Vipassana - welcome to the real world
Vipassana is "insight into the true nature of things".
Remember: "Do not try to bend the spoon — that's impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth: there is no spoon."
Most realizations that you acquire as you keep practising Vipassana are of precisely this nature: there is no spoon, as matter is just extremely high vibrations, but our minds have never been trained to a degree (or vibrational range) necessary to experience it.
To start with, the whole life since the day we are born all our learning happens in interaction with the outside world, and hardly ever do we really look "inside", directing our attention at the mechanics of our own minds beyond the level of the conscious part of it and at the sensations of our own body beyond the level of the most apparent ones. And then you take Gautamma Buddha - as a very small child he just sat beneath a tree and started observing his breath, which is the "closest" activity of the body that can happen both unconsciously (the usual case) and consciously (when you control your breath) and therefore can serve as a bridge between the conscious and unconscious part of our mind. Probably if you were to do the same when your own mind was still pure enough, you'd also discover in a natural way (without any Vipassana courses) that there is a whole huge part of your mind - the one that is commonly referred to as "unconscious" that is accessible to you and is actually possible to control! This part of your mind is the one that constantly "feels" the sensations arising on the body and communicates with the conscious mind, but you were totally unaware of the fact that you can "access", feel and train it, so instead of serving you diligently, this "tail" was actually "wagging" you!!!
Here are some explanations of what I mean by training your unconscious mind. Imagine any skill you train, like say dancing salsa, playing the violin, surfing or kungfu. When you start training them, you analyze and control the movements that your body has to perform with your conscious mind, so you practice things very slowly, until gradually step by step your body learns to perform that movement on its own, at the right speed. But wait, is it really your body that's performing this movement, and is it really on its own? No, not at all! What actually happened is that through a lot of practice you managed to move the skill from the conscious level of your mind to the unconscious one, the one that can perform the movement at the required speed, and without the continuous inteference of the conscious part of your mind, which is too slow to supervise anything that needs to happen faster than in lets say a millisecond. So, actually any figure in salsa, playing a concerto, standing up on a surfing board, doing a kungfu form or actually any good habit that you possess are all examples of our unconscious mind diligently serving us without any supervision from the conscious part. The opposite is also true: any bad habit that we possess, or any skill that we don't perform with perfection are all examples of how the unconsious part of our mind has not been trained to do the right job. I remember my violin teacher always used to say: "if you learn to play some part fast but incorrectly, it's much more difficult to "re-learn" to play it correctly". Now I understand that what she meant was that once we've moved some "algorythm" to the unconscious level of the mind but it's a "faulty" algorythm, it's much more difficult to re-write this algorythm with the new, correct one, as opposed to directly writing the proper algorythm from the beginning.
Now, take a close look at your life, at all the events and daily experiences it consists of. Lets draw some normal sequence: get up, go through the normal morning routine, go to work, interact with people at work, eat lunch, drive home, go grocery shopping, interact with the shop assistant, come home, go through your normal evening routine. And now look at all of it really really close: in how many of those routine operations and interactions was your conscious mind involved? Did it supervise how you perform the teeth-brushing, or how you change gears while driving to work, or - much more importantly - the thoughts that were passing through your mind the whole day or your reactions to the multiple interactions you had with the people? I bet, apart from your job and some small parts of your daily routine where it's all purely up to the conscious mind, there were very few activities which your conscious mind had to supervise. And not that there is anything wrong with it: we keep training this autopilot ever since we are born in order to go through life efficiently, but being our best buddy if it keeps performing the good skills and habits, our unconscious mind can also be our worst enemy when it keeps executing the "bad algorythms" all on its own, too fast for the conscious mind to supervise it. In regards to any life skill this would be analogous to a passage of a Vivaldi concerto that we learnt to play incorrectly: in order to learn to play it correctly we would actually need to spend more effort than it took us to acquire the wrong way of doing it.
And now we are getting very close to how this all connects to Vipassana. Now take a look at what you've been doing ever since the day you were born in regards to how you deal with any life situation emotions- and reactions-wise. What you will see is exactly the above pattern: you were learning multiple, innumerable "skills" of reacting, at a speed where your conscious mind no longer needs and is able to supervise it. On the one hand, it's very good since otherwise your conscious mind would have to give new assessments and think of a reaction every time something occurs, and then we would all look, how should I put it, "slow". But if you look at the other side of the medal, you will also see a lot of "skills", or "ready-to-serve reactions sets", or we can also call them mind patterns, which are actually faulty from the point of view of how they affect your life. Take an honest and thorough look at your life and you will find numerous examples: do you feel anger or irritation when things are not done your way, do you find it easy to go and do something healthy after a stressful day at work, do you always make the best eating choices, when you talk to people do you really hear them or does your tongue start bragging the moment an opportunity arises, how often do you help others in a truly nonselfish way, do you even love people you claim to love in a truly pure, undemanding, nonselfish way, how many acts of kindness do you perform on a daily basis expecting nothing in return, do you feel genuinly happy when you see upbeat updates from other people on your social networks? There are many more questions you could ask yourself while reviewing those ready-made mind algorythms, but unless you are a saint, all of us would discover that there are actually quite a few of those patterns we would love to change in order to turn into the pure, kind, generous, loving, happy people we could potentially be.
