Apr 25 - May 6, 2012
Vipassana Meditation Course Part 4: Getting Established in the Technique
Location: San Carlos University, Cebu City, Province of Cebu
What is Vipassana?
Vipassana is a meditation technique - that's it! It's not religion, there are no deities, no rituals, no rites, etc. - just a technique to purify the mind at the root level to attain full liberation. Sounds simple, but the technique is so difficult to get established into that it takes a full 10 days, meditating 11 hours a day with scrupulous guidance by the teacher and his assistant teacher. We get all-out support by a team of servers who feed and nurture us and course managers who ensure our logistical needs are met - they, more than anyone, know the difficulties we face - they'd been there.
Where the Real Battle Takes Place
On the outside, you see a motionless sitted person with closed eyes. How hard could that be? But the real work is happening inside the mind...as you go deeper and deeper into the innermost sanctum, battling with your demons every step of the way...until you reach the root level. Not everyone finishes the entire 10 days. Some simply give up in mid stream. This is my 4th sit, and perhaps I can claim that this is the first time I'm able to keep pace with the course program. But doing this the 4th time didn't make it any easier.
The Real Deal
Despite the fact that I could not establish myself into the practice even with 3 ten-day sits on my belt, I still cannot walk away from it. Why? Because I'm convinced it's the real deal. Of all the spiritual movements I've taken a minor peek into, this seems to be the purest - no guru deitification, no ritual, no dogma, no talk of God or church, they don't put you on a spot for money, and you're encouraged to question or probe how sensible it is for you. Its message is simple - everything you need for your salvation already resides within you. I don't see this 'elbow room' in any church, religion or cult. I've tried looking at it from many directions looking for flaws, but my critical mind couldn't find any.
This one is particularly eventful since by signing up for it, I was also prompted to leave Dumaguete as well. When I showed up at the University of San Carlos in Cebu for the sit, I was practically carrying my life belongings too - a full 65-liter backpack plus another fully loaded day pack for my laptop, power regulator, etc. They were both bulky and heavy and presented such a challenge in riding jeeps, buses and boats. After the 10-day sit, I'm essentially homeless. I don't know what it is about spiritual immersion courses that make me leave a place to go out 'in search of'.
Even though a Vipassana Course is always exactly the same every time, it always hits you differently - and every meditator is hit differently from the other. Given our varied life experience and the issues we face, we all have different buttons. But in the Dhamma talks discoursed by SN Goenka (where he gives an hour of video discourse each night), given the wealth of his insight, his intelligence and his compassion, he gets to hit all our buttons. He said something that made so much sense to me that it allowed me to walk away from my anger...at least for now.
Faced with Mortality
I had an opportunity to talk to a composed individual who is faced with his own mortality. He moves on, being productive, still extending himself in the service of others despite the ticking bomb that can explode anytime. I wonder what it's like to be young, gifted and dying - I can't even begin to comprehend that. Yeah, life is not fair.
A Meditator's Inner Thoughts
A fellow meditator once remarked that I was so solid in my sit...that I would not move for an hour and remain still. I wanted to tell him that deep inside my mind, 45 minutes into my sit, the pressing question in my mind was, "How can Iron Man eat Chicharon Carcar without removing his mask?". Yes, from the outside, a motionless meditator can look deep in concentration. But I wouldn't be surprised if he was just thinking about his first kiss 20 years ago. It takes a lot of effort to keep the mind from going astray.
Reality vs. Self-Image
I also realized that your self-image can be different from how people actually perceive you, and what reality is - radically sometimes. Call it rude awakening. Example - imagine thinking your entire life that you represent an unbroken chain of royal bloodline, genetically superior to that of the common man, being a son of a king, who in turn was the son of a king...that went back centuries. And on your deathbed, someone told you, you were adopted.
I asked the assistant teacher that with the odds, winning the lottery was easier than getting enlightened. Given all that sacrifice with no guarantee that it can be done after several lifetimes, would it even be worth it, when what we have in the here-and-now is not that bad. At least I'm not complaining. Everything I go through in life - the pain, the joy, the craving, the aversion...these are the things I signed up for. He calmly said, "I won't lie to you. It's not easy". It was really a rhetorical question. I'm not obsessed about the final goal - it's a nice-to-have. The marginal gains I realize are already milestones, improving the quality of life and making me feel better about myself and the world I live in. Ideally, I should do this once a year for grounding.
I am grateful to Gautama Siddharta for sharing this Vipassana wisdom to the world, to SN Goenka and the long line of teachers who, from pupil to pupil, ensured the discipline remains in its original form, and I am grateful to his assistant teacher (not sure if he wants to be named) who vigilantly overlooked our progress. I am thankful to the course managers and the servers who persevered in seeing us through and selflessly attended to our needs. I am excited at having met new people who became part of my increasing Vipassana family. I look forward to get to know most of them. Metta to all!
