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How to Feel

This I Believe

by Harrison Wiesert

I believe Vipassana—a type of meditation—is a tool to probe the sensations of the body; practicing Vipassana meditation for long periods of time gives wisdom about the impermanence of reality and how sensations affect emotional stability.

Picture this: every day you wake up at 4:30 a.m. and meditate in silence until 9:30 p.m. During the first three days, you are told to focus on the triangle made by the corners of your lip and the top of your nose. In the following days, you perform body scans. Observe the top of your head and scan downward. Going through this process teaches your mind to feel extremely subtle sensations. 

Last year I experienced an 11-day meditation retreat called Vipassana. I observed sensations that I have never felt before. While I scanned my face, I felt intense itching on my nose. I could feel an electric worm pulsing through my lip and moving through my cheek. I could feel buzzing teardrops running down my entire face. I scanned the top of my head and felt a rod of pressure pierce through my skull and down my spine. It felt like the rod aligned my spine and forced me to sit up straight. I felt the muscles in my back burn and ache. At times, it felt as if my back was being slowly torn apart.

The goal of Vipassana meditation is to view all sensations with equanimity. The benefit of this practice is gaining true awareness of both the impermanence within your body and your habitual reactions to change. When you feel an itch, do you itch? Or will it fade away with time? The itch will fade. All experiences are impermanent, including sensations. Craving and aversion is our habitual response to all sensations. You can change these baseline habits by observing sensations and actively choosing not to label them. Practicing this for long periods of time changes our reactions to all experiences. Instead of a knee-jerk reaction to an event, this practice gives you the ability to feel what is happening inside your body before you react. Feeling what experiences do to your body is like getting a notification about how an event affected you.

The last day had come; I was leaving Vipassana. While I was driving, I was continually thinking about what I had learned. I noticed I was speeding. I saw an overpass and figured I should slow down just in case a cop happened to enter the highway. I was right! The cop car entered the highway, and my first thought was not joy, but an understanding of impermanence. I was right this time, but not forever, and that was okay. I finished that thought right as his lights turned on… I laughed, knowing I had experienced a valuable lesson. The cop pulled me over and let me know that I am not allowed to drive in the left lane. I apologized and thanked him for telling me. He asked, “did you do anything fun this weekend?” I explained what I learned from Vipassana for five minutes. He thanked me, wrote down Vipassana in his notepad, and sent me on my way.

Vipassana gives us the ability to feel sensations with higher fidelity, understand impermanence, and cleanse our minds of unhealthy emotional habits. This, I believe.

Vipassana Meditation: Work
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