Let me tell you it is hard work. It is not just sitting around doing nothing all day, saying ‘ooommmm’ and clearing your mind. It requires a lot of strong determination (to stick through the ten days, let alone to get through one day at a time!), and to focus for so many hours a day! Focusing on one single task, going deeper and deeper into your mind every day. At times your brain will start throbbing and you will feel pain in most parts of your body (who is used to sitting crosslegged for 11 hours a day?!). But it is all part of the journey - to cut through all the conditioning, the normal reactions of the brain, and to focus and work hard to change that pattern.
You will go through moments of pain, of overwhelming sadness, of boredom, of agitation, but also of peace, of clarity, and of being absolutely content in the present moment.
Essentially that is what it is all about - being aware of every single moment and living in the present. Easier said than done, of course! The teaching of Vipassana will help with this and the ten days are almost a step to step guide on how to reach the ultimate longterm goal of enlightenment.
So what is it all about?! Vipassana, the Law of Nature, is a technique demonstrated in its purest form. It is universal and international, not associated with any religion, sect, or including any rituals. It is all about focusing and sharpening the mind to be aware of the smallest sensations on the body. And to realize that nothing is permanent. The body, nature, and everything surrounding us constantly changes. The same river you walk past every morning is never actually the same river, carrying the same water... Think about it. It is different water streaming through every day, every hour, even every second.
The first three days, you are taught how to meditate and focus on breathing. Breathing in, breathing out. Breathing in, breathing out. Your mind will rebel and quickly have enough of ‘just’ concentrating on that one simple task. But how aware are you really of your body naturally breathing in and out all the time?! Or your heart beating?! Or feeling the blood rushing through your veins?! It happens naturally right?!
You will start to sharpen your mind and focus on the touch of the breath on a triangular area around nose and upper lip - observing what sensations arise.
A sensation (such as itchiness, tickling, throbbing, vibrating, heat, cold, pulsating, pain, etc) good or bad, gross or subtle, will come and it will go again. Observing these sensations without agitation, aversion, or craving is the key! Remaining un-phased and indifferent about it, letting it come and go, as nothing is permanent and everything changes.
You WILL be agitated, you WILL be annoyed, and you WILL think what the heck am I doing here. But soon (or maybe a bit later) you will realize that it makes no difference and that the pain or the sensation will still be there no matter how your brain reacts to it.
On the fourth day the actual Vipassana starts - the surgery on the brain. You will have laid the groundwork the first three days and will now cut deeper into the brain, observing sensations all over the body. Observing, acknowledging that it is there, and letting it go. Reacting with neither aversion or craving and becoming Equanimous.
The art is in realizing that everything constantly changes, a sensation on the body comes and it goes again, observing that sensation and staying equanimous about the process.
Towards the end of the ten days, you will be taught how to take this into every day life and how to apply it to daily situations and how to continue to work on this technique from home. The tenth and last day, noble silence is broken, and the exchange you will have with everyone that MADE IT (!!) is overwhelming. So many thoughts and experiences to share - you will soon realize that everything you went through or felt, is completely normal!
Something most people think meditation is about - to not think and just focus on breathing. As you can see there is a lot more to it, but also there will be thoughts, of course there will be. It is not about erasing them or getting angry that they are there. It is about observing them, and ignoring them, not going after every thought and thinking it through. Letting it be there, in the background and focusing on the present moment and present task.
Ten days of no communication with others (no talking, no gestures, no eye contact), no phone or electronic devices, no books, no reading material, no pen or paper to write on - essentially no distractions at all. Sounds crazy and a bit too strict?! Might at first, but it is truly helpful. If you were able to talk, you would not be able to focus completely on yourself or the meditation. Same goes for writing or reading, you are instantly taken out of what you are here to do!
You live on five precepts during the duration of the course: no stealing, no lying, no sexual misconduct, no killing, no intoxication; which are the five precepts most Buddhist will live on as well (and as a moral guide something I completely agree with).
Warm food is served twice a day, at 6:30am breakfast and at 11am Lunch. There is a short Tea Break at 5pm where only tea and fruit is served. Lights out at 10pm and a lovely morning wake-up call at 4am to start the day!
Here is a more detailed timetable of the daily routine for the ten days:
4:00 am - Wake-up Bell
4:30 - 6:30 am - Meditate in Main Hall or in your Room
6:30 - 8:00 am - Breakfast and Rest
8:00 - 9:00 am - Group Meditation in Main Hall
9:00 - 11:00 am - Meditation in Main Hall or Room depending on Teachers Instructions
11:00 - 1:00 pm - Lunch and Rest
1:00 - 2:30 pm - Meditate in Main Hall or in your Room
2:30 - 3:30 pm - Group Meditation in Main Hall
3:30 - 5:00 pm - Meditation in Main Hall or Room depending on Teachers Instructions
5:00 - 6:00 pm - Tea Break and Rest
6:00 - 7:00 pm - Group Meditation
7:00 - 8:15 pm - Discourse (Video Teaching from the Teacher)
8:15 - 9:00 pm - Group Meditation
9:00 - 9:30 pm - Questions
9:30 pm - Rest and Sleep
10:00 pm - Lights Out
No pain, no gain as the saying goes. It is tough, no doubt about that; it requires very strong determination to make it through the 10 Days; will you want to run away at some point - everyone will reach that stage; but going through all this and making it out the other side with so much knowledge, clarity, peace, and equanimity is one of the best feelings ever.
Go try it. Go make that change. Go find your inner peace and realize that everything (literally everything) lies within.
I hope you found this article helpful on my personal experience with the 10 Day Vipassana Meditation Course. Everything I wrote is of course based on my personal experience and of talking to others on the tenth day, realizing that to a certain extent most of us went through similar motions and had similar reactions or ways of processing. It of course will not be completely the same for everyone.
Please get in touch if I left any questions unanswered or if there is anything else you would like to know! Contact me, let me know what you think, are you going to make that change?
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