My year at a Vipassana Center: Part 12 Community

I have found it challenging to find active Vipassana communities outside of the actual Vipassana centers. During the 10-day retreats talking is permitted only for a select few hours and thus connections made are precious, but few, and I confess, the lack of community outside of the centers has made me doubt my commitment to the practice at times.

Whenever I meet a Vipassana meditator my face lights up and I know I can trust them. No-one finishes a ten day retreat without the real desire for self-improvement. Those who make it through has a level of integrity and self-responsibility, a willingness at the very least,that you know you can trust. Yet even with courses fully booked, the social aspect of the organization has been lacking for me personally.

Perhaps because of the strict guidelines for lifestyle and practice it is that sometimes people shy away from other Vipassana meditators in their everyday lives, in order to have the freedom to express themselves in various ways. I don’t know, but I feel that vipassana communities outside of the centers would be helpful for various reasons.

  1. With a suggested 2 hours of daily practice, this commitment very much becomes a lifestyle, and without opportunity to share our experiences, there is definitely a danger of becoming isolated.
  2. Simply integrating a ten-day retreat needs support from an understanding community. The practice is strong, life-changing. Many people call it “the most challenging thing they have ever done” and, as with any great experience, can be disorientating if not given some avenues of safely held expression with others who share it.
  3. Then, having discovered something great and wonderful, you naturally want to share the joy. Without a community to share and celebrate with, you will turn to those who have no context to place your words. You may even turn them off, looking like you want to convert them or that you think you are better than them because of your experience.
  4. Meditation is a very accepted practice in the East, in the West the world is still warming up to the idea. Challenges on how to maintain a daily practice without looking like a weirdo are plentiful! No, I’m not talking about the instagram kind of practice. It is actually super challenging to maintain a daily practice whilst sharing living spaces with others who don’t.

I am definitely not saying that once you have found your community of like-minded individuals, that this is all you should stick with. However knowing those you share values with helps your own being access the safe space I mentioned in a previous post. Your focus can thus be more on the giving aspect of your life, and so you can be more fulfilled more of the time.

It is my wish and vision that outside of the centers, dynamic communities and meetups progressively form where individuals, who are active in the practice, socially engage with others who aspire to dhamma values within their own lives.

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