Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Vipassana Meditation Experience: Observing the Mind

Continued from: "The Vipassana Meditation Technique and Yoga Philosophy"

Observing the gross reactions of the mind

The first three days everything went very smooth, I didn't have any problem at all, I found it all very easy for me. But the fourth day I started to have so much pain on my butt! actually on my right sitting bone and in just 15 or 10 minutes after sitting down for meditation. It seems that my heaps are not perfectly align so my body would always put more pressure on my right side regardless of which sitting posture I would use. I felt my spine constantly leaning towards the right side and felt how the right back muscles would become more and more tense. This was pretty annoying but I try not to get frustrated by it too much. Well, the main purpose of the Vipassana Technique is to witness all body sensations without having any positive or negative reactions to it. Easier said than done.

The assistant teacher told me that the pain is just a reaction of the mind that doesn't want to remain still and doesn't want to be analyzed. Hmmmm maybe, or maybe it was just because they gave us such horrible cushions to sit on!

Observing the subtle reactions of the mind

The fifth an sixth day I started to experience some more weird uncomfortable things. As soon as I would sit down I would experience strong palpitations on my chest, but not before or after. I also experienced body tremors. Every time that I exhaled the back of my neck would start trembling and my head would shake a little bit, but by regulating my exhalations I was able to control it for some time. I asked the assistant teacher about it and he said that it was just part of the purification of the mind. " It is just the effect of the impurities as anger, anxiety or other negative emotions leaving the mind, just observe them with equanimity, they are impermanent". Very interesting.

I also had a strange reaction with my right hand. I was not able to relax it. When I sit for meditation I always use the Chin Mudra, the hand posture where the hands are resting on the thighs near the knees with the palms facing upwards and the index finger and thumb gently touching each other. Normally when I assume this posture my fingers get locked without any effort, like two magnets attracting each other. But during this vipassana retreat I was not able to keep my right arm and hand relaxed. I would consciously relax it but after a few minutes the mudra would release and my other fingers would move involuntarily because of the tension. I guess that is related to the movement of prana (vital force) within the body.

The best experience: a beautiful clear mind

These subtle body sensations, the tingling, vibration, the feeling of energy flowing through the body or even the dissolution of the body that I did manage to feel once during the retreat didn't surprise me that much. Some people get really excited just by having the sensation of tingling in their fingers but I see all these experiences as nothing but the manifestation of prana.

For me actually one of the best things that I experienced during this retreat was something very simple: a clarity of mind that I rarely have during my meditation practice. It helped me be more aware of how things such as the environment, right food, proper sleeping time and silence can really make a difference. One of the greatest obstacles in my meditation practice is the dullness and drowsiness. Overeating or not having proper rest have a tremendous negative effect on meditation. Even if you are slightly fatigued or tired you wont be able to meditate at all cause you wont be aware when your mind slips away and starts dreaming instead of staying with your object of concentration.

During this retreat I had so much time to witness my mind with full awareness and mental clarity. Is so much easier to note when the mind is distracted and then bring it back to the object of concentration. This experience reminds me that I really need to make more efforts to ensure that I create the proper environment for meditation. But is not an easy task believe me, I love eating and it usually ends in overeating; if you put a TV in front of me I get almost hypnotized and I end going to bed pretty late and tired and just by thinking about writing for my blog I get so excited that I can hardly sleep.

This might be not such an extraordinary discovery, actually we have all experience the effect of the environment in our minds in one way or another, like when you take a walk in the forest or just seat at the beach contemplating the waves. Your mind naturally becomes calm and still. And anybody that has practice even just a bit of meditation knows that practicing meditation in a natural surrounding can make such a big difference. And even at the office... who can work in a dirty disorganized desk? Must people would rather clean their desks before starting any job. And what usually happens after lunch? people just fall sleep over the keyboard. That's why people drink so much coffee at an office work!

Sit in a comfortable crossed leg sitting posture

Another interesting experience. Meditation is always recommended to practice in a crossed leg sitting posture on the floor, if you are flexible enough. You can use a chair but is not the best because the Earth would pull your energy down... or something like that. Anyway, I am pretty used to meditate on the floor but by the 8th day my knees started to give up. I started to have problems while walking or even standing cause my knee cap would get stuck again and again so the ninth day I asked (or rather demanded) for a chair to give a break to my knees. That was a bit embarrassing cause there were not many people sitting in chairs, only very few elders that had clear difficulties for sitting on the floor.

But sitting in the chair was really good for my knees although not good at all for meditation. As soon as I started using the chair my mind felt so heavy, drowsy or restless. I couldn't focus at all although I really try again and again. So later on I decided to go back to the floor and like magic I was able to concentrate on the practice again. No wonder why I always struggle to meditate on flights or airports.


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