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After 9 months of traveling the world around us we took a 10-day detour to the depth of our own minds. It might look tough but you would be amazed to discover how many people, of how many different ages, of what diverse physical and mental fitness take the course and reach the last day with a smile.
Have you ever wondered what Buddha really discovered over 2.5 thousand years ago, and what exactly he was getting free from in his determined search of “Liberation”? The thing is, long before Freud with his psychoanalysis, and Maxwell with his electromagnetic field, and string theory scientists of modern times, and the Wachowski brothers with the Matrix, Prince Siddhartha Gotama was doing the most profound scientific research involving all of the above concepts – all within the framework of his body.
You might have quite some emotional anchors or associations with the word “meditation”, especially if it starts with some picturesque Pali name, but if you look through words, names and emotional “blankets” you will see pure reason and logic in what it accomplishes and how it works. 1) You start by observing your breath, just natural soft breath as it comes in and out of your nostrils.
2) Ok, now that you’ve tamed the wild horse of your mind to a reasonable degree and it doesn’t jump around from breath to thoughts or sensations the way it wants to, you can proceed to the next stage – observing the bodily sensations.
3) Ok, now that you have a much better awareness of your bodily sensations (actually, when very aware you would discover that even the tiniest areas of your body have sensations at any given time) you can start doing the actual practice: training your mind to be able to observe all of these sensations with absolute equanimity. The important realization of the Buddha (and one that makes Freud’s psychoanalysis look like a pale shadow of it, the realization which if taught to people at schools would make all the shrinks around the world jobless) is that the true reality of who we are unfolds itself at the depth of our mind – on its unconscious level. When you think about it this way, we are all just slaves of our own bio-chemical reactions. We all know what true happiness feels like – you feel so good, peaceful, undemanding, that you become totally oblivious of space and time, there are no thoughts of the past or anticipation of the future, you are truly in the now and unlike in many other situations, where your mind keeps sweeping the time-line in search of pleasant sensations resulting from pleasant thoughts, you could linger in this one forever… Vipassana, also called the Art of Living, helps you achieve such happiness by making you quit the autopilot of unawareness and getting true control over your mind, turning it into a diligent loyal partner instead of a whimsical unreliable acquaintance.
If you choose for the “red pill” of Vipassana, the practice brings along many amazing discoveries about the true nature of reality, of who we truly are and the physical phenomena behind our mind and body.
And here are some photos of the Dhamma Kamala centre that we took on the last day of the course after the noble silence was lifted and it was possible to use a camera.
The practice of Vipassana meditation technique began back in the 6th Century during the time when Mahayana Buddhism was expanding through the East from India to South East Asia. The Buddha himself said that Vipassana meditation technique is best practiced under a tree in a forest or in a similarly peaceful environment. Buddha said that Vipassana meditation technique is best practiced while sitting with the legs crossed in lotus position. If your mind creates thoughts, simply tell yourself, “I am thinking” and then re-aim your mental focus on your breathing. Continual practice of Vipassana meditation technique will lead you to deep insight into the true nature of reality.
If you follow me on my blog or social media, you probably know that I recently did a 10 day silent meditation retreat. For now, I want to give you a look at what a typical day at the course is like, so below is a detailed schedule of a day in my Vipassana life!
There are Vipassana centres all over the world, and if you are interested in learning more about Vipassana itself, check out the website. To give you a quick Coles notes version, a Vipassana offers a path to enlightenment and liberation based on the teachings of Buddah. Vipassana is a specific meditation technique designed to focus the mind and allow deep subconscious pain to be released. It usually took me about ? hour to eat breakfast and then I’d go do some light exercises and stretching in my room.
After about ? hour of forcing down fruit and cursing the food situation, I’d go outside for another few rounds on the woods path. Irregular commentary on various aspects of alternative culture: nature, books, travel, music, literature, spirituality. For some, sitting still while in a state of inward contemplation for anything more than 30-minutes is pure torture, while for others, this type of meditation practice presents an opportunity to reconnect to that free flowing channel of raw information that people use to bring consciousness to their lives. Jen Hanover reports on her 10-day Vipassana meditation experience in this latest Surrey Now post. In short, the purpose of practising the Vipassana meditation technique is to learn to be unconditionally happy, and to observe reality as it is, not as we want it to be. This is my fifth course, and the 10 days are without a doubt the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life.
