Vipassana内观禅修

Update: for old studnets, there are group sitting sessions in Hong Kong, see http://www.hk.dhamma.org/os/groupsitting.html for details!
By Eva Cheng (Weibo: 7plus2plus1)
 
S. N. Goenka
2012年传说的世界末日到来前几天,12月19日至30日,我去参加了Vipassana十天meditation(禅修)课程,十天不说话、不读书不写字,每 天4点起,930睡。一天一天后,眼前的一层灰色的雾慢慢退去,世界的颜色变得越来越明亮。“出来”之后的一个月里,我的很多生活习惯和想法发生了180 度的转弯,多年的拖延症突然就消失了,我经常觉得生活越来越worth living,生命越来越有了意义。
 
很多朋友问了我很多问题,我把经常听到的几个和自己的想法写在下面,聊以纪录,有兴趣的人可以作个参考。每个的禅修经历都应该非常不同,也非常希望听到其他去过的人的经历感受!
 
 
我怎么会去参加这个禅修呢?
 
要知道我以前所有的假期都是上山入地下海,分分秒秒都不闲着,比如说日本登顶富士山,法国登顶勃朗峰,马来西亚登顶东南亚最高峰,非洲爬乞力马扎罗山,比如 潜水,比如一人暴走南美。。。对于连在海边躺着都觉得无聊的我,让我把大好的10天用来一动不动的坐着,真是一个会让人发疯的想法。
 
事情是这样的。我第一次了解到Vipassana是一年多前在Financial Times财经时报上看到一个记者描写的经历。我虽然感兴趣但也一直没时间参加,直到2012年第四季度,几次工作压力大,熬夜之后,开始出现心脏不舒 服,多次检查包括住院检查,都没查出任何器官的问题。于是我决定是时候试一下禅修,而我的老板也支持,所以就放了我一个10天不用看BB的假!!
 
 
那么Vipassana是什么呢?
 
Vipassana 是一个2500年历史的印度传下来的禅修方法,现在已经在世界上有100多个修炼中心,在主要国家都有。我当时就申请了印度、香港和台湾的,都满了,最后 台湾才空出了一个位置。Vipassana的意思是“see things as they are”,即如实地观察事物,中文叫“内观”。

一般说到禅修,静坐,大家都会觉得是坐在那儿冥想一些道理,或者完全放空。但其实两样皆不是。内观只是一种technique,一个训练方法。他不是一个宗 教,虽然是佛教发现的这个方法,但在练习的时候也不需要接受任何宗教信仰。虽然看不见摸不着,但和去健身房锻炼身体一样,就是一个训练方法。
 
打个比方,大家经常说身心身心,其实身心的锻炼是很像的。比如一个人身体非常的弱,那么可以去一个肌肉练习班,每天锻练肌肉,一个星期以后可以看到肌肉更强 了,可以拿起重的东西了,也许腹部有了二块肌。而心也是一样,可以通过锻炼而变得强大,做到以前无法做到的事情,抵御以前无法抵御的诱惑。
 
最终的目标是可以让人如实看待事物,看见事物本质,使人生如行云流水一般快乐,平静,高效,获得洞察世间万物本质的智慧。关于高效插一句,这个方法完全不会 鼓励你出家,反而会帮助你在你生活中的事情上更高效,更关注,心情更快乐平静。比如上一代的Vipassana的老师U Ba Khin是缅甸的财务大臣,他非常的高效,有一段时间是4个部门的主管,据说他每次去一个部门,不管需要多久,在他离开时所有的事情都已经做完,得益于第 一他可以很明确地看到事物的本质,快速地作出正确地判断,第二他的注意力高度集中。
 
另外一个禅修和锻炼肌肉很像的地方, 就是要坚持锻炼。这不是一个觉悟,知道了就知道了,而是像练出了腹肌,但如果几个星期不去健身,那这些肌肉就会慢慢退化。
 
 
那么这个课程是什么呢?每天在那儿做什么呢?
 
