What is meditation?Earlier this year I made a commitment to myself that I would attend a 10 day meditation retreat in order to explore myself without distractions and try to understand what meditation is. It's a fairly common idea and attitude that meditation invokes a variety of surreal experiences and or hallucinations and the like. It is also understood that meditation will get you to a state where you can think of nothing. Think of nothing... sounds like a contradiction to me. The mind was not made to be devoid of thought. Anyway, I do not necessarily dispute these happenings but I did not experience anything out of the ordinary during my sit. I am also quite the beginner. The type of meditation I was taught is called Vippassana (Vip-pah-sha-nah). Unbeknownst to me, prior to attending this retreat, Vippassana is one of the deepest and purest forms of meditation that aims to purify the mind, eradicate impurities, alleviate suffering and rid ones self of craving and aversion at the deepest level of the mind. It sound easy doesn't it. I obviously didn't expect it to be a walk in the park but I did not expect it to be such a life changing experience. It was also one of the most difficult tasks I have ever willfully subjected myself to. Before going I believed my mind was fairly calm, lucid and didn't wander as much as the next guy. After the first couple of hours I realized my mind was like the 405 during rush hour. If you aren't familiar with the 405, it's the interstate that connects LA to San Diego and is 8 lanes wide at some points, most of which are filled with disgruntled drivers. It's a nightmare. My mind was quite similar. As soon as one thought crept up, another was already in the works building off the previous one and behind that and overlapping another while yet another chimed in... blah, blah, blah. You get the point. I'm fairly positive your mind works the same way. I arrived somewhat nervously at the center knowing I was going to be embarking on a very serious adventure without physically going anywhere. I met a few people but didn't feel like trying to make any connections with anyone as I knew the next ten days would be filled with silence and to know anything about any of the people there would create an urge to inquire more into their lives. I kept to myself had dinner with a bunch of strangers and kept the talking to a minimum. After dinner, a meeting was held that outlined what was to take place during the course and addressed any questions or concerns anyone may have. When the meeting concluded my body was filled with nervous excitement. In the end we were all asked to vow commitment to the following:To participate in the course you are required to follow 5 precepts. The 5 precepts are: Abstain from the KILLING of any being, abstain from STEALING, LYING, SEXUAL ACTIVITY and all forms of INTOXICANTS. On top of that you have to observe Noble Silence. This means, no forms of communication including, talking, gestures and eye contact. Basically you have to be a recluse for 10 days.Every day was as follows:4:00 am Morning wake-up bell4:30-6:30 am Meditate in the hall or in your room6:30-8:00 am Breakfast break8:00-9:00 am Group meditation in the hall9:00-11:00 am Meditate in the hall or in your room according to the teacher's instructions11:00-12:00Ãā noon Lunch break12noon-1:00 pm Rest and interviews with the teacher1:00-2:30 pm Meditate in the hall or in your room2:30-3:30 pm Group meditation in the hall3:30-5:00 pm Meditate in the hall or in your own room according to the teacher's instructions5:00-6:00 pm Tea break6:00-7:00 pm Group meditation in the hall7:00-8:15 pm Teacher's Discourse in the hall8:15-9:00 pm Group meditation in the hall9:00-9:30 pm Question time in the hall9:30 pm Retire to your own room--Lights outTo go into detail about what happened over the next ten days would take me a great deal more time to explain everything that I experienced then to actually do it. The complete duration of the course felt like an eternity. On the 5th day, i felt like I had been there for at least a month. Just imagine for a second, not thinking, stressing or acting upon any of the thoughts that consume you're everyday. You are free from your life for a moment with only one concern; to observe yourself objectively without desire, craving, aversion or a single thought about any thought that may arise. The technique is about strictly observing how your mind works and directing it's energy in a positive manner. It is not to shut off your mind or condemn yourself from thinking one way or another. It is a practice of realization. By realizing how your mind works and how your mind relates to your body you end up realizing how you are related to your surroundings and how your surroundings relate to you. In the beginning, the idea is to focus your mind to become sharp, agile and aware. This technique is called Anapanasati which is the mindfulness of breathing. You begin by focusing all of your attention on your respiration through your nostrils without controlling your breath, simply observing what happens. In, out, in, out. Observe how this phenomenon happens naturally and involuntary. Try for a second to do this. Just take a minute and see how long you can focus solely on your breath. I bet your mind will wander away in less then 10 seconds. After your mind starts to sharpen, you progress to observing sensations in a very small area; the triangular area starting at the top of your nose to the top of your upper lip. Once perfected, you begin the actual practice of Vippassana which means insight. By developing awareness within we are able to see the true underlying nature of all things. This insight is not given to you by anyone but yourself and that is the most beautiful part. You learn the ways of the world and your nature by looking internally.In conclusion, I found this course to be amazing and highly suggest doing it. The course if FREE... yes FREE and is run solely by donations. Everyone who works there doesn't get paid a dime, it is all voluntary work which enables the pure good of the practice to be continued through love and not greed. If you have any questions, leave a comment below. If you are interested in taking a course go to http://www.dhamma.org or just google Vipassana meditation. Spread the love!