Vipassana is a form of meditation and means insight into the true nature of reality
Wat Mahathat in Thailand was where I was introduced to Vipassana and I it was there that I realised what meditation can really do. It is one of the older temples in Bangkok and is a very important temple for Buddhist studies, as it houses a well known meditation centre and the first Buddhist University in Thailand.
One of Buddha’s most well known teachings is that the route of all suffering is attachment. This needs explaining little.
Buddha is taking about attachment to objects and people but also to our identity, i.e who we think we are and what we think we should be. Also our attachment to what we think each moment in our lives should be. All of our dissatisfaction can be traced back to us believing that any given moment in our lives is not right and needs to be different. We make an enemy of our moments in time unconsciously and repetitively rejecting them.
Vipassana meditation meaning insight or clear seeing is a way to move past these attachments. The truth is that the attachments or judgements that you make in your mind aren't real, they are just a perception. Each moment can come and go and everything in those moments are impermanent and ever changing. Your world around you is ever changing and nothing ever stays the same and nothing lasts forever.
Thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and everything that makes up your external environment is subject to change and impermanence. This is the true nature of reality. Suffering comes when we try to change this, when we try to control and when we decide that whatever “is” in this moment is not right.
"One who has finally learned that it is in the nature of objects to come and go without ceasing, rests in detachment and is no longer subject to suffering."
Ashtavakra Gita - Ancient Sanskrit Sacred Text
It is through Vipassana meditation that I have found the most peace and here is why.
At Wat Mahathat in Bangkok I took a free Vipassana meditation class. I was guided to sit, close my eyes and note everything that I observed. If I heard noise I was to note internally 3 times “hearing, hearing, hearing” and then allow that awareness to go. I was to note thinking, sensations, sound, everything that I observed.
Something amazing happened as I did this. That was the first time that I became conscious of who I really was. Before I had been completely identified with my thoughts. But now as I watched my internal world, I became conscious of these thoughts and feelings and sensations coming and going, coming and going endlessly. And I realised - I am not that thought, I am not that feeling.
As I sat observing my internal world I was able to let go, I didn't need to change or control any of it I could just let it be.
Because it wasn't me, it wasn't who I was, it didn't have any power and because it was always changing form and it didn't matter so much.
From that day in a big way I changed. My anxiety levels reduced dramatically, I became less stressed, less at the mercy of my mind, and I suffered less from my thoughts and feelings. Ironically by letting go of attachment and the need to control I felt more in control then ever before. There was peace in surrender.
I remember walking back from the temple that day feeling so aware of my body, my breath, every thought and fluctuating feeling. I was no longer asleep I had woken up and I was never going back!
"Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own thoughts, unguarded." – Buddha
When you are aware in this way, when you are awake and tuned in you then have the power to let go. Let what comes come and then let what goes go. You will never achieve peace by trying to resist and control your ever changing mind, body and external world. There is stillness to be had though when you learn to detach. When you train yourself to become aware and then to step back and observe everything going on in and around you without the need to become involved.
What is meditation? Thoughtless presence.
Vipassana was my way in to meditation but there are so many. If you were going to get physically fit you may have to try a few different types of exercise before you find the one that you enjoy. But everyone can get get fit if they want to. Some may walk, some yoga, some swim and some run marathons. If you want to train your mind find a method of meditation that resonates with you.
Start small and build it up. I promise you, you will not regret it!
"There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth: not going all the way, and not starting." – Buddha
"When you realize how perfect everything is, you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky." – Buddha