这是一个10天的课程,9天半(除了最后半天)不能和别人联系,没有手机,BB,每天4点起床,9点半睡觉,一天12个小时禅修,6个半小时睡觉,5个半小 时吃饭、散步、休息、洗漱。10天完全的禁语(noble silence),不得和别人说话、眼神、肢体交流。吃的都是志愿的厨师烧的素菜,早饭和中饭非常丰富美味。旧生需要遵守”过午不食“,所以不能吃晚饭, 新生可以吃一些面糊和水果。
 
这十天的课程费用是全部免费的。课程的所有经费靠旧生的捐款和义工支持,如果没有参加过这个10天课程的人都不可以捐款。这其中的理念是希望大家做过这个课 程,真正地体会到它的好处后,才用自己的捐助支持其他人得到这个训练机会。新生只有通过别人的馈赠才可以参加训练,这样会更加心怀感激,而不会因为自己出 了钱心里会有各种期许。捐赠的数额是完全自由的,也可以完全不捐赠。不过我个人最后捐赠了比我开始打算的2,3倍,希望可以帮助更多的人得到这个机会。
 
每天晚上有一个小时的开示,可以看Goenka老爷爷一次在加利福尼亚中心每天的开示,被录下成视频,不说英文的人有中文和其他各种语言的录音。看视频是我 每天最开心的时候,讲的内容包括Vipassana的历史,背后的一些道理。Goenka老爷爷看起来特别可爱可亲,又特别的幽默,讲了很多很多的好玩的 故事,下面的“观众”都笑个不停。
 
这里再插一句Goenka老爷爷的故事。Goenka老爷爷以前是一个非常成功的住在缅甸的印度商人,因为有严重的偏头痛久治不愈,由此接触了 Vipassana。当时最纯正的Vipassana已在缅甸之外的地方失传了,Goenka在缅甸学习14年后,把他带回了发源地印度,并因此再次传播 到世界各地。
 
 
训练后我有什么改变呢?
 
列一些我自己实际的改变吧。
 
由于心力强了,想做的事情就会很容易做到,很少有内心两个小人打架的纠结了(虽然不是完全没有了)。
 
-之前我每天早上一般9点铃响,之后至少赖床半小时才起得来; 现在每天7点起来,几乎完全不赖床
-之前我80%的日子非常的困,昏昏沉沉,即使周末多睡了也不见好,现在几乎每天头脑非常精神
-之前我特别怕冷,不论是穿少了,还是从被窝或者淋浴里出来都非常痛苦,现在毫无痛苦,几乎不用想地在潜意识指挥下就完成这些
-之前我有中度至严重的拖延症,大学时非常明显,经常把功课拖到半夜才做,搞到第二天疲劳不堪,还去寻求过心理咨询。也许这会听起来有点邪乎,但是现在基本 全好了,要做的事情会计划好,然后迫不及待地把他们做完(我知道很多人在想这怎么可能,肯定是在夸大其词。。。我也不想听起来不靠谱,可事实上就是这样发 生了180度改变。。。)
-之前我总是说自己容易上瘾,有obsessive personality,喜欢上某种巧克力就非要吃到反感为止,现在我如果决定了不吃什么,很容易叫停
-村上春树说过“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”,就是说痛苦是无可避免的,而受苦是可以选择的。我之前每次收到一个staffing,就是派的活,知道又要一夜不睡或者周末加班了, 总是非常痛苦。现在就可以平静地去开始做了,没有了那么多心理上的痛苦。
 
另外,心在慢慢变得纯净得过程中,生活变得越来越有趣,更加worth living,快乐欢欣。每天一样的上班,但好像所有得东西变得颜色更鲜明了,遇到好笑的事情,我会忍不住地笑得很久,笑得觉得整个人从心底到全身都在 笑,笑得发颤。另外现在变得不和别人争吵了。之前如果出租车司机绕了远路,总是会忍不住提出来,现在就比较少了,然后有几次发现司机是真的不熟悉,或者交 流有误,就很庆幸自己没有无端给别人增加不开心。而同时,发现身边的认识和不认识的人对我越来越好,越来越和气友善,不知是不是因为我看起来更友善了。
 
大家可能觉得也许上面有吹嘘静坐是灵丹妙药嫌疑,不过我可以保证以上都是自己的亲身体验,而且只是一部分的例子。当然每个人从训练中得到的收获会非常不一 样,有些人也许本来就已经没有上面我的这些各种纠结,有些人也许就觉得效果没这么明显。这就像去健身房训练的人,有的人几个月后焕然一新,有的人没有太大 变化,有的人变壮了,有的人精神好了,随个人情况和训练的投入程度而定,不过总体说来,应该是去了健身房的人都会在一定程度上有所裨益。
 
 
那么究竟是怎么训练呢?
 
