This is Part II of a three part article, “Vipassana – the path to freedom”.
For Part II, keep reading.
~ PART II ~
Vipassana & Your Sensation Station
Do you ever feel a sort of anxiety that comes from nowhere? Does it ever creep up on you and then make a dramatic appearance in a big argument or by snapping at someone?
Negative (and untrue) habitual thoughts (ex: “I don’t have enough and I’ll never have enough”, “I don’t deserve this”, or “I’m not enough”) really depress the mood, beginning with the thinker of the thoughts and continuing through those he or she interacts with. Thought patterns like this don’t feel good when we think them and there’s good reason for that.
There’s a not-so-secret “secret” our Western culture is steadily catching onto: thoughts that feel good must be true to one as a a human-spiritual being (why else would they feel good?) and thoughts that feel bad are not true (why else would the mind & body be trying to push against them with negative emotions?).
The “feelings” I am referring to above are felt in the body almost by a kind of sixth sense; the Intuition sense, or gut feeling. When I say ‘feel’, I mean feeling the subtle emotions that our bodies are communicating to us through the chemicals in our bodies as we think and act.
Easier said than done, right? Those suckers are subtle, and some change as quickly as the wind.
And here’s where Vipassana comes back in. As the technique teaches to feel the sensations in our bodies and train the mind and body out of blindly reacting to them, it is also simultaneously teaching us to be aware of our bodies, the vessels that help translate the messages we get from our Intuition.
Now, everyone has their own truth, and a thought or message from our bodies that feels good to me may not feel good to you, but still, every thought falls within the guidance of our Emotional Guidance System – or Intuition – something that directs each of us individually through life in all moments as we pay attention to our feelings and emotions and where they are leading us.
It sounds far-fetched to your everyday, Western-cultured ‘realist’, but science has now caught up to the fact that this mind-body connection is the method for human development and is the reason for the successful evolution this world has seen.
To lend an example, think about eating for a minute. Why are we drawn to certain types of food, and repulsed by others? Why do we have cravings for specific foods during specific times of the day or month? By signaling our minds, our bodies can get the proper nutrition and sustenance it needs to be as successful as possible in a given present environment.
Maybe you love doughnuts and you’re thinking, “but doughnuts don’t make me successful”. It’s so important to be aware of our bodies so that we can hear the messages our Intuition is sending us, rather than our pre-conditioned minds to more accurately feel what is best for us.
When one trains his or her body to be felt more deeply and fully, then he or she is training to feel more deeply and fully a guidance system that will lead them wherever they want to go. Because with that Emotional Guidance System comes everything that we want.
Stay with me here.
If our emotions lead us from one spot to another and if good thoughts equal good feelings, then it makes sense that using our emotions, our bodies and minds are signaling us to eat this not that, go here not there, do this not that, etc., taking into account our wishes and desires of all sizes along the way to get exactly what we want and need to survive and thrive. The same things goes for our conscious desires and needs, like love and sex and enough monetary things to sustain ourselves, physically and emotionally, to the degree we believe it.
Our Emotional Guidance Systems prompts each of us everywhere we desire to go, but each of us individually are the ones who must take the steps to go where it wants us to go. Sometimes, listening is as easy as hearing your stomach growl and going for some food. And sometimes, it’s not so easy to listen. Sometimes our bodies send us signals we have been ignoring for years, making it much more difficult to ‘hear’.
Clarity of Mind, Body, & Spirit
As explained throughout the course, what we put into our bodies has a lot to do with what we reap from them. If our input is “dirty” foods and substances filled with preservatives, chemicals, and other processed junk, then our output will be a “dirty”, or cluttered mind, making it much more difficult to feel the sensations we need to feel for a more successful life. As within, so without.
By spending a silent week and a half in the course, being fed quality and tasty vegetarian meals and living life outside of the chaos of the outer world, one can train his or herself and literally physically rewire the brain to communicate clearly and more effectively with his or her Intuition.
When one is focused, aligned, has a clear head, and feels good, concepts that are complex seem easy and simple. Things that are too fast seem slowed down. When one is in alignment with his or her Intuition, the feelings are positive, the thoughts that come feel good, and without other emotions and worries to distract, things just seem to work out well as a result of such a clear mindset.
Balanced Mind = Balanced Life
Another component about the course which proves to be one of the most useful tools I have learned is equanimity, which I understand now as calm and balance of the mind. As we work with this skill more and more, just like a muscle, with time we learn to be increasingly calm and have a collected mind in every situation, good and bad.
While meditating during the course, thoughts come and go. Many times, what comes up are Sankharas (simply translating as: “that which has been put together”), or blind reactions to events we have unconsciously “put together” in our subconscious minds that can be released simply by observing it, knowing the truth that everything is always changing; this too shall pass.
Many times throughout the course I would have moments of blissful insight while sitting, or memories I had long forgotten from when I was a kid. After observing and releasing thoughts and reactions to several previous life events, I could physically feel my relief all over my body. I took this as a good sign and those ah-ha moments and blissful insights were great motivation for me to keep going in the course, especially when I felt I couldn’t finish the first day.
By feeling sensations in the body and not reacting when they come up, we retrain our brains, creating new neural pathways; new ways neurons (nerve cells) wire together, resulting in new thought patterns.
Through this process we retrain our brains to observe what comes and let it pass only by observing. The same can be done for any situation in life, but by sitting still and experiencing internal sensations that we train ourselves not to react to, we start in the kiddie pool, rather than the deep end with ‘real life’ and ‘real life’ situations.
As the course teaches, the wisdom of knowing everything is always changing in every moment helps us realize the true nature of reality and everything that happens in life.
Misery is often caused by feeling powerless to circumstances we can’t control, but by understanding that everything always changes, and by experiencing this law of nature through first-hand experience (through repeated observation of always-changing sensations within the body), rather than just intellectual knowledge, we allow our bodies, and therefore minds, to accept this fact quicker and more efficiently by creating physical cell memory of it.
During the course, we are told to accept the teachings that feel true for us and leave what doesn’t. The technique teaches a lot about peace and kindness, so it’s hard to argue a lot of the points our teacher, Goenka, mentions, but some parts of the teachings are definitely different than what most of us were taught in our Western-style schools. In fact, I don’t really recall there being a class for emotional intelligence in public school…
Vipassana in Practice
About a month after one full 10 day course I feel calmer, less reactive, more peaceful, more motivated for life, clearer and more connected in mind and body, more able to feel sensations both internally and externally, and more connected to the world around me. Actually, putting these effects into words seems like such a joke, because these benefits have changed my inner world completely, in an amazing way.
Words just can’t explain it right. After this course I feel better able to gracefully handle the world and everything in front of me, death included.
At the risk of sounding like a total fruit cake, it feels like I have stumbled upon some sort of Heaven on Earth, an art of living I didn’t realize really existed. I share all of this because it’s a way, no, an art of living meant for anyone who wants to take the steps to get there.
Though sometimes I’ll still have bad moments or days when I’ve forgotten myself and gripe and groan about something petty, it’s a long process retraining our brains and I’m consistently enjoying changing my reactions to things to be a happier, kinder, more thoughtful, and successful person.