Last year I participated in a course on Vipassana meditation which was arguably one of the most profound life experiences I have had till date. And while the technique as a whole is incredible and it was great to be introduced to it, the time that I got with myself gave me the unique opportunity to uncover insights that I believe will be invaluable in life.
Basically, Vipassana meditation is a 10 day course, the first 9 days of which are spent in complete silence, termed as noble silence. What this means is that the meditators are not allowed to speak to each other either verbally or through gestures such as eye contact etc. Add to that the fact that you’re required to deposit your phones, any reading or writing material before the start of the course thereby leaving you with nothing but you and your bare thoughts. An intimidating environment for starters it eventually transformed into a space that allowed one to face oneself and think about things that are tucked away in corners that one never unearths. Also it’s perhaps the best space to observe human reactions. A few insights that I gleaned are as follows:
Perceptions: During the period of noble silence while I couldn’t interact, I observed all my co-meditators and formed an image in my mind about what each one would be like. On the 10th day when we broke noble silence, and started interacting, virtually every image I had created was shattered and i created entirely new perceptions about each. While it is but human to constantly create images, it’s perhaps important to take a holistic view when forming a perception. Also, the image needs to be fluid as the person is likely to change with time as opposed to being perfectly equanimous.
Distractions: the human mind constantly seeks distractions as by nature we are not used to stay in solitude with our thoughts. During the course I witnessed different people reacting differently to the idle space – some were arranging rocks one above the other, others trying to find their balance on the rocks, some resorting to carvings with wood etc. This to me echoed the craving of our mind to constantly be occupied – is it a fear of being with our thoughts?
Mastering the mind: before the start of the retreat, I assumed that the biggest challenges would be the fact that we couldn’t speak, not being given enough food and finally sitting on the floor for long periods. To my surprise neither of these seemed to be all that challenging; in fact the one that was most difficult was focusing the mind to meditate. The nature of the mind is such that it tends to wander and the ability for an individual to live fully in the present moment is crucial.