The compass of my life always leads me towards this path of spirituality. I have abandoned this path a few years back. it is human nature to commit certain failures. I noticed that I am slowly forgetting all the teachings from my Raj yoga course before. I was back to being too emotional and unable to handle situations wisely and objectively. With the current role and responsibility that I am playing now ( a solo parent and working as a freelancer, being glued to social media every waking moment), it can be quite challenging and exhausting physically, emotionally and mentally. I am dealing with all these tough situations by myself, getting used to being independent and not relying on anyone and keeping all emotional feelings buried here in my stoned heart.
Men often complain about how women are full of drama that they get emotional even on little things. However, we cannot generalize such views. What drives the smile and the tears of women varies depending on the contextual framework of each individual. I used to be such a cry-baby and very sensitive but as you journey through life and collect more experiences, especially the tough and challenging ones that teach us to be resilient, you become more mature and wise. Whenever you encounter difficult situations, you are able to handle them with ease without getting too dramatic about it. This state of being is not permanent though and if you notice, the tide of emotions fluctuates. Why so? We need to consider the current environment you are in and the people you surround yourself with. These are 2 huge factors that could affect your well being.
We all need help from someone but in reality, no one can help us but ourselves. I know all these on an intellectual level but in order for me to achieve self-mastery is I need to actually experience it. Reading books and articles are not enough for me to improve. Taking action is necessary if I want complete transformation.
My mind needs total reconstruction. It’s not just the noise that I want to silence but also, how I can train the mind to remain calm and quiet whenever a tough situation arises. How I can perfectly use my brain to effectively strategize and solve challenging problems and be wiser in decision-making.
I have been trying to get a slot for the Vipassana Meditation course since last year but the slots are always full. I checked the centers here in the Philippines, in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam but all are full for some reason. I am determined to experience this so I tried my luck again this year and the Universe heard me, I am finally in!
What is Vipassana meditation?
Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. It is a way of self-transformation through self-observation and focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, Since the time of Buddha, Vipassana has been handed down, to the present day, by an unbroken chain of teachers. The current teacher in this chain, Mr. S.N. Goenka, was born and raised in Burma (Myanmar). While living there he had the good fortune to learn Vipassana from his teacher, Sayagyi U Ba Khin.
This meditation technique is not exclusive to Buddhist meditation. All people from all walks of life with different religious backgrounds can learn this technique. By watching how our thoughts flow in our mind, observing our emotions, removing all impulse judgments and just accepting the ups and downs that life brings and remaining equanimous. The Buddha’s teaching is that the physical body, which consists of tiny kalapas (atoms) along with the various sensations just come and go due to the fundamental “moving/changing” nature of kalapas. When one understands and experiences it first hand the knowledge of impermanence becomes part of the mind and one starts to see life in a more balanced manner. You begin to see the doorway to understanding the true nature of ourselves in the world. The technique trains your mind to be focused and sharp. If your mind is concentrated, it becomes sharper.
I started my short journey from Santa Rosa Laguna going to Tiaong, Quezon riding the passenger van from Balibago Complex. I only paid 130 pesos for the fair. 2 tricycle rides going to the said location (I’ll be sharing the instructions how to go there before the end of this blog post ).
The meditation center is situated at the foot of the mountain, a perfect setting for meditation. Rooms for men and women are separate and is strategically placed on opposite sides, with ropes that serves as a barrier. Even the dining area is blocked by a wall. This is to avoid any distractions to maintain the rule of noble silence.
Upon arriving, we were asked to register our names and fill up a form. A woman who was designated to welcome the new students instructed us to surrender our phone, reading materials, cameras and any type of objects that could be a distraction with our meditation. While waiting for the others to arrive, I was served this delicious vegetarian burger made by their Italian chef volunteer.
Below is our daily 10-day schedule:
|4:00 am||Morning wake-up bell|
|4:30-6:30 am||Meditate in the hall or in your room|
|6:30-8:00 am||Breakfast break|
|8:00-9:00 am||Group meditation in the hall|
|9:00-11:00 am||Meditate in the hall or in your room according to the teacher’s instructions|
|11:00-12:00 noon||Lunch break|
|12noon-1:00 pm||Rest and interviews with the teacher|
|1:00-2:30 pm||Meditate in the hall or in your room|
|2:30-3:30 pm||Group meditation in the hall|
|3:30-5:00 pm||Meditate in the hall or in your own room according to the teacher’s instructions|
|5:00-6:00 pm||Tea break|
|6:00-7:00 pm||Group meditation in the hall|
|7:00-8:15 pm||Discourse in the hall|
|8:15-9:00 pm||Group meditation in the hall|
|9:00-9:30 pm||Question time in the hall|
|9:30 pm||Retire to your own room–Lights out|
It is a serious undertaking and it’s quite challenging to disconnect from the outside world let alone not talk for the whole 10 days! So, it is an accomplishment for me.
