I took the Vipassana course two weeks ago (Vipassana means to see/observe a thing as the way it is), and basically we meditated all day for 10 whole days in a small place in the mountain, where we were isolated from the world completely. During those 10 days, we were not allowed to speak or communicate with others in any ways, so we were able to concentrate on ourselves entirely. The whole objective of this Vipassana training is to sharpen our mind, so the mind could be more attentive and sensitive to every sensation, heavy or light, pleasant or unpleasant, in our body, and then develop the equanimity to everything by understanding, and more importantly, experiencing, that everything/sensation is impermanent, and hence realizing all attachment, whether to a solid object or invisible feelings/emotions, is meaningless, and then you can regain your peacefulness and calmness of mind.
I won’t say I had become more peaceful or enlightened after learning Vipassana technique, but I do have new realization of Anicca (impermanence) and awareness/sensitivity of mind.
A lot of us had learnt about the concept of impermanence since we were young. We have a phrase that “Nothing is permanent" in Chinese, and especially in the Buddhist teaching, Anicca/impermanence is always one of the keywords in each preaching. However, why do we still get caught in all those impermanent stuff which put us in misery? From my strong sitting, i.e. sitting for one hour without opening your eyes, or moving your hands and feet, experience, I found out why. The reason lies in our sense of time.
According to the Oxford dictionary, the definition of “impermanent" is “that will not last or stay the same forever“. True, nothing stays the same forever; however, we might feel differently. Human lifespan is only in the blink of an eye of the universe; when we die, all the feelings, emotions, sensations we had, no matter how strong they were, are gone with us. Sure, impermanence, plain to see. But we don’t stand on the edge of the universe, watching over those tiny, short-lived human beings; we “live" them; we experience each second thoroughly.
We don’t have billion years to live; 5000 years is almost as good as “forever" in human history, and 100 years is even something most of us can’t “live up to". So, although we understand the definition of “impermanence" logically, when we “feel" it…okay, 5 minutes is impermanent…2 hours is impermanent…but how about 4 months? 3 years? 80 years? Wow…that’s almost the “forever" to a mortal!!
Time is relative, same as sense of time. In the absolute state, nothing is permanent, but in a relative world, something might be permanent, or at least feel/seem like. I guess that’s why though people get the idea, they still can’t be freed from the suffering generated from attachment to all impermanent things; since in human beings’ mind, things they are attached to last much longer than the lifespan of a bubble.
And then we change the subject to sensitivity/awareness. For all these years taking different spiritual courses, I’ve always been hoping secretly that someday my “super power", such as clairvoyance, clairsentience, clairaudience, and clairconscience, would awake magically. Some people say this kind of ability is innate, and others say it can be manifested only if it’s your destiny. But gradually, and especially after this Vipassana experience, I realized that it’s not “super power" at all, and it’s only matter of sharpness of your sense.
Energy, in different forms, though invisible to most of us, exists around us anywhere. I’m not talking about ghosts or aura, which some people might not believe in; I’m saying something like thermal energy, electric energy, magnetic energy, etc. Take thermal energy for example, some people are sensitive to temperature change, while some others are not. If two people placed their palms above my head, one might feel the heat coming out from the top of my head, while the other might not; it doesn’t mean the first one has special ability but the other don’t; it only says the first one is more sensitive to heat, and this kind of sensitivity can definitely be trained.
During Vipassana training, we were asked to observe and sense our breath for the first 3 days, but we were told to put our focus on the small area between nostrils and the upper lip only. It was not easy in the first place to feel the breath touching the skin, especially my breath is shallow and light, but after hours of practice, one would definitely sense more than the first hour. Because you are trained, you are more familiar with the sensation by now, so you are able to recognize it, and you’ve become more aware and sensitive. Just like people in the past were said unable to tell the difference between blue and green, and a newborn baby can only see vague shapes and light, before training, our “resolution" is rough.
When people claim they can see ghosts, higher energy forms, or auras, some “rational" people might say those people are insane, that what they claim they see is merely imagination or hallucination. But had them ever considered the possibility that they can’t see or sense those “invisible stuff" because their senses are “low-resolution"? I remember a teacher once shared his experience with us; he didn’t have ability of spiritual sight originally, but gradually, he started to see light when meditating, and then he could tell different tones/colors of light, and then finally, figures of different Masters joining him in the meditation. Isn’t it the same process how we learned about different emotions(like love, fear, anger, joy, etc.), and became more and more sophisticated along the way?
We don’t see/sense/feel something doesn’t mean it’s not there; probably it’s because it’s too subtle to notice, and we are too ignorant to see. Just like when we were asked to observe all sensations through out our body, most of the time my attention was dragged by heavy and obvious sensations, such as pain or itch, and so I was unable to notice the constant minor vibration at the tip of my fingers. But when I’d “seen" long enough, I started to notice different subtle sensations in me body, rising and fading away all the time. They were always there, whether I had seen them or not, but I didn’t notice them till then, when I’d developed better awareness/sensitivity, and my “resolution of mind" was higher.
What I meant to express is, ability of spiritual sight and other clair-capabilities are not super powers or delusions; they are merely manifestation of cultivated awareness of mind. They are logical and sensible; however they were mystified, not just by normal people, but also by some people in spiritual/new age area as well. Actually, it’s all about the fineness of awareness; just like how many digits we take into account when using PI in calculation.
To be honest, the two topics I discussed above are not something hard to think through, but I was hindered by the veil of some pretty but empty talks, and so I was unable to see the essence. Vipassana had provided plain and straight answers to some questions I’ve had for a long time. I want to be a believer, but I’m quite rational as well; I can’t believe until I find an at-least-seemly-logical reason to convince myself, and here in the Vipassana training I had found the explanations.
People have received different benefits after joining Vipassana course, tangible or intangible, and I, as always, have got more mental growth, and I like it 🙂