Some of you might not believe what I have experienced during 10 days of meditation. Best try for yourself. I can highly recommend it. And as the method itself describes that you can only really know something, you really have experienced yourself. Things you read in a book or heard about from others are a start to knowledge, but to really gain wisdom it is essential to experience things yourself. I not only learned three new meditation techniques but also a lot about the way of life.
Why did I do Vipassana meditation?
I have heard of silent meditation a few times before since August 2017. But I did not really think about it and did not see myself doing it. Then at the end of March 2018 in Australia in Fremantle one early morning I ran into a girl, who was on her way to volunteer at a Vipassana meditation center 1.5 hours by car from Perth. She told me that it has been a great experience for her to meditate for 10 days and now to give back as a volunteer at one of the many centers world wide. I was beginning to think about it as something for me.
At Bali Spirit Festival I met a woman who had done Vipassana in Malaysia near Kuala Lumpur. I was thinking I already have a flight to Kuala Lumpur. I checked out the place and dates, but no space available before July. I wanted to do it after visiting Bali in May 2018. During the Wild Goddess Retreat another hint made me wonder: I picked a card for the retreat and it said “Meditate” with a Buddha on it. I talked to the women there and came across Dharamsala in India. I wasn’t a hundred percent sure I really want to travel to India on my own. I checked the dates anyway, but again no open seats in May, only for July.
By mid April 2018 I have told a friend about it and she told me about a friend who had done Vipassana several times in Sri Lanka. So I checked the dates and places there. And there you go, starting 4th of May there were still seats available and I picked Kosgama because of it being close to Colombo. If I had to choose again I would pick the one near Kandy, since the temperatures are more milder there.
Only two weeks before the course I applied and got accepted within a few days. By that time I already had booked my flights and applied for the visa online. I was sure I would be able to go since it all aligned so well. And a week later I found myself in Sri Lanka meditating.
What did my 10-days of meditation look like?
We had a daily time table to follow:
04:00 wake up gong
04:30 – 06:30 meditation
06:30 – 07:00 breakfast
07:00 – 07:50 rest
08:00 – 11:00 meditation incl. 1 hour group sitting (which meant sitting in the same position for 1 hour without moving a muscle)
11:00 – 11:30 lunch
11:30 – 12:50 rest
13:00 – 17:00 meditation incl. 1 hour group sitting
17:00 – 17:30 tea & snack
17:30 – 17:50 rest
18:00 – 19:00 group sitting
19:00 – 20:15 discourse by Goenka (teacher of Vipassana)
20:15 – 21:00 meditation
21:00 prep for bed
21:30 lights off
The facilities were simple… cold shower, typical Indian / Sri Lanka toilets, no AC in the dorm only in the mediation hall, partially functioning ventilators, simple beds – a mattress with thin sheets on concrete and simple Sri Lankan food. We had mostly rice & potatoes, veggies & beans for breakfast and lunch. Most of the time fruits were bananas, on a few occasions papaya. Our afternoon snack always consisted of Super Munchy Crackers and a banana. 😉 One afternoon I was singing in my head “Bananas & crackers, bananas & crackers, bananas & crackers… lalala”.
The 10 days in total have been set up like this:
- 1-3 Day Anapana Meditation
Which is about observing your own natural breath around your nose first, then the sensations below your nostrils above the upper lip to learn to focus your mind.
- 4th Vipassana Day
The day of the Vipassana meditation technique introduction. Here we learned how to observe sensations on the body and how to release them.
- 5th-9th Day Vipassana Meditation
- 10th Day Metta Meditation, video on Vipassana in Indian prisons & noble silence lifted in the morning
- 11th Day final discourse
Words, phrases and repeated explanations stuck in my head now:
- Start Again
- Free your mind
- Alert and attentive mind
- Work patiently and persistently
- Anature, Anature
- Be happy
- Lead a happy life!
- equanimity is key
- Remain equanimous all the time to all sensations of the body.
- Aversion and craving lead to the miseries in your life.
- Craving, because you want something badly, don’t get it and will be disappointed.
- Aversion because anger, fear, hatred, etc. lead to sadness and misery as well.
- Remain equanimous to these two, because the law of nature is that everything changes.
- Misery will come in your life, but you will remain calm now and learn to observe the reality objectively.
- Don’t react to sensations, just observe.
- Act, but don’t react.
- Work hard and ardently.
- Give to others without expecting anything in return. (I believe if you give something freely to someone without expecting anything in return from that person, that you will receive another way something good.)
The first days I really struggled with sitting all the time. Feeling pain everywhere and being in my mind very much. After a while I got used to the sitting and with the help of the technique started healing myself from within, releasing Sankaras / my miseries and that way the pain was gradually reduced.
I learned to be equanimous and accept that everything changes. Therefore sensations on the body come and go. So the pain will come and go. If I wish for the pain to go and feel aversion towards the pain, it won’t go. Only if I accept the reality as it is, the pain will go and only comes back softer or not at all.
To really benefit from the mediation method it is now time for a new habit in my life of 1 hour Vipassana meditation in the morning and in the evening followed by a few minutes of Metta, in case I cannot concentrate I can also go back to Anapana for up to 15mins first. Puh, that’s pretty much considering that I already do yoga every morning. But I will try and even if it is only from time to time.
Benefits from the course I experienced:
- enhanced focus & productivity – I have been coming up with my vision for my coaching business.
- self healing – Pain I had felt at the beginning for sitting in total 10 hours each day, went away and with it emotional blockages, described as aversions and craving, that result in misery.
- focus on sensations of the body, first normal breathing and nose area, later on entire body
- feeling energy flow through the entire body while doing a fast sweep of the body, but also while scanning the body one by one, I felt like a ring of heat surrounding the parts I scanned
- Metta Meditation- feeling currents of Love I can spread out
- seeing and experiencing unconditional love
- very positive side effect: I met great people there, who participated in the course. After ten days of sharing spaces next to each other in the meditation and dinning hall, bathrooms and dorms it felt like I know these women very well. When on the 10th day noble silence was lifted we instantly started chatting about everything in our lives, from job changes to relationships to of course our experiences during the mediation.
Special to me was also to see a male and female monk participating in the course. And especially to see that as part of their vocation they have to ask everything or more like beg from others, so they aren’t doing anything on their own, others open doors for them, washing their food bowl and filling it with food. I did only see and hear them speak very little even after noble silence was lifted, so I believe that silence is also part of their daily life.
The Vipassana meditation courses are entirely donation based. No one gets paid, not the teachers, not the Dhamma servers, nor the people working in the kitchen. You don’t pay. You get free food, live in simple dorms, sharing a room with another women (or in my case I head my own). Only by the end of the course you decide how much you want to give freely. After having participated in one 10-day Vipassana course you can volunteer as Dhamma Server in any of the centres around the world to give back as well.
To learn more about Dhamma.org and Vipassana Meditation check out their website.
Beautifully written, Jana; and great to know you from there too. Hope to meet you again sometime, somewhere. Have a wonderful journey ahead.