For the sake of unconditional happiness, the benefits far outweigh the costs, which by the way (monetarily speaking) are solely based on participant’s donations. If you've been around meditation for a while you know that it's helpful with a lot of things.
With Labor Day around the corner, school-aged children from all around the country are either back in school or quickly preparing for a return to the classroom. I'm not sure why, but most people are reluctant to admit they would like to increase their overall happiness. If you pay attention to yourself and those around you, more often than not you will find that most of us suffer from a closed heart. The truth is that we live in a society that consciously or unconsciously promotes the belief that if people can change their outsides that their insides will follow suit.
For those parents of school-aged children, all you have to do is think back to when you were in school to appreciate how anxiety ridden the whole schooling process can be. If you're anything like me, on a daily basis you come into contact with people and situations that, well cause you to become frustrated. Although the word charka is foreign to most people, put simply, it represents an energy vortex found in the body that helps to regulate mental, physical, and spiritual health. The reasons for meditation are as diverse as those who practice this ancient healing technique. Are you the type of person that stops to smell the roses, or are you a person that charges down life's path attempting to see as many of them as possible? For those who don't know, one of the main purposes in getting a good night's sleep is to allow your brain the opportunity to go into an alpha wave state.

When it comes to stress and anxiety, most know that unless addressed through practices like meditation, these two silent killers can ultimately lead to physical and emotional distress.
If you're like most people, your days are spent running around doing sometimes odd, sometimes purposeful things that hopefully amount to a life well-lived. With regard to health and well being, truth be told, I haven't yet found anything closely resembling the magic pill.
I don't know about you, but when I was a kid you could go out and play and no one could find you until you were good and ready to come home. Of all the meditation techniques practiced, one of the more challenging is Vipassana meditation. Conducted by Joseph Goldstein (USA) and Uffe Damborg (DK), teaching in the line of Mahasi Sayadaw and Anagarika Munindra rooted in the tradition of Theravada Buddhism. The retreat is conducted by the American guest vipassana teacher, Joseph Goldstein together with the Danish vipassana teacher, Uffe Damborg.
Joseph and Uffe were very early longtime students of renowned vipassana teacher, Anagarika Munindra at Bodh Gaya in India.
Joseph Goldstein (1944 -) studied with Munindra in Bodh Gaya most of the time from 1967 to 1974. Emerging Western Buddhism ' (Preface by the Dalai Lama), and 'Insight Meditation: The Practice of Freedom'.
He is a secular mindfulness teacher as well as a vipassana teacher in the Theravada tradition.
The retreat takes place at Danhostel Kerteminde, Skovvej 46, 5300 Kerteminde, at the northern part of the island Funen in Denmark. This means that at the end of the retreat there is an opportunity to offer contributions to the teachers. Scholarships Some scholarships are available and can be applied for by students or other persons with no or very small income. At the marvelous facility of Dhamma Kamala in Prachinburi, Thailand, we took a 10-day course of Vipassana meditation.
And his discovery was correspondingly very scientific and very rational, free of any spiritual musings or interpretations or sectarianism – based on pure and objective observation, just like any scientific research, with the only peculiarity about it being that his lab was his own body and his study objects were his own bodily sensations. So on Day 3 in the Vipassana course, along with the breath you are asked to observe any sensations that you might have in the small triangular area around your nostrils, just this – breath and sensations.
In modern language I would define it as freeing yourself from the huge load of accumulated behavioural patterns, all of which have the root in one simple flaw of our unconscious mind – it reacts to any sensation immediately, including the ones so subtle that our conscious mind is totally unaware of it, without leaving our conscious mind any choice as to whether we want to react. On the surface level people have more or less money, fulfilling or unfulfilling jobs, big or no house, better or worse relationship, supportive or difficult family etc etc, but deep at the core this is not at all what defines how happy or unhappy we are. If you think about it, we are all about sensations: we feel, we experience, we like and dislike some, we develop habits, get attached, we have an image of WHO WE ARE based on what our memories and character (= established MENTAL PATTERNS) are about… Vipassana can free you from all that, but the choice of whether you want to savour every sensation or be beyond their reach is the same like choosing the colour of the pill in “The Matrix”.
