The purpose of transcendental meditation is to familiarise with pure consciousness, or the Supreme Reality. It begins with a growing awareness of awareness, behind phenomena, such as thought, feeling and sensation. Once this relationship develops, the journey of exploring the infinite nature of consciousness begins.
It’s an achievement to find stillness in the sanctuary of a meditation practice, and a minor miracle to remain grounded in this state in “waking life.” As someone who is highly sensitive to my surroundings, I’m familiar with the struggle of maintaining inner-stillness when engaging with the world.
But unless choosing a monastic life, we have to engage. So how do we engage with the world whilst remaining untainted by it? How do we transfer the states cultivated in meditation into our daily lives? How do we remain calm in the middle of chaos?
A Vipassana retreat is a special experience. How often are we gifted 10 days of silent solitude, away from busyness, obligations and responsibilities? Meals prepared, an hour-by-hour schedule, accommodation sorted?
The environment is primed for laser-like focus on meditation, self-enquiry and insight. Even so, thriving on retreat, and maximising the benefits… that’s down to you.
I attended my first retreat in April. I’d waited six years from when I started meditation. I knew the time would come when it felt right. And I’d known for a few years I wanted to jump in the deep end with a 10-Day silent Vipassana retreat.
I was attracted to the level of self-discipline. It was a challenge I wanted to prove myself capable of overcoming. Even more, it was an act of gratitude and dedication towards a practice that has added so much to my life.
We are told to be aware, to pay attention, to create space. Yet conscious engagement with thoughts, with the intention to change them skillfully, has immense benefits. Although counterintuitive, it boosts the ability to be mindful and accelerates spiritual growth.
Maturing the ego and cultivating a skilled, self-serving intellect, is just as rewarding as the transcendental elements of spiritual practice. But the message in the West is often black-or-white; the ego is all bad, the solution to troubling thoughts is always being in the Now.
Living in the present is simple and impossibly hard. The complexity of mind distracts in a multitude of ways. Neglecting the quality of thoughts makes presence much harder; if your thoughts work against you, the task is greater. Yet it’s rare to see spiritual guidance on techniques adjusting the thinking mind.