Vipassana Diary : Taming the Mind

They say that the key role in achieving progress in any sphere is played by the mind. Mind is the forerunner of all that we are. It is the mind that makes and shapes our character and it is the mind that creates our destiny.

Vipassana meditation involves control of mind and mind is most unruly and fickle. This 10 day Vipassana course is designed to master the vagrant tendencies of this mind in a step by step process.

Days 1-3, saw us clearing the mind and sharpening the focus. Through recorded audio, which had chants and step by step instructions, we were to just sit cross legged on the floor (with lots of cushions) and watch ourselves while focussing our mind on an object. Yeah, just that. Sounds easy and simple. But it’s far from that.

On Day 1, I found myself fidgeting a lot and trying hard to find a comfortable position that wouldn’t give me a backache or that tingling sensation in the legs. And when I would be comfortable for a few minutes, and get to the task of focussing on an object, the mind raced in different directions like a wild stallion. It was like kaleidoscope of memories flashing by. But thankfully, we were allowed to let our mind wander, because thoughts will never disappear, we need to let them come and go. So, as soon as the realization hits that the mind had wandered, we were to come back and focus our mind once again on the object.  By the end of Day 1, I thought, I wouldn’t be able to calm my agitated mind. But by second half of Day 2, I had better focus and by Day 3, I was happy with my progress.

On Day 4, we learnt the technique. It was an Aha! moment when I experienced the subtle sensations throughout the body. Day 5-9 saw us getting deeper into the meditation technique and refining it with continuous and persistent efforts and practice. During this time, Adhitthana sittings were introduced. It is sitting for one hour with strong determination to not change posture or open the eyes. And this was practiced 3 times a day.

I think this was the toughest part of the course. To keep the eyes closed and to keep the hands and feet in the same position for an hour was pure torture. It was ok to sit still and focus on the mediation technique for the first half an hour or so. The next 15 minutes were sheer hell. Various body parts would be stiff and the urge to give up was so high. During the last 15 minutes, I would believe that the teachers had forgotten that it was time to wind up the session. And then in the last 5 minutes, the chants would start and that was the time of pure bliss, for I knew that my misery is going to get over soon. The theory behind this is to remain equanimous no matter how one feels. So while my knees and back were hurting like hell, I had to observe the pain with my mind but not get attached to the pain.

By Day 8, I got better at Adhitthana sittings and was less fidgety and more at peace. I was no longer waiting for the hour or the pain to end, but rather accepted it. And that had a calming effect.

On Day 10, after the morning sessions, we were allowed to speak and end our noble silence. There were smiles and happy chatter all around, as we introduced ourselves to our silent companions of 10 days (mind you, only women folk… men and women were not allowed to mingle or chat even on Day 10), and shared our experiences, our horror stories and our observations.  We laughed so much that day. I called home and spoke to every one at home and skimmed through the hundreds of emails and whatsapp messages. And soon it was time to get back to the afternoon meditation. Oh my, it was so tough to concentrate as the mind was busy responding to mails or thinking about things to do and action plans… so much so that I believed that I had forgotten the technique. But in the evening discourse, we were told that it was a natural outcome and that’s how it would be when we go back to our regular lives.

By the end of Day 10, I had not become enlightened like The Buddha, but yes, realized how misguided I was in many aspects of my life. I understood why I behaved in certain ways. I became aware of the inner monologue and disguised thoughts that kept running in my head. I realized that I had work on many aspects of my life and relationships, and that I have a lot to be thankful…

How did I cope up with No Talking, No Reading rule? Did I break some rules? What did I learn from these 10 days of solitude? All about this and much more in the subsequent chapters of the Vipassana Diary. Stay tuned…

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41 thoughts on “Vipassana Diary : Taming the Mind

  1. Bravo! You actually took such a tough course that I dread taking. My dad had taken up a Vipassna course long ago, and he tells me even eye contact was prohibited. Although, I look forward to spiritual enlightenment of all kinds, keeping mum for so long is something that spooks me! Look forward to reading more on this.

    • Yes, they have tough rules and regulations. In fact they state it very clearly that only those who feel that they can honestly and scrupulously follow the discipline should apply for admission.
      I think, not talking is pretty easy if you set your heart and mind on it! 😉

    • Agree, it’s not an easy course. You have to really work hard at not only learning the technique for long hours but follow the discipline too! Thanks for reading, Lata, glad that you are liking the posts in this series!

