Back to home
in Self Development

Why a 10 days Silent Vipassana Meditation is Worth It

  • August 4, 2019
  • By simplycloverliving
  • 6 Comments
Why a 10 days Silent Vipassana Meditation is Worth It

10 days of silence, no reading, no writing, no electronics, not even gesturing. Hours of meditation a day with other people. And it’s somehow related to Buddhist teaching. That’s all I knew at the time before I went on the 10 days Vipassana Meditation by dhamma.org. But boy, was I in for a surprise.

Why would I do such a thing to myself?

As a personal development junkie, anything that makes me grow kind of fill me with excitement. Especially if it sounds challenging, I tend to gravitate towards it even more. I know, what a weirdo. So this retreat fits the bill. There are ample time to look within, to discover myself and hopefully find some inner peace.

Plus, it’s FREE. I am more careful with my spending now since I discovered FIRE. (Check out my section on financial independence HERE.) So this can’t be more perfect. It’s also very hard to get a spot and people seem to be fighting for it. If it’s THIS popular, it must be good, right?

My concerns before the course

Developing more of a loner personality (ambivert towards more introvert) over the years, not talking to anybody wasn’t really the issue. However, I am the type of person who needs constant mental stimulation. Not being able to read or write? That’s going to be rough. AND there is no dinner? Ahh I kinda eat a lot… Plus, I have never sat more than an hour meditating (I only did that once). So I have to do that for 10 hours a day? In the same crossed legged position with my back straight with no back support? I have chronic pain in my left bum, occasional knee pain and a very tight back (Yea, not young anymore). Ummm this is going to be fun…

Well, since I was there for a challenge, I was just going to try and see what happens. You always have the option to leave if you really can’t stand it. And if you feel guilty and want to donate, they won’t even accept any until you finish the whole course.

So nothing to lose!

Was it Hard?

Everyone will experience this differently and most people I have talked to or read online have said this is one of the hardest things they have ever done. So I was expecting it to be excruciating.

It was definitely a challenge, but not in the ways I imagined. I actually never felt once that I wanted to leave, or I needed to talk. I was surprised I could sit for that long (stiffness in the right leg for the first 3 days) and I didn’t starve (hungry at night around the 7th day). However, I did start to count down the days halfway and got through it one meditation at a time!

The hardest part for me was actually getting the technique down, which will be a lifetime practice.

Despite the challenges, I can tell you. the course wasn’t just great, but it was LIFE CHANGING. It was the BEST thing I have ever done so far in terms of personal development.

WHY did I choose Vipassana Meditation

  • Vipassana means seeing reality as it is, not what you’d like it to be. No visualization, based on ACTUAL sensations you feel.
  • Encourage what YOU experience as truths, not what other people say its true.
  • Not a religious practice. No mantra, no rituals or paying respect to any God.
  • Anybody of any faith can practice it without interfering with their own or lack thereof.
  • The goal is to be at peace and be happy, no matter what happens.
  • It targets at the ROOTS of the misery, not a bandaid solution to suppress, distract or temporarily make things better.
  • YOU have to work for it, nobody can do it for you. Therefore, no promise of shortcuts.

 

 

 

Without further ado, here is a summary of what happened during the 12 days, including Day 0 and the last day.

Timetable

04:00 Gong rings

04:20 Gong rings again

04:30-06:30 Meditation in the Hall or in your own room

06:30-07:30 Breakfast

07:30-08:00 Break

08:00-09:00 Group Meditation in the Hall

09:00-11:00 Meditation in the Hall or in your room according to instructions

11:00-12:00 Lunch

12:00-13:00 Assistant Teacher’s interview

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 room according to instructions

17:00-18:00 Tea Break

18:00-19:00 Group Meditation in the Hall

19:15-20:15 Discourse

20:30 – 21:00 Group Mediation in the Hall

21:00 Q&A if required, or rest time

 

Basically, you meditate 10 hours a day! However, there is time in between for you to stretch, and walk around.

There is really only three mandatory sits in the hall. The rest you have the option to meditate in your room, or wait for further instructions.

Day 0:

I arrived in the afternoon and filled in some paperwork. Talked to only several fellow meditators, and had a wonderful dinner and info session. This is also when they confiscate your phone. Then we were assigned a seat in the meditation hall for the duration of the course. The hall was sitting around 80 people at the time. Men and women are separated from now on. Noble silence started that night at 8pm.

My bed is on the right hand side, with shelves, a chair and hooks to store my belongings. You bring your own sheets and pillowcases to go on top of the bedding

Day 1:

Dong….dong… A gong rang, twice. I looked at my clock (that I borrowed from the centre). It said 4am. My roommate switched on the light immediately. Slightly irritated, I turned on my side and kept sleeping. Technically, you could “meditate” in your room the first two hours from 4:30am to 6:30am, so the temptation to continue sleeping was huge. But I have been kindly advised by several fellow students before to resist the urge and get up to the meditation hall. So I kept that at the back of my mind.

