Vipassana: Brainsurgery without anaesthetics

About four months ago I completed a 10-Day Vipassana course at the Dhamma Medini Meditation Centre, just north of Auckland in New Zealand.  I am not sure if and how much I should share with you about the course by writing this article. However, I read a lot of Vipassana reviews and stories myself and still had a completely different experience than I was expecting.  Haha, so it probably does not really matter what I write as you would probably interpret everything based on your own life experience anyway. Moreover, the beauty of the whole experience stood out for me and it really touched my heart. Therefore I could not just leave things unspoken and I hope that my story and information inspires you to go out there and see for yourself.

What is Vipassana?

That is 10 days of meditation in the meditation hall or in your private room. Wake up bell is at 4 am and the last meditation session ends at 9 pm. Breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea are provided and there is some time to rest or have a walk on the property. However, exercise in any form is not allowed. The food is completely vegetarian as no (involvement in) killing of any being is allowed. Other rules to keep the mind free from impurities are to abstain from stealing, from telling lies, from all sexual activity and from all intoxicants.

To help with these rules men and women are separated and you spend the days maintaining noble silence. That means no physical, verbal or even eye-contact with fellow meditators and servers. The only human contact you have is with the teacher during question and answer periods twice a day.  Before starting the course you have to commit to fulfilling the complete 10 days. Sounds awesome right!? I mean, who does not want to commit to an isolated 10 day meditation prison.

And what is the idea behind all this? 

In the end the goal is to become a Buddha or in other words to become ‘awake’ or to reach ‘enlightenment’.  This Dhamma, the way to liberation, was first taught by Gautama the Buddha and eventually by Mr. Goenka who spread the teachings around the world. Although Buddhists based their religion on the teachings of Gautama, it doesn’t mean that you will have to become a Buddhist to practice this technique. Gautama never intended to create a following of people separate or “more developed” than the rest of humanity. The technique he taught is universal and thus transcends all religions, sects, races, sexuality and so on.

Vipassana literally means to see things as the really are.  The theory is very simple and scientific. It all starts and ends with anicca, the universal law of nature. This law states that all things are impermanent and constantly changing. Instead of just accepting this, we tend to hold on to pleasant things and run away from unpleasant things. Through this process we create our own suffering; we crave for things we do not have and feel averted towards things we do not want to have. This reaction pattern is so deeply rooted into our minds and to change it we have to work deep within ourselves. Therefore Vipassana works at the experiential level, the level of body sensations.

The course is split into two parts. During the first 3 days of the course you work with Anapana meditation. Anapana is simply directing your attention towards the natural rhythm of your breath and the accompanying sensations. This practice has a couple of benefits and lessons for us. Since the breath is controlled by voluntary and as well as involuntary processes it functions as bridge between consciousness and unconsciousness.

Becoming conscious of an unconscious process helps you to become more aware of what is actually going on for you and your body in the present moment. You become aware of more and more subtle body sensations and of the mind-body connection.

That is, by observing the natural rhythm of the breath you realize how it is affected by impurities of the mind such as lust, fear, anger, envy or greed. Also, by trying to focus the attention on the breath you start realizing the tendency of the mind to pull you into the past or future. In short, Anapana trains the mind to be calmer and more focussed on the present reality so you can adequately practice Vipassana.

Vipassana is the real deal and it starts on the 4th day of the course. Vipassana can be seen as a very thorough and analytical study of the body. With a calm and concentrated mind you start scanning the body from top to toe and from toe to top. While scanning, the goal is to remain equanimeous. That is, observing what is without generating feelings of craving and aversion. If one manages to remain completely equanimeous while observing body sensations, no more feelings of craving of aversion are being generated.

In other words, no more conditioned responses (called saṅkhāras) are being created or reinforced. Moreover, remaining equanimeous actually provides the opportunity for old saṅkhāras dissolve. These are felt in the body as gross sensations, for example as painful, numb or throbbing sensations. Conclusively, Vipassana meditation is about developing your equanimity to dissolve all (even past-life) conditioned responses and eventually live a life free of suffering. By relieving one’s suffering, one notices that deep feelings of gratitude, love and compassion towards all of life arise naturally.

My experience.