SILA : Observing the 5 precepts and the practice of Anapana (means observation of natural, normal respiration)
Before we even begin to practice Vipassana, it is very important to gain a deeper understanding of the Dhamma footsteps, starting off with Sila (virtue) and following the 5 precepts:
- To abstain from killing any living being.
- To abstain from stealing.
- To abstain from lying.
- To abstain from sexual misconduct.
- To abstain from all intoxicants.
Inside the meditation hall, I was assigned to sit on the second row, close to the front, looking very expectant along with the other new students also waiting for what comes next. Our assistant teachers Mr Scott and Karen Perschall from Canada were both seated at the front to guide us into the technique. A recording is played with Mr S. N Goenka uttering a few chants in Pali language before launching into his teachings of the technique. Some may be wondering what the chantings are all about but I came to know that this is protective chantings that have been preserved for centuries and have become a standard part of daily devotional practice of the Theravada countries. An example of the chant is “Bhavatu Sabba Mangalam” which translates to “May all beings be happy”. The chants aren’t connected to any deity or esoteric beliefs but only means that we send good wishes to everyone.
We were asked to focus and observe our natural breath, coming in and out of our nostrils, the same idea with Raj yoga wherein you focus your attention at the dot in the middle of the spiral image while you meditate with eyes open. In Vipassana, the purpose of this concentration is to sharpen the mind and remain fixed on the breathing. The goal is to observe the breath and train the mind to be calm and still. It was a challenge for me at first as my mind was filled with curiosity of all the meditators surrounding me. Curious about where they came from, what their names are and if they are also having difficulty like me. Some flashbacks of my previous experience with Raj yoga keeps trying to appear in my brain making it hard to focus on that area above my upper lip and below the nostrils. All throughout day 1 was like this, struggling to focus on my breathing., easily getting distracted by the scandalous gekko and the singing of crickets.
Entering the field of Samadhi (Mastery of the Mind)
Mr Goenka said that in order for us to fully enter the path of liberation, we should train our mind and sharpen it by continuously doing the Anapana. My practice is more improved and better than day 1, although I am still easily distracted with the noise outside the meditation hall. I noticed that the air passing through my left and right nostrils is more distinct and I can feel the gentle blow of it which creates a perspiring heat on the little area between the upper lip and below the nose It’s amazing how I started becoming aware of this thing which I never bothered giving any thought of before. The one-hour sitting was the challenging part because I frequently urinate and we are not allowed to leave the meditation hall during this one-hour ordeal. I was completely clueless about it on day 2 that I actually left the hall and tiptoed quietly with the feeling of a bladder explosion. I would be peeing my yoga tights right there and then if I don’t excuse myself.
Now by this time, I am eager to conquer myself and remain equanimous. During the afternoon one-hour sitting, I felt my mind is tamer and less agitated. When I feel an ache on my back, I instantly focus my attention on the respiration. I was sitting patiently and persistently and I know I am bound to be successful, totally surrendering on the technique and giving my utmost dedication to remain still despite these mosquitos making a meal on my arms and legs. The discourse at 7 PM is like a dessert being rewarded to us after a series of challenging meditation.
Vipassana: Entering the field of Panya (Wisdom)
Day 4 is considered the most important day of this course. From Day 1 to 3, we practiced Anapana to sharpen the mind in preparation for the Vipassana. I have never felt so much chaos fighting between my mind and my physical being. We were instructed to focus our attention on each part of our body, feeling all the sensations that you come across. It doesn’t matter if it’s pain, or if it’s heat or a tingling sensation. When you encounter such sensations, whether pleasant or unpleasant, just observe objectively, remaining equanimous. The technique is to move from one part of the body to the next and never stay on each part for more than a few minutes. This is applying the law of impermanence. I was soaking wet from sweat and tears coursing down my face from the pain I felt on my upper back and my folded legs. But I am determined to stay in my current position and remain equanimous. For some reason, I felt the need to scream from all the sensations I’m feeling. There were thoughts from the past sneaking in and taunting me, and the next would be thoughts of the future trying to scare the hell out of me, both persistently trying to distract me to stay at the present moment, which makes it really difficult to focus on feeling each part of my body and sharpening the senses. I heard one fellow meditator sniff and sigh, obviously feeling defeated and frustrated. You can just imagine our relief hearing “Anicca” chant from Mr. Goenka signaling the end of the one-hour Adhithana (strong determination sitting)
I was living entirely inside my head since day 1. During free time after our lunch, I just walked along the non-restricted path of the Dhamma Center observing the nature that surrounds me. I felt so blessed to experience such peaceful scenery. Not talking, being away from prying eyes of my relatives and taking a break from the noise of social media is such a relief. Day 5 meditation of Vipassana is much achievable now. In fact, I was able to conquer these sharp pains and remained equanimous for an hour. The white lights I experienced before when I was practicing the Raj yoga somehow appeared again while I was on that peaceful state. This white light means that your mind and soul is both deeply connected and rooted in your body.
