How a 10-day silence transformed my life

Rose F. Scott, The Philippine Star: I have been filled with gratitude since I attended the 10-day course in Vipassana meditation last October. Since October is the month of my birth, I decided to make this course a retreat for myself. This retreat gave me 10 beautiful days of silence, time with myself, and some techniques on meditation. Indeed, I received a gift from life about life that came at a most precise time.

As a professional counselor, I have encountered many people at the lowest and most turbulent points of their lives. Couples disillusioned and ready to give up on their marriage, families trapped by the difficulties of relationship among themselves and individuals enslaved by their addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling and sex sought help to get relief and resolution to their problems. They found themselves in the path of self-destruction, destroying themselves and their loved ones, even if it was not their intention to do so.

What they, you and I have in common is the phenomena of pain in its physical, emotional and mental form. Life produces pain. This is a difficult reality to accept. We naturally dislike pain and like the opposite of pain, which is pleasure. We have a disdain for one and an attraction for the other. Our negative thoughts and emotions as well as our attachments cause us great pain…

Aside from relying on books, knowledge and skills I have learned from professional school, I rely on my own experience as a person in dealing with human difficulties. I don’t just counsel other people, I am also very serious with my own growth process. I can only suggest and apply to others what I practice and find effective for myself.

If I say to a client, “get to know yourself or love yourself,” you can be assured I have endeavored on the path of self-knowledge and continuously search for ways and means to truly love myself. I’m both a researcher and practitioner in my profession.

Being educated and trained mainly in Western methods, I have found that although these are the prevailing schools of thought, there is something lacking in the process. In counseling, the process of helping the client verbalize his feelings and thoughts can only be the beginning of a healing process. Simple psychology of talk therapy is not enough. Complete healing requires integration of the body, the mind, the heart and the spirit. The process needed to achieve this integration is still missing in Western therapy.

Over the past few years, I did my exploration in Eastern healing arts and philosophies. I have indulged not only my mind but also my body in disciplines such as shibashi, yoga, tai-chi and nature movement. The journey has brought me closer to “home.” My 10-day rendezvous with meditation has provided the key to the front door. It was exactly what I was looking for.

According to S.N. Goenka, a teacher of Vipassana, the final aim of this approach to meditation is not concentration of mind. Concentration is only a help, a step leading to a higher goal, which is purification of the mind. Meditation helps eradicate all the mental defilements and the negativities within, to free us from the thought patterns that cause us misery. At the same time, the mind learns to trust fully in the moment and is purified, preparatory to attaining enlightenment.

Unlike concept-laden workshops and seminars, this course mainly provided a technique for meditation by actually doing it. As the teacher suggested, a direct experience of reality is essential. The technique helped to examine mental and physical structures to which there is much attachment, resulting in tension built up in the body. The body has been the vessel that receives all the negativities and toxins our mind generates throughout our lives. Meditation is like a detoxification process. As the mind becomes purified, the body attains relaxation and a feeling of peace is a natural result.

In this course, I got to know myself, not in an intellectual way by answering the question “who am I,” but actually experiencing a very deep phenomenon from within. This energy I felt was very powerful, it made me afraid at first. I realized later that I was afraid of this power that is in me, the power that will allow me to fulfill all my dreams and more. It was not just an assured feeling but an actual encounter with this infinite potential. All answers reside in the very depth of my being. And now, I can actually touch that being and feel adequate in all situations.

The technique of meditation can only be understood fully if experienced. In the beginning, it is simply focusing on breathing, to get rid of the cluttered thoughts that come rushing to the mind. Then, the mind becomes calm and quiet. This is just the first step to meditation. The rest of the technique was new and mind-boggling to me. It is actually very technical and the teacher gives a very clear step-by-step instruction.

Anyone with knowledge and skills in psychology, medicine and other sciences on the human body would truly appreciate this technology. The question that lingers in my mind is: How can something concrete and technical, a simple methodology, deepen one’s spirituality? Is this where science and spirituality meet?

The teacher explains the technique and shares the philosophy behind the practice of meditation at the end of each day. There are no dogmas preached, only insights that are very refreshing and inspirational. It doesn’t matter who or what your God’s name is. You are challenged to examine if your belief is merely intellectual and devotional, or practical and experiential. Do we simply adhere to the laws of God because we are conditioned to do so in obedience or do we choose to follow as well as emulate the values and characteristics of the God of our belief?

One might ask, will this conflict with my religion? This practice of meditation is not biased towards any religion; in fact it is universal. It is for all those who wish to grow spiritually in whatever religion one chooses to practice. A problem may arise in the mind of someone who is conditioned by fear. Because meditation is not part of their religious tradition and is not taught by religious leaders, one might be afraid of going against the teachings of one’s religion. Some would rather play it safe and stay within the familiar traditional rules and rituals they are used to. There is nothing wrong with this thinking as long as one is aware of it. There is also nothing wrong with someone who is searching beyond what is familiar and is confident and can decide on what is good.

Books and discussions give insights and inspiration, while meditation gives wisdom through a physical, mental and emotional experience. Very deep spirituality is not merely meaningful and inspiring, it is life-transforming.

The 10 days of silence requires discipline, commitment and an open mind. To sustain the silence and other rules of the course requires determination, discipline, patience and perseverance. These in themselves are spiritual qualities being strengthened through the process. There is no easy way or short cut to holiness or mysticism.

Just like any course, tools are provided as a jump start. It is up to the individual to take it or leave it afterwards. To take it means to use the technique and continue the practice in daily life. To leave it means it was just a one-time meaningful course.

This 10-day course in Vipassana meditation answered what I have been looking for. It is the practical “how to,” in a nut shell, the missing process to the integration of the mind, body, heart and spirit.

I have decided to be a diligent student of meditation by giving the exercise my best shot. I believe I have become a better counsel for myself and also for others. I also believe that those who learn how to meditate will, indeed, find in themselves a very wise counselor.

As I meditate daily, great fullness permeates my being. I live each moment grateful no matter what comes; basking in the gratitude of which I speak!

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