  2. Sounds fascinating! I have never done meditation, I get so distracted and I have never been to a course ever. However, I am interested to learn more about what happened during the course and your insights. Definitely following the series, thank you for sharing 🙂

    • It was my first time at learning a meditation technique too. Yes, our minds are known for wandering in a million directions, but the idea is to calm this very wild mind! 🙂
      Thanks for reading, Priya!

    • That happens sometimes 😀 We would hear somebody snore sometimes! Yes, the pain is what we have to endure and accept. It’s tough initially, but you get used to it later!
      Thanks Shalini!

  3. Well done Shilpa for getting through it! In yoga we have to hold various postures while breathing – it is sometimes so so hard. Never for an hour though 🙂 But practicing detachment from the pain and allowing thoughts and feeling to come and go, come and go, come and go … is the way to go.
    I look forward to further chapters thank you
    susan scott recently posted…Praying MantisMy Profile

    • Thank you Susan! 🙂
      You have expressed the aspect of pain so beautifully. The Vipassana meditation centres on experiencing reasonable pain and learning to be detached from it, eventually transcending the pain and developing a high level of awareness. And that’s how we move from pain to peace.
      Appreciate your visits and inputs, Susan ♥

    • Initially, it is tough, but later on sitting for one hour without moving becomes a wonderful experience. It is like body is asleep, mind is awake!! Thanks Parul.

    • You must go for it, Shailaja and I am sure you will come out of it with flying colours! Yes, stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new can be a very exhilarating and a satisfying experience. I am addicted to my gadgets and these 10 days, I didn’t even think about them. And usually we have this FOMO, but interestingly I realized that I had not missed anything on social media, actually. 🙂

  4. This sounds like torture. Slooooow, excruciating torture.

    That said, there’s much to gained by learning to calm the inner monologue and focus on a single thought or task.

    And I am expert at “the Corpse Pose” in Yoga. It’s about the only one I do well at all, but I’m told I’m absolutely amazing at it. Seriously – like, from people who teach Yoga classes. I can’t “clear my mind of all thoughts,” but I can reach a state almost instantly where you could probably poke me with a pin and I wouldn’t notice. I’d be too busy traveling some awesome place in my mind. That little bell, though, drives me nuts. Can’t quite ignore that.

    • Hahaha! Holly, I love your sense of humor!
      You are spot on, it truly is “slooooow, excruciating torture” but totally worth it. Good to see you at this space 🙂

  5. Kudos shilpa…..Glad you did this…I did a much similar one at AOL, Bangalore……much needed for most of us in today’s world. Helps us to connect within…As i was reading your post, even i could feel that subtle sensations…can’t wait for the next post.
    Asha Bala recently posted…When memories ran amok…My Profile

    • Agree with you, with the stressful and hectic pace of life that we lead, we need something to unwind the mind. Thanks for joining me in this journey, Asha. Will share the next post soon!

    • True that. Vipassana is truly a life changing experience, provided you practice it daily. It brings about subtle changes which make a big difference in our life. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read this, Swapna!

  6. I was smiling away reading this post;) the one hour is sitting still is really a tough one and I found it extremely difficult and could never sit still and would be swinging almost:) somehow managed and yes the last days meditation ending the noble silence was very good, as we meet a lot of people and share the experience. Controlling the mind was another big challenge, I would run to the guru to tell how I am struggling to control, and he would smile and say just observe and let the thoughts come and it will go by itself 🙂 🙂

    • It is so wonderful to know your experience, Genevive. Like you, I asked so many questions to my teacher and she would just smile and tell me that it was all normal and I just need to go with the flow and follow the technique. Are you practicing it daily still? When did you learn it first? Do share!

  7. To be honest, I have lost touch with this art now. But definitely some learnings are always for life long. I have learnt to follow the middle path which Buddha speaks about. I have lost the balance despite worst situations in my life. I always like to learnt new skills and in the process tried other forms of meditation, I learnt sudarshan kriya from the Art of Living group who had a one week course for women. Then later on there was another camp near my residence, which was a combination of yoga and meditation from the patanjali group which was two years ago and i am continuing with that. But foundation of sitting for a long time, i gained from vipassana and the sharing love, peace, harmony to everything in the universe and all living beings, was also something I do practice at the end of my meditation. I still like their concept and enjoyed all the 10 days discourse by Goenkaji, picked up books and shared and recommended my husband to learn, he is process – went twice and practices it. When I was reading your post,I felt very happy and some time I hope to get back to this meditation.

    • Wow! You are truly moving on the spiritual path, Genevive. You are awe-inspiring! No wonder, you come across as so sorted and calm person! And your husband has done it too. That’s wonderful. It’s so good to know about your experience. Thanks for sharing ♥

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