Unlike other experiences, having neither the right to use the phone or to take notes, everything you read comes from my memory. Some things may have happened a day earlier or a day later. Nevertheless, all of what you are about to read, I have experienced, seen or felt.
I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I had writing it!
WHY DOING THIS EXPERIENCE ?
SN Goenka (on the right), the professor who exported Vipassana outside Burma and across the world, explains that we do not choose Vipassana, but that it is Vipassana that choose you, when you are ready. It is certain that giving 10 days of your life is not a decision that you take lightly.
For about 2 years, I regularly heard the word “Vipasanna” in discussions as soon as we started talking about meditation or spirituality. Those who are interested in “spiritual awakening” or practice meditation around me, dreamed of only one thing: to have the courage (and the time) to do the 10 days Vipassana in one of the many centers around the world. To give you an analogy, it’s like when you start running your first 10km and one day you imagine yourself doing an Ironman.
But how did I get there?
During a coffee with a stranger (bucket-list # 65), we talk about meditation and suddenly, she said to me “I did Vipassana … twice …. in a row!” Yes, twice in a row, 20 days isolated from the world!
Two beers later, I am (almost) convinced by the idea and I add the experience to my bucket-list. You tell me, so far, no big risk-taking.
A few days later, I share the final version of my bucket-list everywhere on social media. This is where the magic begins to operate (“If you don’t talk about your dreams, no one will help you”)
A first person comes to speak to me to share his feedback: “it’s an incredible experience” “it will change your life” “the greatest gift you can give to yourself”. A second person, then a third … in the end 8 people came to chat with me, each time with the same three sentences: “it’s an incredible experience”, “it will change your life” and “the most beautiful gift you can give to yourself. “
From that moment, Vipasanna becomes, by an inexplicable desire, “THE” experience on my list, directly in top position.
So what is exactly Vipasanna ?
It means seeing things as they really are, a method of self-transformation through self-observation. It is one of the oldest meditation techniques in India, taught 2,500 years ago as a universal remedy for universal ailments.
It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind.
It is this observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body that dissolves mental impurity, resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion.
But more concretely? Why 10 days?
Vipasanna is a meditation technique. “10 days Vipasanna” is the name of the retreat which lasts 10 days and respects many rules. Hang on tight, because that’s usually where you’re going to get scared …
Here are the main ones:
- To kill all living things, you will abstain (understand you will be vegetarian)
- To steal, you will abstain
- Any sexual activity (it’s not the hardest, huh …), you will abstain
- To lie, you will abstain
- Consume any intoxicating product such as alcohol, drugs or cigarettes, you will abstain
- Eat after 12 noon (in reality, you will have the right to fruit), you will abstain
- No other devotional techniques, rites and practices during the 10 days, you will not practice
This is where it gets complicated.
- The timetable, you will respect (wake up at 04:00 in the morning, 8 meditation sessions per day, …)
- The “noble” silence, you will respect (yes, you will not speak for 10 days)
- Gender separation, you will respect
- No physical contact and no physical activity (yoga, jogging, …), you will not do
- From all entertainments (no phone, book, notebook, music, games, …) you will stay away
It is important to note that all Vipasanna retreats are completely free. They work only on a donation system. Each student who attends a Vipassana course is given this gift by a previous student. At the end of your course, if you have benefited from the experience, you are welcome to donate for the coming course, according to your volition and your means.
This keeps a pure intention, free from any commercial spirit. I also understood at the end, that it allows your mind to be free from all expectations. If you pay up front, you expect something. Here it’s free, so you eat your bowl of rice and say thank you!
HOW TO DO IT TOO ? (in 5 steps)
STEP 1> Read the second part of my. journey. More seriously, participating in a 10-day retreat is not done lightly. It is important to learn a minimum. Take the time to read the introduction to the technique and the main Q&A. Feel free to watch videos (like this one or this one) or listen to podcasts (like this one). And above all to talk with people who have already lived the experience.
STEP 2> Go to the official website www.dhamma.org to find a course with a free place for you. My recommendations: choose a center far from home to avoid being tempted to take your car and leave (it’s stupid but you will understand once there), place the retreat in the middle of your holidays to have a few days to relax before going back home. If you are a couple, do it at the same time to avoid a mismatch
STEP 3> Be ready to go there! In my case, I was warned 10 days before D-day. That is why it is better to place it during your vacation, even if it means re-organizing everything at the last minute. But if you are already in the country, it is easier.
STEP 4> Don’t try to prepare yourself “mentally” or “physically”. There is nothing that can prepare you for Vipasanna. Whether you are in depression or at the top of your life, nobody, or even you, knows how you will react once there. And somewhere, that’s part of the beauty of the experience. The only thing to do is to prepare your bag with the appropriate clothes and accessories that will make your life easier. (see end of article)
STEP 5> When you receive the email asking if you are still ready to take your room … DO NOT THINK AND SAY YES! By this point, you will have already gone half the way. Well done 🙂
If your curiosity is still intact, you can jump to the next chapter.
> my journey day after day & what I learned <
PRACTICAL ADVICE (according to my experience)
- Earplugs for the night are important to have good night of sleep
- No need for an alarm clock, the center has a huge stock. Surely everyone who leaves their own at the end of the stay.
- A bottle to drink during the day. If possible a gourd which supports the heat, to bring your tea with you.
- Do exercices! Above all, keep an “authorized” physical activity such as active walking, some pushups or dynamic stretching.
- Learn how to stretch: your back, legs or spine. You will need it for the first few days.
- Quickly find your ideal position in the meditation hall. Take the maximum of cushions at the beginning, build your own small sofa. At the end of the 4th day, you must be ready to stay 60 / 90min without moving.
- Create your habits during breaks such as walking, washing, showering or stretching. Space them in time so that your days go by faster.
- (I shouldn’t say that but) use meditation moments in your room from time to time to get some sleep. Better to “cheat” on an hour and be fit for the other mediations of the day.
- Reduce your consumption of meats 2 or 3 weeks before. Do not eat too much for lunch. Take a fruit in your room if you are afraid of not holding it. You will quickly get used to fasting.
- Forget your watch in your bag. The less you look at the time, the better.
- Try to meditate more often in the meditation hall than your bedroom. It reduces the temptation to “do something else”.
- Don’t watch what other people are doing! Don’t try to compare yourself. Everyone’s eyes are closed, you can’t tell what condition they’re in. So focus on yourself.
- Take vitamins, nurofren or dolipranes with you.