Last Monday I returned from a transformative 10 days on a silent retreat at the International Meditation Centre, in Chippenham. My second time doing such a practise, I already knew what to expect. However nothing could be prepare me for the profound shifts that occurred during my time there.
Vipassana, as the technique is traditionally called, is a meditation practise established by Buddha himself. The practise allows an individual to experience first hand the impermanence of our reality through observing the ever changing sensations in our body. By understanding that everything is in a constant state of flux, we can release ourself from the bondage of suffering.
Buddha believed that the root of all suffering stems from our craving for material possessions or sensuous desire. This idea that we need these things to find happiness is a misconception, and it is through the experience of Vipassana that we can all come to understand this on a much deeper level.
Upon arriving at the retreat each guest is asked to make a pledge of noble silence, and agree to follow at least 5 codes of moral conduct during the course of their stay. These moral codes include restraining from:
- harming living things
- taking what is not given
- sexual misconduct
- lying or gossip
- taking intoxicating substances eg drugs or drink
The Five Hindrances
Buddha believed that there are five hindrances that prevent us from living a healthy and happy life. They are as follows:
- Sensuous Desire
- Ill Will
This was a real wake up call for me. I finally really grasped the meaning of some of these teachings. Therefore the only thing really standing in my way from having the life I’ve always dreamed of is my own mindset. So simple and yet so tricky to overcome. It was a realisation that if we all can master these aspects within ourselves we are truly on the road to Nirvana.
Now of course, when you have the luxury of meditating for 9 hours a day in the confines of a retreat centre you easily have the understanding of how easy it all is, but it is truly only when you return home that the real work starts. Staying centred and balanced when you’re back in everyday life is the ultimate goal, and something that will take some commitment, but I feel motivated to introduce this technique as part of my daily meditation practise going forward.
Five days on and I’m doing ok, feeling very clear minded and grounded. I really like the way I feel right now, and have seen some amazing developments in my life since returning home which is confirmation that I’m on the right track.
The Noble Eightfold Path
Buddha believed that living a life with loving kindness, compassion, clear mindedness and with equanimity would lead to the goal. He elaborates on this via his Noble Eightfold path or put another way, the path leading to the extinction of suffering. In this path he lists out 8 actions that are split out into 3 categories:
- Morality (as listed above via the moral codes)
- Tranquility of Mind
It is through practising the Vipassana technique for yourself that you begin to understand this idea about wisdom first hand. Buddha taught that without experiencing the technique within the confines of the human body, absolutely nothing will change.
Intellectually we all know that doubt and worry are illusions, and are an unnecessary part of life. However despite this we still allow these thoughts to continue to control our lives. The more one is attached to this idea of self, the greater is the suffering. In observing the constant change of particles within our body we realise that both mind and matter are not at a constant, and therefore we are not at a constant either. In realising this for ourselves we can release the bondage of the concept of I, Me or Mine.
The one big takeaway I took from this retreat was that everything is a reflection of what is going on on an energetic level. If everything really is energy as I had experienced, then anything that wasn’t in tune with pure love was going to reflect that back to me in my everyday environment. Similar to the concept of the Law of Attraction, like attracts like. With the Vipassana technique you realise that negative thoughts and emotions create a different sensation in your body than positive. This idea that what we transmit out, comes back to us at the same exact frequency is nothing new, but it is through feeling it for yourself that you truly understand.
A 10 day silent retreat at the International Meditation Centre takes place once a month on a donation basis only. I cannot recommend the experience enough.