First up, I’m a big advocate of both techniques but for very different reasons. And that comes down to what you want as an outcome. Primarily being, are you wanting to dive deep into your stuff, do some serious soul searching and sit with yourself with no distractions to face all your demons? or are you wanting to establish a daily meditation practice to just help deal with all the stuff we have to deal with in life (stress, anxiety, depression, in-laws…)?
Quite a difference between outcomes, right.
But that’s kinda how I see it. As the 2 practices offer different outcomes.
I’ve been to 3 Vipassana retreats (two ten day, one three day), and the first time I went to one, man oh man, I did not know what I was getting myself in for. Ten days, 105 hours of meditation. Sitting cross-legged on the floor with no back support (so so painful for a surfer with a bad back and very shitty hips – hence why I just got one replaced). No talking. No reading. No Writing. No distractions. Just me and my world.
Hard? Shit yeah.
Worthy? Shit yeah.
It certainly was one of the most cathartic experiences of my life. After it’s over, I felt so so grounded and connected. Which sustained itself for a little while, then you go back to the craziness of life right…
And the problem I see with Vipassana is you are meant to do 1 hour of meditation in the morning and 1 hour in the afternoon/night.
Yep, I hear you. If you’ve got a busy life, that’s not going to be too easy.
Hence why I went back three times, always trying to get it to stick, but it never did. As soon as I’d break the habit, it was all but over.
In the Vedic tradition, this practice and even how you learn and the technique itself is better suited for monastic people (think people in ashrams, or with loads and loads of time to subdue and quiet the mind to lead it deeper inwards). The technique itself requires ongoing focus and concentration which engages the left hemisphere of the brain (the part required for logical thinking etc) and goal orientated activity within the circuitry of the brain (which deactivates the Default Mode Network of the brain – which is more active in periods of rest). So for a daily activity to remove stress and activate states of rest, its a more challenging meditation than VM.
But if you are just after the profoundly personal experience. It can be incredibly rewarding, and for the soul searchers out there, I would encourage this as an experience to do at some stage in your life. I would not go in thinking this is going to be my day to day meditation. Now huge caveat…there are people who do this daily and hats off to them. Neither myself or the handful of people I know that have done Vipassana could ever get it to stick.
On the other hand, if you want to establish a daily self-sufficient meditation practice, I would encourage Vedic Meditation over Vipassana. VM is for the house holder (us worldly folk, who live, work, play in the world), it is designed to take you deep and not to fight against the mind with forcing concentration. Instead, Vedic meditation uses a mantra (translated means vehicle or instrument of the mind). These mantras do not mean anything and are just a phonetic sound that draws the mind inward – and no we do not focus our attention on the mantra as that would require concentration, it is very subtle technique. VM is easy to learn over just four sessions, and you will be 100% confident in your technique.
The investment is a big difference between the two forms. VM is usually an investment of close to $1000 to learn (I paid that five years ago, my teacher paid that – over 20 years ago) and you then get ongoing support. Vipassana you have to travel to a location where the courses run, they are a donation-based model (so you pay what you feel you can) and you give up 10 days to go to it. You do the math, what’s ten day’s off work worth to you? When I did it two weeks off work, the donation and the cost of travel, I would have invested close to $5,000 to learn Vipassana (and every time I went back for a 10-day course).
For me, it is never about the cost as the returns are far higher than the investment. But for many people, this comes up. So, it needs to be factored in if you weigh up between the two. Most importantly, what feels right for you? Start with the logic, as per the first question are you wanting to establish a daily meditation practice or need to dive deep into a soul-searching session. Then dial into the finer level of feeling and what do you see yourself doing, what resonates with where you are at right now. Trust that feeling, your intuition, it is often the right path to go down.
And just because you end up learning one modality, who knows you may end up like me where you took a few attempts to find the meditation practice that works best for you.