The first time I heard about a 10-day silent retreat, I reacted with tremendous intrigue and lots of resistance. Thinking how challenging it would be to stay totally isolated from the outside world, disconnected from technology, and fully committed to be sitting in silent meditation for some good 11 hours a day.
It took me a couple of years to actually be ready and find the way towards the Vipassana meditation retreat…
The most confronting and transformative experience of my life.
The first 3 days are really hard, as the nervous system starts to adapt to be sitting still at 4:30 am in the meditation hall for two hours. Eating vegetarian food twice a day, while practicing noble silence: no eye contact, no body language or any kind of communication with the other meditators. No reading, no writing, no distractions whatsoever. The center itself has no Buddha images or statues, no candles or incense, nothing that could suggest even the slightest mind-trapper.
One of the most important concepts to learn is finding perfect equanimity of the mind. A way of self-transformation through self-observation, becoming totally detached from the old mental pattern of identifying the self with pleasant or unpleasant sensations, from a never-ending-wave of cravings and aversions. This applies to absolutely everything in life, as we tend to have an insane, unstoppable and instant reaction towards all matter. Habitually altering reality, instead of accepting it just the way it’s manifesting every single moment, and not as we would like to be.
Cultivating Dhamma is to find peace of mind, harmony of the heart and full awareness of the body. Embracing the wisdom of Nature, in each and every breath, arising and passing away.
Mind precedes everything; mind matters most. Whatever one experiences throughout life is nothing but the product of one’s own mind. If one speaks or acts with an impure mind, suffering will follow, even as the wheel follows the hoof of the ox.
…If one speaks or acts with a pure mind, happiness follows like an inseparable shadow.
As described by the Vipassana organization:
Dhamma (Sanskrit, Dharma) means phenomenon; object of mind; nature; natural law; law of liberation, i.e., teaching of an enlightened person.
The technique taught by S.N. Goenka represents a tradition that is traced back to the Buddha. The Buddha never taught a sectarian religion; he taught Dhamma—the way to liberation— which is universal.
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 2,500 years ago, who taught it as a universal remedy for universal ills—an “art of living.”
The process of purification of the mind can only be learned on an experiential level, so I strongly suggest to find your own way to be determined and get a spot (there’s always an extended waiting list) and try it for yourself.
Here’s the link to apply for any of the centers around the world: https://www.dhamma.org/en-US/index
In the end, the teachings of Gautama Buddha are about becoming truly free and happy, sharing our peace and harmony towards all living beings.
We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.