“It is easy enough to be pleasant
When life flows by like a song,
But the man worth while is the one who will smile
When everything goes dead wrong…”
ELLA WHEELER WILCOX
April 12th, 1910
This fragment of a poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox is quoted by the late S.N.Goenka, a world renowned teacher of Vipassana meditation, in one of the evening discourses. This quote (and other sweet stories) brings out loud laughter at otherwise silent 10-day meditation retreats every time it’s quoted.
This is what the practice of Vipassana (aka Insight) meditation is about; a way of living happily regardless of what life serves you up. I recently spent ten days serving during one of these retreats; service means working as a volunteer and putting the meditation practice to work in a conducive environment. This strengthens the personal practice of meditation so that you can bring it to your daily life and to lead your life in a balanced and positive way. This kind of work inspires me every time I go up – the change you see in people who participate is beautiful. They struggle through learning how their minds work and react to what’s happening, their meditation becomes stronger by the day and they leave with big smiles, open hearts and a loving spark in their eyes.
But it is the daily practice that makes the real difference in a person’s life. Taking the time to sit in silence daily, twice a day to reconnect with what’s going on at the depth of the mind by objectively observing the physical body and the contents of the mind. The practice is to change the habit pattern of the mind from blind reactions to an objective observation. This daily training helps to develop equanimity – a balanced, non-reactive mind.
I have been practicing Vipassana for almost fifteen years now and have seen many changes in myself. The most important ones are improved relationships and keeping a balanced mind at work and in difficult situations. The practice increases the understanding and compassion towards others which results in softer, less judgmental interactions with family, friends and colleagues. All around a super-beneficial effect.
“Vipassana is a form of mental training that will teach you to experience the world in an entirely new way. You will learn for the first time what is truly happening to you, around you and within you. It is a process of self-discovery, a participatory investigation in which you observe your own experiences while participating in them as they occur.”
– Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, What Exactly is Vipassana Meditation? Tricycle
Watch D’bi Young Anitafrika, a Toronto-based artist and educator, talk about what brought her to the practice of Vipassana meditation.
- Learn more about Vipassana meditation centres around the world and about the Ontario Vipassana Centre near Toronto, Canada.