A phrase we consistently hear repeated is, “Life is complicated.” For most of my life I also believed this to be true. I thought life at times was unbearable. I thought too many things happened to us in life every day that hindered us from observing it objectively. I believed it was impossible to not take things personally. With a little help, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that life isn’t so complicated on its own, but instead human beings create complications.
Everyday we wake up from last night’s sleep, we get ready for the day, and we go out into the world. Things happen throughout the day, both positive and negative, which we internalize. We then go back home, rest, go to sleep to then wake up the next day and repeat. We go to work, perhaps exercise or hang out with friends, then go home, maybe watch television, read a book, or go on social media. Some of us call this living.
The many “things” that happen throughout the day can be called pollutants or impurities. The impurities we forget or ignore get buried in our subconscious because we don’t reflect on them. We let ourselves get distracted by temporary pleasures such as watching television or hanging out with friends. When we don’t reflect on these pollutants they become unresolved issues or resentments that start to accumulate and become stubbornly rooted in the deepest of our subconscious mind.
Imagine how many impurities we have accumulated throughout our years living; imagine how these impurities have affected our behavior and our spiritual beings.
Western culture doesn’t teach us much about mental or emotional self-care—understanding that our mind, body, and spirit are connected, or how to manage our feelings and thoughts in a practical way. Because this is the case, it should be no surprise that we don’t know how to live our lives peacefully and joyfully. Functioning the way we do, internalizing stress and impurities from years of engagement with the world, never taking the time to process these thoughts and make peace with them, is this really living?
Last month, I attended a Vipassana 10-day meditation retreat a former co-worker briefly told me about. He hadn’t told me much about it, but this new information felt like a blessing in disguise. I had been looking for a free meditation course for a long time.
I signed up in October of 2015 while traveling Europe and got accepted to the March 2016 course in Greenfield, Massachusetts (one of the best in the United States). With no expectations or previous knowledge, I took a bus to Massachusetts and then a taxi from the bus station to Greenfield where we pulled up in front of the retreat house. I went inside and after signing in, freshened up in my assigned room. A light dinner was served at 6pm. At 8pm, everyone gathered and the meditation retreat officially began.
As I sat on my cushion, legs crossed, arms laid on my thighs and eyes closed, I felt a rumbling current of rushing children racing up from my inner depths to my conscious mind to get attention. They all seem so desperate to be heard and taken care of as they pushed each other to spend time with their caretaker.
These “children” were thoughts and feelings I had ignored and neglected for months and years. For the next several days, meditating from 4:30am to 9pm, I had one random thought after the other. I thought about things I never even remembered happened. I resolved and let go of impurities I never even thought I needed to confront. Then after several days of pain, resistance and worries, my mind started to get more concentrated and more calm.
I started to question how I have survived all my life with all those pollutants inside of me, affecting my behavior and my mental capacity. I began to see the benefits of Vipassana, one of India’s most ancient techniques of mediation which means to see things as they really are.
A month after the retreat experience, I meditate every day. I handle myself, others, and life much more gracefully, multi-dimensionally and sanely. Vipassana is and has been a technique for the Art of Living in my life.
I encourage everyone to try it to un-complicate ourselves and our lives. To learn more about Vipassana Meditation click here.
Note: Vipassana is completely free. It is offered all over the world. For locations, click here.