Just want to advise you that I’ll be away visiting family overseas during August and September.
The practice of Vipassana originated in India over 2,500 years ago based on the teachings of the Buddha, and then was lost to India for many centuries. It survived in the neighbouring country of Burma until one man, S N Goenka, trained in the technique, travelled to India in 1969 to teach the technique to his ailing mother.
The story goes, he announced at customs that he was carrying a ‘gem’, the gem of Dharma (the universal law of life), which he was returning to its homeland. A few weeks later, Goenka held the first 10-day retreat in India for his mother and father and some of their friends. Those friends invited others, and soon, Goenka was instructing hundreds and then thousands of people in the technique. Goenka’s short trip to India lasted decades.
Here is Lilydale at the Vipassana Centre, there are about 45 of us at registration, about 25 women and 20 men. We consent to live by a vow of silence for 10 days, meaning we will not speak to another person, nor touch them or glance at them or make eye contact with them.
We are to consider ourselves alone in this place, except for the 2 assistant teachers who you can speak to if necessary, the vow of silence has the effect of keeping these exchanges to a bare minimum. There is no mixing of the sexes, the men live, eat and meditate in one area; the women in another. The gong will ring at 4am and first meditation begins at 4:30am. Last meditation ends at 9pm and its lights out at 9:30pm. In between, there are meal breaks, a nightly discourse featuring a DVD of Goenkaji, he will also instruct us on how to meditate and all in all 12 hours a day of sitting on a cushion meditating.
It has been described as doing surgery on yourself, and without anaesthetic by Goenka, himself.
The main teachings of Vipassana is to become aware of how all human miseries are related to aversion and cravings.
On the 11.11am train to Lilydale, I was on a high.
All I had wanted was to see The Weekly with Charlie Pickering tv show, but the powers that be did one better, and showed me the man himself.
What do you think of that?! Aim high, think big!? Throughout most of my life, similar things have kept happening to me, that some may consider silly, embarrassing or stupid, but not to me.
I have followed trails of feathers until it took a friend and I to the feather on the doorstep of the best pancake place in Amsterdam. I have followed signs, a few times I have even got lost, in London and through that I found a great place to work from, and also found a secluded lovely small park in the middle of a busy place. Ok, it turned out to be someone’s private communal back yard but I didn’t find that out for a long time and I wasn’t asked to leave. I have a feeling the residents of the lovely victorian building may have thought I lived there too, It was where I could go for my lunch and a nap, weather permitting.
Following signs led me to meet my partner who brought me to Australia. Signs which helped me grow in my work, gain insights in the way I work. Signs that have helped me with my finances too. When i have chosen to acknowledge the signs and simply surrendered, something changes in me, small gaps arise where I am not just reacting to situations, things start to just happen that seem to fall into place, much better than I could have imagined. As a result I have felt very supported through times that could have turned out tougher.
So back to my Vipassana experience… Another lovely friend picks me up at the station in Lilydale and feeds me another yummy homemade vegie meal with almond meal bread. Then I get dropped off at the Vipassana centre. As we are waiting to register, I get talking to an Indian Gujrati girl janaki, who speaks my mother tongue, we connect and I feel like I have already made a good friend. My turn to register and the female assistant teacher assigned for the women, gives me the key to my accommodation and says I am amongst the very few who has been given an ensuite room by myself. Aaahhh…”icing on the cake’. I am meant to be here.
My way of thinking is that things that are meant for me will be made easier for me! Is that belief going to be tested here?
Well, I am finally getting around to writing about my 10 day silent meditation retreat, known as Vipassana in Yarra Valley outside Melbourne. I had been meaning to go since I came to Australia, nearly 5 years ago. But I kept putting it off as the thought of waking up to a gong at 4am, having no food after 11.30am and then 12 hours of meditation sounded something like an Army training camp or a cult! However, I kept hearing about it from people and friends who always ended up raving about the experience even the hard times they had there. So I finally plucked up the courage and booked my place for Wednesday 5 August.
As my time for Vipassana was approaching, I was alternating between feeling ok about it and getting a bit daunted at the prospect – couped up in meditation room for 12 hours, no food, no exercise, no TV– what was I thinking? I don’t need to do it, I am happy, whose hare-brained idea was this?
My lovely friend Lauren made me a vegie shepherd’s pie for my ‘last’ meal before the event. She also offered to help carry some of my gear, sleeping bag, pillows, blankets etc and come with me to Flinders Street Station. The day before my trip I was watching TV, the prospect of not being able to watch it for 10 whole days was bothering me, I like my comedies and movies! I mentioned to Lauren I was going to miss ‘The Weekly’ with Charlie Pickering, a favourite show on mine that would be on the next day. (Just google ‘Charlie Pickering’ if you don’t know it).
Then, all too soon, came the day of my journey, the beginning of my self-imposed ‘diet’ from normal life. I had a huge breakfast but I also packed a bag of food just in case I got hungry on the way there! As Lauren and I started to walk to the train station, I again told her, ‘I am sooo going to miss not watching the Charlie Pickering show!’ We get on the train and find a two seats facing backwards. Suddenly I noticed the person on the seat that was facing opposite me. Guess who was sitting there directly in front of me, playing with his mobile? It took me a few glances to make sure and then my head nearly collided with Lauren’s as she had been gob-smacked too! Yes, it was Charlie Pickering, the man himself, in person! I was about to do something, I am not sure what. ‘Aaahhhh, aaaaahhh and aaaahhhh’ I felt Lauren’s panic as she put her hand on me and said ‘If you do anything embarrassing I am not with you!’ That brought me a tiny bit down to earth, the train was full but also very quiet. What could I do? Wow! Charlie Pickering spent the whole time looking at his mobile with just quick glances through the window and then straight back to the mobile again. And then Charlie Pickering got off at Flinders Street Station and rushed off, beep beep, faster than the Road Runner!
What was my universe trying to tell me here? We can do better, ask and we can do better, think big, trust? What would be in store for me at Vipassana, what was I going to uncover in myself? Am I on the verge of discovering something? It seems the possibilities are limitless. Was this a sign of what was to come, whatever I chose to focus on, would appear before me? What was in store for me in the next 10 days?
More to come…
X-Rays and mRIs are wonderful advances in medical technology but the use of them often draws attention to perceived problems rather than physical damage that really needs to be addressed.
As this informative poster from Advanced Physical Therapy Education Institute (APTEI) says:
‘once “serious” problems have been ruled out by a doctor, minor findings are of no value in helping to explain the far majority of aches and pains. …In fact…. studies support that they are even harmful from a psychological point of view.’
I think the the ‘take home’ from this is DON’T PANIC.
Neuorplasticity is a relatively new field in mainstream neurological medicine but for those of us who have worked in the ‘alternative’ therapy sector, we are not surprised by some of the research findings now being reported by Western medicine.
Of course the brain has incredible powers to heal – if any medication did this, it would be the most talked about drug in the history.
This article by Brian Bethune talks more about Norman Doige’s theories and discoveries.The Brain’s Way of Healing