Overall, the 10-day course was one of the most beautiful, insightful and healing things I have done in my life so far. It was also a challenge and there were times that I felt quite horrible and really dreaded the coming meditation sessions. However, in my journey, I have realised that healing and personal growth is never completely comfortable. Taking steps towards a more fulfilled, joyful and peaceful life is often quite scary and/or painful. In the Vipassana course, it was especially the physical pain that stood out for me as it was unlike anything I had ever experienced before.  On the other side the course did leave me with a more calm, present and positive mind and I can honestly say that the pain was well worth the gain. Therefore I titled this article: Vipassana: Brainsurgery without anaesthetics.

My biggest insight/transformation was regarding my aversion to pain. When we started the Vipassana meditation, I experienced an intense pain in my lower back. In spite of the pain, I managed to sit through the first three determinations sessions. In these sessions you try to meditate for one hour straight without changing your posture. Although I barely moved, the pain did not dissolve and it actually got worse.

I started experiencing feelings of despair and failure: No matter how hard I try, this backpain of mine just won’t budge.

Then, a sudden realization came to me: This is me, working hard and yielding nothing but disappointment and it is happening everywhere in my life; from striving to impress my dad so he would come back to be with me to trying anything and everything to cure my nasal polyps. However, all without result… A short mental conversation followed:

” So I guess I will just have to observe the pain, is that right?”
” Yeah man, just watch the pain, sit with it instead of through it.”
” Ah, I really do not want to.”
” Why?”
” Because it really hurts.”

Man, I cried my pants off. How obvious it became how I just never truly accepted my father not being there. How I never accepted my nasal polyp being there. I absolutely hated the pain. Absolutely hated how sad it made me feel. I had made the connection intellectually before but at that moment I was able to really sit with it. I was able to really watch the sadness for what it was, at the experiential level of body sensations. Since I was finally just observing, I gave the opportunity for the pain to dissolve. Now, I can’t say (yet) that I am completely free of suffering but I am fighting pain and hurt less thereby enabling myself to better observe, let go and move on. I even feel as if my nasal polyps are clearing up hooray. I shouldn’t get to excited though…Stay equanimeous.

This correspondence of patterns at the sensational, physical/health and social levels reminded me of a documentary called inner worlds and outer worlds (http://www.innerworldsmovie.com), where they explain that the smallest particle contains the complete pattern of the whole. For example, the same pattern might occur in the very cells and atoms of my body. And on the other side, I might actually be a dysfunctional cell of a massive organ that we call the Milkyway. To me this shows how important it is to make changes within as we actually influence everything around us. As a person who was always quite focussed on helping and wanting to change other people that was quite a relief. It created more responsibility for my own thoughts and feelings and gave me the freedom to work more on myself.

I was really impressed by the amount of progress one can make in 10 days and I improved in ways I never thought possible. In the beginning, I could barely concentrate on my breathing for a couple of seconds and it was quite interesting to see to what crazy, creative and often destructive pasts or futures my mind would take me. However, in the end I was able to concentrate on breathing and sensations for long stretches and forget everything around me. On the last day we watched a documentary and there was literally no background noise in my head and I was seeing and hearing like I’d never done before.

Furthermore, I was able to notice subtler and subtler sensations as we kept on practicing and eventually became so aware that I started to wonder if the sub- or unconscious mind actually exists. Maybe it is just a matter of “not being aware of the present”? Mr. Goenka says: “The mind is a strong wild beast, however, imagine if we could actually tame it and make it work alongside us.” I say we would be present to our needs and those of others and we could fulfil all our dreams without being distracted and with limitless creativity. Although my mind now is not as calm and present as it was on the last day of the course, it has definitely helped me become more present and to “catch and reset” myself when I am drifting of in vicious thought patterns.

On the tenth day we were allowed to speak to each other again. This was the best experience of the whole course as well as the most confronting. I noted that not being distracted by my own troubles and stories at that time really enabled me to connect with other people.  I felt so much love and gratitude for seeing how beautiful and unique everyone was. On the other side, it was really confronting to realize that I always thought I knew what was going on for everyone and especially of how negative they thought about me.

There were so many stories, opinions and expectations I had made up around my fellow meditators. Thankfully, they didn’t make any sense at all. Sometimes I would not even know that I’d already made up a story about a person until they started talking and I would suddenly be surprised that he was actually very kind or, for example, had a really high pitched voice. Knowing this now helps me to better connect with the actual person instead of with the person I think they are. Furthermore, I am starting to see that most people are actually way more supportive and accepting than I always believed they were.

