Meet Sara Amy. Sara is a Vipassana Meditation practitioner and advocate, devoting her life to sharing its ways to benefit others.
Sara, what is your background?
I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. As a high school drop-out, overly sensitive, but with a heart of gold – completely misguided and disillusioned by North American society – there was only one way to go, and that was down. I’ve always been a hard worker, loyal, with morals and ethics, hardly suited for the desk job I had succumbed to. To distract myself from the pain of the mundane, I did what most people did; discovered a passion for the party.
I became a professional ‘weekend warrior’ and embraced my dark side with humour, intoxicants, and techno music. I was truly ignorant with no understanding of real joy or accomplishment. The only time I ever felt real happiness was when I was in a relationship. There I would give myself freely, from a place of love, but all the while I was doing it selfishly to fill an empty space in my existence. Because I had no understanding of self-love, I was consistently delivered abusive men to keep me on my toes and heartbreak and disappointment was a constant state in my life. This was the catalyst for my spiritual awakening; men and substances could no longer fill that void, apparently I had to.
When did you discover Vipassana?
In 2010 the illustrious employment I had become joined at the hip with was pulled out from under me. Left with little savings, the rabbit hole was my next pitstop; one that I had no idea would deliver me to a state of utter depression. Now unemployed, single and nearing 40, something had to give. One night in the darkest state I had ever encountered, I lay on my sofa sobbing from the depths of my soul. Certainly I was drunk but that wasn’t the only thing affecting my state of mind. It was my spirit itself that had finally had enough; it grabbed me and shook me to my core. I verbally uttered the most poignant words of my 38 years, “I surrender. I don’t want to die. Whatever I’ve been doing is not working. I need help.” In this near tragic moment, a bizarre word came to the forefront of my brain: “Vipassana”.
What is that strange word? Where did it come from? I didn’t know at the time but it was enough to get me off the couch and to my laptop where I tried to spell the word in hopes that Google would know the answer. And it did. A webpage appeared. It said “Vipassana Meditation”.
How did it change your life?
It gave me back the life that I deserved. I fondly refer to those times as a mid-life awakening. The process is compared to a surgical operation of the mind. Over the course of ten days you go to the depths of the mind and extract the root of deep seeded issues. This technique works with the sensations on the body. It is not based on religious views, there is no dogma involved, you are not asked to give up any beliefs or rites and rituals, but instead requested that you surrender to the teachings for the duration of the course without interference from previous techniques in order to give this a fair trial.
I discovered that my mind was constantly rolling in the past or living in the future, it was never residing in the present. This technique delivers you there. It left me feeling peaceful, and with a new found direction in life. I undoubtedly knew that it was time to start living in the now; spreading peace, love and happiness was my only desire.
After completing my first course I sold everything I owned, and within a few months I left Canada. Bali was my first stop, and apparently the universe had a bigger plan for me in bringing me here. Vipassana Meditation was needed, and I was the most ideal person to deliver the message. I was willing and able to offer my time to service, something I had gone about doing the wrong way for many years. I discovered very quickly that helping others by offering them unconditional support and encouragement left me feeling great. I could never repay my debt of gratitude for having the opportunity to come out of suffering so this was the next best thing.
Tell me about Vipassana and S.N. Goenka.
Vipassana is the meditation the Buddha practiced after trying all other forms of bodily mortification and mind control and finding them inadequate to free him from the seemingly endless round of birth and death, pain and sorrow. It is a technique so valuable that in Burma it was preserved in its pristine purity for more than 2,500 years.
Vipassana meditation has nothing to do with the development of supernormal, mystical, or special powers, even though they may be awakened. The process of purification that occurs is simply an elimination of negativities, complexes, knots, and habits that have clouded pure consciousness and blocked the flow of mankind’s highest qualities—pure love (metta), compassion (karuna), sympathetic joy (mudita), and equanimity (upekkha).
Vipassana Meditation as taught by S.N. Goenka is a simple, practical, universal method for purifying the mind and enjoying real peace. You can develop greater self-knowledge, self-control, happiness, wisdom and compassion. There is no charge for courses; all expenses (food and lodging) are covered by the donations of previous students.
Where is the 10-day retreat held?
The Bali retreat is held at a hired ashram in the mountains of Bangli, near Kintamani. The property is stunning, rustic yet comfortable, offering sweeping views of valleys, dotted with fruit trees and bamboo forests. Due to its elevation, often our courses are refreshing for those living in Indonesia, as evening temperatures can dip to chillier times, but the daylight hours are pleasant and rejuvenating. Our main centre for Indonesia is in Bogor approximately 45 minutes from Jakarta.
Vipassana has been used in prisons, first in India and now in the U.S.A. What are the results?
Vipassana Meditation has been successfully introduced in various prisons throughout India and the USA and is showing tremendous results. Many inmates are working through their trauma using insight meditation, able to go deep inside their minds and cut the wires that have them spinning out and acting out in ignorance, violence and hatred. In turn, they free themselves mentally from their past and find a healthy place to live in the present. There are two documentaries that I highly recommend watching: Doing Time, Doing Vipassana can be found on YouTube, and The Dhamma Brothers can be purchased online.
What are your future goals?
To continue spreading peace, love and happiness, achieved by volunteering my time in service and continuing with my home practice. In addition to this, I hope to be able to continue perpetuating and facilitating Vipassana meditation courses in Bali. It is my dream, which is hopefully shared by others, to one day establish our own centre which will allow for more people to come to courses more frequently to learn this wonderful technique.
For more information about Vipassana meditation, or to register for an upcoming course in Indonesia, please visit www.java.dhamma.org