Cleaning the mind

‘Cleaning the mind’ is a funny thing to say. It suggests that your mind is dirty and having a ‘dirty mind’ definitely sounds a bit odd.

I heard this phrase from Goenka, the man responsible for the spread of Vipassanā meditation. You may have heard of the 10 day silent meditation retreats. They’re all over the world and anyone is welcome to sit one.

I recently did a 1 day Vipassanā seminar, a short refresher which involves about 7 hours of sitting meditation. It was a low-key affair held in a community hall and put on by volunteers. You sit down, saddle up for a day of naval-gazing and listen to the recorded instructions blaring from a small speaker, spoken by the venerable Goenka.

He has a great voice and will often break into song. It can be hard not to laugh sometimes! The whole thing could be perceived as a bit culty, there’s a bit of chanting and a few special words, but it isn’t tied to any specific religion (although it has roots in buddhism) and, I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. Initially, the 10 day course revealed to me the power of meditation and the beauty of a calm, simplified mind.

Goneka’s delivery of the meditation instruction is straight to the point. He’s no bullshit artist, that’s for sure. Only occasionally will he weave into his teachings something slightly eccentric or experimental. Most of his approach and philosophy is grounded and stable, much like the technique itself. Very reliable. If you work diligently, you will see the results.

He says, we clean our bodies and our homes and go to the gym to exercise, but we don’t clean our minds. I like this point a lot. Like anything, our minds get dirty and we need a way to clean it, to restore the mind to its original and basic state. Originally it is happy and at ease and not behaving like a scared and angry street dog.

Vipassanā meditation is a great tool to cleanse and tidy the mind. A daily practise (2 hours is recommended, although I haven’t managed to fit this into my routine yet) allows time to get rid of the dust collected throughout the day, not to mention the other junk that you’ve been carrying around for years!

The practise can be hard work and definitely feel like a chore sometimes. For me, I don’t think I can not have a daily practise anymore. Well I can, but life is noticeably harder. It’s probably my number one priority at the moment. I’m trying for an hour before work (not easy). Whatever happens after that is up in the air. If there is one thing that improves my quality of life like nothing else, it would be this reliable old technique taught by the sturdy Goenka. I feel thankful that I’ve discovered this tool and know where to turn when things are out of balance.

As they say in Vipassana land,