Spiritual India: Vipassana and the art of living

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5)

We spend our whole life trying to understand what is this all about – to figure out who we are, what do we stand for, what is real happiness and where shall we seek it, what are our ambitions and goals, what does society wants from us and what do we expect from the society? We color our lives and sometimes the others have more to say about it. Added to our background and education, there are so many people that influence us- from parents, partners, friends, colleagues and spiritual teachers – all are indicating a certain path and way for us to be HAPPY. Because this is what is all about after all – to live a happy life and avoid being miserable.

We struggle as we fall and break open when we realize we have too many expectations and eventually we draw back and enclose in ourselves. And how many times we gave up, drew a line and started all over again!? It’s damn hard to realize it has been for nothing, that we have lost everything and we feel so lost again. How many more times we should reach that point though?

Each human being has a story. Once we reach that point when we feel so distrustful of whatever has been told to us we start a different journey. We go back again. We let it go and commit to a new path and eventually on the way we strongly thing this is the way. This is certainly what we were looking for. But is it? YOU can only know by experiencing it. If it’s true for you then it should make a difference to the world. Not because you will preach it but because you have faith and you are living it. You are a living example of your own truth. And you are free to share it to the world.

Spirituality is a vast subject. Since ancient times we have been studying the stars and the influence they have on the people. From there to religion, psychology, art, yoga, reiki or tantrism (just to name a few) – let’s just admit it – we don t lack WAYS to choose from. So then be it – we start our quest- we start experiencing, learning and committing and this keeps us busy for a while. We leave the country, we want to know and see as much as we can. Or we just stay home and live our ‘society life ‘ that gives us a balance between struggle and confort. That provides us enough reasons to wake up in the morning. Either way – we keep up with it and eventually, sooner or later, we have a revelation.

We focus so much on the exterior, on the material, on the others’ stories or needs that we completely forgot the essence of life. When all religions have this one thing in common – know yourself and you will find God. Live in the now. Be conscious. However, we are conditioned to assume that all that it is to this world is outside, therefore we will always seek input – physical and mental- from the external reality. We would go to the moon and back, explore the deepest debts of the ocean than focus the hidden depths of ourselves.

Couple of days back, I have experience Vipassana meditation in a 10-days retreat. Since I became aware of my search, I have been seeking, asked, read about and experienced different views on spirituality and self-fulfillment. This time it completely changed me.

It was actually the best thing I have done for myself!
Vipassana means ‘insight’ in the ancient Pali language of India. It is the essence of the teaching of the Buddha, the actual experience of the truths of which he spoke. In fact meditation is primarily what he taught. The problem remains of course how to understand and follow the instructions. And then, the interpretation of his teachings is difficult without the context of a living practice. But if a technique exists that has been maintained for unknown generations, that offeres the very results described by the Buddha, and if it conforms precisely to his instructions, then that technique is surely worth investigating. Vipassana is such a method, it is a technique extraordinary in its simplicity, it’s lack of dogma and above all in the results it offeres.

Basically during these ten days you are supposed to remain within the area of the course site, having no contact with the outside world. You would refrain from reading and writing and suspend any religious practices, working exactly as the instructions are given. You should also follow a basic code of morality which includes celibacy and abstention from all intoxicants. Furthermore, for the first nine days you should maintain silence and avoid contact.

Now the popular belief is that meditation is easy work, relaxation where you close your eyes and sit in this or that posture and concentrate on one particular object, sound or image. Well, have to say- it is hard work! Meditating 10 hours per day for ten days it certainly needs a bit of craziness but hey, it is so much worth it. The most difficult times are when 80% of your body is in pain and you feel like running away – but you have committed for the times so let’s focus on the breath. You are actually observing the reality as it is- not as you want it to be. Because this is what it is about! To observe yourself and your reactions to pain and pleasure.

The first three days you start with focusing on your breath ( to clear all those thoughts that are rumbling in your head and keep you busy) followed by the rest when you have to focus on the sensations you experience in your body – however trying to train your mind not to react to them. At times it may seem that instead of finding inner peace one has found nothing but agitation, pain, frustration. But day by day you understand that everything, sooner or later – starting from your physical pain- will fade. Everything arises and it passes away. After all this fighting with your mind, after remembering so many things – not that pleasant about your actions- you learn to let go, to accept the unacceptable – you have made so many mistakes, in so many ways…Can it be that it was you all this time?

My experience taught me that after you clear all those conflicts and uncertainties in your mind you will find the child within- that innocent person- your true soul- and realize it is so simple. No wonder they say ‘know yourself and you will know the world’- we are all the same. Our core is identical – we are all saints or potential killers. It is us that decide which path to choose but the truth is only one. What we want is to be happy, we want liberation from all suffering. What could be better in life than harmony, peace and unconditional love? And what makes a wise man if not that person that stands in front of adversity with the smile on his face? ‘By yourself committing wrong, you defile yourself. By yourself not doing wrong, you purify yourself.’

After all, your life may end in a second – what will you be left with? Not your Porsche, nor your bank account or your house by the sea. You will be left with a pure heart and a history of love and kindness that you have spread around to other people. But time is so precious and many of us spend it so purposeless. As Marcus Aurelius so beautifully put it – ‘ your days are numbered. Use them to throw open the windows of your soul to the sun. If you do not, the sun will soon set, and you with it.’

I am a spiritual nomad looking for trouble! I love travelling, writing is my favourite form of expression and I will never say no to coffee! I dedicate my free time in practicing yoga and meditation as well as learning more about transformative education and development. I also love dancing and I could talk forever about love. :)

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