And here is where the problem would arise. Very well, we are quite aware of all our flaws, after all "to err is human", but what do we do with them now, after we are so settled in what we proudly call "our character". After all, we are not talking here about some hobbies, like dancing salsa and playing the violin. No, we are talking about hundreds and hundreds unique algorythms that define how we react to all the multiple life situations on the level of our unconscious mind. Aaaah, that's where Vipassana comes in!!! This is that very training of your unconscious mind, as well as the interaction between the conscious and unconsious parts, which will enable you to re-write those faulty algorythms with the good ones, wholesome ones, in batch mode! Not that it will really take the whole batch of your mind impurities and "cleanse" it, like one run of a washing machine. No, not so fast! But it will start training the concentration of mind necessary to accomplish the future "re-write operations", it will also modify the basic algorythm of sensing-reacting by swapping their roles and later on gradually, session after session, re-write a few mind impurities at a time.
Why is it possible to do it batch mode? Well, various reasons and some of them are too "technical" to be given here, but here is one that will explain it at least partially. What actually happens is that with Vipassana you will first realise that the foundation of all your life interactions has an essential flaw and the practice will teach you how to re-build that foundation. Once you have the new foundation, you can "resucitate" your entire mind to the state it's originally meant to be: pure. So what is this essential flaw? It's like this: by now you've lived your entire life using the same behavioural pattern for all life situations, this algorythm in a simplified form being cognise (register that you come in contact with any object, tangible or intangible), perceive (label, categorize), feel the sensation (which you are not aware of as it's only felt by the unconscious part of your mind) and react (with liking and disliking). What you will gain through practice is: cognise, perceive, feel the sensation and communicate to the conscious mind (awareness). See, no reaction. And trust me, it's this reaction that makes us lose the balanced state of mind that's closest to real happiness. So with practice day after day you will be re-writing that old sequence that made your mind accumulate all the flawed reaction sets with the new sequence that will gradually erase all the "bugs", or faulty programs. (Remember the agents in Matrix? You'll shake off those guys :-). In computer terms you could compare what Vipassana does to your mind to getting a new BIOS system :-)
Now some of you might think: "but I'm really happy!" Well, at least when I first came in contact with Vipassana, one idea I couldn't agree with is that "life is misery". I would look at my life and find not even a trace of misery! So I thought: ok, probably in India where the teaching comes from, this argument that you'll be liberated from misery is really appealing to all those hungry suffering locals. It was only later when I looked "through" the ancient term, at the core of it, that I saw what they meant by this misery. And it's not the overall miserable life situation that they are talking about (like being very sick, crippled, poor etc), no! It's actually much simpler than that: the misery is simply having our daily emotions and thoughts that bring about agitation, irritation, anger, anticipation etc etc - all those states that make it impossible for us to live in the Now. If you look at your life, you might discover that you spend much less time in the present than in the past or future as many times no matter what is happening to you in the Now you are continuously sliding into the memories of the past in order to savour the old emotions or taking glimpses at the future to feel our beloved anticipation. So in the end your whole life gets stripped down to just few powerful emotions you had in the past or the almighty anticipation. That's not a real life: that's being in the Matrix!
And here is another problem with the normal behavioural pattern society equips us with: you think that your reactions are your private business and don't really concern anyone. You are irritated, well, what's the big deal - you are not hurting anybody. Wrong, oh so wrong! Each emotion is a very distinct vibrational pattern, on a very specific frequency and that vibrational pattern is felt by everybody around you. So the main conclusion is that you never contain your bad emotion or thoughts to yourself. Instead, you are "generously sharing" them with the whole world. These negative vibrational patterns are the reason we usually end up feeling very agitated or irritated after spending time in shopping malls, subways or other public places, as these are places where everybody does their portion of "generous sharing". Just because we don't see, hear, smell, taste or feel the touch of those vibrational patterns doesn't mean they are not there - we also don't perceive in any of the above ways the waves that are transmitting the mobile signals all around us, or many more vibrational patterns that are beyond the range of frequences perceived by a normal person without extra-sensoric abilities. What we don't know (and they don't teach us at school) is that what is called extra-sensoric abilities is simply a better trained mind which can perceive the vibrations in those other frequency ranges.
"What is real? How do you define real? If you're talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain."
