My last course in Vipassana Meditation was in November 2006. This was a special 10 day course (unlike the ordinary 10 day courses) which helps one go a step further in understanding oneself at a deeper level. It was as usual a marvelous course (as all 10 day Vipassana courses are) and I came out of it a little more changed than before.
I still remember my first course 10 years ago in Hyderabad. Struggling to find answers to life's challenges I knew there was a better way to live life than screaming and crying or just 'existing'. Then when a close friend Sudha, spoke about her experience of Vipassana meditation, I knew that this was it, and I felt a compelling need to attend a course.
And attending a 10 day residential course wasn't easy at all! My parents were aghast--how could I leave my young children (aged 8yrs and 3yrs) and disappear for 10 days with no contact at all? I must be surely out of my mind. It was only the unconditional and steadfast support of my husband, Raja who assured me that he would take care of the children and that I should do what I want to do so much, that I could finally leave home for the course.
What a course it was! It turned me around completely. Before the course life was a struggle, I blamed people and situations for whatever I went through. I was always the victim, things happened to me and people said and did nasty things which I had no control over and an 'oh poor me' attitute. That changed dramatically. I realised how messed up I was and how much of suffering I carried with me which I distributed to everyone I met. By getting know myself at such deep levels as the program affords, I could free myself from the negativity that had engulfed me. My interactions with people had lesser anger, lesser anxiety and fear, and that made a huge difference to my life.
Subsequent courses I took was to work on these initial changes at more deeper levels. I now find myself becoming more and more compassionate with the people I interact with and am able to give my presence to situations I come accross. This helps me to keep negative emotions from interfering with what I do and how I behave. Not only has it helped me personally to get a different perspective on life, I have been able to support others who have been going through personal difficulties.
My masters was in Clinical Psychology and as part of my training I was exposed to a whole lot of western psychotherapies as ways to help people out of their difficulties. But having undergone a couple of them myself, I still found something missing, and couldn't really help myself in a meaningful and effective way. And I realised precisely that in a Vipassana course--you need to first help yourself before you can help others. I am doing that far more successfully now than ever before.
Currently I am engaged in research, introducing this techinque of meditation to children and studying the changes they experiences. The high point of my life now is being awarded a grant by the Mind & Life Institute, New York to conduct a research project in a school in Chennai. I am certainly looking forward to doing this work as well as working with myself by practising Vipassana meditation regularly.