Last year in 2020, During my almost 6 months long lockdown period in Colombia, I started doing Meditation to have a calm, peaceful and balanced mind. What started as a mere experiment, soon became a necessity. I started doing meditation almost every day for 10-15 minutes. During that time, I came to know about the world-renowned technique of meditation called Vipassana. It had instantly struck a chord with me as I was looking for something without any religious connotations. Upon browsing, I came to know that they have centres all around the world. Then and there I decided to do it but in my home country INDIA. The country of its origin. In this post, I will share my Silent 10 Days Vipassana Meditation Course Experience.
APPLICATION PROCESS & COST
After returning back to India in 2021, I applied for the Vipassana Meditation course in a Himalayan centre but unfortunately due to the second Covid wave in India. The course got cancelled. Finally, I managed to do it in the Southern state of Kerala in India. The application process is quite simple. Firstly, click here to find your nearest centre. Then Go to that specific centre website and check the current available schedule. You will see the available slots for Men, Women and Servers(Servers are volunteers). The “Servers” option is only available for Old students. If you find a slot then click on APPLY tab and you will be directed to a form like this (This is just an example). Fill up the form thoroughly to the best of your knowledge and submit it. You will receive an application submission email instantly. Now, wait for the confirmation email. In my scenario, I received the confirmation email two weeks before the starting of my course date. It is advisable to apply for the course a couple of months before in order to make ensure your space. Spaces get filled up rather quickly. In the confirmation email, all the instructions will be given about things to carry, arrival time, directions etc. In case you won’t be able to make it, please remember to cancel your application. There is no fee to attend the 10 Days Vipassana Meditation course including Food and Accommodation. The organisation runs on donations. You can donate as per your capacity and/or you can apply to be a Server (volunteer) next time.
WHAT IS THE VIPASSANA MEDITATION & RULES
Vipassana is a type of meditation technique in which one observes her/his body sensations from head to toe and toe to head. Yep! That’s it. No verbalization. No picturization. Sensations can be anything from vibrating, pain, tingling, itching, sweat, cold, hot, prickling, throbbing, numbness, undercurrent etc and sensations that you cannot name. It is an ancient meditation technique popularised by Gautama Buddha in India. During the meditation, one should not crave pleasant sensations and one should not show any aversion towards unpleasant sensations because nothing is permanent i.e. law of impermanence (Anicca). In order to have a calm and balanced mind to achieve true happiness. Now that you have read it, you think it’s good as it makes sense to your conscious mind but that is not going to help you as it is a mere philosophical blabbering and you are going to forget it sooner than later. When you experience this law of nature in your own body then only the thought is going to seep deep into your unconscious mind and your conscious mind will respond to that. The path is long but this course will set you on the path.
The Vipassana Meditation has 3 foundations i.e. Sila, Samadhi, Panna.
Sila signifies Moral conduct. One needs to follow below 5 percepts during the course:
- to abstain from killing any being;
- to abstain from stealing;
- to abstain from all sexual activity;
- to abstain from telling lies;
- to abstain from all intoxicants
Samadhi signifies the concentration of mind and purification of the mind is achieved through Panna i.e. the wisdom of insight.
There are several rules to follow during the course:
- Acceptance of the Teacher and the Technique.
- One needs to follow the Noble Silence i.e. Silence of speech, body and mind. No eye contact with fellow students! One can only speak with the teacher during Interviews if necessary.
- No physical contact whatsoever.
- No Electronic Gadgets.
- No Intoxicants.
- No Dinner.
- No Reading, Writing, Singing.
- Separation of Men and Women: They have different lodging places and even different entry and exit points to meditation hall & dining hall, different walking areas.
