1. Context is key
One of the things that struck me most is mastery of the context. Vipassana is a 2500 years old technique that iterated to fit modern lifestyle as well. Nothing is left to chance, they have declared a war on distractions, and they are amazingly good at it:
– Location: In the middle of nowhere, no distractions.
– Interactions: No talking nor looking at each others!
– Amenities: Everything is taken care of. You don’t cook, you don’t clean, you don’t wonder.
– Routine: You wake up with the 4am gong, meditate for 10 hours punctuated by collation times. It’s 9pm, time to go to sleep. Gong. Repeat 10 times.
Operating a 10-day self-surgery requires the environment to be 100% sterile of outside distractions.
2. Nothing lasts forever
This is the key teaching of Vipassana and by extension Buddhism. The technique is about realizing that by your own personal experience.
During the first couples of day, the mind goes crazy and gets remarkably restless. The initial 10 hours are lethargic, each minute passes like an hour. Just like a wild animal has never been tamed in his life, the mind has never been cut out from distractions that long. Ever. Think about it, what was the longest time you stayed with yourself without any distractions to escape?
Eventually, the restlessness passes away. Slowly arising from a mild meditation, I started thinking: “I got it!”. 5 minutes later, I sat and closed my eyes and… BOOM, the war was on, again. I was struggling more than ever, escorted by a restless mind and a aching body, FUCK.
Anicca, nothing is permanent.
3. Wisdom is to be experienced
Not solely understood or believed. There are 3 levels of wisdom, one erected onto the former:
What you believe: Because you’ve been told something by someone you instinctively trust, frequently family members, teachers or spiritual/religious leaders. “Don’t eat pork, it’s bad” / “Iran is a bad country”.
What you understand: At some point in your life, maybe, you’ll question these former beliefs, trying to make sense out of what you’ve been told, analyzing the concepts and understanding the teachings. Digging deeper and further is key to make the teachings one’s own.
What you experienced: It’s the purpose of the first two levels. Not only rationally understand something, but to experience it with the whole body as a witness.
This feeling of experiencing one’s truth acutely differs from psychotherapy, just like Google Street View differs from traveling.
4. You are not that important
Being offline for 10 days is a refreshing experience, something I haven’t experienced for 10 years or so. I gave up my phone on the first day, and got an immediate sense of relief. After a couple of days, you start wondering: Are my friends thinking of me?
But guess what? They don’t! Actually, people check in on you during the first 3 or 4 days, then you’re quickly forgotten. How many people actually care isn’t expressed by how many people like a Facebook posts. It’s way more precisely defined by how many people send you uninterested & unsolicited messages to check in on you. Continue reading >>