Many of us can relate to the word “hangry” (hungry and angry) because it’s a known fact that when we’re hungry, it can be a struggle to be nice. It’s easy to catch ourselves being “hangry” in the moment, but it’s difficult to change our reaction to a grumbling stomach. Before we know it, we can be making bad decisions and reacting in a way we later regret, when the best action is always to remain calm. Hunger is just one of the many sensations in our body that dictate our emotions.
Vipassana, which means insight or “to see things as they really are”, is a form of meditation, through which you observe your breath coming in and out of the nostrils. From there, you begin to scan the whole body from head to toe, and back.
It’s during the scanning process that you’ll feel different types of sensations, whether it’s pain in your back, pins and needles in your legs from keeping them crossed, or a twitch in your eyebrows. The more you’re focused, the more sensations you will feel. It’s about observing all this and then telling your mind not to react. “Accept reality as it is, not as you want it to be,” said the late S.N. Goenka, the man credited with reviving the meditation technique in India in 1969.
It’s also through this technique that you can fully grasp the universal law of nature, which is called “annica” or impermanence. All sensations come and go, as well as feelings, situations, people and things. We just observe and accept reality, and then this can help us to make the right choices based on things as they truly are, rather than based on our reaction to them.
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EQUANIMITY VS. CRAVING AND AVERSION
If we focus our attention on our breathing and then bring it to all our body parts, we will discover that we actually have many sensations that we are not conscious of at the moment. And, we have been reacting to them, either positively to pleasant sensations or negatively to unpleasant ones. We can categorize these reactions as craving and aversion.
So being hangry is an aversion to an unpleasant feeling in the stomach. It’s the same aversion when we’re not getting what we want or people do not behave as we want or expect them to. We may crave for approval or hate criticism. We like this, we don’t like that. The list goes on.
The truth is, we cannot stop nor create a sensation. It’s our body’s business; our mind is just reacting to it. And, since our mind has been in this habit of reacting by craving for good sensations and hating the bad ones, it’s a challenge to keep a balanced mind or what is commonly known in Vipassana as equanimity.
This is an exercise for the mind to break the pattern of reacting to craving and aversion. Goenka, who discovered the technique from Myanmar during his desperate attempt to cure his severe migraine, said Vipassana is scientific because one has to examine his or her own body, silently, so no chanting. It’s also non-sectarian, as it does not follow any religion or involve worship of any idol.
The first part is called “anapana” where you bring your attention to your breathing with eyes closed and in a sitting or lying position. It’s the easiest way to bring a restless mind to calm down and concentrate in the present moment. Once you start feeling some tiny sensations in your nose, it’s time to slowly move your attention to your head. Then, the scanning begins!
NON-NEGOTIABLE 10-DAY BEGINNER COURSE
To learn the technique, one has to take a beginner course. It lasts for a non-negotiable 10 days in a silent cell phone-free retreat, where accommodation and vegetarian meals are provided, all totally free. This is to allow time to free oneself from distraction and to focus on learning the technique.
There are 341 Vipassana centers in 94 countries, so chances are there’s one near you or in your next travel destination. But, its increasing popularity means you have to book early. Special courses are also offered for business executives and children.
All the centers around the world are run by donations and volunteers. If you want, you can donate or offer your service but only after you complete the 10-day course. Vipassana attendance remains free of charge to allow participants the ability to focus on the course without questioning if it is value for money.
It’s the generosity of previous students who want others to experience the benefits of the technique that make the courses always free anywhere in the world.
However, completing the Vipassana courses is just the beginning. To achieve equanimity needs hard work, that is meditating every day.
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