The power of non-reaction in Vipassana Meditation

Written by Sophie Nusselder

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The power of non-reaction in Vipassana Meditation

About 2 years ago I did my first Vipasanna 10 day course. Vipassana dictates a blanket command of non-reaction. No matter the pain as you sit, or the fact that your hands and legs fall asleep and that your brain is crying for release. You are instructed to refocus attention on the objective sensations in your body, arising and falling, as you do a scan of your limbs in a specific order. By doing so, over 10 days, you train yourself to stop reacting to the vicissitudes of life. While descended from Buddhism, the modern-day courses are secular in nature. The father of these retreats is the late SN Goenka, who was raised in Myanmar and learned Vipassana from Sayagi U Ba Khin. Sayagyi was a married householder with five daughters and one son. More about his life:

I remember the first days were extremely tough because I was craving for eye contact, a talk, a hug. All I wanted was to be “seen” and “loved”. But Yes! I was in a Vipassana course. I wasn’t allowed to look people in the eye, nor speak or touch people.

Tensions of the mind according to Patanjali

Patanjali says the basic tensions of the mind (witch brings unhappiness) are ignorance of truth, egoism, attachment, aversion and fear of death. I agree it can be hard for a person who is constantly influenced by outside events and sensations to find inner peace and tranquillity. This said, I think we shouldn’t stop interacting with the world and live in self-imposed sensory deprivation. We are human beings with a natural desire to be in interaction with people. We want to talk with them, smell them, touch them, and yes! we also have a natural desire for intimate contact with certain people to whom we are sexually attracted.

Transformation of thoughts

After a view days I realized I could continue craving for affection, but then I would be unhappy the rest of the course. So, I decided to train myself to dissociate my craving and started to be aware of whatever was arising in the body and mind.

Result: I experienced moments in which I was absorbed in my own sensory consciousness. Especially at the time I was not meditating, I experienced my sensory capacity extremely sharp. For example: when I took a shower, I intensely smelled the soap and fully enjoyed it. When I ate, I fully enjoyed the tasty food. The last view days of the course my mind was fully surrendered to observing the breath and sensations in the body. Noticing this, I felt so much love for what is living inside me. I experienced so much joy within me that I realised I actually AM my own best friend. This insight had its reflexion on one of the meditations, in which I had the idea I was holding myself in my own arms, like a baby. I felt myself very real; I was breathing consciously and hugging myself with all of my body, spirit, and heart. I felt myself in my own arms, alive. The energy of care and appreciation was penetrating deeply in myself.

Wow! It was such a beautiful experience. Now. Whenever I meditate I am not afraid anymore to observe the NOW. I know deep inside me there is so much love, so much joy. I know wherever I am, in whatever situation, I will be nourished and bloom like a flower.

The power of non-reaction

This Vipassana retreat made me aware to not indentify myself with thoughts nor with the body. I am neither my thought nor my body. Thoughts and sensations in the body come and go, like the waves of the sea. I have the option to react on thoughts and sensations in the body but not necessary have to. Secondly I learned to break the habitual, automatic pattern of the sense and its object combining. Attention and affection, manifested in a talk or a hug doesn’t always have to be associated with a person. I can also receive attention and affection by giving this to myself. This is called self-love. Yes! Mmmmmm…. 🙂

Anicca vata sankhara, uppadavaya-dhammino. Uppajjitva nirujjhanti, tesam vupasamo sukho.

These are the words of Gautama the Buddha upon enlightenment, as sung/chanted by SN Goenka. The language is Pali, which was colloquial at the time. Meaning: Impermanent truly are compounded things, by nature arising and passing away. If they arise and are extinguished, their eradication brings happiness.


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