Finding Oneself Through Silence
The positive impacts of Vipassana last long after one is done with the courseBy Asiya Nayeem
We lead rushed lives. We wake up thinking of the next biggest challenge or worry. We’re constantly racing towards the next action that needs to be completed. Our minds never stay still and we clearly can’t process every thought that flies through our head. When you have too much clutter in your mind, how can you organise and focus on the more important pieces of information? And with that kind of clutter, how can you be as productive and calm in your day-to-day life as you have the potential to be? One of the main aims for most people is to get a clearer picture of their lives and situations. One of the most popular methods to gain clarity is to attend a Vipassana course. This is one of the most ancient techniques of meditation and the word symbolises “insight into the true nature of reality”.
The course is commonly a 10-day retreat. Participants spend 10 days at a residential Vipassana centre. They are to refrain from any pleasures of the physical world then. Instead, they spend 10 hours of each day in meditation, calming their mind and developing some mastery over it. They remain in a state to focus their attention and realigning their priorities to live a more fulfilled and happier life. Those 10 days give participants a foundation which they can base their daily meditation sessions on. It gives them a glimpse into how they can be less impulsive and more thoughtful, less loud and more understanding. With this shift in mindset, one’s thoughts, feelings, judgments, and sensations become clearer and it is easier to navigate through life without rushing or perceiving negativity in it. “I’ve witnessed how Vipassana can be a powerful technique in transforming oneself,” says O P Pathak, manager at Vipassana Research Institute, Maharashtra. “At the end of the session, the participant can feel their unconscious being purified. The practice is helpful to make one more tolerant and manage negative emotions. A participant usually comes away with a positive outlook on life and an improved sense of self.”
Apart from its numerous physical health benefits like regulating blood sugar and pressure, maintaining the nervous system, and improving blood flow, yoga also offers a host of mental and spiritual benefits.
Around 25 centuries ago, Gautama Buddha rediscovered the practice of Vipassana meditation and taught the method as a way out of suffering. For 500 years after that, people practised Vipassana faithfully but later, the practice started fading away. Vipassana became a rare sight among meditation participants. In the last few centuries, the practice has come back to India. In 1995, S N Goenka visited a Burmese meditation centre and took his first 10-day Vipassana course. Enlightened, Goenka took the teachings to India, where he conducted his first 10-day course in Mumbai in 1969. Vipassana slowly gained momentum and many more centres were opened for the mass practice of the art. Today, this form of meditation is popular worldwide, with 188 certified centres across the map. The kind of widespread impact that practising Vipassana has on people is powerful. The technique has been used in various institutions and scenarios to elicit positive results. In prisons, the technique has helped troubled individuals to have a more peaceful and positive mindset so they can assimilate into society easily.
Vipassana is widely used to tackle substance abuse in individuals seeking rehabilitation programmes. It refocuses their mind and makes them adjust their desires. Many people working in the corporate world opt for Vipassana to manage their stress and work more productively. “A couple of years ago, I went to a Vipassana retreat,” says Tony Mace, who participated in a Vipassana retreat in the US. “The very first thing they do at this retreat is they strip you off all your comforts. You are made to avoid interacting, even touching other people. Instead, you have to stay quiet and you learn to discipline and calm your mind by following their strict rules. With the help of the retreat, Vipassana helped me quieten the chatter in my head and gave more structure to my life.” The ancient meditative art is effective and people from different walks of life have experienced its benefits. The age-old practices seem to only be gaining more participants, positively influencing lives and recreating the habits of an individual’s lifestyle to better ones.
“AT THE END OF A SESSION, THE PARTICIPANT CAN FEEL THEIR UNCONSCIOUS BEING PURIFIED. THE PRACTICE IS HELPFUL TO MAKE ONE MORE TOLERANT AND MANAGE NEGATIVE EMOTIONS. A PARTICIPANT USUALLY COMES AWAY WITH A POSITIVE OUTLOOK ON LIFE AND AN IMPROVED SENSE OF SELF.”O P Pathak Manager, Vipassana Research Institute