What Vipassana Taught Me About Ignorance And Healing

Vipassana meditation gave me new understanding of my own inner world, and left me thinking more deeply about o, so many things. How amazing it is that all of us humans have such similar internal experiences, both over thousands of years of time, as well as crossing borders and cultures. And how amazing that we still largely ignore the pain experienced by ourselves, and other beings on our planet. What if ignorance is the only challenge for ourselves and humankind, and what if cultivating awareness and empathy is our only remedy?

What is Vipassana?

Vipassana is an ancient Buddhist meditation technique, 10 days of meditation in noble silence. It means ‘to see things as they really are’. For days you focus only on focusing the mind, through meditation, and a minimum of new stimulation – no communication, books, phones, writing, nothing. Then when the Vipassana technique is introduced you experience the power of a focused mind when used for healing. My first Vipassana course was in Colombia, last November. It was the 2nd week of my travels, and a wonderful start for sure. Almost 100 of us meditated for 10 days in the monastery of Choachi. Other then leaving feeling blissfully happy, there were lessons about my personal cravings and aversions, there were glimpses of old memories that gave insight, and there was healing of old stuff.

My daily view from the monastery in Choachi, Colombia

My daily view from the monastery in Choachi, Colombia

Ignorance In Myself

One of the things that dawned on me afterwards is that ignorance is not like I thought a synonym for ‘uneducated’, or ‘not being aware’. Ignorance is not being aware of pain. Pain, or suffering, that is taking up space of love, and that makes us act out in anger, tears, or withdrawal, when triggered. During Vipassana, when I could not focus my mind on certain parts of my body, maybe my belly or my throat, there would be something hidden there. Only by keeping my focus there, some form of emotional pain would appear. I had been ignorant of these pains, they had literally become my blind spots! The simple act of bringing awareness would diminish or release this pain (or sadness, fear, anger, and so on). Simple, but profound! Experiencing this process through mind and body, not intellect, was the biggest eye opener for me.

Ignorance And Healing In The World

What about the blind spots of the world as a whole? Is ignorance the same on a global level, and can we heal in the same way? We can see pain on a global level as world hunger, poverty and inequality, and all sorts of painful effects of climate change. This pain is in the same way taking up space of love, and humankind can act out in the same unpleasant ways. Anger, sadness and fear on a global level looks like riots, racism, crime, and so on. How can the simple, but powerful process of reducing ignorance and pain through meditation and awareness, be a remedy for the world?

Social Benefits From Meditation

Yes we can battle global ignorance, and suffering, with education and awareness raising, and I am all for that. But as an addition to that, meditation cultivates a deeper awareness and empathy. Not just awareness of the intellectual kind, but one that involves the heart. There is fascinating proof of social benefits from mindfulness and meditation. For example, group meditation can reduce crime rates in cities, by groups that form as little as 1% of the population. And mindfulness experiments are positively transforming problematic schools. In one San Francisco school suspensions decreased by 79 percent and attendance and academic performance noticeably increased.


Healing Our Connection To Nature

Nature is intelligent, cooperative and full of love. Other then our connection to ourselve and others, we need to understand our connection to nature on a much deeper level, if we want to relieve the suffering of all beings. Science is already showing us a connection we have lost in our spiritual experience of nature. Not only have we seen that animals know empathy, loyalty and care, the plant world is also much more conscious then we imagined. Trees know cooperation, ´mother trees´ support small vulnerable trees with nutrition through underground mycelium structures. And plants can recognize neighbour plants, and have intelligence to learn and remember. Those are just a few examples that makes us see how we are one with all beings. Buddha´s teachings can also be applied to connect to nature, that is where Joanna Macy comes in. She has developed Deep Ecology, which uses teachings similar to Vipassana. This  powerful process and movement creates a feeling of connection and responsibility for all beings, now and in the future.


More On Vipassana And Meditation

Vipassana showed me through experience that cultivating awareness and empathy can bring huge transformation in how we relate to ourselves, society and nature. Needless to say I have been trying to keep up regular meditation, and may just end my trip with another course. If you have the 10 days free, or are going on a long trip, I can highly recommend taking a Vipassana meditation course (just make sure to reserve in time, as the courses often are fully booked). Vipassana is something that will transform you forever, and will give you a meditation technique to use the rest of your life.

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