I was fortunate to have three separate people mention Vipassana meditation to me over the course of several months a couple of years ago. I can’t remember what prompted me to sign up last November. I finally managed to go this September. It was a fascinating experience. Very weird compared to our usual way of life or holidays. But for me at least incredibly rewarding. About 3 of the 30 males on the course decided to leave early. This is about normally apparently. It can at times be terrifying, mentally demanding or perhaps just not what they were open to or expecting right now. Of the 20 females on the course I don’t know how many decided to leave early but it wasn’t a noticeable decline.
All of the people I spoke to in depth had strange experiences, but all thought it was either a rewarding or very rewarding use of 10 days.
This gives a good partial snap shot of what Vipassana is about. The only disappointing thing about the course was although it claimed to be secular and open to everyone it did have a sprinkling of Buddhism, chiefly the belief in reincarnation. Out of the thousands of things said in the recorded videos, there were 2 or 3 references to it. I spoke to many Christian, Muslim, Atheists, etc afterwards and it was almost universally commented on and for some was a large and disappointing detraction. For most I think it was a minor annoyance that was easily out weighed by the simplicity, secular and helpful power of the technique.
I am now hesitant to recommend everyone try it. I’ve now heard multiple first or second hand stories now of those with existing neurotic or mental health challenges who went on the course, misunderstood the technique and made themselves worse. Because it is such a profoundly different way of viewing the world and life, it is really easy to misunderstand the technique. It’s like bad posture. You might know the right way but you’ll catch yourself falling into the old pattern again and again. The technique makes you a lot more aware of your whole body, more sensitive. But without the corresponding equanimity, it can amplify sensations and the old bad habit patterns. It can be very easy, at least initially, to fall back into the same rut of thought processes. And although the technique should be working to lift you out of it, for a small number of people it’s easy to get it wrong and do yourself more harm.