Vipassana 的练习有两个阶段,前三天是第一步Master your mind (驾驭心),后七天是第二步Purify your mind(净化心)。我想在概念上解释一下这两个阶段,至于具体的练习方法是什么,我会提到第一天的练习方法,但之后几天的练习方法就先不提了,因为如果 没有前一天的锻炼,那只听说下一天的训练方法是没有什么意义的,就像如果你想学习估值模型,如果还没有熟悉基本的建模方法,老师就开始告诉你如何变化出不 同的情景,如何调不同的参数,那听来也是没什么意义的。不过在整个训练阶段中,每天都会有非常明确的技巧,完全不用发挥想象力,也不需要什么悟性,只要按 照技巧去做就可以。
 
第一步驾驭心
 
在我们驯服自己的心之前,心有点像一匹野马,想去这里去这里,想去那里去那里,我们坐在上面只能被他驾驭着到处跑,无法有成效地完成事情。而在心被驯服,被驾驭之后,就可以和你保持一致,帮助你完成各种任务,变成一个productive、有成效的伙伴,而你就这样变成了心的主人。
 
被心驾驭的情形大家应该都有所经历吧?我们无法控制自己的欲望,念头,想法,比如决定了每天减肥少吃,但看到好的东西就会忍不住去吃,事后又后悔;或者准备 睡前看一集连续剧,结果忍不住看到了4点,第二天非常累非常的后悔;或者工作的时候,突然心想去看微博,就去看微博了。。(这些都是我的亲身经 历。。。)。
 
之前有研究发现成功人士的最大共同点是自控力强,定计划可以按照既定计划实行,但是这真的是非常的难。相信很多人都多次下决心改变,但总是没有很好的效果吧?的确长大中我们学习了各种锻炼身体的方法,但从来没有学过锻炼心,使心更强大的方法哦。所以Vipassana的第一步就是一个训练控制自己的心的方法。

训练的具体技巧如上所说我不会多说,但作为例子,第一天的任务是观察自己自然的呼吸-呼吸从哪边进,哪边出。没了。是不是很简单呢?不是的!一开始2个呼吸 心就不知打妄想到哪里去了!拉回来后,2个呼吸,又妄想了!!这样到了下午会稍微好一些,比较可以专注,到了第十天几乎可以完全不打妄念,心完全受到自己 的驾驭,帮助我做我需要做的事情。就是这样,“出来”后我惊奇地发现自己可以轻易地控制行为,拖延症就这么好了!!
 
第二步净化心 
 
一旦有了驾驭心的本领后,我们就开始控制心,开始心的净化。心的净化又听起来很玄,但其实这和现代心理学,弗洛伊德非常相近,是一种可以控制潜意识的方法。让我举两个例子解释一下。
 
比如A同学来跟我说说,Eva你很讨厌。如果我不能控制自己的主意识,那么我可能开始回骂他,或者打起来了。如果我可以进一步,控制主意识,控制住自己不说 什么,但是我无法控制自己的潜意识,心里的不快,其实就被推到了潜意识里,下一次我见到A同学时,可能主意识还没意识到什么,潜意识就让自己开始不爽不 安,对这个人产生反感,或者都不知怎么就开始顶撞。
 

再比如有的夫妻情侣刚开始在一起非常开心,有些小不快也觉得没什么,但是如果每次遇到不快都在潜意识里种下了厌恶,那么日子久了甚至会发展到看到这个人潜意识就厌烦的程度,导致分手。

 
内观的方法,是可以慢慢进入潜意识,主动地控制潜意识,停止埋下不快的过程。在停止往心里种下新的不快的同时,很多老的痛苦、不快会慢慢地从潜意识里浮出 来,进而消失。所以Goenka老爷爷一开始就说,这10天有点像给心做了一个手术,取出了很多不快的东西,出来的时候会觉得身和心都变轻了。
 
