The first time we heard of Vipassana was from marathon training coach in Austin. we were talking about the hardest races to run and he mentioned that the hardest thing he had ever done was attend Vipassana.
I guess the first time we did go to it as a challenge (10 yrs back) and I had written about my experience as a little about the technique then. More recently one of the youth I went with also recorded her understanding of the theory after attending such a course.
Over the years I went for Vipassana 5 times, two times to do the course, once to serve and two more times recently in Dec 16 and Dec 17. In later times the 10 hour sittings a day were physically easier, but every time preparing for Vipassana is like preparing for battle. Not for putting things in order as one is uncontactable for 10 days (you realise quickly and initially with some disappointment that the world moves on fine without you). But, for the wandering mind and the pain the 10 hour sittings (especially Aditan 3 sessions where you can't change your position for an hour).
The mind especially wanders because the technique works with the truth, ordinary bodily truth of respiration and then sensation and settling down the mind itself takes three days or more. There is no visualisation, verbalization, etc.
I started practicing Vipassana when I was seriously questioning organised religion, our mothers were usually at the receiving end of my intensity on the subject. I continued through being an agnostic and now again when we moved to Auroville I was open to having faith again and being a willing servitude of the divine consciousness. Vipassana is a practice of purifying the mind and can be practiced irrespective of the philosophy just as sugar works as well with lemon water or (badam) milk.
In recent years esp Dec '16, Dec '17 I realized that the more the responsibilities I have taken up the longer it has taken to quieten my mind .
This year I came for Dhamma service, it's 10 days you give to serve in the program and help administration of the course. I was given the responsibility of taking care of the main hall, support serving food, organization teacher meetings, requirements of mediators and a few more things that kept coming up :).
In my last Dhamma service at Bangalore it primarily compounding and for most part I attended the course as a regular participant. As I was accountable for the Dhamma hall I thought this will be a good practice to meditate and have some daily happenings and make it a little more lifelike.
However, in the first session the teacher said that I would be required to by and large keep our eyes open, I realised that there will be very little serious meditation that I'll be able to do. Ah well. I did come for Seva. Then the team of dhamma works decided we decided to take turns in meditation. When the first opportunity presented itself for me to meditate I just sort of surrendered something that has been very hard to do before my move to Auroville. I relaxed completely and there were not as many thoughts as I had ever had before. I was not battling against my mind as I had done in the past. I just took the instructions to heart that respiration is already there, the river is already flowing, I just needed to watch it.
When thoughts came they came with a precursors an image, an incident, a sentence and I could smile that my mind was about to drift and smile and tell myself that I'm about to pop (from the matrix) and come back to watching my breath. What distracted me the most we the thought of writing a blog about it not being a battle but a surrender.
What helped was before a session reminding myself that I was not a teacher, principal, technical leader of a group, mentor, community member with responsibilities, I was just a human being who had come to learn to be a witness and learn through this experience.
Also sitting with the teacher and listening to him repeating the instructions again and again suddenly one thing clicked understanding sensation is Anika (temporary) and with choice less observation we improve our equanimity based on observing this reality in sensations. When we get angry we can take a moment and observe the sensations, wait for it to subside and then act.
The entire course was a lot more hectic than I can imagine but sessions were not as much of a battle. They were hard only when I took myself too seriously and one of my ego heads showed up.
I also realized that things I was worried about and noticed that my happiness is really my responsibly and that I have become too serious and need to smile more :) (why so serious, as the joker says in the dark knight, comes to mind).
What also made sense is what the teacher said to one of the students, "don't try to meditate, just meditate".
As I mentioned before technique works on no imagination and no visualization and works with the truth of the moment as experienced by me and helps me train my subconscious mind to change the habit pattern of generation attachment and aversion. And yet, as the ego weakens e.g. in the Bhang state of the total dissolution of the physical body you experience and observe something more than just mind and matter and its obvious interaction.
The course trains an individual to work for their own salvation and indeed one has to put in time and work, but what is often overlooked is that there is grace when you work sincerely. This time I could feel this grace actively supporting me.
A picture of my team of dhamma workers who handled 70 odd meditators.
I don't even know what they do. We just got together and as the teacher said worked beautifully as a team, supported the meditators and went our ways.