Updated: Mar 22, 2019
Vipassana. What does it even mean? I wondered this about 6 months ago, as the word kept coming up on the weekly from different people in my life, all of whom I deeply respect and care about. My best friend, her boyfriend and another close friend and member of the yoga community all kept raving about the benefits of their vipassana sits, so it got my wheels turning and I decided to see what all the hype was about. I typed Vipassana into google and a whole new world emerged before my eyes. It read:
'Vipassana or vipasyana, " insight" is prajna "insight into the true nature of reality", defined as dukkha "suffering, unsatisfactoriness" anatta "non-self", and anicca "impermanence", the three marks of existence in the Theravada tradition, and as sunyata "emptiness" and Buddha-nature in the Mahayana Traditions.'
I read that about 50 times and still had no clue what I was getting myself into, so I dived even deeper and made my way to the Dhamma website. ( dhamma.org) There I discovered heaps of intellectual knowledge about what Vipassana is and this only raised more curiosity within. It read:
'Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India's most ancient techniques of meditation. It was rediscovered by Gotama Buddha more than 2500 years ago and was taught by him as a universal remedy for universal ills. This non sectarian technique aims for the total eradication of mental impurities and the resultant highest happiness of full liberation.
Vipassana is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be expressed directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind. It is this observation based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body that dissolves mental impurity, resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion.'
Between all of these words strung together on the Dhamma website and the personal accounts I had heard I was just yearning to know more, so on a whim I just signed up for a sit, not even truly knowing what a "sit" meant, but giving myself some time to "sit" with my impulse. I signed up in October for a sit starting January 30. And the stirring continued.
What is a sit? You may ask, I sure did. A sit is a 10 day commitment to the discipline of Vipassanna. In that 10 days you give up your normal life and all ties to the outside world i.e your cell phone/ car/reading material/ writing supplies, renounce the life of a house holder as they say, and take refuge in dhamma, living the life of a nun or monk in silence observing your sensations through meditation 14 hours a day. Jeepers! Sounds like a smashing good time you may be thinking (likely you think it's nuts to even be interested in a cult like environment like this, but I was like " I'm into it, I'll likely go insane but worth a shot") And so my personal inquiry continued.
Leading up to my sit I did my best to mentally, emotionally and physically prepare for this strict new discipline. I found myself constantly beating myself up for not sticking to the tough to do lists I made for myself on the daily and battled a lot of stirring back and forth as to whether or not "someone like me" could even do "something like this". And boy, did life throw some curve balls during this time. My Umpa (grandpa) who I was very close with passed away suddenly, our family dog Sam of 15 years passed right before Christmas, and my relationship with my boyfriend who moved halfway across the country to be with me, was in shambles. I was an emotional wreck in every sense of the word and I was just going through the motions anymore forcing puzzle pieces together to try to create the bigger picture to the outside world of my happiness, I just kept smiling as best I could, but internally I was just crumbling. I didn't know how to stop reacting to the external stimuli that was my life and I just kept spinning and spinning trying my best to stay afloat but truly I was drowning in my own sorrow, over medicating on hash oil and binge eating vegan junk food to numb the pain that became my personality at the time. I was projecting my sadness outward so hard and I wasn't even aware of my own doing so. I was drowning. I contemplated cancelling my sit about 197 times before I decided to commit to my personal growth and development. My journey to Vipassana was no smooth road.