As your awareness grows, through your own experience you discover things that were outside the scope of your universe before.
This was a time of great development in meditation, a time when many of the techniques used today were first created, though the Vipassana meditation technique taught today in the West is based on teaching from the 1800s, when Theravada Buddhism went through a great rejuvenation. It is used to gain insight into the true nature of reality, a reality which, according to Buddhist belief, is comprised of The Three Marks of Existence: Impermanence, suffering, and realisation of non-self. You can practice Vipassana meditation technique at home if you prefer, provided that you have a peaceful space to meditate.
But if you find this position uncomfortable, feel free to adopt any position in which you are comfortable and in which you will not need to fidget. This helps energy to flow naturally through the body and also helps to create mental stability and focus. Don’t say “I’m not focusing enough.” Though we try, it is impossible to maintain focus 100% of the time. For instance, if you are sitting and meditating at home when the doorbell rings your mind will immediately jump at the sound. For instance, if you see an image in your mind, label it “Mental image.” Describe the precise reality of what the thing is. For instance, if you are going for a walk, walk in Zen fashion, being mindfully aware of the process of moving.
For the deepest insight into true reality, I recommend using Vipassana in conjunction with these very powerful Buddhist insight techniques. I’ve got to say, it was a wild experience!  I definitely want to share my experience with you, but I don’t feel like I understand it enough yet to properly discuss it, so I’m going to hold off for the moment.
It welcomes all religions, faiths, and denominations (though no rituals, rites, or other such practices may be done during the 10 days).
I just got to Ottawa last night from Montreal, and it is soo nice to be here!  I did my undergrad at Carleton University, so I’m in town for a couple of days to visit friends, and then I’m moving on to Toronto on Friday. I loved this part of the day!  It felt so nice to stretch, especially with all of the sitting we were doing.
At this point I was seriously over meditation.  I did my best to sit still, but it was hit or miss. The actual meditation technique continually evolved throughout the course, so after the discourse, we would listen to an audio explaining the technique for the next day and then practice is for about ? hour. I was always super tired, but it usually took me awhile for my brain to wind down and let me sleep.  Once I did fall asleep though, I stayed fast asleep and generally woke up pretty rested. It sounded kind of fruity at first, but one day into my first course in 2005, I realized there’s nothing fruity about living like a monk for 10 days straight. By continuously observing without reacting, you can slowly train your brain to instinctively respond in a more positive and realistic way, which to me is worth the work. For most, the practice involves grabbing a cushion, plopping oneself down with eyes closed, and turning one's focus within. Emotional challenges, physical problems, and spiritual maladies are just some of the things that meditation can help provide both relief and insight into.

Unfortunately, this view on how to cultivate peace and happiness is focused in the wrong direction.
Some use it to relieve stress and anxiety, while others use the practice to tap into their creative center. One or both of the teachers will be at hand in group sittings for instructing and answering your questions. He spent many years as a monk and a disciple of Mahasi Sayadaw in Burma, but lived as a layman upon his return to India.
Joseph is regarded as one of the most significant and experienced Vipassana teachers in the West today. It is traditional to determine for ourselves the amount that is right for us to give in accordance with our appreciation of the teachings and our means. The bonus meditation ends when the last meditator mindfully turns off the light and leaves the meditation hall.
However, you may substitute your own program of physical spiritual excercises like yoga or tai chi for a walking period, but no such exercises are taught at the retreat.
Vipassana is a meditation technique discovered by Gotama Buddha (the Buddha) and currently taught around the world in the donation-based centres founded by Mr S.N.
And what he discovered and was very eager to share with the world was the technique of Vipassana meditation.
What he found was that anything we “encounter” from the external world with one of the physical senses, or any thought we have inside our own minds, in short – anything we experience – results in a bodily sensation!
Like the above two, it might look easy, but try stay in the same cross-legged posture for about an hour and check how equanimous you will remain about the excruciating pain you get after the first half hour in your knees, or hips, or back, or all of those. Simple example: someone says something annoying to you personally – next thing you know is that you feel irritated or angry feeling very justified in your indignation.
