In Buddhist practice, virtuous living (sila) creates the stillness of mind on which meditation is based. The mind then relaxes and concentration builds. This requires complete silence and a total suspension of mental activities (talking, reading) throughout the retreat, unbroken. With the strengthening of concentration (samatha), the inner eye is opened, alertness is greatly enhanced (sati-patthana—the cultivation of alertness). Thus one becomes capable of clear, alert and equanimous (upekkha) observation of the inner processes which results in two things.
On the one hand, contents of consciousness come to the surface and become clear dissolving into a pure space of observation. The mind is purified. On the other hand, through days of ever-deepening observation, the meditator begins to see the nature of mind and reality that has always dominated the existence, albeit the person who cannot get out of his thoughts in the ordinary state of mind cannot see it. In the drug-induced state of mind, everything happens so quickly and suddenly that there is no time for wisdom to emerge, and even if it appears for a moment, it is quickly replaced by other experiences.
Meditation is true and free from falsehood. It grows at a natural pace and offers a singular experience: a clarity that cannot be achieved in any other way. The most profound joy comes from the experience of purity of mind and heart and of a deep inner truth and self-identity. The development of insight (vipassana) is also supported by the basic Buddhist teachings which are revealed in meditation (until then it is only theoretical understanding that is intellectually interesting but does not affect our lives). Deep insight in meditation is effective in our lives when understanding comes from observation and reaches the heart because conscious attention is located in the heart.
The three cornerstones of meditation are the unique experience of not being able to hold on to anything within ourselves as things are constantly changing before our eyes. Even if we reach a pleasant state or have a great realisation that makes us feel that if we grasp it our whole life will fall into place: these states, thoughts and feelings exist only for a short time, then disappear and are replaced by something else. This constant transformation, the constant flow is the impermanence (anicca).
The second truth is selflessness (anatta): there is nothing to cling to in life, for there is no solid being either within or without. Neither in our head, nor in our heart, nor in our body, nor in the outside world. Yet we live as if everything is stable and solid and we are upset when love fades, a relationship cools, and a climactic moment does not return with our partner, friends, relatives. Then we drift away, and slowly people start to disappear: they die, and finally we realise: we're going to die, too.
The attachment to relationships in constant flow and change, to the internal and external contents and the related "mind circles" cause suffering (dukkha). This is the third truth. The suffering is craving and rejection itself, a deep second-by-second conditioning of our mind over which we have no control: it operates by itself. In meditation, this is loosened and we learn to let go of both wanting and not-wanting (resistance). We cannot cling to anything solid in existence. We avoid this realisation and in our everyday lives we try to make ourselves and the world believe who we are. In the meantime we suffer in silence (dukkha), and we avoid this by becoming absorbed and almost constantly immersed in the thrill of tasks, thoughts, emotions, relationships and experiences. However, we never find lasting satisfaction in these as we are constantly going through changes of conditions, even several times a day.
During meditation, we emerge from this troubled condition and thus transcend it into our still, eternally present true self. When this experience is complete and our becoming one with our true self is finished, it means enlightenment, awakening, the nirvana experience. However, this emerging cannot happen in a few minutes or a few hours of meditation. The mind and heart calm down gradually. According to experience, a minimum of 7-10 days are required. Almost no one gets completely enlightened in 7-10 days. However, the person deepens so much that he experiences a transcendence of his own mind, his patterns, and the circles that have surrounded him like a prison (conditionings), and thus the self he had known until then, which is surprising and liberating at the same time. Moreover, it leads to wisdom: you realise what is happening inside you. Furthermore, the deeper, real "I" emerges, which the person did not know before: he feels that he is now at home in himself and that he was away before. He realises how much he is not the master of himself and how much he has nothing to hold on to in life. How lost he was in everyday life and without meditation he existed on the surface. From these realisations the ego and the wilfulness become loose, and letting-go, presence, non-violence, kindness and compassion are developed. An inner refinement begins. The person comes to understand the basics of meditation, realises from his own experience that the Buddhist doctrine is not an exotic Eastern trend, but, rather, a knowledge of the profound universal human reality and pure self-knowledge without religion.