Practicing Buddhism + The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation

By Cathy H - 6:25 AM

Reflections on Vipassana
One of my goals of moving to another country is to study Buddhism and actually put it into practice. I'm sure myself, and a lot of others have dreamt of a life full of peace, lack of anxiety, and doing hipster things like drinking green tea/doing yoga/meditation on a daily basis. In my mind, I always put it off thinking "one day I'll start...." Now that I live by myself, I figured why not start now? So I did, as of 3 weeks ago. I started reading Goenka's "Art of Living" which teaches the foundations and reasonings behind Vipassana and that did it for me. Though I still have many questions about Budhhism as a religion and practice, this religion felt like the most logical and practical one. One of the things I like most about Buddhism is that it makes the practicer feel like they're the ones in control, and proactively working towards their own "bliss/heaven." Instead of accepting that the mind or life is on autopilot 24/7 and putting blind faith into some mystical being- Buddhism always emphasizes that one should never accept anything as the "truth" unless they can confirm it for themselves.
Today, me and my friends went on a mini hike/picnic and found ourselves discussing religion. I told them of my liking for Buddhism and my friend admitted to feeling it had "2 sides of a coin" in that Buddism teaches desire/attachments as a negative thing that causes suffering, but why is suffering bad? That has got me thinking just how difficult it is to explain to others what the teachings mean. I think, Buddhism doesn't teach one to be a cold, emotionless person that sits on a hill and meditates without a care in the world. It tells us that everything in life should be approached with equanimity and mindfulness. That everything should be taken lightly, to not immerse ourselves so deeply in everything since the entire world is fleeting. Yes, cravings and attachments aren't bad but they shouldn't be a central focus in life. Overdoing anything is bad in general- whether its overeating, over devotion, overconsumption of alcohol.

Life Goes On Any No Matter What Thoughts We Have
When I really look back on my life, I feel almost sorry in a way that I've been living like life was not abundant, that I had to "think" about my problems 24/7 or else the whole world would fall apart, that without a "better me" I'd be nothing. When I had a boyfriend or went on vacation, I was more worried at the whole experience/relationship being over one day and having to feel that emptiness/lack of not being able to keep a "perfect moment." Worst of all, I'd catch myself being "too happy" and start thinking of reasons that I /can't enjoy the present moment/ because my life might turn to a mess when I started thinking about the imperfect nature of it. Living like this was absolute insanity, which I found that after reading "Power of Now." It was so exhausting, being a slave to my own thoughts to things I had no control over, to hold on to things that must pass eventually. To live like each moment wasn't enough, like life was an long inevitable chore. I think all my anxiety stemmed from this. And the crazy thing is, a lot of people are living this way.

Now I think back on everything, I believe life worked out whether I locked myself in my room panicking about the future or not. That life is happening despite our labels and judgements on it. Everything is just facts, and it's our reaction to these "facts" that cause the suffering and unhappiness. For example, I'm walking outside on a beautiful day and suddenly it starts POURING RAIN.
Fact= it was sunny, than it was raining
Reaction= "OMG what did I do to deserve this? I don't even have an umbrella!!! My bag is gonna get wet, my day is ruined!! I hate Vancouver. Ughh this sucks"
And like this, we react to everything in life.

Practicing Meditation
All this reflection on my life and mental state lead to actually starting meditation. This is my third week of doing it on a daily basis and I have to say even if its just 20-30 minutes a day, I really feel much more stable and peaceful.  I been doing Vipasanna/Mindfulness meditation which consist of body scanning and feeling the sensations in every part of the body and focusing on breathing. That's all you do, let awareness take over and let all thoughts/images come and go. Sometimes my mind is like "open your eyes and move on with life, this is so boring and useless!" or "god it feels so long..what time is it?" My mind is so loud sometimes, but as time goes on I started having those "gaps" from thinking as well as some odd sensations. When I get in that state, I feel real contentment. Like everything is so simplified, uncluttered, straight forward. I really want to do a Vipasanna retreat which is 10 days of silence+meditation if I can get my mind to a somewhat consistent statement of non-thinking. I also want to do a couple of temple stays in Korea, which I'm so glad I will have the opportunity to do. It sounds so weird, but I feel like since I discovered Buddism 2 years ago- I feel like I was meant to study and practice it. I feel so glad to be able to find a practice that gives me long-term joy and peace beyond what the external world will ever offer me.

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