Now comes the scanning of the whole body, doing it simultaneously, part by part, piece by piece, focusing on each sensation, whether gross or subtle. As per Mr. Goenka, It is completely alright to be inconsistent with the experience. Day 5 was an accomplishment for me and for some reason, day 6 came out unsuccessful. I was clinging to that feeling I had on Day 5. The ego is surfacing once more, craving for that temporary accomplishment I had. The rule of Vipassana is to stay at the present moment and maintain equanimity, without dwelling on these feelings of craving and aversion.
You appreciate simple pleasures like eating vegetarian food I practiced meditating while eating, closing my eyes and savoring each food on my mouth. I became aware of each burst of flavor in my mouth and the texture of each particle of food. I also observe my movements while eating. I was naturally fast and clumsy, and I suddenly remembered this guy I used to date in Dubai who taught me how to be more ladylike with my movements. Eating without a sound, waiting for him to pull out the chair for me instead of me pulling out the chair for myself, etc, etc. In some ways, this meditation can actually help you to be more refined and more conscious of your actions. My thoughts are full of these things, mind wandering again and remembered to focus on eating my delicious lunch instead of daydreaming. I looked around seeing my fellow meditators also enjoying the delicious food. I watched this girl who ate her lunch in a perfect dreamy state, smiling with shining eyes. I know I shouldn’t stare and we aren’t even allowed to make eye contact but when you don’t have anything to do, you learn to notice every little thing that surrounds you.
When it is our time for the addithana sittings, I came up with a different posture to improve my equanimity. I wanted to challenge myself to remain still this time. No scratching of my arms and legs, no peeking to check out the other meditators, no mind wandering. This day we were asked to do the freeflow, sweeping your energy throughout the body. If you encounter subtle sensations, try to stay there for a few minutes, and then move again to the next part. This can be really challenging and since I am unable to sweep yet, I went back to the method I was doing on Day 6. I practiced this method while I was in my room and I just surrendered totally, not craving of pleasant sensations and not getting frustrated when there are several blind spots which makes it hard to feel the energy throughout my body. I know that it would take a lot of practice for me to get the hang of this.
My obsession with anything that deals with how the mind works made me compare the types of meditation I have learned from the past. Each has its own benefit and I guess it would depend on the individual which would suit him the best. When I was in Dubai, I attended a Sufi whirling meditation (a religious meditative dance performed to express emotion and achieve the wisdom and love of God). It was really an ecstatic experience and I feel like I am one of those whirling dervishes expertly rotating without getting dizzy. I felt like I was in a trance, dancing along with the beautiful Turkish ladies, teaching me how to be graceful without looking like a fool and stumbling on my toes. Another type of meditation I tried is the Raj yoga wherein you get to meditate with your eyes open and focusing your attention to a dot in the middle of a spiral image and listening to a recording of positive affirmations. And then finally, the Silva mind control method, which is a mixture of self-hypnosis, meditation and some elements of NLP, wherein you bring your mind to the alpha state. For ten days you will count backward from 100 to 1 at a 2 seconds pace etc, following with strategic methods on how to reduce and eliminate distractive thoughts and helps you improve your visualization. You see, all these comparisons flowing my brain and somehow, I felt that with all these techniques, Vipassana would be the best method that will work for me because it targets the very root cause of the problem. It’s a “brain surgery” of the unconscious, In the depths of our minds, there’s a sleeping volcano of suppressed’ negativity which, sooner or later, may erupt in a violent explosion. We are all “patients” undergoing this type of surgery for the brain. I was bothered by doubts on Day 8, asking myself if this is right for me because while doing the meditation, all these ugly and hurtful memories that I carefully buried deep in my subconscious somehow resurfaced and I felt so much pain, physically, mentally and emotionally. I felt so exhausted and I wanted to fully understand why do I have to encounter this type of feelings again. I realized I have to face the problem, I guess the Vipassana technique is already working on my psyche. testing my equanimity. Apart from this mental torture, the sweeping part is always being interrupted by the solidified gross sensations I felt on some parts of the body, When I felt it, I get stuck to that part and I would have to start all over again, from the top of my head to the tips of my toes This will be repeated until the addithana is finished.
