Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Doing Time Doing Vipassana
In 1998 Vipassana meditation found me at exactly at the right time in my life. I had pinched a nerve in my neck and was in extreme pain for months on end. One night I was flicking channels on the TV and stopped on a movie on PBS, Called, Doing Time Doing Vipassana, it was about a prison in India that was using a ancient meditation technique to help the prisoners rehabilitate. I enjoyed the movie and the story about the prison warden trying to rehabilitate the prisoners using vipassana, and the descriptions from the prisoners about the vipassana course, but what caught my attention was at the end of the meditation course, was how relaxed the prisoners body language was, you could see the physical affects from the meditation course. At the end of the movie their was a website address that I scribbled on a piece of paper and threw it on my desk. Weeks later still in pain and depressed, I found the piece of paper and went on the website. I found out it's ten days long, no charge or pre-donation, and there is a meditation center in North Fork CA, so I signed up never having done any meditation in my life. When I got there I had no idea what I got myself into, how hard it is going to be, or how much this was going to change my life, my views and my belief system.
The first four days were the hardest for me, they teach you a technique call ana pana, you observe your breathing and focus your mind on the area between your upper lip and nose. My mind was always drifting off and it was a constant battle concentrating on the meditation. After four days your mind quiets down and you are ready for the vipassana technique.
I had pretty bad insomnia during the course and was totally out of it, in my own very little world by the fourth day. The daily schedule is different for the vipassana teaching on the fourth day, they post the change in schedule, however I did not see any of the postings and as I was sitting on my bed wondering where everybody was, the course manager had to come find me at my residences and said " hey everybody is waiting for you, whats going on!". I have always felt a little embarrassed on later courses because their are notes everywhere about the schedule change, if there was a giant neon sign with my name on it about the schedule change I still probably would not have seen it!
The best part for me was changing the way my mind reacted to pain, let me explain, when ever my neck would hurt from pain, my natural reaction was to tighten up in reaction to the pain, this tightening would cause more pain creating a cycle. During the Vipassana course you slowly train your mind to observe pain and to not react to pain, thus breaking the cycle, and allowing your body to heal much quicker. After my first course my neck felt so much better, I could hardly believe it, the pain was not gone, but had drastically reduced.
Here is the Vipassana website: www.dhamma.org