Cebu City, Philippines
Tops - hilltop offering panoramic view of the city
Taoist Temple - temple on a hillslope in Lahug with panoramic view of the city
- Hostel Seven Cebu - newly opened, resto/bar, central location, solo/group travellers
Juana Osmeña Street, Cebu City
- S Hotel & Residences - new hotel, luxury rooms, central location
827 M. Velez corner Andres Abellana St.
resto / cafe / bar
- Fujinoya - new and refreshing twists to Western style desserts using Japanese techniques
Wilson St., Lahug, Cebu City - tel. 888.6075
- Bad Boys Wingz - Buffalo Wings, unique versions of sauces! Great service, accommodating staff, bad boys vibe
Kasambagan, Cebu City | (032) 415 4811
- Love Yoga World - yoga studio
11/fl, Skyrise 2 Tower, IT Park, Lahug, Cebu City
- Yoga Now - first Yoga and Wellness studio in Mactan offering daily Yoga Classes
at The Yacht Club Mactan
- Cebu Mountain Bike Adventure - MTB tours, bike sales and repairs. Bed and Breakfast + Resto Cafe + wifi
1298-b V.Rama Ave, Guadalupe, Cebu City | 0942.959.7451
- via Poro - from Pier One in Cebu City, take the Ocean Jet for Poro, 2 hours, daily trip - 6am and 3pm (0936.823.8762 |0956.270.6610 | 0999.889.9999).
- via Consuelo - from Cebu City, take the northbound bus passing through Danao and get off at the Danao Port. At the Port, take a Jomalia Shipping boat for Consuelo (San Francisco, Camotes), P220/pax, a/c, 2 hours, daily trip - 5:30am, 7:00am (special trip), 8:30am, 12:00 noon (express), 2:30pm, 5:30pm and 9:00pm (express, Fri/Sat/Sun only).
- Poro - Cebu City (fastest and most direct) - go to Poro and take the 8am or 5pm Ocean Jet to Pier One in Cebu City, P380/pax/aircon, 2 hours
- Consuelo - Danao - Cebu City - go to Consuelo (San Francisco) and take the Jomalia Shipping boat to Danao, P220/pax, a/c, 2 hours, daily trip - 5:30am, 7:00am (special trip), 8:30am, 12:00 noon (express), 2:30pm, 5:30pm and 9:00pm (express, Fri/Sat/Sun only). From Danao, take the Ceres Bus to Cebu City
- George and Peter Lines - Mon/Thur/Sat/Sun 10pm, (035)225.4337, 0922.557.1023
- Oceanjet - via Tagbilaran, daily 6am, firstname.lastname@example.org, 0918.898.2188
- Cokaliong - Mon/Tue/Wed/Thur/Fri/Sat 7pm, Sun 12pm, 6 hours, (035)225.3599
- Camotes Islands - caves, beaches
- Cebu City - rich in culture and history, 2nd largest city in the Philippines
- Moalboal - amazing coral reef system, sardine bowl, deep drop-off for freediving
- Oslob - Butanding (whale shark) watching
- Bantayan Island - long stretch of fine white sand beach, Virgin Island for snorkeling
- Malapascua Island - divers' paradise for seeing the rare Thresher Shark
- Cantabaco Cave - Toledo
- Barile Waterfalls - Barile
- Whale Shark Tour - Oslob
- Carcar - chicharon and lechon in public market
"Where and When (If possible!) can I attend a "Free Beginners" Vipassana Meditation class/retreat?" -- Wil Davies
(Dec 6, 2013) Vipassana is always free, but there is no beginner's class - everyone starts off with the 10-day silent meditation retreat. There used to be a Vipassana movement here in Cebu (that's why I ventured here), but for all intent and purposes, it's inactive already. The only place for Vipassana now in the Phil is in Damarinas, Cavite in Luzon. For now, there is no schedule yet for next year. But you can refer to this site for 10-day sit schedules:
Wil Davies (aka AdventureSwagman)
(Nov 30, 2013) I am a 60yr old solo adventure cyclist/bushman/rock climber, and have had a deep interest in Vipassana Meditation for a long period. I reside in Cebu (Pardo) though live mostly off my bike camping...Where and When (If possible!) can I attend a "Free Beginners" class/retreat? Email is the best way to contact me...I can attend anytime...
(May 9, 2012) Hi Gigit, our very good friend Kins was also with the Vipassana Meditation, I saw her in you pics, what a small world...
(May 9, 2012) Congrats Gigit! Ok yung Iron Man chicharon meditation mo haha hope to sit again with you soon!
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