Finally, the great thing of the course is that you can actually experience everything you just read for yourself. For me, that was awesome. Especially since I was often (sometimes still am) looking for answers outside of myself.  I spent hours on internet searching for my best diet, for what yoga and breathing techniques I should use for nasal congestion and what movies I would definitely like according to IMDB. All very useful information but very dangerous if you actually never ask yourself and your own body what works for you. In my opinion, modern life unfortunately works like that. From the day we are born we are told what to do and what to believe. Amazingly, the Buddha does not want you to believe but invites you to come and see.

Oke, what now?
If you are interested in doing a course I would refer you to the Vipassana website: https://www.dhamma.org/en-US/index. There are a lot of countries where the courses are being given. Note that you often have to book a couple of months in advance as the courses are quite popular. If you want more information feel free to ask any questions or watch the documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkxSyv5R1sg.

Furthermore, a friend of mine has some explanatory videos about Vipassana on his YouTube channel. (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9o_6dH1fbdHvglkU5AqHaw). If you don’t want to do a course, that is also perfect. If you are worried about the physical pain please note this: Everything always happens within the limits of you and your body and friendly Mr. Goenka will be there every evening to treat your wounds: “Patiently and persistently, you are bound to be successful.”

Written by Ramon.

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HSP: share your sensitivity

Share your sensitivity!

Be the highly sensitive person you are, share how you see the world through your senses and soul’s mission. Are you ready to take the next steps with your emotional and spiritual development?

The people I coach are the writers, singers, visual artists, speakers, entrepeneurs, top-level managers, psychologists and people working on different levels and positions in organizations with all one thing in common: their strong desire to be at peace with themselves. Your inner peace is your starting point, it’s from where you fly of to share your vision to contribute to a better world.

A big challenge for super creative highly sensitive people is to live of their talents. How to succeed in a world with so much creative competition? Why would I improve my skills in photographing? There are so many great photographers out there, I don’t think I’ve got the talent to squeeze myself into that world. And what about setting foot on ground of actors and comedians?

It’s hard work. It doesn’t pay the bills, it’s actually eating up my savings.

Let me tell you how I think about competition and what success is all about. If you think about it, there is no competition. If you keep on focussing and enjoying what you most like to do, you won’t even have time and energy to look at the competition. It’s about building your world one step at a time. It’s not about what others do. It’s about what you want to achieve in your own pace.

And about success: write down your own definition of success and live by it. To me it’s waking up in the morning and looking forward to what the day will bring. Among other things: laughter of my children, joking with my partner and father of my children and coaching and rebirthing highly sensitive people.

Let’s say goodbye to the struggling-through-life mentality and change this into let-love-flow attitude.

We are all naturally self-confident. Close your eyes, breathe, feel how your mind struggles to surrender, but slowly it will surrender in order for your body to be heard. Because you want to live life to the fullest. You want your voice to be heard. And you definitely want to wake up each day knowing that you are contributing to a better and more loving world. Mind, body and soul will be aligned in the process of emotional and spiritual development. Inner peace will surface and you will feel who you are, what you want and how you will achieve this.

It’s so much easier to lead a creative lifestyle when you have tapped into that abundant resource of inner peace and self-love.

For more on Orchid of Life HSP Coaching & Rebirthing, please click here to visit my website. 

Are you interested in an introduction session? Click here for more information…

HSP coaching: longing for a positive change

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Photo by Hans Jongman

The one phrase which reflects my work as a life coach and rebirther for highly sensitive people is ‘I felt self-love from within’. This phrase came from a highly sensitive and creative lady who is in her thirties. After her first rebirthing session she repeatedly shared how amazed she was by what she felt in her body. Just before this amazing feeling in her belly which she described as a feeling of fullness and happiness, she felt tension flowing out of her body through her arms.

She could make a clear distinction between this feeling of self-love from within and the self-love she formerly knew as thoughts and actions directed by her head. This was way better. She felt her inner child on her chest telling her all sorts of happy things like ‘Yeah, finally!’ and ‘What shall we do after this session’. Her inner child was quite content and super happy she broke through her fear and anger.

The voice of her inner child had a counter voice which she felt at the upper right side of her head. This voice was like ‘No way, this can’t be it’ and ‘You’re not there yet’. In daily life she is held back by this critical voice, this voice was loaded by negative comments and limiting thoughts and fuelled by fear, lots of fear. She is taking decisions out of fear. One of the reason she came to me was that she had enough of this fear.

It was time for fear to get the hell out of her system, out of her head, her body, especially her head.

