Vipassana at this 10-Day retreat, which is done exactly the same way all over the world, is very intelligent. They deconstruct every aspect of the meditation and give you one element at a time so you can master that one element before moving on. Continue reading

10-Day Vipassana Meditation – Initial Reaction

So I got back from the 10-Day Vipassana Silent Retreat today. So much to say I don’t think I’ll be able to do it all in one post. So may take several posts and I also plan on possibly providing instructions to the technique. Apologies in advanced for the lack of coherency and elegance in this post. Continue reading

Going on 10-Day Vipassana Meditaion Tomorrow

Back in May, I wrote a post about Vipassana Meditation. Well, tomorrow, I will be experiencing the same thing that the prisoners in that documentary experienced. I have to admit, a lot of people will consider this pretty “New Age-y” and I won’t deny that, but I’m also completely fine with it.

I’m looking at this first and foremost as an interesting vacation. Most people go on vacation and they come back feeling more tired, and none the better. Even though this is less than two hours away, I might as well be going to some remote island somewhere, because what I’ll experience in these 10 days is nothing that I will ever experience. So at the very least, it will be challenging and possibly eye-opening. Continue reading

Same Love

A long while ago, I heard this song on the car radio, only I didn’t know anything about it. I didn’t know the name of the artist or even the name of the song. I only caught some of the lyrics and they didn’t sound like the typical hip hop lyrics that you hear on mainstream radio. What immediately drew me to the song, though, was the overall composition. I especially like the rap over piano, because if I ever wanted to produce a hip hop track, that’s exactly what I’ve thought of doing in the past. I’ve always wanted to combine rap with very minimalist sounds, like the piano and possibly even the cello. I also like the female vocals, but that’s pretty common place in hip hop tracks now. Still, I don’t think that’s something I’ll get tired of. It’s very Yin-Yang. So I’m all over that. Continue reading

PTSD + Medal of Honor

I have my alarm set to NPR. Most mornings, I either hit the snooze or shut off the alarm when NPR comes on. But every now and then, I hear something that causes me to just lie there and listen. This morning was such an occasion when an interview with Staff Sergeant Ty Michael Carter on Morning Edition woke me up. Continue reading