This week I have been revisiting the valuable tools I learned through Vipassana Meditation. Vipassana is considered the form of meditation Buddha used to attain enlightenment. It is a simple, but profound practice of focusing on the breath and sensations of the body.
The practice was lost for hundreds of years, eventually reintroduced on a global scale by a man from Burma, Goenka. He began 10-day Vipassana meditation courses for sentient beings to learn the practice. The amazing thing is: it is all run by donation.
When you arrive, you are treated exactly the same way as every other person there. You are given a simple bed and 3 meals a day. Without the thought, "I paid for this, therefore everything should be a certain way," we dampen the ego and use the time on retreat as if we were a monk - with all our food and lodging provided.
I sat my Vipassana course in Dharamkot, India, a village just north of the Dalai Lama's temple 2 years ago. The first few days of the retreat solely focused on the breath.
The breath is considered the vehicle to better understand the voluntary and involuntary functions of the body. By tuning into the breath we come in closer connection to all the functions of the involuntary body (our heartbeat and other organs that continue to work without our mind consciously telling them to).
After focusing the mind through the breath to a single pointed focus, awareness is then brought to sensations. The idea is, as humans, we experience craving to pleasurable sensations and aversion to painful sensations. However, there is no way around experiencing both. Our job through the practice is to become a witness to both of them, and simply watch.
Whether a painful or pleasurable sensation arises, we learn through the body, it eventually passes away. By having a direct experience of this impermanence on a physical and cellular level, we can have a greater understanding of the nature of life.
Everything is impermanent, especially the body. The body is continually dying and renewing itself on a cellular level. When we understand impermanence within ourselves, we let go of our strong attachments to the things and people around us and eventually to the strongest attachment of all: life itself.