这不是说不解决问题,而在平静的心的状态下,可以更好更客观地解决问题。有很多时候有人吵架时说了恶语,事后觉得自己也不知道怎么就说了,觉得后悔,这就是行为被潜意识控制了,无法保持明智。一旦可以控制潜意识,保持心的平衡后,很多问题的解决办法会很容易地看到而解决。

掌握了这种方法,在工作生活中都可以运用,可以更快乐地工作,找到最佳解决问题的方法,情人之间的关系因为没有了杂质而历久常新,相见仿若初识。我们将变成生活里的滑雪高手,在从前需要心惊胆颤筋疲力尽地蹭下黑道的时候,可以轻轻松松愉悦快速地一滑而下。

 
 
 
那么在训练的时候有什么特别有意思的感觉呢?
 

由于训练进入了人的心、潜意识,很多有意思的东西的确会发生。写几个我自己觉得有意思的经历,不过这真的是因人而异,大家自己修炼时表现可能完全不同。

 
- 我在第二天晚上,半夜做梦梦到了一个特别搞笑的standup comedy(脱口笑话秀),当时在梦里觉得是自己见过最最好笑的表演,开怀大笑,慢慢把自己笑醒了。等课程结束后问我的同屋,她说我笑了差不多1分钟, 开始是大笑,后来听得出来醒了后开始有控制的吃吃的笑
- 同屋说同一天晚上,隔壁有人在哭
- 每天晚上可以向老师提问,一个男生说身上出现了一些以前从来没有过的抓痕,还想脱衣服给老师看。老师说不用了,各种表现是很正常的 

- 修炼可以达到一个“完全溶解”的状态,整个人仿佛消融成了一个震动场,完全没有固体形式了,仿佛变成了一片云的存在。这种感觉非常地舒服,但是重要的是不能对它产生过分地喜爱,而且事物是变化的,这种状态会消失,然后以后会再回来- 很多人都说到自己有过控制不住的哭的情况,这是由于一些潜意识里的不净离开时产生的常见现象。这种哭不会觉得难过,而是一种非常非常舒服的眼泪流淌。我在 第8天晚上,在散步的时候,意识到了未来的生活方式、方向和意义慢慢变得非常清晰,静静地流了很多眼泪,没有悲伤,非常非常的舒服

 
============
 
先写这些吧。非常鼓励有兴趣的人去参加。全球内观网站有全球100多个中心的课程信息,中文网站上有中文课程的信息,包括在马来西亚、中国、印度、加拿大、台湾、美国、香港和新加坡。
 
在大中国地区有台湾、香港和大陆的中心。台湾有两个,一个在台中,很容易到达,在一个农场上,但需要4,5个人一个房间(不过我自己觉得完全没有问题,非常 的舒适);另一个在六龟,是一个新修的中心,比较难到,但是每个人有单独的禅房。香港目前的一个非常的小,据说是上下铺,但是正在修建一个很大的中心。中 国在福建开了二个,东北一个,开的时间还不是很长。
 
几点建议给要去的人:这三地中心都非常非常的爆满,据说中国的那三个尤其是,所以尽早去他们的网站上报名。如果不会英文,应该去自己会的语言的地方(比如普 通话,广东话),不要以为语言是不重要的。如果会英文,在每天晚上的开示时,强烈建议看英文的视频,比起翻译的录音来好玩许多。
 
全球网站:http://www.dhamma.org
 
中文网站: http://www.chinese.dhamma.org,可以看到一些基本介绍和中文课程的时间。另外你可以直接搜索内观台湾,直接到他们的网站上,有更详细及时的课程信息。
 
 
有什么问题,欢迎和我联系(微博 7plus2plus1),我会尽量回应。另外如果有人在香港的参加过课程的朋友也可以和我联系交流。
 
日程表:
 
早上
4:00 清晨起床钟
4:30-6:30  在禅堂或自己房间禅坐
6:30-8:00  早餐及休息
8:00-9:00  禅堂共修
9:00-11:00  依老师指示在禅堂或自己房间禅坐
11:00-12:00  午餐
下午
12:00-1:00 休息(可向助理老师个别请益)
1:00-2:30  在禅堂或自己房间禅坐
2:30-3:30  禅堂共修
3:30-5:00  依老师指示在禅堂或自己房间禅坐
5:00-6:00  茶点
6:00-7:00  禅堂公修
7:00-8:30  葛印卡老师开示(看录影带或听录音带)
8:30-9:00   禅堂共修,老师指导次日禅修技巧
9:00-9:30  问题请益或会寝室就寝
9:30  就寝,熄灯
===ENGLISH VERSION BELOW===