Day 9 is actually the last day of the noble silence. I was feeling pleasant and positive and was excited again for the evening discourses because we get to rest for an hour and listen to Mr. Goenka’s teachings and stories. His wisdom is logical and non-sectarian. I have learned so much from the discourses since the start of Day 1, highlighting the part about self-observation. Whenever any impunity comes into the mind, our breath loses its normal pace or rhythm. We start breathing heavily whenever negativity comes into the mind Sometimes we feel our heart is getting constricted, making it difficult to breathe. By learning the technique of self-observation, it shows us the reality in two aspects, inner and outer. We only look outward, missing the inner truth. We always looked outside for the cause of our unhappiness and try to change the reality that is happening outside. Mastering this technique will help you live a more balanced and peaceful life, as long as we take action and observe the teachings consistently.
The phenomenon of mind and matter is astonishing. Imagine if we would be able to master it. The world will be an easier place to live.
I would say that this day is a more relaxed one, with lesser meditation hours. We can finally talk now and everyone was so excited and eager to know each other that the chatterings are almost deafening. I guess it’s the after-effects of being silent for a long time. Hearing voices talking all at once feels very heavy in my mind for some reason.
I came to know the backgrounds of some of my fellow meditators. At the Vipssana center, all of us are equal, stripped off our titles and labels. Some of the participants came from other countries and traveled solely for this purpose to experience Vipassana.
Vipassana meditation students for April 2019
After taking up the Vipassana meditation course and lived like a monk for 10 days (and continuing the practice up to present), the space has been cleared and organized in my brain. The constant agitation stopped. The worry hormones are now dissipating one by one. My emotions became more calculated now.
My mind has transformed into an imaginary vehicle and I am the confident driver, able to control the quality and speed of my thinking. Footing the breaks if there’s negativity trying to sneak in.
We get too attached to someone or to something, knowing that the law of impermanence is part of our human existence. You buy a grand majestic house, as time passes it will be rundown and old. You cling to a loved one and love him/her 100 percent with all your heart but the relationship still ended. You earned a title at your job but the law of karma suddenly took action and you found yourself jobless the next day. The result? Pure unhappiness and becoming miserable.
So what do you think is the most important thing that we need to value in this whole human existence?
God and the Universe are what’s more important after all.
The 10-day Vipassana meditation course is free and is donation based. There is no charge for either the teaching or for room and board. All Vipassana courses worldwide are run on a strictly voluntary donation basis. At the end of your course, if you have benefited from the experience, you are welcome to donate for the coming course, according to your volition and your means.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is a Vipassana meditator too
HOW TO GO THERE:
Public transportation directions going to Dhamma Phala::
Dhamma Phala, Barangay San Pedro, Tiaong, Quezon Province
Take a Lucena bound bus at the DLTB Bus Terminal, located at Buendia Avenue, corner Taft Avenue, Manila. From here, the trip to Tiaong will cost under 150 pesos. Beyond Metro Manila’s city limits, the bus will travel down a long stretch of Maharlika Highway,
(landmarks:) through the city of Sto. Tomas, Batangas Province, then through San Pablo, Laguna Province.
At Tiaong, Quezon, the bus will be making a left at the Total gas station to continue on to Lucena City.
Get off the bus at this Total gas station.
Across the street from the Total Gas station is a tricycle queue. Take your first tricycle ride only from the head of this tricycle queue. Tell the driver to take you to Bagong Palengke (30pesos).
At the Bagong Palengke, take your second tricycle ride ONLY from the TODA Banginan tricycle queue. Instruct the driver to take you to Dhamma Phala Meditation Center located at Barangay San Pedro. This second tricycle ride costs 150 pesos. Settle the cost of the fare before you board the tricycle.
If you are with a group of two or three, you will be able to share the fare.
The Dhamma Phala dhamma center, in Barangay San Pedro, will be the big property to your left (red gate). It is not advisable to travel to the Center by bus in the night time.
PRIVATE VEHICLE DIRECTIONS
- From SLEX, continue going south via the STAR Expressway.
- Take LEVISTE/BALETE Exit and turn LEFT on BALETE RD.
- Turn RIGHT on JP LAUREL Highway (CALTEX Gas Station).
- Turn LEFT on STO. TOMAS – LIPA RD. (FIESTA MALL sign on the left)
- Turn LEFT at the end of the road.
- Turn RIGHT on LIPA – ALAMINOS BYPASS RD.
- Turn RIGHT on MAHARLIKA HIGHWAY.
- Take this road all the way to Tiaong.
- After the market in Tiaong, turn RIGHT at BANKO KABAYAN.
- Turn RIGHT again when you see the marker for BRGY SAN PEDRO (across NTN Builders)
- About 100 meters after crossing the bridge, at the Multipurpose Hall of Ayusan I, turn right.
- Take this all the way to Dhamma Phala, at Brgy San Pedro (red, grilled gate).
You may visit Vipassana Meditation Philippines for more information.