She is longing for a positive change. She wants to embrace her sensitivity fully. She wants to feel more energy. She wants to finally attract a life partner who fits her life and needs.

I have the exact recipe for her to follow. After years of seeing psychologists, undergoing different therapies and acting studies she has come to the point to process deep-rooted fears, anger and sadness. She has always felt different. She wasn’t heard as a child. She was criticised by a parent. The recipe is to express the pain which her body and mind have hold onto for so long.

Fear is longing to be embraced by unconditional love.
The tears of her inner child are waiting to be shed.

With this first session she has peaked through the door towards the life she desires to live. It takes a huge amount of effort, energy and courage to walk this path, but it is worth it, all the way.

Are you interested in finding out what life coaching and rebirthing can bring you, I invite you to make an appointment for an introduction session, either in my coaching practice in The Hague or via video skype. Click here to read more about the introduction session. 

Rebirthing: release yourself from cold energy

Are you always cold? Or do you often have cold hands and feet? If so, one way to feel comfortable in your skin again is to start rebirthing. Rebirthing is breaththerapy to release pain from trauma’s. Pain as in heavy hearted emotions such as sadness, anger and fear. People who suffer from being cold all the time could still be walking around with unresolved emotional issues. My experience is that people even get colder up until they need to shiver during a rebirthing session.

And there they are, laying on a air mattress, covered in fleece blankets trying to focus on the conscious connected breathing. The coldness which was already in the body comes to the surface together with other physical expressions such as cramp in the face, arms and/ or legs, pressure on the chest and palpitations in the neck. While the cold energy stands for fear related to trauma’s also the fear of feeling all these physical expressions might arise. The combination of how the body reacts and how the mind reacts while breathing on reaches the point that the rebirthee is not able to handle anymore. When I see this happening I support and motivate them to express what they feel.

For the rebirthee it is hard to make this switch towards expressing their feelings, because up until this point they held on to their fears, they controlled their life by the actions and choices they made out of fear. While feeling the fear during a rebirthing session you are letting go of the need to control. In fact you don’t have any energy to control, it’s such a strong energy that takes up all your attention. Moreover it’s an energy you want to express in stead of holding onto forever.

When I see the palpitations leave the neck area the rebirthee has already cried a bit. After a good cry you’re left with a body shaken and stirred by lots of energy finding a way out your body, mind and energy body. It’s wonderful to see how relieved people are. After having shared the initial shock of feeling so much in their body, they are calmer compared to how they walked in. Many people aren’t aware of how tense they are until they actually start feeling their bodies. How about you? How do you feel? Would you like to feel more connected to your body? In my opinion, rebirthing is key to a healthy emotional life. Let’s start breathing.

Would you be interested in a coaching session? Click here to read about the introduction session. 

Rebirthing: breathing towards positive changes in life

life

Since rebirthing is a part of my life I started guiding conscious connected breathing sessions for an hour or I have combined it with other coachingtechniques. The results keep on amazing me. I am absolutely in awe of the deep rooted emotions to which I have been exposed: sadness, anger, guilt, disappointment, hatred and feelings of helplessness and powerlessness.

Imagine me holding the hand of a woman in her fourties for fifty minutes while she cries out the physical pains going through her body. All I need to do is soothe her by stroking her hand, shoulder and tell her she is allowed to cry. She may let her tears flow abundantly, she even may yell everything the hell out of her system. That yelling part didn’t go naturally, I guided her voice by letting myself hear so she would cross that border of feeling ashamed and allowing herself to let her voice be heard.

In this particular case we have focussed all sessions up until now (6 sessions) on doing the conscious connected breathing on the yogamat. Last time she was here she shared many positive changes in her life. Even though we don’t talk much during sessions it has had it’s positive effects like speaking up for herself, choosing for the things she wants to do, expressing her irritation, opening up to receive love and switching of the television so she could rest properly for another day of work.

Two of the most important successes for her would be being able to handle the panick attacks she suffers when she feels stressed without taking medicine. And secondly, she decided to reduce the amount of antidepressants she was taking. I am so proud of her; she is growing into the person she is, but didn’t feel. Since starting the rebirthing sessions she feels her body more and more and acts upon what her body and mind needs. She started to trust her body and mind again.

For more information on my work, visit my website Orchid of Life ~ Life Coaching. 

Life Coaching: powerful positive emotional changes

Tuscan Lily

I’ve had another morning filled with powerful positive emotional changes. Acknowledging and channeling anger towards the right person frees body, mind and soul. I have known this for quite some time now, but still I am in awe when the people in front of me change into the person they truly are.