Vipassana Meditation

By Eva Cheng (Weibo: 7plus2plus1)

At the end of 2012 (December 19-30), right before the rumoured Armageddon of the world, I participated in a ten-day long Vipassana meditation course. It was ten days of no talking, reading or writing, ten days of waking up at 4am and sleeping at 930pm. Day after day, I realized that a gray fog was slowly being lifted in front of my eyes. The world was gradually becoming clearer and more colourful. I have been “out” for a month now, and noticeably many of my habits and views have changed completely by 180-degrees. The bad habit of procrastination suddenly disappeared; I now often feel that life is more worth living and more meaningful.

Many of my friends have asked me a lot of questions about Vipassana, so I put down here answers to a few common ones as well as some of my own thoughts, as a record and reference for those who are interested. Different people could have very different experiences and I look forward to hearing others’ stories too!

Why did I join the meditation course?

Most of my previous holidays were spent climbing mountains and diving into the ocean, I was a restless adventurer. Places like Mount Blanc of France, Mount Fuji of Japan, Kota Kinabalu of Malaysia, Mount Kilimanjaro of Africa, travelling alone in South America, diving, etc… For somebody like me who would get bored lying on the beach, the idea of a meditation course where I sit still for 10 days was beyond imagination.

This is how it started. I first learnt of Viapassana from an article on the Financial Times about a year ago. I had been interested in going for a long time but never found the time until the later 2012, when I developed heart pains after a few sleepless nights of stressful work. I did multiple check ups including an over-night monitoring in the hospital, but the doctor couldn’t find anything wrong. After that, I decided to give Vipassana a try, my boss was supportive and gave me 10 days of blackberry-free holiday!!

So what is Vipassana?

Vipassana is one of the meditation techniques from 2500 years ago in India. There are now more than 100 meditation centres over the world, including most major cities. I applied for ones in India, HK and Taiwan, they were all full, and luckily a spot became available in a centre in Taiwan. Vipassana means “see things as they are”.

When people talk about meditation, we usually think of somebody sitting there and thinking about some profound ideas or trying not to think of anything at all. In fact it is neither. Vipassana is a technique, a training method. It is not a religion, although the technique was discovered by Buddha. One does not need to be of any particular religion or hold any belief to practise the technique. Although you can’t see it from the outset, it is no different from going to the gym, like a technique to train your muscles.

For example, we always talk about ‘mind and body’, actually training of the mind is similar to that of the body. If somebody is physically weak, then he could join a course at a gym to train his muscles everyday, and a week later he will most likely notice that he became stronger, can now lift heavier things, maybe even starting to develop abs and biceps. It is the same with the mind, it too can be trained and become stronger, be able to do things it couldn’t do before, resist the temptation it could not before.

The final goal is to allow us to see things as they are, to see the truth and fundamental intrinsic properties of things, allow people to live a happy, peaceful and efficient life, to attain the wisdom to understand the true nature of everything in the world. By the way, the method does not try to persuade you to become a monk at all, quite the opposite, it helps you to become more efficient and more concentrated when conducting your worldly business, and be happier and more peaceful while doing so. For example the teacher of the current teacher, U Ba Khin, was the accounting minister of Burma, he was so efficient that he was at one time the head of 4 government departments. Apparently he didn’t need much time when visiting each of these ministries, but when he leaves, nothing was left unfinished. It was attributable to the fact that he was able to clearly see the true nature of things and very quickly make the right decision, plus the fact that he was able to achieve high concentration.

Another similarity between meditation and body building is the need for continuous exercise. It is not a kind of realization where you stop after you understand it. If you stop going to the gym after seeing a couple of muscles becoming visible, then they will gradually disappear.

What is the course about? What did you do everyday?

