Vipassana Meditation

Bonnie's PostYour mind is your instrument. Learn to be its master and not its slave. -Unknown

Sometimes when I am having a hard time coming up with post topics I will sit alone quietly with my eyes closed and just try to clear my mind.  After about fifteen minutes something always pops into my head, something I know I can write about.meditate-3

Meditation.  I like the idea of meditation but I have a hard time making it a habit.  I tend to do it now and then like when I’m stuck for a post idea, but I have yet to make it an everyday practice.  I’m not sure why this is because I actually enjoy it when I do meditate and feel better for it.  I guess it’s the idea of sitting still and not “doing” anything that makes me uncomfortable.  The first few minutes of trying to still my mind consist of dismissing the “I should be doing __ right now” thoughts.

About seventeen years ago I came across a flyer for Vipassana meditation being offered in Washington state.

Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation.  It was taught in India more than 2500 years ago as a universal remedy for universal ills.  The technique of Vipassana Meditation is taught at ten-day residential courses during which participants learn the basics of the method, and practice sufficiently to experience its beneficial results.  There are no charges for the courses – not even to cover the cost of food and accommodation.  All expenses are met by donations from people who, having completed a course and experienced the benefits of Vipassana, wish to give others the opportunity to also benefit.

For whatever reason, I never ended up making the trip to the Washington Vipassana center.

dhamma-brothersRecently I have come across the practice again…and again.  First I was watching a podcast on the Oprah’s Soul Series featuring Jenny Phillips a cultural anthropologist, writer and practicing psychotherapist whose documentary film The Dhamma Brothers tells the story of a group of prison inmates participating in Vipassana meditation.  I was so intrigued I had to buy the documentary to watch it for myself.  The movie is fascinating.  I find it spooky interesting that the meditation practice has found its way back into my consciousness.

Last night I was at a backyard party with some neighbours when I had a conversation with one fellow who happens to have been practicing Vipassana for the past four years.  There it is again!  I’m thinking something is trying to tell me to try it.

The practice is a little daunting for someone who is not much of a meditater to start with.  It consists of a ten day course where there are some rules:

1.  All students must observe Noble Silence from the beginning of the course until the morning of the last full day. Noble Silence means silence of body, speech, and mind. Any form of communication with fellow student, whether by gestures, sign language, written notes, etc., is prohibited. Sounds tough but I think I could do it as long as Tracy didn’t come with me.
2.  Students are kindly requested to make do with the simple vegetarian meals provided. This one definitely scares me a little.  I can be dangerous cranky when I don’t get enough food.
3.  No outside communications is allowed before the course ends. This includes letters, phone calls and visitors. Cell phones, pagers, and other electronic devices must be deposited with the management until the course ends.  To be honest, I think this would be great.
4. The playing of musical instruments, radios, etc. is not permitted. No reading or writing materials should be brought to the course. Students should not distract themselves by taking notes.  Seriously? No reading even? This one will be really tough.

Still, I continue to feel drawn to trying it one day.  Notice I say “one day” so as not to commit entirely yet.  If When I do, I promise to write a post on the experience.



  • Tracy Westerholm

    There is absolutely no way you EVER need to worry about me coming with you because there is NO WAY I could not talk to you being in the same room all day!! I would giggle my way through the day, if that didn’t work I would find some handsome guy to flirt with. Imagine flirting for days with no talking just eye contact ! Are you allowed to touch? Now I am getting interested! A new fantasy in the making here ! The thought of that kind of turns me on…Lets be honest I would get kicked out on day 1! I believe you have what it would take to make it through the entire process. I know you would grow spiritually from it. I look forward to reading your post ‘one day.’ Never say never, perhaps one day I will join you and see what I am really made of…once I start something I have to finish it. Great post !!

  • jacquie

    Did you read the book ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ by Elizabeth Hay? I think this is the form of meditation she tries out at the Ashram in India. Her description of the quiet solitude is stunning. I’d like to give it a go but I don’t for a second think it would be easy. I like the version you do on your own, Bonnie. But really, nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

  • Julie

    I suggest you read the book Letters from the Dhamma Brothers (disclaimer: I work for the publisher). Oprah was reading from it and talking about the book on her Soul Series interview. You may find in it the inspiration and motivation to finally take the plunge, i.e., if these guys can face THEIR stuff . . .The book explains in depth how the 10-day experience can have a beneficial influence afterward.

    • bonnie

      Thank you Julie, I will for sure. Yes, it was on Oprah’s Soul Series that I first came across Jenny Phillips and that is why I bought the video but after reading some excerpts from the book I agree I should get it too. Thanks for suggesting it!

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