After being on the waiting list for six months, I was spontaneously admitted to a ten-day Vipassana meditation course one week before it started. Now a few months passed and it is time to share my experience. I learned a lot about myself. The ten days were very tough, but the reward afterwards immense. Usually after meditating, I have fewer thoughts, which gives me inner peace and clarity. I am much more focused, productive and can use the gained energy for important decisions. Here a link to the science-based benefits of meditation.
Through meditation, I learnt that I am the cause of my own misery. What matters is HOW I react to a thought or a situation. An example: When my grandfather died, I mourned. Meditating helped me to understand that I didn’t do myself and my grandfather a favour to grieve. My grandfather wants to see me happy. That I go out and spend time with my friends. It’s important to enjoy life because it can be over at any moment. I know that is easier said than done. It is said that enlightened people no longer feel negative emotions. Only love, goodwill and understanding. When I heard that, I told my teacher that I don’t want to be enlightened in this case. He laughed and calmed me that it can take a lifetime or longer till somebody is enlightened. Buddhism sees the grief of a human being as something natural, as long as one has not yet attained enlightenment. However, excessive grief has no function. With the help of meditation you still mourn, but less long and intense.
Another example: When offended, we usually react with anger. We get annoyed with the person and thus waste a lot of energy and time with thoughts. When one reacts equanimous and does not accept the insult, the mind remains balanced, one is happier and thus has more energy for important decisions.
In meditation you learn to remain equanimous by observing sensations at the subatomic level. Toward positive and negative events. Meditating helps me to understand that nothing is permanent. Everything changes. Arises and passes. Anger, a pain, an education, a flower and so our life. We understand this intellectually, yet we often feel either dislike (e.g. an insult) or desire (e.g. alcohol). When you have a desire, you are focused on the future or the past and therefore you can’t enjoy the moment. You suffer. The goal is to no longer feel desire or aversion. When you’ve reached a low point in life, remember it’s going to go by. Better times will come. We can’t control everything in our lives. But we can control how we react.
During the ten days forgotten or repressed thoughts reappeared. Also nice memories. In doing so, I tried to remain equanimous towards those thoughts and to focus on observing my sensations. Later, I realized that I made peace with many people. The anger suddenly disappeared. I think unconsciously, I gained a different perspective. I understand better why someone acted accordingly.
During the ten days, all verbal and non-verbal communication with other participants was prohibited. Even reading, listening to music and humming was not allowed. Men and women were separated. Both while eating and go for a walk. I shared the room with four other women whose names I didn’t know until the end of the course. The daily routine was clearly structured in order to concentrate fully on meditating. Every evening we listened to a lecture for an hour. This quickly became my favorite hour because I could listen to someone speaking. Otherwise, we should meditate for 10.5 hours a day. Every day we were woken up at 4am by a gong. Then we meditated until breakfast, which was at 6:30am. We meditate again until a light lunch at 11am. At 5pm there was tea and fruits. The food was vegetarian and to my delight soy drink, sesame seeds, peanut butter and flaxseed were offered. It was not a problem to eat vegan, as the vegetables, legumes and side dishes were offered separately.
In my next blog entry I will write about difficulties I faced, how to meditate according to S.N. Goenka and the physical explanation.