The mind body benefits of meditation are numerous and people the world over are discovering more and more about this.
In particular the ages old eastern tradition of Vipassana meditation has recently seen a revival of sorts. The word ‘Vipassana’ may be translated as “seeing deeply” since it is largely understood as being insight meditation.
Vipassana meditation dates back to the times of Gautama Buddha, but saw a revival some decades ago though the efforts of S. N. Goenka who found that mainstream medicine could offer no panacea for being stressed and overworked.
In the event he turned to the ancient tradition of Vipassana which the Buddha used to reach enlightenment. So Vipassana meditation as we understand and practice it today was developed by S. N. Goenka.
Vipassana meditation is different from other forms of meditation in that it brings about not only calm and relaxation of the body and mind, but goes several steps further. It seeks to strengthen concentration so as to allow greater insight.
This insight will help a person understand the source of his or her disturbance so that a resolution of the problem can be achieved. Using Vipassana meditation and one can successfully prevent such disturbances from occurring again.
In many places Vipassana meditation courses are offered for the duration of 10 days, which is a sort of meditation boot camp. It would be a mistake to think of the practice of Vipassana as being some sort of spa retreat – this is an austere and difficult course which can be deeply meaningful.
The Vipassana meditation course is usually gender segregated with separate dorms for men and women and there is central importance of silence in this practice of meditation.
It can be difficult and it can be disconcerting that there is a complete absence of speech but it is this that makes it possible for one to introspect and get in touch with one’s thoughts and feelings as well as inner pain.
The idea is to become free of negativity and free of anger. There is no escape from the negativity that we have trapped within ourselves; the only solution is to face it.
Looking a problem – a mental impurity – straight in the face helps to make that problem insignificant and to make it lose its power over you.
This practice makes it possible for a person to recognize the transience of those problems and to detach from them and the power they have over a person.
At the end of the ten days comes welcome laughter when ‘noble silence’ transforms into ‘noble chatter’.
There are prescribed exercises including walking, and prescribed meals and meal timings.
At the end of this first course of 10 days, one moves beyond the ‘beginner’ tag and may once again do Vipassana meditation, this time in a more advanced capacity. As a returning student of Vipassana one would typically undertake even more austerity and abstinence.