- 10 Hours of Meditation a day
ARE YOU IN? 🙂
VIPASSANA MEDITATION COURSE TIME-TABLE
The 10 days Vipassana Meditation course starts at 4 am in the morning and ends at 9.30 pm in the morning. The 10th-day schedule is more relaxed and follows a different timetable. So, basically, one needs to follow the noble silence for 9 days and ends his/her vow of silence on the morning of the 10th day. Here’s the detailed look at the time-table:
4 am: Morning wake-up bell
4.30-6.30 am: Meditation Hours
6:30-8:00 am: Breakfast & Resting Hours
8:00- 11:00 am: Meditation Hours
11:00-12:00 pm: Lunch & Resting Hours
12 pm-1:00 pm: Interview with Teacher or Resting Hours
1:00-5:00 pm: Meditation Hours
5:00-6:00 pm: Tea break & Resting Hours
6:00-7:00 pm: Meditation Hours
7:00-8:15 pm: Teacher’s Discourse (Daily video by the Founder talking about the process, technique, art of living)
8:15-9:00 pm: Meditation Hours
9:00-9:30 pm: Interview with Teacher or Retire to your room
9.30 pm- Lights Out
MY VIPASSANA MEDITATION COURSE EXPERIENCE
Before the course, I have not done any research about the Vipassana Meditation technique. I wanted to go without any preconceived notions. Also, I wouldn’t be lying if I say I like the mystery element in life 🙂 Being an adventure seeker, I see it as one of the main ingredients haha. Alright, so the day of the arrival came. As per the email, I was instructed to reach the centre a day before the course starting date. After taking multiple buses, I reached my centre in the small town of Kerala. While walking towards the centre, I was contemplating what I am getting myself into. Doing 10-15 minutes of meditation a day is one thing and doing 10 hours of meditation is a whole different ballgame. When I reached the centre, I was greeted by a friendly man who seemed a little surprised to see a guy from a different state. He confirmed with me if I am comfortable in English since the Course is going to be conducted in English and Malayalam(I don’t speak Malayalam). We did the check-in formalities. I was given a student card with a room number and instructions to submit my phone, wallet and laptop among other things no later than the specified time. I reached my room and settled in. The room has 3 beds but I guess due to COVID I was the only one who are going to stay in the room. After looking at my mobile phone one last time, I switched it off and submitted it along with some of my other belongings for the next 10 days! I was instructed to reach the dining hall for dinner at 6 pm and reach the meditation hall by 7 pm for the initiation of course and vow of silence. I was super excited and couldn’t wait for the course to begin. At 7 pm, I met fellow students silently while trying hard not to make eye contact. These were the people I am going to give silent treatment for the next 10 days hmmm. We were introduced to our teacher who looks like a person who is definitely into meditation. As cliche as it sounds. He speaks carefully with limited words. No more and no less than necessary. And so our journey begins! For the first 3 days, We did “Aana Pana” in which one observes his/her breath coming out of their nostrils. Then it changes to feeling breath on the area above the upper lip. Then we moved to feel sensations in the same area. In the process, your mind is going to wander a lot but the important thing to remember is to not beat yourself up but gently bring the attention back to the breath. It requires a lot of concentration. Doing the same thing for 10 long hours can be really frustrating, boring and mentally draining. The objective of the exercise is to sharpen your mind in order to prepare you for the Vipassana! As they say, the first few days are the toughest! On the 3rd day, I had enough! My mind was toying with an idea to get out of this place. It was not because of lack of touch with the outside world but I was beginning to question the technique and wanted some assurances. Speaking with the teacher was not an option since as per the rules “Acceptance of the Teacher and the Technique” is a must. Also, long hours of meditation was getting really boring. Well, there was no google to find answers or people to talk to. The situation taught me sometimes communication with people is so essential. Not because you are looking for someone’s opinion but to just hear yourself out. Seeing the fellow student filled me with some motivation: An Old man whose right side of the body is paralyzed. While I was battling inside I saw a notice on DAY 3-night stating “DAY 4 is THE VIPASSANA DAY”! Oddly, It gave me some hope. Maybe I was looking for something different to break the monotony. On Day 4 we were introduced to the ancient Meditation technique Vipassana. I explained the technique in detail above (See: WHAT IS THE VIPASSANA MEDITATION & RULES). It was my first time hearing about this technique. I was intrigued and that was enough to keep me going until the excruciating pain hits me. The thing is during Vipassana it is highly advisable to not move your legs and hands. There used to be unbearable pain in my knees and the lower part of my legs. I again thought about giving up! After speaking with the teacher, I understood that I was not observing the rule to impermanence. I know it is easier said than done. With strong determination, I gradually overcome this obstacle. Bouts of boredom keep coming back during the 10 Days Course which remains the most challenging part for me. 10 hours of meditation a day is not a joke! Thanks to the heavy rainfall during that time, we had to shift our accommodation which works as a form of entertainment breaking the monotony of the daily timetable haha. On the day, life under the water comes on the surface. Frogs, Insects, Snake(Non-poisonous), Worms, Flies. It was such a beautiful enlightening experience seeing so much life all around you. One feels so grateful for life. I know for some it may sound creepy but you had to be there to experience it. I think nature works as a friend, teacher, form of entertainment during the 10 Days course. Our centre opens to the backdrop of paddy fields and there’s so much nature around. The centre’s premises is filled with many different types of plants and trees(mainly coconut and banana). We used to get 5 minutes of break after an hour-long mediation session. Those 5 minutes are the ones I miss the most now. I used to have such clarity in those 5 minutes in an otherwise cluttered mind. Sometimes, my whole life flashed through my eyes while walking in nature. Also, during the morning session which ends at 6.30 am. I used to go out 10 minutes early to witness the sunrise over the paddy fields and coconut groves. It was such a magical sight to behold which helped me to keep going. On Day 7, I had the best meditation experience which is pretty hard to explain. During an hour-long meditation session, I reached a stage where I felt as if my body is going to disappear. My mind was really balanced. Unwavering of pleasant or unpleasant sensations. Was that a zen mode? That’s all I am going to write about the experience in order to preserve that precious memory. At one point during the course, my mind was also toying up with the idea of becoming a monk. Haha yes. Like the founder said repeatedly, it is a deep down operation of your mind. I think it is important to know why are you doing this course to get the best out of it. Having said that, everyone has their own journey and their own truth which one figures out during the course of time. That world inside the centre feels so distant and peaceful than the cacophonous world we live in. Clearly, It was one of the most stimulating experiences of my life which I will cherish for a long time since we humans tend to have a short memory and I hope to do it again in future.