A LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCE
Meditation, yoga and spirituality are becoming more and more powerful elements in the Western world. Our society is slowly but surely becoming aware that the lifestyle of consumerism and materialism leads nowhere but to misery. In pursuit of happiness, we are blindly trying anything, whether endless gathering of all the worldly goods or living in the nostalgia of our memories.We set our focus on either the future or the past, yet we do not live in the present moment..
So how to be happy here and now?
Well, the Buddhists seem to have found the key to happiness thousands of years ago. Buddhism is well-known for being a philosophy of love, peace and harmony. Its major manifest is regular practice of Vipassana – Silent Meditation.
Vipassana, “the silent meditation”
WHAT IS VIPASSANA?
Vipassana is an ancient Buddhist meditation technique considered to be the oldest and most effective remedy for universal ills. It teaches people how to live at peace, without succumbing to our feelings and emotions which control our lives, are the source of disharmony and unbalance and eventually origins of all our diseases. This meditation technique is based on the conviction that all unhappiness is caused by two factors – cravings (resulting in disappointments, patheticity, sadness, sorrow, etc.) and aversions (resulting in agitation, frustration, irritation, anger, hatred, etc.).
In order to find balance and peace in our lives we must face all pleasant and unpleasant situations and learn how to accept them without getting emotionally affected. We must not wait until the things around us change, however we need to change our perspective and attitude. The only way to be able to achieve this kind of self-transformation is through self-observation that produce a deep interconnection between mind and body.
One of the most important ideas of Vipassana is to understand the principal of impermanence at not just theoretical level, but at the experiential level, through silent meditation. Realising this through encountering both, discomfort and pleasant sensations we can see within our own body that nothing in this world lasts forever.
Group meditation in the meditation hall
THE SILENT MEDITATION RETREATS
Vipassana meditation is a serious act of introspection and it must be performed in a complete silence to make it work. The focus is to be fully directed within, hence no talking, reading, writing or any other distractions such, electronic device whatsoever are not permitted for the whole length of the course. That means that there is no contact with the outer world accepted. Besides, there is no physical or even eye contact amongst the students allowed and a total segregation of genders is performed during the course. A strict schedule is be asked to be followed without any exceptions.
What happens is, that the students spend 10 days in an isolated Buddhist retreat, trying what monks and nouns call “ascetic life” on their own skin. It is a total physical and mental 10-day detox session, during which there are only simple vegetarian dishes served 3 times a day and modest clothes covering the entire body are to be worn at all times. Accommodation is very humble (often dormitory or tent) and students spend most of the time meditating in the meditation hall, walking within the boundaries of the retreat or resting, in accordance with the timetable. Vipassana meditation course requires a great deal of self-discipline and commitment.
Bushwalking in the designated areas
VIPASSANA “THE ART OF LIVING”
Vipassana courses should not be misinterpreted as simply 10 days of meditating in silence for free which brings the eternal happiness. It is a very hard work and only continuity of practice makes one succeed. Such 10-day course is meant to introduce Vipassana meditation in a fairly short period of time (although it feels like eternity) that is just enough for the students to learn the technique properly. However, it must be regularly maintained in everyday life to reach its full purpose – happines. Vipassana is art of living and profound lifestyle.
The benefits of Vipassana practice are undeniable and there are thousands of people in the world who experience hugely positive life change each year.
VIPASSANA COURSES WORLDWIDE
Vipassana meditation technique is available to anyone. Buddhism is no organised religion, which means that being a meditation practitioner does not require getting involved in any church, rituals or belief in a particular God.
Vipassana is suitable for everybody regardless of age, religion, race and gender. There are more than 200 centres worldwide open all year round and they all follow the exactly same standards and rules. Vipassana meditation courses are free of charge and solely dependent on donations.
HOW TO SIGN IN?
The length of Vipassana courses varies. However, all new students have to take the 10 day course first. Once they have completed it they might want to do shorter or even longer courses depending on their level of experience and time available. There is a possibility of service at any centre and any time, as well. Volunteering is highly appreciated.
The courses are often fully booked, especially in Buddhist countries like Thailand, Nepal and Burma, as most of the Westerners seek for genuinely spiritual environment and native teachers. Therefore, it is advisable to book in advance. Before you book your first course you should read more about Vipassana to make sure you meet the requirements to complete such 10-day session.
You can find the most suitable location at http://www.dhamma.org/en/locations/directory
WHAT REQUIREMENTS DO I HAVE TO MEET?
There is often a long wait list for the Vipassana courses, and even though no one is forced to complete the course if struggling, your limits should be considered prior booking the course (not to waste a spot and often once-in-a-life-time opportunity for those students who are seriously interested).
Remember that no phones, notebooks, books, magazines, talismans, crystals or other religious objects are allowed to use during the course. Moreover, no physical exercise (including yoga) as well as no other meditation practice (including rites, chanting and prayers) are permitted. The noble silence MUST be kept until requested.
Each new student must commit themselves not to break the Code of Discipline during the course:
- to abstain from killing any being
- to abstain from stealing
- to abstain from all sexual activity
- to abstain from telling lies
- to abstain from all intoxicants (pills, tobacco etc.)
- to abstain from sensual entertainment and bodily decorations (jewellery, make-up, etc.)
- to abstain from using high or luxurious beds (often students will be accommodated in dormitories)
- to abstain from eating meat or opulent, expensive meals
Plain vegetarian dishes are served
HOW DOES VIPASSANA RELATE TO TRAVELLING?
Why not taking travelling to the next level and making it meaningful? Travel, learn and grow as a person with volunteering at a Vipassana meditation centre anywhere in the world. As the Vipassana centres are at no charge, all staff are volunteers – often travellers, moving around the world and looking for new adventures.
Volunteering at Vipassana centres makes one feel useful and gives the feeling of belonging, offers plenty of opportunities, e.g. to get to know new cultures and people on ones travels while saving money for food and accommodation (however, this should never be the prime reason). Besides, it is quite an interesting experience to cook 3 meals a day for more than 100 students, help to build a new pagoda, do some gardening, cleaning or assisting the meditation teachers while performing a course.
NOTE that you need to complete at least one 10-day course yourself to be able to volunteer at any Vipassana centre. Afterwards you can travel the world, from country to country, helping where it is needed, contributing to our world and wide-spreading love.
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