Publish Date: Jan 17, 2007
It felt like two hot knives were stabbing me in the back-- right into my kid-
neys. It was a burning pain-- unavoidable.
As my mind scanned this area of my back, it imagined two white-hot spots
searing through my flesh. My knees also burned. My ankles burned. My
feet were numb with a dull ache. But my back was the worst.
I felt a wave of panic-- butterflies in my stomach and a tremendous urge
to get up and run away. I gulped, refocused my mind on the sensations in
my body, and remained still. I tried to follow the advisors instructions--
don't flee from the pain, go deeply into it. My mind concentrated on the
burning kidneys. I tried to observe the pain dispassionately. What was it
exactly? What is pain? How, exactly, did it feel? How large was the painful
area? How deep?
As I delved into the pain, an amazing thing happened-- the panic and fear
drained away. My body heaved suddenly with a long, slow, very deep
breath. As I exhaled, I felt a deep sense of calm wash through me.
A natural, unforced smile crept onto my face. My mind remained focused
and suddenly the intense pain didn't seem "painful". I noticed that the pain
was, in fact, an area of more intense vibration--- but I was no longer experi-
encing it as something to escape or avoid.
That was the moment I broke through-- at the end of the 8th day of a 10
day Vipassana meditation course.
Vipassana is a form of meditation, sometimes translated to English as
"Insight Meditation". It consists of a deep and systematic observation of
one's mind and body. Vipassana has many variants and is taught by many
different meditation schools, teachers, and groups.
The course I took followed the methods of S.N. Goenka. Goenka learned
Vipassana in Burma and was so amazed by the transformations it caused in
his life, he wanted to teach others. After some time, Goenka developed a 10
day course. The course is very intense. Participants do not speak during
the course and they meditate from 4 AM to 9 PM, with only short breaks.
The focus of the course is on the direct experience and practice of meditation
rather than theory or philosophy. Another unique aspect of the course is
that it is free. At the end of the course, participants may give a donation if
they wish to help others do the course-- but this is voluntary and there is no
When I finished the course I felt a powerful sense of calm. I felt centered.
My mind was clearer than it had ever been. The course was one of the most
powerful experiences I've ever had in my life-- and one of the most positive.
Unfortunately, that was almost 3 and a half years ago. Initially I continued
to meditate after the course. But slowly I got out of the practice. Its been
quite a while now.
As a result, I feel my mind and emotions have grown volatile and unstable
again. Which, lately, has gotten me thinking about Vipassana.
There are Vipassana courses and centers all over the world, so it would be
easy to find one.
Publish Date: Jan 17, 2007