Things To Keep In Mind Before Signing Up For A Vipassana Course

by Aug 10, 2023Lifestyle0 comments

One summer evening, deep in the Gharwal Mountains of the Himalayas, I first heard an account of a friend who completed a Vipassana course or a 10-day Silent Meditation Retreat. He described his curious experience where some people cried due to the intensity of what they’d experienced, while some others who’d left midway unable to bear it.

Having completed two 10-day Silent Meditation Retreats since then, I can say this technique is a part of me now. A lot of you asked questions about it so I’ve compiled all your questions into this Blog Post.

Thinking about a Vipassana Retreat? Here’s what to keep in mind before registering:

 

What is Vipassana?

 

Vipassana (pronounced: we-push-ana), which means, “to see things as they really are”, is a form of mediation rediscovered by Gautama “The Buddha” over 2,500 years ago. It is a practice where one observes and remains equanimous, no matter what one experiences. The appeal of this meditation practice is its non-sectarian nature.

A 10-Day Silent Meditation Retreat or a Vipassana Course requires one to live the way monks do and meditate for most of their time there. This means you’d have to relinquish your phones, books, writing material, alcohol, smoking and jewellery during your course. This is done so that there are no distractions for the Meditators and they can dedicate those 10 days completely to Meditation. Students are encouraged to live simply and observe “Noble Silence” – a Silence of Body and Mind. We are not supposed to utter a word, not make eye contact or communicate with our fellow meditators in any way and lower our gaze at all times and walk. These strict rules are present so Meditators can have a feeling of Working in Isolation and Focusing on Their Own Experience.

 

Typical Schedule of A Vipassana Meditation Retreat

 

We followed a strict timetable that kept us completely occupied during our waking hours of the day.

04:00                        Wake Up Bell

04:30-06:30              Meditation

06:30-08:00              Breakfast

08:00-09:00              Group Meditation

09:00-11:00              Meditation

11:00-12:00              Lunch break

12:00-13:00              Rest and Interviews with the Teacher

13:00-14:30              Meditation

14:30-15:30              Group Meditation

15:30-17:00              Meditation

17:00-18:00              Tea break

18:00-19:00              Group Meditation

19:00-20:15              Teacher’s Discourse

20:15-21:00              Group Meditation

21:00-21:30              Question time in the hall

21:30                        Lights out

As you can see, apart from a few rest periods between meals, we meditate for more than 10 hours every day. Most of the limited rest time we have is spent on daily chores. It almost felt like our schedule was designed to let us have as little time as possible for ourselves. To help us not get lost in our thoughts.

In addition to this, we followed a Strict Code Of Conduct called the 5 Precepts or Sila:

  • 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

Three additional Precepts for those who completed a Course:

  • to abstain from eating after midday
  • to abstain from sensual entertainment and bodily decorations
  • to abstain from using high or luxurious beds

 

The Aftertaste of 10 Days of Silence

 

The day on which we broke our noble silence arrived. During the last 24 hours of my stay there, I had all my feelings tangled up like noodles in a bowl. On one hand, I was relieved, happy and peaceful. After all, it was a very challenging and profound experience. I was happy to have the strength to go through it all – the pleasant and the unpleasant. I cherished the peace it brought me – my internal journey and dialogue. I loved how my body responded and went from being uncomfortable and painful on the first day to bearable on day ten. Meditation started becoming easier.

On the other, I was extremely nervous. I was getting comfortable. I started looking forward to my little everyday routine. I was nervous to talk, to mingle with the world again. A world that I now felt was too chaotic, too loud for my subtle, melodic thoughts. An experience like this definitely lays what were, you are and will be “bare”. Moreover, the awareness that comes with Vipassana helps you make whatever choices you want with what you’ve come to know about yourself now.

The change is not drastic. Vipassana won’t perform miracles. But you’ll definitely find subtly delightful changes in the way you see the world. It’s a tool you have with you now and it’s up to you how you use it. And it’s up to you to not fall back into the same patterns.

Also Read: Lost in Art, Nature and Life in Madhavamala: Village near Tirupathi

 

Prepping Yourself for Your First 10-Day Course

 

  • Getting our Body Ready for Meditation: Our sedentary and fast-paced lifestyle has taken a toll on our bodies. There are many movements that might feel restricting and agonizing. A Vipassana Retreat requires you to sit cross-legged on a cushion for hours. Trust me when I say this, but after 10 minutes of sitting in that posture, your body will crave to move into another position. Your legs, glutes and back need to be strong enough to endure long hours of sitting in a way you’re not used to. Therefore, exercising and strengthening your core as well as legs will definitely help you endure it better. In addition, practising sitting cross-legged in your every day will get your body used to the posture.

 

  • Preparing our Mind for Meditation: Sitting for more than 10 hours at a stretch without moving or doing anything else is a daunting task for someone who has not meditated before. Our mind will try to think of all the things it can do except what you’re actually supposed to do i.e. meditate. So, I’d suggest trying some guided meditations for 10-20 minutes every day to see get a feel of where you stand with meditation.

