The Words of the Lamson Family
Mike Lamson is currently the District Director for Lovin' Life Ministries in District 6. He lives in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and two children.
Each year my wife and I go somewhere together for a week or two. This allows us the opportunity to focus on each other without the distractions each day naturally brings. We both believe that a healthy relationship between husband and wife is the key to a healthy life, physically and spiritually, but making this a reality is a difficult path.
Last year we went to Hawaii and stayed with friends for two weeks. No phone, no internet, just beaches, snorkeling, sleeping, eating and being with each other.
This was an amazing experience which I highly recommend, but it was just a step towards a healthier relationship.
This year we decided that we needed some tools that could help us become better people, deal with the day-to-day difficulties, and look at these difficulties with a healthier outlook. We decided to explore meditation. I researched different techniques and methods and chose Vipassana.
Vipassana, which means, "to see things as they really are," is one of India's most ancient techniques of meditation. It was rediscovered by Gautama Buddha more than 2,500 years ago and was taught by him as a universal remedy for universal ills, or "The Art of Living."
I liked this technique because its purpose is not to convert or promote a religious theology (we already have those bases covered); rather, its goal is happiness, healing and the eradication of mental impurities. I liked the fact that it did not use visualizations, chants or controlled breathing but focused on natural breathing and self-observation.
In the meditation sessions we experienced Vipassana as a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which we experienced directly when we focused on the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind. It was explained that it is this observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body that dissolves mental impurity, resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion.
Through the meditation sessions, our thoughts, feelings, judgments and sensations became clear. We relived some painful past experiences and let them go. We could understand more deeply how we grow and regress, how we produce suffering or free ourselves from suffering, and how our reactions to life around us determine everything. This, of course, was a powerful experience, as it gave us ownership even over things we cannot control.
The technique is taught in a ten-day course. We decided to attend the course in Illinois. The retreat center was beautiful, with clean, single rooms with bath and amazing veggie meals. We attended with around 30 other people. Everyone followed a prescribed code of conduct (no talking, cell phones or internet for 10 days), learned the basics of the method, practiced sufficiently (11 hours a day), and experienced beneficial results.
The course did require hard, serious work. There were three steps to the training. The first step was, for the period of the course, to abstain from killing, stealing, sexual activity, speaking falsely, and intoxicants. This simple code of moral conduct serves to calm the mind, which otherwise would be too agitated to perform the task of self-observation (this was an easy one for us).
The next step was to develop some mastery over the mind by learning to fix our attention on the natural reality of the ever-changing flow of breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils. We did this for three days and it was amazing to experience.
On the fourth day our minds were much calmer and more focused, and we were able to start the practice of Vipassana itself: observing sensations throughout the body, understanding their nature, and developing equanimity by learning not to react to them. This was truly liberating. We could feel the energy flowing from the top of our heads to the tip of our toes, really a whole new reality. During the next few days we had so much energy that we did not need sleep or coffee. This helped me understand how True Father and Hyung Jin Nim can go with so little sleep.
As we learned the technique and practiced not reacting to sensations in our body, it became easier not to react to sensations coming from outside as well. The teacher explained that our reactions to the world around us often form bad habits that define who we are. Things like how we respond to criticism, rejection, failure and other things create wired-in negative responses. Practicing Vipassana helps us to not react and by not reacting those past negative experiences can be released and dissolved, allowing us to live a happier, healthier life.
The entire practice is actually a mental training. Just as we use physical exercises to improve our bodily health, Vipassana can be used to develop a healthy mind.
The coolest part of this is that it is all free. Because it has been found to be genuinely helpful, great emphasis is put on preserving the technique in its original, authentic form. It is not taught commercially, but instead is offered freely. No person involved in its teaching receives any material remuneration.
There are no charges for the courses not even to cover the cost of food and accommodation. All expenses are met by donations from people who, having completed a course and experienced the benefits of Vipassana, wish to give others the opportunity to benefit from it also.
Of course, the results come gradually through continued practice. It is unrealistic to expect all problems to be solved in ten days. Within that time, however, the essentials of Vipassana can be learned so that it can be applied in daily life. The more the technique is practiced, the greater the freedom from misery, and the closer the approach to the ultimate goal of full liberation. Even ten days can provide results that are vivid and obviously beneficial in everyday life.
I can testify that through Vipassana my life is better, the way I view the world and all it sends my way is healthier and more positive, and my relationships are deeper. I am able to focus and control the thought trains that previously hijacked my mind every 30 seconds. I see my wife as my life partner and have rediscovered a passion and love in our relationship that empowers me to serve God and others. We needed more, and we found it.