**GRAB A CUP OF SOMETHING YOU LIKE TO DRINK – THIS IS A LONG ONE**
Vipassana is a style of meditation that you learn on a 10 day meditation course, some refer to it as ‘silent meditation retreat’ which I did in my previous post, and that the whole thing is called ‘Vipassana’ however this word refers to the technique you learn to meditate whilst on the course.
So I managed to complete the course – no small feat I can tell you! I had met so many people who had done a course and they all had such wonderful things to say about it, no one, I repeat NO ONE said just how blinkin’ hard it was going to be – had they all just breezed through like buddhas? What was I doing wrong that I found it, sometimes each minute, so damn difficult??
Let me go back to the start. We have to meet at a designated meeting point as the retreat property is up a very steep road and we are shuttled up and down and still able to talk at this point, I nervously chat to a few people but trying to ween myself off talking I try to stay unsociable. We then have registration and our assigned our beds (this retreat at Penang Hill is dormitory style rooms) I was F17, actually in a small dorm with old students. This became a blessing. We then had a couple of hours ‘free’ time, a light meal and an evening introduction after which ‘Noble Silence’ starts.
Let me explain ‘Noble Silence’ – no talking to other participants, no eye contact, no gestures and absolutely no physical contact. Also men and women are separate and only join together in the meditation hall (where we are also kept on separate sides of the room). The reason for the silence is that you are supposed to approach the course as an individual and that there are no distractions or stimulation. This is also why you must stay on the (in this case small) premises.
Then from ‘Day 1’ the day goes like this:
4am: Morning wake up bell (gong)
4.30am – 6.30am Meditation in the hall (or your own place)
6.30am – 8am Breakfast and time to shower/do laundry/rest/go back to sleep!!
8am – 9am Mediation in the hall
5 mins break – 9.05am – 11am Meditation in the hall
11am – 12am Lunch/rest
12am-1pm your choice to have a 5 minute interview with the teacher, but only about the technique and meditation, no chitter chat with a cuppa, otherwise ‘rest’
1pm – 2.30pm Meditate in the hall or your own place
2.30pm – 3.30pm Meditation in the hall
5 mins break – 3.35pm – 5pm Meditation in the hall
5pm – tea break – new students allowed a piece of fruit, old students complete fast.
6.00pm – 7pm – Meditation in the hall
7.00pm – 8.15pm Discourse (a video of SN Goenka on the technique)
5 min break – 8.20pm – 9pm Meditation in the hall
9pm – question time if wanted, otherwise rest and bed
10pm – lights out (I never made it much past 9.15pm any night!)
And so on, for 9 days…….9 days, 9 whole 24 hour segments of time…. (day 10 is similar but it feels like a festival of joy after those 9 days believe me)
9 long, long, tough, challenging days of focusing your mind, training your mind to focus, and many many hours of self reflection, or in my case, listening to the complete and utter madness of my monkey mind.
I’m not going to talk about the technique in much detail – go learn it yourself or meet me for a cup of cold pressed tea and I’ll divulge, but I will tell you about MY experience in summary:
The negatives and lows (cause I want to end the post on the highs/positives)
Meditating for that amount of time is SO FREAKIN’ HARD. I mean if capital letters isn’t enough to get that point across I’ll rephrase – Meditating, alone, with no one to moan to about your pain and suffering is THE HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE.
Sitting in cross leg or full/half lotus position for 10+ hours a day is SO FREAKIN’ HARD. Painfully, physically, hip, knee and back breakingly hard, even after many years of yoga and with a fairly flexible body.
Training your brain to just focus on one thing is HARD. The toughest. I’m pretty sure understanding rocket science would be easier to achieve by my brain that this.
My brain is manic. I have an overactive imagination – I can create whole ‘scenes’ nay, whole PLAYS in my head about future events that are probably never going to come to fruition, and even if they happen they won’t happen how I’ve directed them in my brain.
Being confined to a bed, a table and stool to eat and a 25 metre drive to walk in is probably worse than the conditions in most modern day prisons. In fact if it wasn’t for the view (picture above) I may have gone loopy loo in 2 days.
I’m not very good at meditating 🙁
Nearly every day from Day 2 – Day 8 I wanted to leave.
The Positives/Highs (because this story has a happy ending)
I have learnt so much about myself, and can surmise that on the whole I have had a pretty fabulous life and I am stronger than I think at dealing with the tough bits.
I have learnt to approach all situations with equanimity (those of you who have done Vipassana will love the use of this word!!!) *for further clarification on this ask me about Day 2 – giant spider in meditation hall…..
Nothing is permanent. Everything changes.
To be truly happy you have to see things how they really are and accept them.
I have a lot of love to give.
Nothing is failure, it’s all learning (see this post for more on that)
SN Goenka is a wonderful man without whom I would have done a runner – and I even missed his chanting when I got back to the ‘real’ world!
Vipassana is a wonderful technique that helps you see the world in a positive and balanced way.
Although meditation (in this style) is hard – I am good at it. I can even sit cross-legged for a whole hour! (This in itself is nothing short of a miracle)
May all beings be happy
Bhavatu Sabba Mangalam
Be Happy 🙂
To conclude: I think that maybe, just maybe everyone in the world, certainly everyone who is reading this post, and therefore has some kind of interest in this technique and or meditation should participate, devote 10 days of your life and go and experience this for yourselves.
Seriously, I strongly believe that if everyone were to do this then we would have world peace! Yep, strong statement, and of course a romantic vision, but non the less this is how powerful I believe it to be.
More details on the courses can be found here: