why yes, i do have plans for new years…

part 1 of 3

tomorrow i’m driving to Twentynine Palms, CA for my first Vipassana meditation course.  it’s a 10-day silent meditation retreat. 

i mean, what better way to wrap up the year of the horse than with 10 days of silence, 2 light meals a day, and meditation from 4.30 a.m. to 9 p.m.? 

the background

Vipassana, developed by the Buddha, means seeing things as they really are. it is self- purification by self-observation. to start, you observe the breath to concentrate the mind.  then, you observe the changing nature of body and mind and experience the universal truths of impermanence, suffering and egolessness. this truth-realization by direct experience is the process of purification.

the entire path is a universal remedy for universal problems and is not affiliated with any organized religion or sectarianism. it can be freely practiced by everyone, at any time, in any place, without conflict due to race, community or religion, and will prove equally beneficial to all. 

Vipassana meditation aims at the highest spiritual goals of total liberation and full enlightenment, eliminating the three causes of all unhappiness: craving, aversion and ignorance.  think about that for a second.  can any of your issues be classified outside those three options of i want, i don’t want, or i don’t know?  not mine.

the rules

the easy rules: no killing, stealing, sexual activity (once you read on you’ll wonder, who’ll have the energy?), lying, or intoxicants.  no physical contact between persons of the same or opposite sex, and the only exercise is walking during breaks.

sounds simple enough, right?  not so fast. 

noble silence

all students must observe Noble Silence from the beginning of the course until the morning of the last full day. Noble Silence means silence of body, speech, and mind. any form of communication with fellow student, whether by gestures, sign language, written notes, etc., is prohibited.

we’re allowed to speak with the teachers as needed, these contacts should be kept to a minimum.  the idea is to cultivate the feeling that we are working in isolation.

no outside communications, crucially, NO CELL PHONES!!

no music, reading or writing.  the reading/writing ban is to emphasize the technique’s practical nature.

who’s paying?

following the tradition of pure Vipassana, courses are run solely on a donation basis by those who have experienced the benefits of the practice. such donations are the only source of funding for these courses worldwide. thus, the spread of Vipassana is carried out with purity of purpose.

how to succeed at vipassana by really, really trying

following are excerpts from course introduction materials, with my commentary at the end.

“take great care that your actions do not disturb anyone. take no notice of distractions caused by others.”  i love this.  i need a lot of help with the second part.  although i’m no saint, i am responsible, so i’m hyper aware when others fall short.

“the emphasis during the course is on work. a golden rule is to meditate as if one were alone, with one's mind turned inward, ignoring any inconveniences and distractions one may encounter.”  i wonder how the vipassana process recommends handling how wildly annoying, obnoxious, and generally irritating as hell others can be.  will not being able to address these issues make them last longer, dissipate faster, or something else entirely?

“finally, students should note that their progress in Vipassana depends solely on their own good qualities and personal development and on five factors: earnest efforts, confidence, sincerity, health and wisdom.”  i possess all of those! i can totally pull this off!  then i think about it more and wonder if i’ve bitten off more than i can chew…