This is a 10-day course, 9 ½ days (except for the last half a day), you are not allowed to contact anybody, no mobile, no blackberry, get up at 4:00am and lights out at 9:30. You meditate for 12 hours a day, sleep for six and half-hours, and use the remaining five and a half hours to eat, relax, wash up, taking walks around the centre. It is 10 days of “moble silence”, so you can’t talk to others or communicate in any other way through eye or body contact. The food is prepared by volunteers and is all vegetarian. At breakfasts and lunches, a variety of dishes are offered which are very delicious. Old Students need to comply with the “no food after noon” requirement, so they can not eat dinners, but new students can have some porridge and fruits.

This ten-day course is completely free of charge. All related costs are supported by monetary donations from old students and as well as those who donate their time to become volunteers. Those who have not participated in the course are not allowed to donate. The idea here is to let those and only those who have participated and actually benefited from the experience to support and allow others to have the same experience. New students can only attend the course thanks to donations from others, this way they would feel grateful and not expect this and that because however much money they paid. The donation amount is completely voluntary, and you don’t have to donate at all. Nevertheless, I personally donated 2-3 times the amount I thought I might donate before attending the course, hoping to give more people the opportunity to experience Vipassana.

Every night, there is a one-hour discourse, you can watch the daily video recording of Mr. Goenka made in the California centre some time ago. Those who don’t understand English can listen to recordings in Chinese and other languages. Watching the video was the my happiest time of the day, the video covered history of Vipassana and some theories behind the technique. Mr. Goenka is like a lovely, caring grandpa and also really funny. He told many interesting stories and made the audience laugh.

A bit more about Mr. Goenka’s story. He was a very successful Indian businessman living in Burma, and he was first introduced to Vipassana because he had severe migraines that no doctor could cure. At the time, the pure Vipassana technique had been lost everywhere except in Burma. Mr. Goenka learnt the technique there for 14 years before he brought it back to India – the birthplace of Vipassana, and thereafter spread it around the world.

How has the course changed me?

Here is a list of the actual changes that happened to me.

Thanks to a stronger mind, I could more easily bring to action the things I wanted to do, and now rarely experience the internal struggle between the two voices in my head (although it has not yet completed stopped)

  • I used to set my alarm for 9am every morning and then snooze for at least half an hour before actually getting up; after the course, I now get up at 7am every day without hardly any snoozing time
  • I used to feel sleepy about 80% of the days, even if I sleep a lot during the weekend; now I feel that my head is clear almost everyday
  • I used to dislike coldness a lot, for example it was really suffering whenever I didn’t wear enough cloth or just got out of bed or shower in the winter; now these things don’t bother me at all, as if what needed to be done is automatically done by my subconscious
  • I used to have average to severe procrastination, especially during university, when I often waited past midnight to do the homework and felt exhausted the next day, and I even saw a psychiatrist back then. Maybe it sounds unbelievable, but my procrastination is almost completely gone. I now plan the things that need to be done and then eagerly complete them (I know many people may think that it’s impossible or exaggerated…. I don’t want to sound disingenuous but it is what actually happened)
  • I used to be easily addicted to things, have an obsessive personality. For example, when I like certain type of chocolate, I would eat it until I can no longer look at it; now I can easily stop eating whatever after I make a decision to do so
  • Murakami Haruki said “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”. I used to get very upset when I receive a ‘staffing’ at work and I knew that it would mean another sleepless night or a work weekend; now I can take the staffing peacefully and make a start on it right away, without all the psychological suffering.

In addition, as the heart becomes gradually purified, life becomes more interesting, worth living and happy. Still going to the same place for work everyday, yet everything seems more colourful. When something funny happens, I would laugh for a long time, and feel that my whole body is laughing and shaking. I also now no longer quarrel with others. Before the course, if a taxi driver happened to take a longer route, I couldn’t help but pointing it out and making a fuss. Now I do this less often, and realized a few times that the taxi drivers actually really weren’t familiar with the area and didn’t do it on purpose, or it was due to some miscommunication, and I would be happy not to have caused other people unhappiness. At the same time, I noticed that people around me, friends and strangers alike, have become friendlier and kinder towards me, not sure if it’s because I look more friendly now to them.

You may think the above is some kind of propaganda, but I promise that they are all based on my own experiences, and included only a few selected examples. Of course different people will experience the course differently, some people may not have all the issues I had mentioned above, then the result of the course may seem less obvious for them. It’s just like going to the gym, some people look completely different after a few months, while others look the same, some may look stronger, while others look more energetic, it all depends on the individual’s body situation and commitment to the training. Nevertheless, going to the gym for some exercise should be beneficial overall.