Exactly the same is true about thoughts: if you think that thinking is just an innocent brain activity, think again. Every thought is also nothing but a specific vibrational pattern, on a specific frequency, has energy, carries signal and from moment to moment each one of our thoughts are rebuilding the "Matrix" in the most energy-efficient way. A balanced clear mind transmits pure happy thoughts with no "noise" (interference patterns) and is therefore an energy-efficient transmission, the opposite can be said about an unbalanced mind. This might sound like a self-help mantra but it's true. The difference is that self-help authors usually discover only the clue to the key to crack the Matrix by observing their own life patterns or through spontaneous insights, and with Vipassana you get the actual key through systematic mind training. And once you know who is really responsible for the physical reality of your life, you are very likely to stop blaming the illusionary "them" and finally take control of what happens to you.
"I'm going to show these people what you don't want them to see. I'm going to show them … a world without rules or controls, borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible."
But they don't teach us all these things at school, or university, or on the work floor. Ever since we start learning they are so busy stuffing us with all sorts of information rather than real knowledge or ability to use our mind to at least some higher degree of its enormous capacity. Take for instance kids that have difficulty concentrating, and therefore learning. Instead of giving them some mind training so that they first learn how to learn (like here in Malaysia where they teach Anapana meditation to small children in some schools), at an average school they will label those kids "slow learners" and from then on still insist on stuffing them like teady-bears with INFORMATION, more and more of that "precious" information, even now, in this digital age where getting almost any piece of information can happen in a split of a second. Well, of course to a certain extent the type of learning where the main accent is put on memorizing information and training the brain also serves a purpose, in the sense that it trains memory and teaches us to efficiently classify and store information, but it's just the proportion of time dedicated to memorising as opposed to overall mind training which is wrong. Another problem with our learning is that it's all about our conscious mind. Anything we do at the educational institutions is all about training and developing just the surface level of our mind. And has anybody ever mentioned to you that you can actually access and train your unconscious mind and the interaction between the two? No! And that's how we end up being able to do calculus but not live a truly happy fulfilling life of love, peace and sharing.
And one more important thing: so far I've been using Vipassana synonymously to mind purification, but I also think that Vipassana is by no means the only way to achieve that goal. At a broader perspective, the way the whole "Game of Matrix" is built we are meant to sooner or later find ways to get our minds to their original state of purity. In this sense many many even mundane-looking activities can help you in your personal evolution: some people practise sports in which they push the mind and body limits observing pain with equanimity, some people take up hobbies that develop concentration and brain-sync (like yoga or playing an instrument), some achieve a state of inner peace by doing things which can be like active meditation (for instance, diving or scrubbing bathroom tiles), some people practise things that indirectly develop awareness (for instance, learning foreign languages or living in foreign countries increases the range of frequencies you are exposed to), some people read the Bible or the Koran and recite prayers or mantras which brings their mind closer to the vibrational patterns of thoughts and words of some of the world's most important prophets (as to this last activity, I am not saying that blind belief in anything is good - I am just saying that any mind-purifying activity is better than none at all). As to Vipassana, out of all mind-purifying practices it might as well be a kind of "shorter, or faster" way but it might also be true that it doesn't suit everybody. After all, as many people as many minds :-). And also, just like an electric wire can bring light or take a life, Vipassana can liberate you if you maintain the focus on purity or seal you in the "game" even more if while practising you get off track and exploit the growing awareness or all the new exciting sensations for ego-driven purposes.
If you look at Vipassana even deeper, you would realize that being the Law of Nature, it all perfectly fits even in those partial theories already discovered by science (like the M-theory which "reconciles" the various directions of String theory) but being the ultimate Law of Nature, it's too big to fit entirely into any of those (it's like trying to squeeze the Earth inside a factory-made globe, but the globe could give you conceptually a very very good idea). There are elements of modern science that could perfectly fine explain how Vipassana works in scientific language. They would then be using terms like vibrational patterns, synchronisation, synergy, amplification, electro-magnetic fields and many more concepts that are currently being applied only to describing the external world. The problem is that nobody really cared to ask how many of those well established scientific concepts would be actually relevant if we look on the "inside", at our own mind, at our own body (= matter) and at their interaction. The fact that mind is not "tangible" doesn't mean it's beyond physics. After all, how many physics concepts, even as old as Maxwell's fields, deal with tangible concepts? An electro-magnetic field is not tangible to a normal human-being, but does it make it less "physical"? Unfortunately, scientists are too busy measuring and defining "Nature" in the world outside us, while the key to it all is written in every single one of us (as always, the best way to hide a key is to put it in the most obvious place)... And in the meantime we keep living in the Matrix.
"Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison for your mind."
We contain Nature, and Nature contains us. Vipassana can take you to a level of mind (or vibrations) that transcends that of a human-being, the one outside the Matrix...
"Welcome...to the real world."