I did 10-day Vipassana meditation course in July 2012. Meditation centre was located in Woori Yallock – small town near Melbourne.
First of all, my notion of meditation was shattered there. In my mind, meditation was sitting quietly and relaxing, something like this:
Well you do sit quietly but it is not relaxing at all, at least not in Vipassana meditation. It is hard work. It is simple but not easy at all.
What helped me is that I decided to allow myself to be a newbie. I said to myself: “It’s OK to do it poorly it the beginning”.
There were about 40 students total. Men and women were living in separate areas.
Talking to each other was not allowed. Many people told me that this would be very hard for them. However I didn’t find it difficult at all. Maybe this is because I was not a very sociable person.
Also there was no Internet, no TV, no radio, no phones, no visitors. I handed in my mobile phone in the beginning of the course for safe keeping. There was no communication with outside world at all.
We didn’t read anything. There were no writing materials. Actually I missed pen and paper during the first half of the course. I was getting so many excellent ideas during meditation and I wanted to write them down so that I don’t forget them.
We were spending a lot of time meditating. Here is typical timetable:
|4:00||Morning wake-up bell|
|4:30-6:30||Meditate in the hall or in your room|
|8:00-9:00||Group meditation in the hall|
|9:00-11:00||Meditate in the hall or in your room according to the teacher’s instructions|
|12:00-13:00||Rest and interviews with the teacher|
|13:00-14:30||Meditate in the hall or in your room|
|14:30-15:30||Group meditation in the hall|
|15:30-17:00||Meditate in the hall or in your own room according to the teacher’s instructions|
|18:00-19:00||Group meditation in the hall|
|19:00-20:15||Teacher’s Discourse in the hall|
|20:15-21:00||Group meditation in the hall|
|21:00-21:30||Question time in the hall|
|21:30||Retire to your own room – Lights out|
Getting up at 4 am in the morning was hard for me. In the beginning I was walking during rest times but later on I was trying to get as much sleep as possible. Walking, by the way, is the only form of exercising allowed.
We had breakfast and lunch but no dinner. Instead of dinner we had two pieces of fruit and tea. Somehow I didn’t miss dinners and wasn’t particularly hungry in evenings. The food was delicious, I liked it very much. Oh, and it was all vegetarian.
Meditating itself wasn’t in complete silence. In the beginning and the end of each session there was chanting played as recording. I found it strange at first but with time grew to almost like it.
I would never associate meditation with pain. Yet initially I experienced a lot of pain and discomfort. Sitting without moving for long time becomes painful. Later on I found out that in fact you can change posture from time to time. So I didn’t have to go through all this suffering. Oh well, I still think it was beneficial for me.
The main idea of Vipassana meditation is observe different sensation on your body while maintaining “perfect equanimity”. You try to be aware of your body.
In the evening the teacher discourse was given. This was recordings of S.N. Goenka, a leading teacher of Vipassana meditation. This is where theory behind the meditation was given.
At the start of the course management strongly recommended me to listen to discourse in my first language (Russian). I was glad I agreed because the material was quite thick. It was hard for me to follow it even in Russian. My English was definitely not good enough to follow discourse in English.
The theory included subatomic parts, vibrations and future lives which was hard to swallow for me raised in atheistic Soviet Union.
On day 8 I finally became aware of my leg. It was fascinating – it felt like my leg lit up with sensations like a Christmas tree. Immediately after that I was able to get a flow of subtle sensations which felt incredible. I can compare it to the opening sequence from Universal Studios logo:
I felt ecstatic after that and couldn’t stop smiling 🙂 I must admit that I couldn’t get that flow again since then.
Surprisingly I got many revelations about my life during last days of the course. I realized how misguided I was in many aspects of my life. I understood why I behaved in certain ways.
On the last day I felt very happy and was eager to talk to fellow students. I think everybody else felt blissful.
Overall the course was great. I strongly recommend it to everyone. What I like about Vipassana meditation is that it helps everyone, regardless of their religion, race, age and background.
It is hard, sometimes even gruelling but it is very beneficial. I think it’s like a boot camp for your mind. You can find more about it at Vipassana website.