 

  • Attend to your Work/Family Obligations: In a Silent Meditation Retreat, you’d essentially be off-grid for the time you spend at the centre. So, it’s extremely important to take care of all your day-to-day obligations like paying bills, letting your loved ones know your whereabouts, how to contact you in case of an emergency etc. As for your work, try to complete whatever you’re supposed to do, and clear your schedule so that your absence is not a roadblock for others. Once, you’ve done this you can go with your shoulders light and focus on your time in Vipassana rather than worrying if everything is alright in the outside world.

 

  • Let Your Centre Know About Your Needs: If you have any special dietary requirements like allergies, need dinner for medical reasons etc, you should inform your chosen centre beforehand. You are normally asked to sit cross-legged on the ground without any back support for your meditation sessions. If you are physically incapable of this due to physical limitations, don’t forget to email and call your centre to explain your needs and your situation so they can make the necessary arrangements for you.

 

  • Practice restraint on your Alcohol Consumption and Smoking: For those who are used to drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes regularly it might be difficult to suddenly give these up during your meditation course. Reducing or giving up alcohol and smoking before a course will help you stay there without craving them.

 

  • Lastly, having an open mind and not expecting miracles is going to help you a lot with disappointment later on. Be open to receiving what is taught and accept wherever you experience.

Also Read: What You Should Be Aware Of Before Travelling To The Mountains

 

How to Apply for a Vipassana Meditation Course

 

Though the practice originated in India and thrived in Myanmar, today we have over 190 centres around the world. To find a centre closest to you, you can visit Dhamma.org Website. Instructions are generally offered in English and a Local Language. You can also find courses in a language of your choice and apply here.

Where did I do my Course: I chose to do it at Dhamma Ketana, a lovely tranquil centre in Kerala.

 

How much does it Cost to attend a Vipassana Retreat?

 

No Fee is taken for attending a Vipassana Course. Following the tradition, Vipassana Courses are only run on student donations. Your food, accommodation and teachings are given as dana to you by students who benefitted from the course before you.

On successful completion of a course, if they feel like the course helped them in some way, a student is welcome to donate whatever amount they can, for the students who will come after them. Many old students also donate their time by helping to serve the other meditators and make the process easy for them.

 

Should you Attend a Vipassana Meditation Course?

 

If you ask me, I’d encourage you to take up a Vipassana Course. If you know what you’re signing up for and are ready to give this technique a proper shot, it can be a transformative experience. Of course, it’s needless to say that you only do it if you believe you have a healthy body and mind and are sure you can handle the various stresses it will bring along.

 

Is it true that you’re not provided dinner?

 

During a Vipassana Course, you are served “Simple Vegetarian Meals”. The food is tasty and flavourful but not spicy. They provide you with breakfast and lunch. In the evening you are served tea and fruit. I personally felt that this was plenty and worked well with our Vipassana Schedule and didn’t feel hungry.

As old students, we pledge to not have any food after noon. This meant that my food intake ended with lunch. During tea time, I was provided with lemon water.

 

Can I attend the Meditation Course with Someone I Know?

 

Anyone can attend the course and you and your spouse/partner definitely can. But once in the centre, you work in isolation and you do not interact with the opposite sex. As long as you focus on your own practice and experience, and follow Noble Silence. At the end of your course, you can exchange notes about your shared yet separate experiences.

 

Continuing Your Practice Beyond the Ten Days

 

Reality quickly catches up with you, and you’ll be pulled into many of life’s demands as you go back to your regular life. It might seem very difficult to sneak in Vipassana in your daily routine but if you really want to continue practicing, you’ll find a way.

Once you’ve completed your ten-day course, you are eligible to attend short courses like 1, 2 or 3 – Day courses. These short courses will help you strengthen your practice and motivate you to continue your Daily Practice. There are also weekly group sittings that happen in your neighbourhood and you can get their details from your local Dhamma Centre.

There’s also Dhamma App with meditations in various languages, discourses etc accessible to old students. It gives you a feeling of being in the Vipassana Centre as you hear Goenka’s chants while meditating.

Be Happy!

 

More Vipassana Retreat Experiences from Web

 

Vipassana Retreat

Pin Me !

Note: If you have any more questions about taking your first Vipassana Course you can reach me here.

Prerana A V

Cheif Vagabond

Prerana calls herself the Chief Vagabond of Inside Traveller’s Shoes. She is always looking for unique things to do during the time she has.

0 Comments

Leave A Reply

looking for something?

Namaste, Welcome to Inside Traveller’s Shoes! I’m Prerana, a brown-eyed girl from the vast land of many cultures – India. Just as much as I’m starstruck with the world and all the beauty it contains, I am proud of my own origins and love my country immensely. And I’m not here to tell you another story of how I quit my job to travel the world. Because frankly, I never had a “typical” one to begin with.

So, what would you normally find here, you ask? I suppose scribbles on life and experiences – as I gulp it one day at a time; things that make my soul flutter and everything that brings me happiness – a large part of which includes travel. For I do hope in some way, you’ll find your truth and yourself through it all. And it helps you “live your own extraordinary tale”.

where am i?

Now: Coorg, India

August: Karnataka, Himalayas

September: Himalayas, Goa

October – December: Karnataka

January: Karnataka, Goa

February: Kerala, Karnataka

its Bulletin

I send personal monthly letters filled with raw thoughts on life, an overview of what’s been happening and exclusive tips delivered right to your inbox.

No spam ever. And the best part, It’s free!

Pin It on Pinterest

Shares
Share This