How do I get the determination to meditate
10 days of Vipassana - 100 hours of meditation: silence | Pain | findings
At 4 o'clock sharp the bell rings.
It's midsummer, but it's still dark outside.
Carelessly I drag myself out of bed, briefly wash my face and trudge through the cool morning the 200 meters to the meditation hall.
The first meditation of the day takes place here until breakfast at 6:30 a.m. The mind is still sleepy and only after concentrating on the breath for an hour does something like a meditative state arise.
I am at the Dhamma Pajjota Vipassana Center in Belgium and am attending my second Vipassana seminar here.
And now, a week later, I'm sitting here writing my review to share with you.
10 days Vipassana at Dhamma Pajjota - what an experience!
Before I tell you about my - sometimes blatant - experiences with Vipassana, here first some special features of the "seminar":
- Ten days there is consequent silence (noble silence),
- there is no eye contact with other students,
- no external contact,
- the site must not be left,
- and electronic devices as well as books and pens are prohibited anyway.
So that means: For ten days you live and work like a monk.
Why do you choose something like this?
I dare to try an explanation here.
I can anticipate one thing: the time is difficult, it is hard work.
Above all, the days are extremely insightful and valuable for yourself. Therefore, I would first recommend everyone to take such a ten-day course and experience it for themselves.
Maybe I can convince you of this with my experience report 🙂
What is Vipassana? | See things as they are
Here are some basic information about Vipassana:
Vipassana is a 2500 year old meditation technique with which one can "Sees things as they are". I think it's a very appropriate description.
The method is training of the mind and a path of self-change through introspection.
Just as you train your body to become healthier and stronger, the practice of Vipassana develops a healthy mind.
The aim of meditation is to develop equanimity (Balance of mind; Balance).
In Burma (now Myanmar), the technology has been preserved in its pure form for thousands of years. Recently, this type of meditation has regained worldwide fame and popularity, and today there are around 170 Vipassana centers around the world.
Vipassana is based on three key elements
- Sīla | Moral life
Achieved by adhering to five rules (e.g. do not lie and do not steal) - also therefore the strict rules!
- Samadhi | concentration
Mastery of the mind through mindful observation of the breath, and
- Pannā | wisdom
Obtained through the objective observation of sensations on one's own body and through the realization that everything in our universe is impermanent and constantly changing (anicca).
Are there any differences to mindfulness or mindfulness meditation?
In short: yes.
Mindfulness, which is very popular in the West, aims to develop the quality of mindfulness and often works “only” with consciousness.
Vipassana goes deeper and aims to change the subconscious.
And this is how it works:
- With complete equanimity one scans one's own body and observes the sensations.
- In doing so, one develops neither aversion to negative sensations (e.g. pain or itching) nor desire for positive sensations (e.g. fine vibrations).
- You don't identify with your feelings, thoughts and emotions.
- In this way, one gradually and through one's own direct experience attains the wisdom that everything is impermanent.
- And the subconscious learns to react indifferently to everything.
At least that's the theory in short. We come to the practice now (and at first it looks quite different) 😉
To learn the technique properly, you take part in a ten-day course.
The course requires careful, serious work. You meditate for ten hours a day and you have your last meal of the day at 11:00 a.m.
It's really tough, but it's worth it.
Pain and Insights | Sorrow and joy
Many Vipassana students compare participating in a 10-day course to an extreme roller coaster ride.
I have also had this experience both times (the first time at the Vipassana Retreat in summer 2018).
While for one moment I still have the equanimity of a Buddhist monk, only hours later my unbridled mind is impossible to tame.
Light and shadow, harmony and pain, joy and sorrow alternate - just like in life - at breakneck speed.
That is perhaps the first important finding of these ten days:
Life is made up of ups and downs - for each of us. Suffering is just as much a part of life as joy. Strokes of fate will hit us all.
Days 1 - 3
Should I stay or should I go?
But back to the course.
