Insightful Introspection in a Vipassana Session

By Asawari Jadhav, Peters Twp., PA


Asawari Jadhav grew up in Nagpur, India before living for a decade in the UK.  She arrived in the US twelve years ago. She now lives in Peters Township with her family and works as a Technical Project Manager for Bombardier Transportation. Her hobbies include playing on the sitar and reading.

Editor’s note:  Vipassana is a simple and yet difficult meditation technique practiced and perfected for over 2000 years by the Southern School of Buddhists, the Teravadins, in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia. The etymology of Vipassana is in the Sanskrit dhatu (root) drsh meaning “to see, gaze, look.” The prefix vi here means “total” or “comprehensive.” The Vipassana meditation practice is a “comprehensive insight into oneself,” which is easily said, but can be done only with open-mindedness, patience, and practice.

asawari-jhadav-1Over the last few years, I have heard the word “Vipassana” from many believers in the family. The thought of maintaining noble silence for ten days, meditating close to over ten hours each day, disconnecting myself from a device that is almost embedded in my palm, and not being able to run my family, seemed next to impossible.

I had recently tried to question the rat race I was running. I was slowly observing the agitation, anger, an overwhelmed mind, and an impulsive reaction to situations about which I had no control! I finally did end up signing for a ten-day course — over eleven to be precise as the first day is considered Day Zero.

For those who have not heard about Vipassana, I need to tell you that this is more than a course/workshop: students are not allowed to read, write, connect, listen, exercise or take part in any form of entertainment or physical indulgence.

Once I signed up, I realized what I was in for, and the reality had begun to sink in. The thought of getting up at four in the morning and being totally disconnected from the outside world was starting to find every excuse to not join! Fortunately, my earlier wise decision to stick it out for eleven days prevailed over the strong thought to quit. For most of you who have not already checked the Dhamma website, here is a brief summary of the schedule:

Wake up call at 4 a.m. with a one-hour break for breakfast between meditation sessions. A lunch break and rest for two hours and another four-hour meditation session (with breaks). A tea break at 5 p.m. with the last session ending in a discourse by Shri Satya Narayan or S.N.Goenka before retiring 9:30 p.m.

My first day was tolerable, though I found myself dozing off from being in a quiet dark room with long hours of sitting. By the end of the second day, the pain had started to sink in making me very uncomfortable and even the stretching and walks were beginning to be ineffective. My mind was everywhere almost like a spring. Before I could realize it, I was designing fancy comfortable meditation chairs and redoing the window treatments in the Vipassana Center.

On the third day, I was starting to lose it. The OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) in me had started to organize my memories into stacks. I was kind of spring cleaning the rooms in my brain. Every time I needed a break from cleaning, I would start to pay attention to my breathing. Slowly, I began to question my imagined veracity of the source of my problems, and almost learned a new way of looking at many situations.

Fourth day is when the real “Vipassana” starts. I had already started to adjust and enjoy my own company.

By Day Five, I got into a pattern of changing cushions and positions where I did not get into a torturous physical situation. My mind was craving for the intellectual stimulation, even though craving and aversions were two things I was training my mind to stay away from.

During my breaks I had counted the mugs in the café, read every instruction in the center and estimated the age of the trees! I thought a lot about my family and by the end of Day Five, I  was convinced that my husband had forgotten to pick up my thirteen-year-old  from camp, and my  seventeen-year-old  had forgotten his passport for a trip abroad. Panic started to set in. I had created a situation where I really needed to get out. The discourse in the evening revealed that it was normal to have thoughts of quitting.

Day Six and onward got progressively better. I was beginning to feel grounded, calmer, felt less affected by past heartaches. I had almost made peace with my worst enemies.

Day Ten seemed still a long way to go but the bittersweet feeling had started to set in. I had started to accept what was served. Even though the quality of the food was beyond my expectations, I had tried things that I would never even attempt before. I felt lighter inside. I had never recognized the weight of the ego I had carried all along.

Before breaking the Noble Silence on the tenth day, I had started to wonder if my own voice would startle me. I was at peace with my own thoughts. However, I was also curious to verbally connect with the fifteen other women who had shared their energies with me in the meditation room. Women from different walks of life, diverse not only in nationalities but also in age and cultures!

It has been only a few days since the completion of the session, and I am certain I will continue to observe the changes in me from this experience. Here is a summary that I would love to share with you:

Vipassana is not a meditation retreat. It is a process by which you strengthen your mind and increase awareness and practice equanimity. The technique to do this is to observe your breath and bodily sensations without developing a craving or aversion to them. It is simple and difficult at the same time. The focus is to realize that “Change is the only constant thing in life.”

Every misery arises from the fact that we as humans are constantly reacting to something that is inevitably going to change. It is unrealistic even to hope to drag everybody you are not able to deal with to Vipassana. The need for changes in people should come from within individuals. A ten-day course can just set the direction for you but do not expect to come out with an aura on your head.

Just because you are not paying attention to it, does not mean the world will fall apart! Things still move on when you are not in control.  I realized that Peace and Happiness is a State of Mind.

The ten most physically difficult days of my life beat the most exotic locations I’ve visited. So, if you’re ready for introspection, consider attending a 10-day Vipassana session to make an impression on yourself.

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