So how exactly do you train?

The practice of Vipassana consists of two steps, the first 3 days are for step one which is “Master your mind”, the remaining 7 days are for step two which is “Purify your mind”. I will briefly explain the two steps at a conceptual level, in terms of actual technique to practice, I will just mention day 1 and will not say anything at this stage for the rest of the days, because if you hadn’t completed day 1, then it is meaningless to learn the technique of later days. It is like learning how to build a valuation model, if you hadn’t learnt the basics of modelling, then it is useless if the teacher starts to teach you about how to construct different cases/scenarios and how to do sensitivity analysis. Nevertheless, during the course, you will be told very clear and exact technique, you do not need to use your imagination or hope for some kind of enlightenment, all you need to do is follow the technique.

Step one: Master your mind

Before we can master our mind, the mind behaves like an untamed horse, running here and there as it wills. When we ride this horse, we have no choice but to be taken by it to random places, we can not achieve things that we want to achieve efficiently. After we master mind though, the horse becomes an extension of you the rider and can help you achieve your goals. It becomes a productive partner, and you become the master of the horse – your own mind.

I think we all have the experience of being mastered by our mind instead of mastering it? We can not control our own desire, thoughts, ideas, for example when we decide to eat less to lose weight, we still can’t resist eating delicious food when we see it, and then feel guilty afterwards; or when we plan to watch 1 episode of a TV drama, and end up watching more until 4am, then regret it the next day; or when we are working and suddenly want to check Weibo, and then we naturally go and check it…. (these are all experiences of my own)

Some research indicated that the common trait of successful people is their ability of self-control, putting plans to action. It is actually very hard to do. I believe many people have made up their mind to change something, but then end up not achieving the results they wanted? When we were growing up, we learnt many ways of training our body, but never a way to train our mind and make it stronger. So the first step of Vipassana is to train to control your mind.

I won’t be going into too much detail of actual technique, but as an example, the task for day 1 is to observer your own natural breath, which nostril the air comes in and out. That’s it. Easy isn’t it? Not at all! When you first start it, your mind wonders off after a couple of breathes! You drag it back and after another couple of breathes, it wonders off again!! It improves in the afternoon, you can concentrate better, and when you reach the 10th day you could keep your mind concentrated almost completely, thereby mastering your mind and let it help us to do the things we need to do. Just like that, when I came ‘out’ I was pleasantly surprised that my procrastination had been cured!!

Step Two: Purify your mind

Once we know how to master our mind, then we start to control our mind and purify our mind. Purification of the mind again sounds very weird, actually it’s similar to modern psychology and Freud. It is a way to control your subconscious. Here are two examples:

My classmate A tells me that, hey, Eva, I really don’t like you. If I can’t control my conscious mind, I may start staying similar things to him, calling him names and may even start hitting him. If I could control my conscious mind, then I will be able to stay silent. However, it still can’t control my subconscious mind. The unhappiness is actually pushed down to the subconscious level, so that when I see A next time, maybe my conscious mind hasn’t realized anything yet, but my subconscious mind has already started making me feel uncomfortable and annoyed, and start feeling aversion towards this person, and I may start quarrelling with him without knowing why.

Another example is that some couples are very happy when they first get together, even some small bickering here and there seem normal, but every little argument had planted a seed of aversion in the subconscious mind. After a longer period of time, it may become that one person’s subconscious mind is upset as soon as he/she sees the other person, which would result in a breakup.

The technique of Vipassana helps to gradually access one’s subconscious, proactively control the subconscious, and stop planting negative seeds in it. Once you stop planting new bad seeds, the old seeds of pain and suffering will start surfacing in the subconscious mind and get eradicated. Mr. Goenka said since the beginning that this 10-day course is like an operation on the mind, it takes out a lot of bad stuff, and afterwards one’s body and mind both feel lighter.

This is not to say that we should not proactively address issues, but that when your mind is at peace, you can deal with the issues more objectively and efficiently. Many times we say awful things when we are angry, and then regret it afterwards and not know how we came to say those things, this is because our actions were controlled by our subconscious, and can not stay clear and objective. Once we can control our subconscious mind and remain equanimous, we will be able to see the solutions to problems much more easily.

