a quiet mind is the key to solve every problem. what can be used to quieten the mind? right as written everywhere and proven for centuries: meditation.
think of meditation as some quiet time to breathe and connect, be aware of passing thoughts, and to clear the mind. for some of us, it can be as simple as deep in-and-out breaths in the bathroom stall at work as you try to focus on yourself and your body. or retreat to your own special place in the house with pillows on a mat, or you can take a class in total silence. the last option i did for 10 days in the nearby vipassana-meditation centre germany and what i experienced i would like to share with you.
what is vipassana
“vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of india’s most ancient techniques of meditation. it was rediscovered by gotama buddha more than 2500 years ago and was taught by him as a universal remedy for universal ills, i.e., an art of living. this non-sectarian technique aims for the total eradication of mental impurities and the resultant highest happiness of full liberation. vipassana is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. it focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind. it is this observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body that dissolves mental impurity, resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion.” this is how it is described on the vipassana website.
the course is a very intense experience which includes special structure and rules to be respected. literally, you are ask to be a monk or nun for this period of time and give away all your belongings: no entertainment media, no smartphone, no pen to write a diary or book to read. then there is a strict rule of noble silence – which means you do not speak. you are also asked to not use any drugs like smoking and alcohol and it is important to not kill, not even a mosquito, as well as abstain from any sexual misconduct. man and women are separated over the time of the course. every day there is a special schedule, which you have to follow and a loud gong is helping you to not forget about these times. 4 o´clock in the morning the wake up bell rings and until 9 in the evening you will be busy with meditation, food hours, toilette breaks and evening discourse.
it seems to be that one who participates the course agrees on its own imprisonment, but the entire practice is actually a mental training that needs this clear structure. just as we use physical exercises to improve our bodily health, vipassana can be used to develop a healthy mind. and to really learn that technique it requires those conditions.
because it has been found to be genuinely helpful, great emphasis is put on preserving the technique in its original, authentic form. it is not taught commercially, but instead is offered freely. no person involved in its teaching receives any material remuneration. 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 benefit from it also.
my 10 days vipassana-experience while pregnant
the german centre itself is situated perfectly surrounded by forest in the saxonian vogtland not far from my hometown. it offers silence and a great views in the walking areas and dining hall. i was lucky enough to have a single bed room for my self as i am pregnant. the first day i tried to find the right sitting position and changed my pillow until i really found out how i can surrender my body in order not to get numb limbs. my pregnant belly did actually not hinder me as i used a backrest.
so many thoughts came to my mind and in the beginning it was hard to focus on only my breath. 8 hours for 3 days only breath, really? day by day my mind was showered by thoughts: what will happen when this course is over and i come back home? what do i still have to prepare for the baby? what should i have said to this or that person? how will meeting my boyfriend will be like? how will the labour be? will it be a painful experience?
to all this future thoughts there where past memories coming up, memories of my childhood, my parents, fights and anxieties, anger and hatred. on day four as the mind is supposed to be tranquil and focused a new technique is thought. every day evening for one hour goenka is talking in a discourse and gives explanation to the teaching and tells lots of eye opening stories.
on day six a big wave of aggression hit me. and after that there was a huge insight. i would say this is one of the most interesting things about meditation, that all this stuck emotions and behaviour pattern come up and can be erased. it is such a release, if you can come that far with your own mind and eradicate all the deep rooted wounds. but it is hard work! everyday, after day 6 was a torture. time is passing so slowly. my mind was often in the future. but this is exactly what i learned from that. time is so relative. it comes and goes. just observe and don´t react. be equanimous.
in the meantime i could feel the baby in my belly very precisely. i guess sometimes it was asking if i am still there as it could not hear my voice. when goenka was talking in the night lectures it was very alert and active, either disagreeing on his voice or the sound as only real noise of the day. who knows? apart from that i could feel every movement of my child much more intense than ever in a busy day to day life. also i could guess which limb is hitting the inside of my abdominal wall. it seem to react to the touch of my hand and i could connect to this little live so deeply. it was a real gift to have that time realising that there is a live growing under my heart.
on day 10 you can start speaking again. it is really weird to have a voice again and listen to your own words. and then suddenly there is so much noise. people talking about there experience, laughing while eating. it felt like a wave that I did not want to surf yet. i wanted to keep the silence just a little more. but it was a good shock absorber to come back to that real world. after the course ended i found myself in that expectation of others to communicate via phone or writing messages or reading all emails and meeting up. it was suddenly a bit of a overload of communication! it took me a few days to come back to that and i mindfully deleted my whats app account! 😉
for me it was my third 10 day course and my first course while pregnant. i can only recommend you to try this 10days of self realisation in silence! every course for every person is different, no one has the same experience as another. my first course in india was like a big miracle with so many tears and so much brightness. the second course was as well a big realization and showing the path to arrive in myself. this time i guess it was a great preparation for having a child and learn patience and understanding my family pattern. and every course in the future will be different. once you thought you have found the answer, another universe will open up in front of your inner eyes. don´t be afraid to explore the truth!
Friend from Laos
I love this post Ellen!! Keep going with your blog… hope to see you and your baby soon!!
Thank you my dear, hope to see you soon as well. safe traveling for you! :*