My First Vipassana Experience
My First Vipassana Experience was when I was 19 years old. My Philosophy class introduced me to the concept of Vipassana. Much to our excitement, we bombarded our professor about his own experiences, “When one talks about meditation, everything seems light, easy, and applicable right away but it becomes the very opposite once you’re doing it.” he explains. Pure silence. We started fidgeting, unsure why were so eager to try it out in the first place. Perhaps, in an automatic instant, we were already making excuses as to why we cannot do meditation, e.g. “I have so much on my plate already,” “I need to study,” or “I just don’t have much time as of late.” The very things we say when we do not want to do something anymore.
But we usually avoid the things we need to do the most…
It was my sudden hesitance that sparked up my curiosity more. Why hold back simply because it requires silence, patience, and concentration? I had to see it for myself amidst an unconscious doubt. I started asking more questions about the meditation practice: “How does one maintain it?” “Why can’t we sit still for even minutes?” or “What makes this meditation unique?
When my philosophy mentor saw that I was interested in learning more about meditation, he recommended that I go to Vipassana. I remembered asking him what the place was all about. He simply smiled and told me that I had to go there to see for myself. By saying this, I just had to go there. No more questions, no more doubts, and just pure excitement towards veering to something new and unknown. In a matter of weeks, the day arrived. I was on my way to Vipassana. With my beddings, clothes, and a few necessities I bade my family, my close friends, my work, my research, and basically my busy lifestyle a temporary farewell. I was not allowed to communicate with anyone or use any social media or gadgets for ten days straight. The positive prospects of the trip made me so eager that I arrived hours early at the meet-up place. After a group meeting with the other meditators in Manila, we took a bus towards the Vipassana camp in Cavite. We arrived there and the first thing I noticed was that the camp was secluded. It was away from the city and away from all the noise. There will be no distractions. I smiled, not knowing just how difficult the trip was going to be.
On our first night, we were given an introduction to what Vipassana was all about. Vipassana is a way of meditation that involves concentrating on one’s body or its sensations. “Vipassana enables us to experience peace and harmony: it purifies the mind, freeing it from suffering and the deep-seated causes of suffering.”
It helps give the meditators insights as they realize where their thoughts go. Vipassana means to see things as they really are, one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation founded by Gautama Buddha more than two thousand five hundred years ago. It aims to practice the art of living and eradicating negativity in order to achieve happiness and liberation. It starts with the moving of one’s attention systematically from the top of my head to the tips of my toes and right back up, observing in order each and every part of one’s body by feeling all the sensations that you come across. Observe objectively; that is, and remain equanimous with all the sensations that you would experience, whether pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral, by appreciating the impermanent nature. Vipassana is a way of meditation that can be applied in everything that you do. It focuses on how to live in the present.
The rules were painstaking. Strict discipline was imposed, in a way, that there will be no interruption in the Vipassana experience. According to them, many of the meditators felt deranged and ran away. They tried to escape—usually on the second or third day. Some never went back to retrieve their belongings. In this camp we were not allowed to talk for ten days straight, to communicate with each other—eye-contact included, and to use any sort of distractions: gadgets, pens, or even books. Everything considered as a hindrance to the meditation practice or your own reflections was confiscated. We had to take silent meditation and sit with the other spiritual seekers for hours without moving while expressing awareness of our surroundings.
It was indeed difficult. On the first day, I wanted to use my cellphone; On the second day, I missed the comforts of my own bed and perhaps I even miss the active noise of the city itself; On the third day, I really wanted to talk to my family and close friends; (By this time, some of the meditators already left for many unaccounted reasons) On the fourth day, I was already panicking during my sits, something terrible was happening from within me, the restlessness and despair, the refusal to engage in silence was the greatest noise in my head it seems; On the fifth day, I wanted out but I told myself, “You will not give up on yourself…”; On the sixth day, I started to calm down but I started losing my appetite, the food was delicious but I just ate sparingly; On the seventh day, I wanted to reach out to my family again, so that I can remove the feeling of doubt. However, discipline paid off on the last three days. I started to realize that the dilemmas were all just a product of my own thinking, pointless worrying that kept on going around inside my own head. Acceptance. One needs to accept the situation without being in a sense of disarray.
During the last day of the meditation sittings, we were taught something new, apart from our own reflections and silence, we hummed Metta—which meant love, to all beings as we made peace from within. In order for one to experience life fully, one has to keep a positive outlook to the other and the self. I remembered going home with a smile on my face, with newly founded friends, and a calm-paced walk. I have never felt better. Vipassana showed me how to meditate, simplify my life, and to prioritize my relationship to the other. “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.” —Brene Brown
If you are interested to learn more about Vipassana, you can check these out:
Here is also their worldwide locations of Vipassana to visit and participate in for free :https://www.dhamma.org/en-US/locations/directory