May 25, 2011

My tryst with Masochistic Meditation: Vipassna, Part 2

So here's a truth I didn't know about myself.

I'm a control freak.

If you ask anyone who has ever known me, they'll disagree. I may be narcissistic , stubborn or stupid. But I'm all for the 'live and let live' school of thought.

But it's true. I'm a control freak and so are you. And you, and you, and you.

Sorry. My imagination got the better of me.

The very fact that we want to control our surroundings and circumstances, makes us control freaks. So when we're in a good place in life, we want it to last forever. And we feel bad when it doesn't. And when things are rough, we want it all to go away. And we hate it when that doesn't happen.

Tap. Tap. That's the definition of control freak.

Yes, I agree. Being disappointed when things don't go our way, is a human tendency. It's natural. You don't do it on purpose. But, being a control freak is a human tendency too.

You don't see your cat complain about how he just can't catch a lucky break. Does your dog mope around when you take his favorite rubber slipper away from him and keep it out of his sight? He just moves onto the next best thing to chew on.

It's not just pets, before you jump to that verdict.

If you've ever watched a documentary on lions on any wildlife channel you'll know what I'm talking about.

The lioness has been hungry for 3 days. She absolutely needs to eat today. And she chances upon a deer cub. Or is that a baby deer? Whatever, that's not the point. She's hidden behind the grass, the deer's drinking water from the watering hole. She pounces, the baby deer runs. It's Bambi's day today. The lioness fails.

She stomps her foot on the ground in anger. She lets out a loud, heart piercing wail and begins weeping. Tears stream down her face and she looks to the heavens- pleading for food. Enough of testing God, now just please give me a break.

'Why God? Why me? Why do you always pick on me?' 

Yup. You're right. That's not typical lioness behavior. It's typical ME behavior. And I'm not even dying of hunger.

*knock on wood*

You know what the lioness does?

She lies down in the grass and purrs. Purrs for hours.

I don't have PhD quality proof here, but I think she's thinking 'this too shall pass'. Tomorrow is another day.

Now that's a NON control freak.
What's the opposite of a control freak, anyway? Liberation freak?

The higher your propensity to sulk, mope, pine and sigh - the deeper rooted is your controlling tendency.

By that benchmark, I'm the queen bee of control freaks.

And here's the bigger more baffling revelation. If we were to give up our cravings and aversions to good and bad circumstances, to honestly do it, we would attain that blissful state of eternal peace. Our eyes would radiate the same calm as Buddha.

It's that easy.


It's easy alright. Easy to say. Impossible to do.

So here's the meat of what vipassna teaches you:

Train your mind to see that every circumstance, whether good or bad, is impermanent. It stays till it has to and it will leave. That's the nature of nature. The day your mind sees this, it will stop attaching itself to circumstances. What's the point of attaching yourself to something that you know will go away? Right. And the day your mind sees that, is the day you will start chilling out Buddha style.

And how do you train your mind? By using the one thing it's the closest to. Your body. You voluntarily put your body through a series of good and bad sensations/feelings.

You sit still and observe the various sensations pulsing through your body every instant. Some feel oh-so-good. Like a tickly, tingly waves under your skin. And then you have cramps and body aches from sitting still for an hour. The bottom line is you don't react. You just observe each feeling. And when you do it long enough, you will realize these feelings change. The tingly feeling turns to prickly and then turns into something new or just dies down. The piercing pain turns into a throbbing pain and then your body's tranquilizers start setting in, and the pain eventually becomes bearable before it dies down.

It's obviously not magic. The more you do it, the more your brain will get it. The more your mind gets it, the more it will translate this new knowledge to everything around it.

So soon enough, you will enjoy the good times, rest during the bad times. You will get attached to neither. And you will be Mr./Ms. Cool. Forever.

Just make sure you practice non stop, for like 23.5 years.
More if you take breaks in between or cheat.
Less if you're totally honest and don't sleep or go to the bathroom.

What?! You didn't think there would be a catch?
If it would have been that easy, you'd think we'd have a few million more Buddhas in the world, no?

Richard Davidson, PhD (I am obsessed with PhD people, aren't I?), neuroscientist and professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who runs the Laboratory of Affective Neuroscience, went for a two week version of vipassna. And he said:

'Anyone who says meditation is relaxation doesn't know what they're talking about. It's like changing the course of a river.'

So while I change the course of the river, drop by drop, I figure I should focus on the smaller, less conspicuous lessons I took away from my 10 day torture.

And, it's on the basis of these smaller lessons, that I will recommend this 'masochistic meditation' camp to you.

So this is where I bid the arrogant, I-don't-need-no-vipassna, I'm- too-spiritual-for-this-junk, holier-than-thou type readers goodbye. Those who are the open-minded, brave, let's-give-it-a-shot, what've-I-got-to-lose types, follow me to part 3.

On a lighter note, considering my current fetish for quotes from people with PhDs, I'm thinking of getting one of those babies for myself. Then I can quote myself all the time. And no one will have the nerve to question me. I'll be God.

Nope. Vipassna does nothing for delusional disorder. Why do you ask?

Creative Commons License
The Pious Hippie by Ms. Pious Hippie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.