I have been trying to learn meditation for a long time.I have tried so many techniques but could never understand why I have to focus on breath or focus on sensations. Whenever I asked someone to explain me ‘What is meditation’,I usually got answers for the question ‘What are the benefits of meditation?’. People talk about increased concentration, focus and less stress. I could get these benefits playing with my kids or actively pursuing a sport etc and so, these explanations were not convincing.
My father taught Yoga to us when we were very young and he has been religiously practicing it till today for 2 hrs daily for the last 30 years along with meditation. My father, in spite of being in government service in India, worked hard including weekends. But my mother, a housewife, worked harder than my father in every aspect and she worked 24x7x365 for 16 hours a day. Being the first person to wake up and the last person to go to bed, she dedicated her life to serve her husband and 3 boys.But she never did meditation or yoga or any of these things that help people to relax. Her relaxation was in her work. Her relaxation happened during the day when she was still working.She is mentally very strong, never complained about anything, never scared of anyone and is brutally honest.
At one point, I started questioning whether meditation is an escape route for people like my father and I even asked this question to a Senior Executive,who came in as a guest speaker, when he recommended the Global Leadership Fellows to meditate regularly.
I recently completed a Vipassana Meditation course through Dhamma Sumeru in Switzerland. I learned about Vipassana through a book called ‘Holycow’ and have been wanting to do it just for the experience. My wife, who never likes when I travel for work, surprised me when she asked me to apply for the course in Switzerland. Vipassana meditation involves 10 days of noble silence where one cannot talk, use a phone, read or write and even make eye contact with fellow students. Below is the course schedule and how a day looks like during the course
This course and the teacher, the late SN Goenka-ji answered every question I had about meditation and that too in a convincing and scientific fashion.What was challenging is the posture – cross legged in Indian style — and meditating for approximately 10 – 11 hrs every day. Even for an Indian guy like me who is used to sitting cross legged at school and home growing up in India, it was quite difficult for the first 2-3 days.I was amazed by all my western batch mates who might have never sat cross legged in their lives, in spite of the pain and discomfort, were fully committed and went through the ordeal during the 10 days.
The food, accommodation and the course is completely free.On the second day, I went to take a quick nap but the thought that someone has donated to cover all these expenses made me to jump out of bed and get back to work, meditation. I understood the power of ‘free’ provided the space and the context are so compelling.
Vipassana means seeing things as they really are.It sounds simple but it is extremely hard as our lenses are conditioned by our beliefs, assumptions and mental models. Freeing ourselves from this conditioning through silent observation of the body-mind construct and moving step by step from focusing on the breath to focusing on the sensations in the framework of the body moves one closer to seeing the reality.
My understanding of meditation – It is a process of developing harmony between mind and body to stay in equanimity in spite of the vicissitudes of life. Equanimity is the middle path between aversion and craving. We all crave for tasty food, experiences,material possessions etc and we are averse to negative experiences in life. An equanimous mind can be developed through good inputs to the body and mind (balanced food, exercise and nourishing thoughts) and constantly, connecting to the human construct through meditation.
Meditation is not an escape route but rather it forces one to commit deeply to the approach and detach oneself from the outcomes.It is about staying committed and staying detached which is in a way an important leadership quality. It shifted my orientation from rights to duty and how to move myself from always trying to be in the ‘center of things’ happening in my life.
I have been able to practice regularly after my return and am really enjoying the discipline,intensity and detachment.I have given up eggs and became a full vegetarian. My intake has reduced, my observation of my self has improved and I am doing my duty to the best of my abilities without expectations.This is one of the best gifts I got in my life and I am grateful to my wife for giving me this gift. I am grateful to the organizers who selflessly serve and offer this 10 day course along with the accommodation and food for free.
I strongly recommend this course to everyone and may all beings be happy. To learn more, Please check the following link: https://www.dhamma.org/en/about/vipassana