The first three days are particularly challenging for many - including me.
Here the focus is on mindfulness meditation (focusing on the natural flow of breathing).
It's really boring at first and I mostly just thought to myself:
"Why did I only do this to myself again?".
Many students are now on the verge of giving up.
Because in addition to the hard work of meditation, withdrawal symptoms occur - withdrawal from smartphone, from media, from interactions with others.
In addition, the time passes more slowly here and sometimes you wonder how you can survive the remaining week.
To get through this phase, only a strong will, a strong determination and trust in the Vipassana technique will help.
You just do it - it gets better. And: Of course, most of the students don't give up!
It's Vipassana Day at last
And lo and behold:
On day four, my state of mind actually turns positive.
My mind is focused now and I am increasingly concentrating on meditation and on myself.
Now the Vipassana technique is finally being taught.
The process of introspection starts and “the outside” increasingly loses its importance.
And then the "strong determination" sessions begin:
You sit and meditate three times a day for one hour each time without opening your eyes and without changing your sitting position (e.g. cross-legged).
There is a lot of pain involved, but pain can also be a good teacher.
I like these sessions - they challenge you and are also helpful for meditation.
My findings from the first few days summarized
- Pain is not always suffering.
If you sit on the floor for an hour without changing your position, you get a lot of pain - in your legs, back and neck.
However, if you don't identify with it, just observe it, you realize that you don't have to suffer from it.
Only aversion to pain creates suffering.
- Everything is in constant change. Nothing is forever.
By looking closely and objectively at what is going on in your own body at that moment, you quickly understand that everything in life is constantly changing.
You don't age in spurts, but every single moment. Every sensation in the body - whether pleasant or unpleasant - appears and disappears again.
Vipassana days 5 - 6
A restless mindplagues me
On the fourth day one feels much further on the path of enlightenment. "I love Vipassana!"
Well okay, the disillusionment comes pretty quickly.
Days five and six were very challenging for me.
As I said: roller coaster ride.
As I tried to follow Teacher's instructions and practice equanimity, restlessness and worry dominated my mind. Worries about family, worries about the country of enthusiasm, worries about just about everything.
For five days now I had no more opportunity to distract myself from Netflix, Youtube, Facebook or books.
Inevitably, I had to face painful memories and troubled worries directly. In addition, my feelings no longer had an outlet to “let out” - everything that boiled up I had to deal with myself.
A vicious cycle quickly developed:
Because of the inner turmoil, I tried desperately to be more indifferent and to calm the mind (a contradiction in terms), which only made me more angry, more convulsive, and so on.
The meditation became very difficult during these two days; the struggle with myself was always present.
The good news:
If you keep exercising equanimity despite the strong inner restlessness and just stick with it, you can ultimately only win this fight.
You guessed it: I won it.
And I came out with greater equanimity, increased trust in myself and two profound insights.
- In order to be able to develop stable and profound equanimity, one needs Patience and acceptance for the here and now. If possible, you should not have any expectations.
It is the way it is right now, and I accept that. Based on this acceptance, I can take the right measures to change the situation.
- The way to yourself is (also) painful - especially on the emotional level.
You also have to look your "dark side" in the face in order to get to know yourself and to be able to develop equanimity and inner balance.
Vipassana days 7-10
The end is the most beautiful
Maybe now you are thinking:
"Wow, that sounds like pure horror and torture, who only does that voluntarily?"
But at the end of the Vipassana Retreat - from day eight at the latest - most students begin to enjoy the process of self-knowledge and self-change.
You have already gained so many deep insights, you know yourself better, you have mastered challenges and you have just persevered.
You can also feel changes in yourself. The mind is now so focused (sharpened) that you can feel very subtle sensations all over your body.
And even if it hurts, burns or itches:
It becomes increasingly easier to maintain equanimity.
On the last day the silence is broken.
You can finally exchange ideas with your classmates. Much of it revolves around the experiences one has had over the past ten days. Once again, I was amazed at how similar the experiences of the students were.
