Every once in a while it just so happens to get to a point of focusing on things thinking they make us progress when they actually bring us down. That's where I was about a month ago when I reached a state of heavy mental stress and frustration that I kept generating for no reason.
For a long time I had been longing for a real vacation where doing nothing and abandoning myself to whatever-ness would be the main priority. But even so a self made plan wouldn't have worked. Even going to the beach or the mountains or to any other vacation place you still have to face a lot of frustrations: driving, dealing with other tourists (who in the meantime have to deal with you!), paying expensive accommodations and restaurants, and that's only the tip of the iceberg.
Out of suggestion of my beloved partner, I decided to join her in a 10-days meditation course in a beautiful and peaceful place in the Appenini mountains between Florence and Bologna. What we were in for was a hard core practice that would revolutionize my entire inner and eventually outer self.
This technique is called Vipassana and has already been spread throughout the world during the last 30 years thanks to Burma teacher S.N. Goenka. Vipassana is the original technique used by Siddartha Gautama - the Buddha - to teach how to meditate in order to attain liberation and live a happy and peaceful life. The technique has been brought to us absolutely intact from generation to generation of Burma meditators during the past 2500 years.
The routine is pretty heavy especially for somebody who, like me, took this course for the first time: 10 to 12 hours of daily meditation waking up at 4am; 2 meals a day, complete silence for the whole course, no reading, writing or listening to music. The philosophy behind this is very simple and efficient. I'll try to explain it in my own words.
Every time one of our senses receives an information we have a biochemical reaction that defines either aversion or desire. By reacting we create impurities that manifest within our body, resulting in an outstanding accumulation of them in this life as well as in past lives. This makes us miserable and unfocused. This understood, everyone is therefore trained to first observe their own breathing for the first 3 days. After that you are asked to observe every subtle or gross sensation around the body following a specific pattern. When observing these feelings it is very important to maintain absolute equanimity and objectivity. Feeling and observing without reacting, keeping in mind the law of impermanence: no feeling stays for ever and for that matter, nothing stays forever, it is a law of nature.
Once established in the technique one is ready to face life in society and apply the same method in daily experiences. Things happen and we observe, we don't get involved positively or negatively, we just watch. We also watch our natural reaction (or better say the reaction we were used to have in front of a particular event), without judging it and noticing our behavioral pattern.
A deeper and more accurate explanation by Goenka:
It's been a few days out of the course now and I have to say that the technique really works. As an impulsive and reactive person by nature I'm definitely getting less affected and more detached and I'm able to taste the beauty of life for what it is: simple. I find more time for my practices and still have spare time. Of course it is very important, once the course is finished, to maintain the discipline of meditating every day. This helps to relax after a stressful day, to be inspired with new ideas and to calm down when facing unpleasant situations.
For more detailed information on courses, technique, history and other interesting issues please visit the international Vipassana website http://www.dhamma.org.
Hope someone would try this after reading my experience! BHAVATU SABBA MANGALAM