We can apply this technique in work as well as personal life, make us enjoy our jobs more and become better at finding solutions to problems. Relationship between couples improves as they can remain afresh in each other’s mind without the impurities, every encounter becomes a first sight. We will become the skii expert of living, no longer afraid of the black slope and can skii down in a breeze.

What are some of the particularly interesting sensations during the training?

As this training touches your mind and subconscious, many interesting things would happen indeed. I wrote down some interesting personal experiences, but this really depends on the individual, what you experience may be completely different.

  • On the second night, I dreamt of a really funny stand-up comedy show, in my dream I thought it was the funniest show ever! I started laughing and eventually woke myself up with laughter. I asked my roommate after the course about it, and she said I laughed for about a minute, initially was loud, then became giggling probably after I woke up
  • Apparently on the same night, somebody else was crying in the other room
  • You are allowed to ask questions to the teach every night, a male student said there were scratch marks appearing on his body and he didn’t know why, and he wanted to take off his clothes to show the teacher. The teach said there was no need, all reactions are normal
  • Training may lead you to a complete dissolution state, your whole body becomes a field of vibrations and no longer in solid state, like a piece a cloud. This is a great feeling, but it is key not to develop a craving for this sensation, because everything changes, this sensation will disappear, and reappear. Many people said they couldn’t help but cry during the course, this may be because some impurities are leaving the subconscious and is quite common. This kind of crying doesn’t make you feel sad, it’s actually an enjoyable discharge of tears. On the night of day 8, while I was taking a walk and at that moment realized how I wanted to live my life and saw more clearly the direction and meaning of life, I quietly shed a lot of tears. There was no sadness though, actually felt very good.

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That is enough for now. Highly recommend those who are interested to have a go. There is information on the official website about centres in over 100 centres. The Chinese website has information about centres that offer Chinese courses, including Malaysia, China, India, Canada, Taiwan, US and Singapore

In Greater China there are Taiwan, HK and Taiwan centres. Taiwan has two, one in Taichung, very accessible, in a farm, but need to share with 4-5 people (was not an issue for me at all, very comfortable); Another one in Liu Gui, a new centre, a bit more difficult to get to, but only two students to share a room. The one in HK is very small, bunker beds apparently, but they are building a new and much bigger one. There are two in Fujian, China and one in Northeasten part of China, opened not long ago.

Some advice for those attending: centres in Greater China fill up fast, especially the three in mainland China, so register as early as possible. If English is an issue, you should go where your native language is spoken (eg. Mandarin, Cantonese), don’t underestimate the importance of language. If you know English, it is highly recommended that you watch the discourse video every evening in English, it is much more fun than the translated recording.

Global site: http://www.dhamma.org

Chinese website: http://www.chinese.dhamma.org, you find there some basic description and timetable for Chinese courses. You can also search for Taiwan Vipassana, they have more detailed information about the courses there.

The FT article which first introduced me to Vipassana: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/a5e3476e-2a36-11e1-8f04-00144feabdc0.html

If any questions, welcome to contact me (Weibo: 7plus2plus1), I will try my best to reply. Also, if anybody in HK who have done the course, feel free to get in touch and compare notes!

Schedule:

Morning

4:00 early morning wake up bell

4:30-6:30 meditation in the meditation hall or in your own room

6:30-8:00 breakfast and rest

8:00-9:00 meditation in the meditation hall

9:00-11:00 meditation in meditation hall or your own room, as per teacher’s instruction

11:00-12:00 Lunch

Afternoon

12:00-1:00 Rest (and individual Q&A with assistant teachers)

1:00-2:30 meditation in the meditation hall or your own room

2:30-3:30 meditation in meditation hall

3:30-5:00 meditation in meditation hall or your own room, as per teacher’s instruction

6:00-7:00 meditation in meditation hall

7:00-8:30 discourse by Mr. Goenka (watch video or listen to audio tapes)

8:30-9:00 meditation in meditation hall, teacher teaches techniques for the next day

9:00-9:30 Q&A with assistant teachers, or go to bed

9:30 lights out

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