The Vipassana meditation course requires that you abstain from any and all alternative meditation or healing practices for the ten day duration. Amongst the reasons given is that mixing different types of meditation will not allow you to fairly assess what effect the Vipassana meditation has had on you. In other words you would not be giving it a fair, or scientific, trial.
I suspect that there are some, if not many, who would find it hard to reconcile science with meditation practices that are usually seen as being of mystical or religious origin. And yet there is no reason at all why someone of scientific bent cannot turn the focus of their scientific mind into the subjective realms just as easily as they do to the objective, concrete world. In fact, there are definite advantages to taking a scientific approach to such things. Self-development and self-discovery can be achieved more quickly and consistently via a scientific approach than via a purely mystical one. In my own estimation, meditation is actually much more of a science than it is a mystical art.
The only difference between the science of subjective versus objective matters is that when you investigate your own subjective experience, you cannot typically cross-check your results with anyone else, as there is never any guarantee that anyone else’s subjective experience will match your own in any given situation. But despite that, I have often been surprised to find definite similarities in the documented experiences of some others, which I have typically stumbled upon when reading around related subjects of interest, some time later. At the time of these experiences, I felt that it seemed a little odd and perhaps unique, and I could not even necessarily be sure that they were directly related to any meditation I have may been practicing. But when I later came across accounts of similar experiences by others, I was able to see that my own experience did indeed fit into a certain pattern or archetypal experience, and that it was in fact a definite “expected” result of the ongoing meditation practices I had been maintaining.
My own meditations generally seem rather uneventful and bland (for example I do not see any light or imagery, hear sounds or voices, or get catapulted into alternative realms of consciousness), but over the course of many years, I have accumulated a few experiences which have stood out to me as especially meaningful or noteworthy – some of which have left me with an enduring shift in attitude or perspective on life and my place in it. And as it happens, one of these noteworthy things happened during this very meditation retreat. And once again, it was only afterward, when I was reading the Wikipedia entry on Vipassana, that I saw recounted the experience of someone else who had been through a rather similar experience.
At the time of the experience I did realise that it was a significant event, and was fully aware that attending such an intense meditation retreat provided an environment in which such things probably happen more frequently than in the normal course of events. But it had seemed to be something that was fairly unique to me and my own stage of unfoldment – rather than something which, it is now apparent, is specifically what Vipassana meditation is intended to convey to the practicer ie. an insight into the human condition, our collective, mutually inter-dependent misery and suffering, and our need for liberation.
That one precious, deeply insightful and heartfelt experience was worth a thousand meditation retreats. But beyond that, I must also say that, despite some battles with the arising and processing of some previously subconscious issues, the aftermath has also been very positive.
During the drive home from the retreat, I felt a sense of inner peace and tranquility which was bordering on the blissful. Even when I encountered the stop/start snarled traffic of Newtown, along with the odd irate, horn-blowing, shouting driver, my sense of peace remained entirely undisturbed. I was merely an observer, remaining fully alert and aware as a driver, and yet totally unperturbed by it all, being totally indifferent to how long it may take to get through all the traffic, or even how many other irate drivers I might encounter.
Since then my level of peace has settled to a slightly more “normal” level, and was even disturbed by a couple of periods of mild anxiety as I faced the 300+ emails that had accumulated during my absence. But overall, in the eight days since my return, I have felt unusually calm, centred and strong, and able to deal with work-related issues more powerfully and efficiently than before.
I am so encouraged and by this change that I have decided to continue the Vipassana meditation technique for the foreseeable future, despite the recommendation that one spend two hours each day practicing it. In reality, the inconvenience of fitting this into the daily routine is minuscule when compared with the benefit. And of course it is a benefit not just for myself – but also for everyone else I come into contact with. Why inflict anxiety or discontent on others, when you can spread a calm and peaceful enjoyment of life instead?
Having read this, if you are still not persuaded to try meditation, or encouraged to increase the depth of your practice if you already do, then I can only have failed to express myself properly. Your liberation is at hand – all you have to do is dare!