I want to start by saying happy 100th note to us all. I started writing in May of 2020, and a year and a half later, I have 100 notes about everything and nothing. Thank you for being part of this journey.
I am assuming my last note about my head dissipating, made few of you uncomfortable. I could imagine the thoughts that crossed your mind after reading it. Thoughts like: “has she totally lost it?”; “her head dissipating? What rubbish!”, or “I am sticking to science, the hell with this new age stuff”. Well, I don’t blame you. My dissertation topic was on evidence-based decision making. I am with you on that…BUT, you’d be surprised to know, that there are several scientific research on how neuroscientists have been studying meditation since the late 1960s. (you can use Google Scholar to pull peer-reviewed papers on this topic). Apparently, these types of research started when the Dalai Lama was invited to Harvard University for the first time. I can’t imagine how a scientific and evidence-based culture like neuroscience, can have any dialogue about a wonder, like meditation. I mean their practitioners speak two different languages.
Ironically, based on some of these research papers, the similarities between the two phenomena are far greater than their differences. For instance, both entities know, humans face millions of stimuli from within and outside of our bodies every second of the day; even when we are sleeping. They both understand that these stimuli, can either awaken pleasurable or painful emotions and sensations in us. Now, the difference lies in how we react to these sensations, and most likely the subject of the study of the Neuroscientist. I believe, science, hopes to find a shortcut to heal the soul and perhaps interject external remedies on how a person reacts to these stimuli. On the other hand, meditation, especially Vipassana as taught by. S.N. Goenka, aims to shift the responsibility to heal or how we react to every stimulus; back to us. This intention requires a calm and concentrated mind, which would lead to self-awareness and a deep understanding of our mind-body relation.
Until last night, I was going to write my main takeaway from Vipassana teachings, was to not react to any stimuli, and simply observe it with equanimity. What an impossible task… Curiously, last night, before I started writing this note about my main lesson; I had a melt-down with my family over something that was bothering me for a while. It had been a long time since I lost my cool with them. But last night, I lost it. (I call it mental hijack, where all the mindfulness practices, simply flew out of the window)
You probably want all the juicy details…Well, all I can share is that I was tolerating an undeserved behavior for a long time. Based on my spiritual beliefs, and recent Vipassana training, I wanted to practice equanimity and hoped time would heal wounds and perhaps… behaviors would self-correct. But by simply observing and not reacting, my hurt and suffering did not diminish. The more I tolerated, the worst the behavior became.
So, this morning, I had to rethink my main takeaway from this ten-day training. By simply being a doormat and allowing things to happen to you, you are not being spiritual or mindful. I remembered that Mr. Goenka also talked about the unpleasant feelings that some stimuli may develop. These feelings can brew storms in you and cause you to lose control. This brings me to my other take away… Anicca or impermanence… As Thich Nhat Hanh said: “Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible.”
You see, while exercising equanimity, if, I had focused on the impermanence of these unpleasant feelings, I would have never lost my cool last night. So as Mr. Goenka mentioned in his last discourse, equanimity and impermanence are the two wheels of a wheelbarrow to help us not react. Both are needed equally to observe objectively and lead us to less suffering.
What I loved about Vipassana and Mr. Goenka’s teaching, was its concrete structure, unambiguous teachings, and proven path. Furthermore, the system has been practiced for thousands of years, and for the past 25 years within prisons located in Brazil, Canada, India, Israel, Mongolia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Taiwan, Thailand, United Kingdom, and the United States. If you are interested on how Vipassana has helped inmates, watch this documentary: https://youtu.be/WvU9Hz6fi40
Look folks, as the old Sufi proverb states: “There are as many paths to God (AKA self-realization) as there are souls on earth." So please rest assured, I am not here to sell the vipassana technique. (Just as an FYI, all courses are free since it’s an all-volunteer run organization.) Vipassana is one of the many tools available to help minimize our suffering. I dedicated five of my notes to this experience, because I believe it’s a great tool to get to know yourself better. Giving yourself the time to self-discovery, is a priceless gift that you will never regret. I know I will not regret these ten days. Thank you, Mr. Goenka and all the volunteers, at the North Fork, California vipassana meditation center.
“May all beings be happy, peaceful, and liberated” -S.N. Goenka