The word Vipassana means insight into how things actually are. It comes originally from Sanskrit and refers to a form of meditation taught by the Buddha. He taught that through this practice, you could free yourself of both physical and mental suffering.
Although Vipassana’s roots come from Buddhism, it has no religious affiliation and is an excellent means for anyone of any faith to find inner peace. This is done through observing yourself – both your physical experiences and your thoughts. But this isn’t a form of scanning the body for ailments or emotional release work. The purpose of Vipassana is simply to bring awareness to the body and mind while releasing all judgments, analysis or desire. By observing your body and mind, and becoming aware of their interconnectedness, you can transform your thinking so that you’re more peaceful and accepting of your life.
Vipassana meditation practitioners explain that through this direct experience of observation without judgment, you’ll begin to see how you produce your own suffering. As you watch your mind create suffering, you’ll find the way to free yourself of it. With consistent Vipassana practice, your awareness and self-control increases, and you’re able, in time, to experience a deep and lasting sense of inner peace.
Since the Buddha’s time, Vipassana has been passed down from teacher to student in an unbroken line. The current teacher is Mr. Goenka from Myanmar. Since 1969 he’s taught many thousands of people from all over the world, with assistant teachers now leading ten day retreats in 89 countries.
The retreats are open to anyone. There’s no charge to attend and programs are run by donation from people who’ve completed a 10-day course. Participants must all follow a basic code of discipline while there. This includes no killing, stealing, lying, sex, drugs or alcohol. You can expect to sit in meditation for ten hours a day and are expected to practice Noble Silence throughout the course. You’ll also be asked to abstain from mixing other meditation methods or religious practices during the retreat.
On the last day, everyone focuses their meditations on goodwill and loving kindness toward themselves and all life. The idea is to share the peace and love the group has built with the whole world.
In addition to these retreats, there are also Vipassana Prison programs in nine different countries. The programs have had tremendous success helping inmates find peace and acceptance of their situation.
Attending a Vipassana meditation retreat requires discipline and commitment. For beginners, you can expect the first four days to be the most challenging. This is when your mind and body will want to rebel against the lack of stimulation, the silence and the long hours of sitting still. But if you stick with it – and they expect anyone attending to stick with it – you’ll experience a major difference in the calm and focus of your mind. A difference that can last a lifetime.