And so this exciting, painful and also beautiful roller coaster ride comes to a happy end.
Anyone who holds out these ten days leaves the center with a good feeling and a deep, sincere smile on their face.
My most important Vipassana insights summarized
I firmly believe that (Vipassana) meditation is an effective tool for positive self change.
Not only that - those who meditate regularly are more focused and thus work more efficiently. In addition, you make yourself less stressful.
These are important advantages, especially for managers.
I will briefly summarize my most important insights from that time (and also my many years of meditation experience) for you:
Observe instead of evaluate
Often we go into the assessment far too quickly.
This unreflective reaction not only restricts our options for action, but also often has a negative effect on our environment and thus also on us.
We should learn to observe situations objectively and then - without strong emotional reactions - to act!
By the way: Here you can find our podcast episode on “Observe vs. Evaluate” with further tips and tricks for everyday job.
You are the smith of your fortune
External circumstances are not responsible for our suffering!
It is our reactions to external objects and situations that generate aversion, greed, addiction, and anger.
Although many of us accept this realization on an intellectual level, we continue to waste an incredible amount of energy trying to change other people and external circumstances.
We should finally stop and start with ourselves instead.
Only doing something actively will get you further
If you read 100 books about meditation but do not practice any kind of meditation, you will see absolutely no change in yourself.
This is how it is with everything in life:
Changes are only possible through active implementation, diligence and work. This is the only way we can change our brain and our body.
Unfortunately, this scares off many people, because it means they miss a great opportunity to be more content, happier, more successful and more balanced.
So: Start doing something for your physical and mental health today!
Everything is perishable | Life means change
A painful realization at first.
Because everything we love and own is no longer at some point. We either lose it or we die. But especially in difficult times, this knowledge is the most important anchor of equanimity.
There is no life without going downhill. With deep acceptance for this fact, we are better equipped for life.
And if we want to be prepared for it, we have to have this experience on our own body - through constant practice.
Conclusion: Vipassana gives you a lot
The Vipassana course is a real roller coaster ride. One that ends up ending up at the top.
I recommend all of my friends and family members to take a ten day Vipassana course.
That means getting involved 100% for this time and then making your own judgment.
All the knowledge I have gained is based on experimental experience and not "intellectual games".
Again - because I think this point is so important and there are so many people who, despite great wisdom, are and remain unhappy:
One does not become a good swimmer by reading a book about swimming or by accepting other people's wisdom about swimming. You have to practice swimming yourself. And the more you practice, the better you get.
Only through continuous practice and gaining insights through personal experience can one find oneself.
Therefore do not blindly believe my findings. They will only help you anyway if you look for, find and go your own way.
It may be that (Vipassana) meditation is not for you.
But try it out, take ten days, go there yourself.
Even if you find out that Vipassana is not for you, the course will give you an incredible amount.
Will I go to my third course? It will probably boil down to that.
My cozy and doubting self has objections, but the positive effects on me and my life are just too significant.
No matter what experience YOU have - it's worth it!
If you are interested in taking a Vipassana course, visit their website: https://www.dhamma.org/de/courses/search.
There you will find all the information you need and an overview of the courses on offer. The courses are usually fully booked within a few days, so speed is required.
All courses are 100% free (including food and accommodation). If you want, you can donate money at the end of the course to enable other people to participate.
You can find more information about the Vipassana technique here: https://www.dhamma.org/de/about/vipassana
By the way: Vipassana courses are also offered especially for managers. More information can be found here: https://www.padhana.dhamma.org/de/vipassana-meditationskurs-fuer-fuehrungskraefte/
If you have any questions about my experience, I'll be happy to answer them. Just write to me [email protected]. I recommend that you simply embark on this exciting journey.
The male form chosen in this article always refers to female, male and diverse people at the same time. As a rule, multiple names are not used in order to improve legibility.
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