29 May 2019

The Alchemy of Vipassana

Picture taken at the Chengannur Vipassana Centre
India, Oct 2014
Almost five years ago, at the beginning of a long journey I call Adventure Surrender, I had spent 10 days in complete silence at a Vipassana meditation centre in India. Silence as in no speaking, no writing, no eye contact, no physical contact, no reading, no phones, no yoga, no singing, none of that.

We meditated for around 9 hours daily, stayed in very basic accommodation, water wasn’t very clean and the food was poor.

Staying still for meditation was physically painful, all the weak points in the body would reveal themselves clearly. Staying still for meditation was mentally challenging, all the insanity of the mind would weave a million crazy stories. Staying still for meditation was emotionally difficult, all the mixed and raw feelings that needed to be dealt with presented themselves on stage.

But I did it. I disciplined my way through. And I came out the other end a new person. And now I rave about it as one of the best gifts one can give themselves.

Looking back now, I notice that those 10 days have greatly impacted my inner world and how it reflects on my outer world. Although I only sat down to practice the vipassana meditation a few times after, an alchemical shift had taken place within me ever since;

1. Honouring silence:
I’ve become extremely aware of my need for silence, personal time, and quiet. I know my limit when it comes to socialising and also keeping myself busy, and I know when to retreat and create atmospheres of quiet. And I do that diligently, unapologetically, with much soft compassion.

2. Anicca ~ Impermanence:
S. N. Goenka, the man responsible for spreading Vipassana globally, explains how impermanence is one of the basic characteristics of life. Everything is constantly changing. So holding on to misery is not needed. Holding on to a certain identity is unuseful. Anicca is a word that holds so much hope within it. Whenever I am in a stressful situation, I try to remember that it is only temporary.

3. Equanimity:
Do you know this word? It’s a good one to learn. Being equanimous is associated with being calm, having an even mind. For me personally, it is about being neither attached nor averted to surrounding phenomenons. It’s like being neutral, but it has more life in it. In a more practical way; if I’m under stress, I’d observe a situation without being mentally-emotionally involved or invested in it. This also inspires a great sense of openness, playfulness and freedom.

4. Ahimsa ~ non-violence:
One of the precepts we undertake when enrolling in a Vipassana course is to abstain from killing any living creature. Not even those tiny mosquitoes that cause me painful hives when they bite. This shifted my relationship with all creatures. Living in a home with gentle, natural cleaning products and even sweetly talking to those little insects that occasionally appear is a practice of great compassion towards oneself and all beings. It immediately brings a degree of softness into relationships.

5. Love & presence:
I repeat, spending 10 days in silence with yourself is an act of deep love and kindness towards yourself. I feel like I’ve seen myself naked, raw, crazy, silly, wild. I’ve seen what the mind can do. And I don’t need to run away. I’ve energetically and physically held, cradled and nurtured myself. There’s inner intimacy that was born that is sacred. It’s a sacred space within, with a taste so sweet. This intimacy inspires me to be present, to choose love, to have courage, to be me, to just be.

A friend of mine recently commented about how I have immense inner peace. I know better, I know I can also be erratic and angry and messy sometimes. Yet, I guess yes, relative to how I used to be in the past, there’s a greater sense of inner peace that prevails within me. And I owe a great deal of it the wonderful experience of Vipassana.

Some experiences are just magical like that.

May 2019


Sharifah said...

Very inspiring ��‍♀�� sometimes all we need is to be in silence to reconnect with our inner self. Thanks Amal. xx

Iban said...

Thank you Amal for sharing those words, they deeply resonate with me. Indeed 10 days is nothing in a lifetime... yet it has created such a strong positive impact in my daily life. Consistently, persistently... :)