It’s like if you were born with your eyes closed and through some practice you managed to open your eyes, and then imagine your vision were weak in the beginning so you keep making it stronger through the same practice: the reality that will keep unfolding after you start with the practice will seem like a totally new world, you will acquire a new dimension.
If you would like help in choosing or creating a meditation space, refer to the article:  How To Design A Meditation Room At Home.
If you have back pain, for instance, you will find it much better to sit on a chair or to lie on bed, either of which are fine.
This process of observing and labelling helps the mind to realise what is real and what is a construction of the mind, helps to teach you that your thoughts are not real, and also puts you in touch with the true nature of your own reality. Instead, open your eyes slowly, telling yourself “opening, opening.” Then, when you begin to choose what to do next, say “Intending, intending”. The retreat is being held according to the principle of dana (generosity) in the tradition of Theravada Buddhism. If you pull all your will together and manage to get into an indifferent state of mind, somewhere amid all this pain during the next few days of your Vipassana course you would get your first and most important revelation about the body-mind phenomenon: that any painful sensation that arises on the body if observed “indifferently”, as if your body was just a lab and you were a scientist, does not really “hurt” you, and it’s only when you “get involved” when you mind kind of “amplifies” that painful sensation. But when you look at it deeper, what really happened was: you came in contact with an external object (someone’s words), you heard them – your conscious mind was aware of that part. As you practice, you believe only what you EXPERIENCE, not what you heard, not what you read, not what you think – only what you yourself EXPERIENCE, within the framework of your own body, going to bigger and bigger depth of your own mind. If you feel a warm air moving over your wrist, for instance, mindfully observe that sensation and say “warm movement.” This is just an example.
When you are learning how to do Vipassana meditation technique you may be surprised by what you observe in your own mind. When staying at a “Goenka” Vipassana centre for 10 days you follow a very intensive meditation schedule (about 10 hours a day), you also do not talk to anybody, there is complete segregation of men and women, you do not eat after noon and starting from Day 3 you are asked not to change your posture during the 1-hour long group meditation sittings, but all these rules are meant only to help you give a fair chance to the technique and progress in it.
If you are normal, then it would take you about 20 hours of almost continuous meditation to train your conscious mind to be able to do it. Somewhere amid this pain you learn that physical pain is quite easy to tolerate when you don’t grow it exponentially by making it a mental pain.
But what also happened but is not accessible to an untrained conscious mind is that at the same time you heard the words, your unconscious mind felt a specific unpleasant sensation arising somewhere on your body – and reacted immediately with aversion (“It’s so unpleasant, I never want to feel this sensation again”), following the usual habit pattern for the painful sensations. And now falling.” Describing the movement of your breath in this way will help you to maintain focus. We immediately lose focus and instead of focusing on the breathing we pay attention to the event.
This might sound a bit far-fetched and very difficult to believe, but when you discover it through your own experience, trust me – at least momentarily you will feel “liberated”. Such unconscious reaction in its turn will produce some irreversible bio-chemical reactions which exhibit themselves on your body as faster breath, higher adrenaline and all the other usual stuff that makes you feel the way you feel, point, deal with it.
On the other pole we have exactly the same mechanism running for the pleasant sensations – our unconscious mind reacts with craving long before our conscious mind can control it (in cases, such mental patterns of craving for a specific pleasant sensation manifest in daily life as addictions). For instance, if you hear a doorbell, mindfully observe the sound and label it “Sound.” This helps your mind to recognise the nature of external stimuli.
Just by saying “Mental image” or “Imagined sound” you train your mind to understand the true nature of mentally constructed information. One American friend responded with honest feelings of hurt from my overgeneralized remarks, and during my meditation retreat I had further opportunity to reflect on the unbeneficial effects of such speech.
In painting with such a broad brush, it seems I put my foot in the bucket and lost my balance; and the result, instead of eloquence, was simply a smear.
And I wish that any in positions of power and influence - a factor that could apply in general to citizens of affluent North America - will be open to understanding how our choices have actual impacts on the lives of others.

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