Meditation is sitting quietly
while paying attention to your experience,
allowing it to be just as it is.
— Cassandra Vieten
Why do we want to meditate?
- If our mind is peaceful, we will be free from worries and mental discomfort (dukkha), and so we will experience true happiness, which is equanimity (upekkhā).
But if our mind is not peaceful, we will find it very difficult to be happy, even if we are living in the very best conditions.
- If we train in meditation, our mind will gradually become more and more peaceful, and we will experience a purer and purer form of happiness. Eventually, we will be able to stay in this state all the time, even in the most difficult circumstances.
- Usually we find it difficult to control our mind. It seems as if our mind is like a balloon in the wind – blown here and there by external circumstances. Or we often call it “monkey mind” — jumping here and jumping there. If things go well, our mind is happy, but if they go badly, it immediately becomes unhappy.
- However life is by its nature impermanent — things will always change. We cannot have everything we want, we will inevitably be separated from friends, possessions, places that we currently enjoy. So in the end, this mental stickiness, or attachment, serves only to cause us all kinds of dukkha — from momentary discomfort to great pain.
And it all comes down to our attachment to our “self”, which does not get what we want, or loses something that we like.
- By training in meditation, we come to an inner space of peace and clarity, which enables us to control our mind regardless of the external circumstances.
Gradually we develop mental equilibrium, a balanced mind that is happy all the time, rather than an unbalanced mind that jumps around between the extremes of excitement and despondency.
- If we train in meditation systematically, eventually we will be able to eradicate from our mind the delusions that are the causes of all our problems and suffering. In this way, we will come to experience a permanent inner peace, known as “liberation” or “nirvana”. Then, day and night in life after life, we will experience only peace and happiness.
What is Vipassana meditation?
- Vipassanā is a Pali word meaning “clear-seeing” or “seeing deeply”. It is often translated as “insight”.[ref]
- So Vipassanā meditation is also called insight meditation — think “insight into the true nature of reality.”
- So that word “insight” is used, not in the sense of struggling to analyse and understand the complex details of something, but of simply relaxing and seeing things as they really are.
- (In the Theravada tradition which we follow, we see that how things really are, is: impermanent (anicca), unsatisfactory (dukkha), lacking self (anattā), and empty of inherent existence ( śūnyatā).)
- One method of vipassana, the one we practice, is called ānāpānasati. It is so simple, you just do this:
- ana = “breathe in”
- pana = “breathe out”
- sati = “be in the present”, “pay attention”
- And then do it again. And again … that’s all!
If it is so easy, why do we need a retreat?
Because of that monkey mind! It turns out that it’s easy to have lots of fun with it, but it can be much harder to tame. It almost seems like it does not want to be tamed — it is so attached to its way of doing things 🙂
Just as when we are learning a sport or a language, it is very helpful to start off with “immersion” in intensive sessions. It is easier to focus when we are sitting with others who are on the same path. And we can practice and ask questions with teachers and others who are working on the same things.
All parts of the Khao Tham Retreat — the retreat schedule , the rules and regulations, and the different practices — as well as Vipassana Meditation itself — were worked out over 2,600 years ago by the Buddha and by many masters after him, to help us learn how to tame our monkey mind and to find true peace.
More about meditation
page revised: 20 September 2018