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Vipassana Experience Day 3: Pain and Beauty

We were told that embarking on this Vipassana journey is akin to undergoing a deep surgical operation on our mind. Unresolved situations or issues in the past may surface, and one is supposed to face it neutrally. I have been looking out for signs. While the mind obstinately sneaked away from the main task at hand (observing respiration), I tried not to get distracted by the migraines and pain at the knee.

On this third day, I was getting reluctant to close my eyes to observe respiration. A dull ache has started at the side of my forehead with increasing pressure, and that feeling of in-between consciousness while I tried not to doze off after a meal was an excruciating one.

“New students, please stay back”.

At the end of our group meditation session, we were asked to remain in the main hall. This was one of the alternate days group meeting with the teacher, known as ‘checking session’. Through this, I realised that the pain in my head could be due to an incorrect method of meditation. Apparently, one should not use the eyes to observe, but the mind. But how?! A throbbing right jaw made me question the true source of the migraine. Was the pain due to the protesting wisdom tooth that’s trying to make its way out? The irony was apparent. Even though I wish to gain wisdom, I certainly did not meant it to be literal in the form of an unwanted emerging tooth.

The lady teacher with a kind smile reassured us, “take it slowly, and if you have any problems, come and find me”. Students that have doubts can seek an interview session with the teacher during noon or at night before lights out. For new students of Vipassana meditation, I found the checking sessions and the opportunity to clear doubts with the teacher to be very helpful.

And with that, we continued our journey towards wisdom (or so we hoped).

There are three stages in the development of wisdom:

  1. Suta-maya panna ~ wisdom acquired by hearing or reading
  2. Cinta-maya panna ~ intellectual understanding where one explores the truth and accepts if what one heard or read is beneficial
  3. Bhawana-maya panna ~ wisdom developed within oneself at the experiential level

Pain and its impermanent nature

Later in the day, I found myself pondering over the words of Mr. S.N. Goenka on wisdom, as I continued to ‘experience’ the sensations. Seriously, it’s mostly pain and bouts of giddiness at this stage. We were taught that the entire material universe and physical structure are composed of subatomic particles that arise and pass away rapidly. In reality, there is no solidity in this world, but combustion and vibrations. These facts lead to the truth of impermanence, which are confirmed by modern scientists.

“We all know that the entire universe is constantly changing, but it is only through experience that one will truly understand the reality of one’s impermanence and start to come out of misery.”

I was sceptical about the vibrations that was mentioned even though I have read about it by other Vipassana meditators. At the moment, I was just trying not to react to the discomfort. The mind coaxed for a reprieve, “this moment will pass, this moment will pass … ” And the mind wandered. Again. 

Of Illusionary and True Beauty

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A funny story on the illusory nature of physical beauty has stuck in my mind. The story is about this (supposedly) beautiful couple; a beautiful woman and a man in love.

The man said to this woman, his wife, “you are so beautiful with your thick, glossy hair.” One evening, this woman served her man dinner but a strand of her hair fell into the plate of rice. As she served the plate to the man, he was disgusted and said, “there’s a strand of hair in the food! That’s dirty! How could you serve this to me?” The woman replied, “you said my hair was beautiful last night, and you love me. If you love me and my hair, then just eat it.” (LOL!)

“The body appears beautiful only when it is integrated. Any part of it, seen separately, is without attraction, without beauty. Physical beauty is superficial, apparent reality, not ultimate truth.” – S.N. Goenka

As I recalled this story told by the teacher, I could not help smiling. I found myself thinking, “I must share this with them.” Them referring to the best bosses I have ever worked for. This mind has been wandering unwittingly to them, and thinking of their bemused expressions made me grin even wider while I tried to concentrate on observing the breath. The truth is they are one of the best people with the most beautiful of hearts that I have ever known. The mind was tickled as my imagination stretched unrestrained; while all those around me cringed with pain from sitting for hours, here I was smiling like a fool with my eyes closed. In that instance, I realised the moment has indeed passed. My aches were gone, at least for the moment.

Silent gratitude and nostalgia filled my heart. Stay in this present moment, and be grateful. Indeed, I was (am) very grateful for them and for this moment.

[To be continued]

If you have enjoyed the above article, please stay tuned for more as I will be sharing a series of my daily thoughts on the 10-day Vipassana meditation at Dhamma Malaya Center along with some useful tips to know before going. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment. Peace, harmony and happiness to all! 

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To find out more about Vipassana or to register your interest, click here: https://www.dhamma.org/en/about/vipassana

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