The first step in acknowleding who you are is to fully accept all of the emotions which the mind has been resisting for a long time. Depending on the person I guide the first few sessions will be focussed on mental coaching before starting the physical work. Some people have been living from out of their heads for as long as they remember which means they rationalize everthing. This limits the body to feel. Therefore these sessions are focussed on aligning the mind with the body. In my view and also based on the feedback of the coachees the mind has a need to understand first in order to feel safe to express their emotions.

On the other hand I have seen people who feel safe at the beginning. From the moment they cross my doorstep, walk into the coachingpractice and sit down, they feel comfortable to show their emotions within a few minutes. Their trust and openess allows me to guide them through coaching techniques which helps them feel even more. The goal is to change unwanted emotions such as sadness, anger, resentment, disappointment, hatred into positive emotions. This won’t change overnight, read with one coaching technique, but every coaching technique allong the way brings the coachee closer to letting go of limiting thoughts and emotions.

This morning I guided and witnessed a man in his fourties stamping his feet, fighting with his arms and screaming out anger, disappointment and sadness with a loud and harsh voice. Afterwards he burst into tears. His inner child expressed sadness which was suppressed for decades. The anger was directed to his mother. After the standing exercise he sat down and tears were still running down his face. These tears were telling another story; the story of feeling grateful and joyful that his life was about to start. He felt inner peace on his chest. This was his fifth session.

I am enormously grateful to be able to do this work. Guiding people towards a life which they can live from the core of their heart is a satisfactory job.

For more information on my work, visit my website Orchid of Life ~ Life Coaching. 

Rebirthing: using life energy to regain health

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Rebirthing is a simple breathing technique that can transform your body, mind, spirit, as well as your perception of who you were, who you are, and who you will be. It releases emotional, mental and physical patterns; creates joy and aliveness in the body; and gives the client a feeling of empowerment and self-control, and creates energetic relaxation. The breath work process releases the emotional, negative charge out of cell memory. The process causes integration of unresolved emotional, physical, mental and spiritual energies.  The primary result is an experience of clarity at a very core level. The process empowers a person into choice and out of victimhood.

Rebirthing is also reffered to as Conscious Connected Breathing (CCB). CCB goes as follows: while breathing we connect inhalation with exhalation and exhalation with inhalation, in doing so we create a circular motion of breath. While inhaling we inhale life energy. We need life energy to feed our cells and soul. Rebirthing is not a mind therapy, it works on an emotional level. Different people react in different ways. The conscious connected breathing releases built up tensions in your body.

Think of psychical reactions such as: feeling cold or the opposite; super hot like fire, sweaty hands, pressure on the forehead, tension in the throat, chest or stomach center, a tingling sensation in arms, legs, face or just about everywhere, itching and the sensation of wanting to curl your feet up or move your knees from side to side. Along with the psychical reactions different emotions may surface: sadness, anger, fear, guilt, loneliness and so on. It does not matter how you react, what matters is that the process works and works very quickly and thoroughly.

Releasing physical reactions of the body which are related to trauma will help you regain your health. I’ve guided people who were used to living with physical pains, depression, lots of stress, breathing problems such as asthma and hyperventilation or were either abusing themselves by overeating, drinking problems, smoking.

After the session

The breathing work takes you to a place in which you can work and feel through emotions on a subconscious level. At the same time I make sure you’re still here with me, we communicate in a way which supports your emotional growth. You will feel trust and strength to move on breathing, because it’s the way to emotional freedom. You do not leave the session without being totally back in the here and now. You won’t feel disconnected or spaced out in any way. I always recommend that people do whatever feels right for them, that they pamper, indulge, and look after the inner child, because it is your emotional self who has expressed deep rooted emotions. That night, and perhaps over the next three days, you may have interesting dreams, things that come up from the past, past memories. It’s helpful to write these down for the follow up session.

Within seven to ten days, everything has settled. You should then be totally able to know how you were before the rebirthing experience and how you are afterwards, and you will see a most distinctive difference. How does it manifest? With feeling of freedom, security, the loss of fear, pain, the real determination, the knowledge that you are going to get through anything and everything, a new peace within yourself, a new hope, feelings of being in control, in touch with the powerful part of yourself, and most certainly increased awareness of creativity and sensitivity.

In case you’re interested in a rebirthing session I invite you to my website for more information about my work: Orchid of Life ~ Life Coaching