How to remain happy and mentally healthy during this dark time of the pandemic? In particular, when all we can see around the world are cases of mass unemployment, tension at work, alcohol dependency, default on loans, and deaths in the family? How can we overcome any crisis and always live happily? No, this is not about another self-help book or master class that promises you a complete (10X) transformation (“only for $499…”). This is about humanity’s forgotten ancient wisdom, which has the power to change anyone’s life, and which has always been free of charge!
Meet the monk-turned-entrepreneur David Hans-Barker, who is changing the lives of millions around the world with his free online Vipassana meditation retreat.
Vipassana is one of the oldest meditation methods that Gautama Buddha had rediscovered more than 2,600 years ago. The ancient tradition was popularised by the Burmese-Indian industrialist and teacher S.N. Goenka in the 20th century. Since then, the meditation practice has gained immense popularity across the world. David spreads this awareness through his 10-day meditation retreat and his organization Yogilab. It doesn’t cost a dime. All you need is a mobile/computer, a good internet connection, a yoga mat, and most importantly, a full 10 days of your life.
How can Vipassana affect your life in this twenty-first century? Soumik Sarkar sits down for an exclusive interview with David Hans Barker, for The Eastern Herald.
“Meditation has given me everything I have. I owe not just my life, but the life I’ve helped build for my family to my practice. For this I’ll be forever grateful”.
David’s life has been one of the extremes, from living in poverty to being a millionaire with multiple online and offline businesses. Born in Mysore to an Indian mother and an American father, he had a difficult childhood. “My mother was initially abandoned by her family when she returned to London with 4 mixed-race children. Unfortunately, that was just the beginning. Abuse, drug addiction, violence, and eventually suicide were all very real issues in my family during my childhood” said David, founder of YogiLab and an eight-figure entrepreneur, from his meditation retreat in Bali. “Everything changed when I found Vipassana meditation. I was looking for practical, real-world results. Vipassana delivered. It wasn’t some illusion being sold by a fake guru. It was the most down-to-earth skill I’d ever learned, and it could be applied to every area of life”, he said firmly.
“When I arrived back in London, I’d decided to live like a monk. But, a shock was waiting for me – my mother had cancer. So, I dedicated the next 9 months to nurse her back to health. I still remember us meditating together as she waited for hospital appointments. It was a very happy day for me when she survived, and came out of the illness stronger (and more beautiful) than ever. This time with my family had given me a lot to think about. Although meditation had helped me, my family was still living in suffering. That’s when I decided to start doing business with the aim of lifting my family out of poverty”.
Interview with a Monk
Soumik: The world is facing an unprecedented health and economic crisis, and there’s been a renewed focus on meditation and yoga. However, many meditation techniques exist across the world (including mindfulness practices) and many meditation apps. You are also offering free 10 days online Vipassana meditation retreats. So how to choose the most effective method? And why Vipassana?
David: I think the most important thing to ask is: “Does it work?” I studied different techniques for 9 years before settling on Vipassana as my main practice. Through our own practice, we know that humans have discovered some amazing tools and internal technologies that we can all use to grow. We simply want to share these with as many people as possible. Vipassana is one of these techniques that we think is so important that we want everyone to get it for free.
Right now it’s difficult for people to travel and go to meditation centers, but we didn’t want this to stop people from accessing this amazing skill. That’s why we created a system that works from home. The more happy, healthy, and capable people that we have, the better the world will be.
And, I can say 100% honestly that Vipassana is the one that worked the best. There are 2,600 years of practitioners that show this benefit is universal. The Buddha was born a prince, I was born a pauper, but this one technique worked for us both. Another important thing to me is that it is available to everyone. We don’t need to change our religion or belief system. It’s a practice, and all we need to do is use it and it produces results.
Soumik: Vipassana adheres to the Buddhist philosophy. While this may be closer to its Hindu cousin, Advaita Vedanta, how can the Christians or Muslims practice this form of meditation?
David: Muslims, Christians, or followers of any other religion will not find anything in Vipassana to disagree with. It is a simple exercise that just happens to produce life-changing results. This meditation works by taking us closer to reality. How can taking us closer to reality take us further away from God?
Soumik: How long does it take to work for an average person?
David: Meditation can change us both immediately and over a whole lifetime. Immediately, because it works right away. Over a lifetime, because the growth is continuous.
Today, we become a little bit more skillful than yesterday. Tomorrow, a little bit more skillful than today. The process is a beautiful, ongoing journey.
Soumik: I guess it is much easier for people to pray/chant at the temples/churches/mosques. Why should people devote their time to meditation, which is actually, difficult?
David: Meditation might be difficult, but growth sometimes involves pain. This is just an avenue to produce the next step in our growth. What we gain when we practice meditation is a reliable method to expand our consciousness. It is an exercise for our connection with our mind.
Just as going to the gym regularly will inevitably make us physically stronger, regular meditation will make us mentally, emotionally, and spiritually stronger.
Soumik: I understand that. Right posture is very important for any kind of meditation. But today, many people who have serious back pain or pain in their hip and knee joints are unable to sit cross-legged on the floor and concentrate. Can we perform Vipassana sitting in a chair or while in a car?
David: The Buddha said there are four main meditation postures: sitting, standing, walking, laying. What this basically means is that we can carry meditation with us wherever we go, and whatever we do.
On this path of Vipassana, the most important thing becomes developing this skill of carrying our continuous unbroken awareness with us into everything. This way, our practice isn’t about sitting on a mat, it’s about how we live.
David: There are many ways in the modern world that we distract ourselves. These might provide temporary relief, but they don’t address the root cause of the problem.
Vipassana does. This is why I speak of Vipassana again and again.
We learn to face the conditioning of the body and mind, and discover what we’ve unconsciously been doing that produces tension. Once brought into pure awareness this is released, and we are left lighter. When this first happens, it is almost unbelievable. In the cynical modern world, it is sometimes hard to believe that something like this can actually work! So, when we find it, at first we think it is the same as the million and one techniques that “spiritual teachers” are selling is.
Yogilab runs a free 10-Day Online Retreat, from 11th-22nd of every month and their audio course is available online as well.
Soumik: Tell me something. Many individuals around the world have lost their jobs this year or lost someone in their family. How will Vipassana help the bereaved, divorced, and unemployed people?
David: Vipassana teaches us to access our internal world. By doing this, we learn to make peace with everything we carry inside – including grief, heartbreak, or anything else you can think of. When we can feel all of this, and learn to not compulsively react, we gain internal freedom. This means that our happiness becomes unstoppable. We’re “just happy” not “happy because”.
Accessing this unconditional happiness gives us the power to face everything in life, and welcome it with a smile.
I’ve seen Vipassana work wonders. It has healed trauma, produced wealth, and taken me on a deep mystical exploration of life. When presented with something so obviously positive, how could I not believe in it? I didn’t just settle for it, I thank God every day that I found it.
Soumik: Tell us about your organization Yogilab and your 10 days online Vipassana meditation retreats.
David: YogiLab’s main purpose is to explore techniques that give people power. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi proposed that all an area needs is for 1% of the population to meditate to produce harmony. This experiment has been done in many unlikely places, including American cities and Mozambique. It always produces the same result – violent crime goes down, productivity goes up. This is called the Maharishi Effect.
We want this for the world.
1% of the current global population is 78 million. So, our mission is to produce 80 million meditators… just to be sure. There’s no trick here. This works, and it’s free. Try it for yourself, and then you’ll know through your own direct experience.