Vipassana meditation – reflections after 3 years

1. Exercise is useful to calm a very agitated mind… even the stories during the course highlight this. Strongly discouraging (banning) it for those who enter the course with very agitated minds (or conversely not adequately equipping people in how to assess their mental state to decide if they should go on the course) is missing an important opportunity for a subset of attendees.

Yes, being able to meditate with a very agitated mind is a goal but it is best to walk before you can run. Exercise could be used as a crutch for someone with intense sensations i.e. high sensitivity and low equanimity, to reduce those intense sensations whilst the equanimity is built and might avoid needlessly uncomfortableness.

2. Some people come with very insensitive and unaware minds, others with highly sensitive and aware minds. Spending 3 days building awareness with no mention or guidance of equanimity could explain why some (those who are already sensitive) have entered or re-entered severe episodes of depression or killed themselves. Personalisation of the course would be very beneficial. I personally disengaged from it half way through day 2 to half way through day 4 because it was too painful as I was not yet given the tool for exploring the rest of the body, and more importantly the tool of equanimity for accepting it.

3. Writing materials are “banned” (no ones checks) but I think this is a missed opportunity too. I agree that we should strive to become less emotionally attached to things (objects / ideas / memories of past events / sensations of greed, pleasure etc) and made hostage by those things but the meditation can also be a great creative period. It’s far easier to get the ideas out and securely onto paper, then you can let go of them for those few days whilst you start to build longer term equanimity to them.

Like with all challenges, breaking them down into smaller more manageable steps makes it easier, more efficient and more likely to be succeeded at.

4. There is no support after the course. If your mind is now opened up and sensitive to life, this can be very unpleasant if you have things you were previously avoiding, insensitive to and sheltering from.

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