By Jennie Williford
Pranayama Yoga Studio
Embarking on my eighth Vipassana Meditation course, I am again compelled to remind the people of Rockford that there is a great gift sitting right in our own back yard. Dhamma Pakasa, the Illinois Vipassana Meditation Center, is celebrating its 10th year of service not only as a wonderful resource for our local community, but helping people from all over the world to learn the “Art of Living.”
Dhamma Pakasa, translated as “Luster of Truth,” sits on a quiet 20 acres next to the Four Lakes Forest Preserve in Pecatonica, Ill. It is one of only eight centers of its kind in the United States and sprung up in the Midwest in June of 2003. Since that time, it has grown from a single-gender campsite to a fully-functional residential retreat center (complete with dorm, dining hall and meditation hall) able to serve 50 students, both male and female, at every course. The 10-day courses given there teach the technique of Vipassana Meditation as taught by S.N. Goenka in the tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin.
Vipassana means to see things as they really are. The technique of Vipassana Meditation was rediscovered and taught in the 5th century BCE by Gotama the Buddha in India as a universal remedy for the suffering of all human beings. Though taught by the Buddha, this technique is for all people of all faiths and backgrounds — it is non-sectarian and dogma-free. Its goal is the total eradication of our mental distractions and impurities, bringing an end to our experiences of misery and suffering.
The actual practice of Vipassana Meditation is a path of self-transformation through self-observation. It recognizes the deep interconnection between mind and body that manifests in any and all physical sensations. In our daily lives, we may not notice these sensations, but we continually and unconsciously react to them. These reactions create more or less subtle agitation in the mind, leading to the possibility of not-so-subtle external actions. Our sense of violence or anxiety, happiness or excitement, all start as a deeply-felt sensation that, with practice, can be experienced at its very root.
By disciplined attention and observation of these physical sensations, we can begin to steady our mind. Vipassana meditation teaches us to sit and experience our body sensations as they are, without seeking to change or react to them. Through this process, we come to realize the ever-changing and temporary nature of these experiences, and our mental agitation surrounding them diminishes. Ultimately, we are able to recognize, slow down and stop the vicious cycles of craving and aversion, which are the root cause of our personal suffering.
The specific technique of Vipassna Meditation, as taught by S.N. Goenka, is simple and accessible to all, taught in a step-by-step and practical manner, but it does require 10 days to learn it. In the serene retreat setting, with food and accommodations provided, students participating in a Vipassana course are given the opportunity to focus entirely on learning and practice. Great care has been taken to preserve the technique in its authentic form, and it is not taught in any commercial setting. Every course at Dhamma Pakasa and all other Dhamma centers in this lineage are offered freely and with the help and service of volunteers who have all benefited from the practice. Expenses at Dhamma centers are met by donations only from people who, having completed a course and experienced the benefits of Vipassana, wish to give others the opportunity to benefit from it also.
Dhamma Pakasa will be holding its annual Open House from noon to 4 p.m., May 11. As always, this is a great opportunity to meet meditators in the lineage, tour the beautiful grounds and buildings, and eat some great food! Courses in Vipassana Meditation run continually in Pecatonica and around the world, and you may visit the website at any time for schedules and more detailed information, www.pakasa.dhamma.org.
May all beings be happy!
For more information about Pranayama Yoga Studio, visit www.yogarockford.com or call (815) 968-9642.
From the May 1-7, 2013, issue