Having just spent 10 days in complete silence on my second vipassana meditation course, here are 10 takeaways from this meditation marathon.
1. Acceptance Is A Superpower
We really can deal with anything once we’ve accepted it as it actually is. Our problem is never the situation as it is, it’s all the mental layers we’ve added on top without realizing. In this way, we’re so often like the lion tamer who, rather than just working with one lion, is trying to tame the whole zoo too in the form of our additional mental resistance.
2. Our Minds Are Hardcore Narrative Addicts
Our minds are constantly rewriting narratives like a scriptwriter who has had too many Red Bulls. These can be about people we haven’t even met and moments that haven’t happened yet, whether this will be one to remember or one to regret. Our minds are narrative junkies, so there’s this deep compulsion for them to produce a story about what’s happening to us and what that means, rather than just let it be as it is.
3. Our Minds Like To Rehearse More Than A Prima Ballerina
Yet no matter how much we have thought about a particular moment, when it comes to pass, it will just be as it is. We can have as many dress rehearsals as we want in the rehearsal room of our mind, but when the moment comes, it will be as it actually is, whether we have rehearsed it or not. How attached we are to our mind’s image of how the moment should be is exactly proportional to how much we suffer as a result of how it actually arrives.
4. There Are Only Four Types Of Thought And Our Minds Play These On Loop
Our minds only have two genres in their repertoire, the future and the past. And they only know two types of song for each, pleasant and unpleasant. They’re constantly playing one of these tracks in the form of thought, and the more pleasant or unpleasant the thought is, the more likely it is to repeat itself over and over again.
5. We Have The Power To Pick Up Our Internal Remotes And Change The Volume
We’ve always got the remote in our hands in the form of focus, yet most of the time we’re unaware of this. We’re like a bartender who’s become so used to the background music that they forget it’s even on. When we lower the noise, we realize how loud the quiet things are. Birds fly by louder than jets. We can’t fall asleep at night because of the beating of our own heart. It makes us appreciate how much we’re missing most of the time simply because it’s drowned out by the volume in our head.
6. Our Mindset Makes A Difference
This becomes clear as we observe how our mind reacts differently to the same situation solely depending on its state. To the spacious mind, everything is acceptable as it is. To the agitated mind, nothing is. How we’re thinking and feeling about a situation is an invaluable indicator of the kind of mind we’re dealing with if we can just give ourselves the space to observe this. Then we can know whether our mind is in a state to start or if we need to wait on its state.
7. Every Moment Is A Perfectly Packed Parcel
We’re typically so focused on our wish list that we don’t come close to unwrapping this moment’s special delivery. We spend so much time picturing parcels we’d like or dislike to receive that we don’t even notice we’re always playing pass the parcel with the one that’s been delivered. If we could just see the contents of every moment clearly, rather than adding more layers of packaging to it in the form of our mental projections, we’d realize the personalised perfection it already contains.
8. We’re Connected To Everything Already, We’re Just Too Busy Uploading And Downloading Thoughts To Notice
It’s hard to appreciate birds and flowers when we’re focused on signals from phone towers. Connecting to all life sounds like it should take hours upon hours when in fact it’s something that is already ours. When we’re not distracted for long enough, we simply realise that we have been connected to everything all along.
9. There’s A “Pre” In “Presence” For A Reason
Our minds are masters of self-preservation. They know that they can be rumbled by the present moment because it doesn’t require them, so they work overtime coming up with reasons why other things must come first. There’s always something we have to deal with before we can just let the moment be as it is. Really, in the running order of reality, the present moment always comes first.
10. Change Is The Only Thing That Never Changes
That pain. That bliss. That person. That situation. The meaning of these words. Everything will change—that’s the only thing that never changes. And it’s not accepting this impermanence that causes us suffering.