Hi there, welcome back to another post on the topic of Vipassana Meditation. The few lines that follow will simply try to give an answer to one of the most pondered questions when approaching Vipassana meditation for the first time.
To find the truth is not that easy
Due to some global hype over some massively misunderstood and manipulated topic, many young people of a not necessarily clear spiritual nature, are starting to put some interest in “meditation” and absorb keywords like “meditation retreat”, “Vipassana” and “mindfulness”.
The direct or indirect research for information on Vipassana meditation and related topics, usually starts from Google and in rare cases might actually take the form of speaking directly with someone who has had some actual experience with real “meditation”. Due to the commercial nature of nowadays online research tools, most people end up downloading a “mediation app” that helps sleep better, reading a sale pitch from a “Vipassana meditation center” promising peace and harmony and/or watching a YouTube video about some highly unstable guy claiming to have been kidnapped at a silent retreat.
At this point I would reckon the chances for the searching individual to actually learn and practice real meditation are extremely slim, almost none. Is in facts the objective of the above “meditation” information distribution channels, to keep us away from the truth. The existence of those systems, businesses, charities channels or for-profit-power activities of all sorts, is based on our distorted interpretation of reality. The fool leading the fools has no followers, if the fools wake up and know the truth.
The questions arise
Having said that, a few individuals actually get past the noise, manage to get some good info, end-up in Asia or elsewhere and begin the search for a meditation center or a meditation retreat. But, as soon as the prospective of having to spend 10, 21 or more days within the confined spaces of a silent and strict meditation center, becomes clear and realistic, the questions “naturally” arise in their mind: Is this really for me? Should I really spend 10 precious days of my life sitting in silence?”.
Maybe a bestseller?
I have been asked those questions dozens of times, but usually not so explicitly in that format. Most of the times I am faced with concerns and questions that, if I would collect and put in a book, it will win prizes for being funny … or maybe the opposite; I heard all sort of stories, many of which are so incredibly fantastic that deserve a prize. Jokes apart, all concerns are fair and none are silly, each reside in the mind of many people that acquired them and consequently gave them relevance and importance. Although, I always try my best to remove the layers of ignorance from the person I deal with, I don’t always manage; some of those convictions and beliefs are so ingrained that it’s almost impossible to deal with them. Many are actually been created by the media, meditation gurus and similar, funny individuals that like to put themselves on pedestals and extract value from unaware folks.
Why to meditate
After having gone through the concerns with the meditator to be (?), I usually ask the question. “Please, would you be so kind to let me know, why you want to participate in a Vipassana Retreat?”. Answers are hard to filter as most people start giving all sort of cliche lines, like “I want to learn how to focus” or “my friend has done a course and recommended it”; none actually mention “change”, which from my point of view is the fundamental step that need to be taken, the desire for change has to be the dominant aspect of desire. I do not expect anyone to mention the Buddha, end of suffering or any of the fundamental aspects of meditation or Buddhism, what is think is necessary to know at least is that taking a serious meditation course lasting from 10 to 30 days will create change.
Fear of change
The reason for concerns in taking a course is ingrained in fear, fear of change. The individual deeply knows that profound change will happen during the course and things will not be the same from then on. Unfortunately our ego knows that very well and does anything in its power to avoid change, which will imply a partial if not total removal of its manipulative power. The funny and elaborated stories given to me are exactly the product of a desperate ego trying to survive at any cost. It is in fact very common for people to sabotage themselves and do not attend the course cancelling at the last minute and even during the course. The neurotic effects of the ego-mind become in many cases psychosomatic making the individual ill and incapable to attend the retreat.
Nothing to fear
To make the post short and to the point, I’ll write the advice I usually give to the people fearing to enter the meditation center. Please try to avoid over-thinking, keep light-headed, avoid intoxicants and keep away from the internet for at least a week prior to start the course. The ego will find less chances to attack and hopefully will not create any drama and time wasting. Obviously each case is different, but staying relaxed and positive can help; at the end of the day there isn’t anything real to be afraid of and any change that will take place will be in the direction of improvement and joy. Taking on a serious meditation course is a profound experience that will produce lasting effects for the good of the student. The first step is learning, taking the course, many other steps will follow but you have to start somewhere.
As usual, if you have any questions do not hesitate to ask below and happy meditation.