Twenty minutes passed, another two gongs. Alright, I might as well get up, and start the course right.

There was a pre-recording, of the late S.N. Goenka, guiding us through what to do. We were instructed to observe our breath, and that was the only task! But it proved to be very difficult.

Naturally, the mind wanders, like a lot! Observe my breath, ok, 2-3 breaths later, umm I wonder what we are going to eat for lunch. Wait, go back to the breath. 3 breaths later, my right leg starts to hurt. Then the thought starts jumping, all over the place, with no logical sequence, and I don’t know how many minutes passed, oh shoot, I am supposed to observe my breath. Oops. Basically, that cycles went on and on, jumping from past memories to future plans.

The whole day went on like that. Every time I sat, I just tried to come back to the breath as much as possible.

The Food

Food was surprisingly delicious. It was a buffet style vegetarian fare, with labels to show if you have certain allergies. Special requests could be made. We had a pregnant lady and a girl with low blood pressure, so they do cater dinner if required. Tea and coffee were also available. There was technically no dinner, just tea, milk and fruits (for new students only, old students got only tea with lemon!)

Since this was hosted in Ontario, I did find the food quite multicultural. There was even desserts on alternative days!

A pretty accurate menu can be found HERE for the Ontario Vipassana Centre Website.

Our dining hall that is newly renovated since last year!

Discourse Seminar

Every night, around 7:15pm to 8:15pm, there was a discourse. An hour long pre-recorded video with Goenka giving us a talk to recap the day and guide us in the teachings.

That became the highlight of everyday. His sense of humour, and the insights just made it such a delight to keep me going throughout the course.

By some magical powers, the first few days were surprisingly painless, at least mentally. Yeah, my mind wandered off, but I know that was part of the deal. My right leg though was another story. There was pain and I did have to switch positions now and then. But we were permitted to do so, as quietly as possible of course.

There were lots of cushions available at this centre where you could use for extra padding. I used some soft blocks under my knees and two cushions on top of the mat to sit on. You could also request a back support after your first day of sitting.

I thought I slept horribly throughout the nights. Most of the time I was in that half asleep, half awake stage. But I had so many vivid dreams, and woke up refreshed. I usually need 10 hours+ of sleep because of my perpetual jetlag, but I was surprised I woke up everyday energized!

Day 2-3:

Pretty much the same deal as Day 1. We also started to observe the triangular area of the upper lip below the nostrils. We were told to concentrate in this small area so we can feel more subtle sensations of the body later. At first, I didn’t feel anything at all. After awhile, I started feeling tinging or numbing sensations here. But in order to feel such a subtle sensation, the mind has to be very quiet.

Today I felt great difficulty with separating the observation of breath versus controlling it. Every time I observed my breath, I immediately breathed harder or paused it. I still have difficulty with this one, to this day!

We also had our own shower time slot. We were only given 20 minutes each. People shuffled their times around throughout the week, but I kept mine the same at 5:30pm, after “dinner”.

Since we couldn’t talk, there were signs everywhere, to remind us to be mindful

 

There were 3 bathrooms for us to use in our residence of about 20

Day 4-7:

We were told to scan our bodies from head to toe, and feel the sensations throughout the body. THAT’S IT! That’s essentially the technique you learn for Vipassana. Way easier said than done though. At first, it was easier to feel the obvious ones, but the key was to feel the very subtle ones.

We know that through science, we are made up of subatomic particles, and they vibrate. Basically, we want to feel these vibrations. This trains the mind to be extremely quiet and concentrated in order to pay attention to details.

According to Buddha, any emotions that we feel are accompanied by body sensations, if we can be equanimous (not clinging onto pleasant or avoiding unpleasant sensations), then whatever sensations that come our way will no longer bother us. Then we will be free from suffering. However, this is EXTREMELY difficult.

Starting in the late afternoon on Day 4, during the three mandatory sits in the day, we were instructed not to move. For the entire hour, you were encouraged not to move your hands, legs, or open your eyes. The first time I did this was quite uncomfortable, but by the third try, my body got used to sitting in the same position for the hour.

Day 8-9:

Someone once asked me upon knowing I am about to do this retreat: “Isn’t this like solitary confinement?” And when I saw that I got assigned a cell, I bursted out laughing (with my inside voice of course).  At first, it did feel claustrophobic and uneasy as I stared at the 4 walls and the very dim light, but as I closed my eyes and meditated, that feeling quickly transitioned into a strange kind of calm.

The cell at Hoa Lo Prison in Hanoi, Vietnam

Day 10:

At the 9-11am sit, we learned this meditation technique called Metta, which focused on love and compassion. After that, we could start to talk again! This was an amazing day because we finally get to talk to everybody who I was silently judging and had them prove me wrong! When people are quiet, and we are not supposed to look at each other or gesture, we all have our bitch face on. But of course they were the loveliest people and I learned so much from them.

Also, I could finally talk to my roommate and she was so lovely! I went to a bilingual English and Mandarin class, so a lot of people came directly from China. Since I straddle between the two cultures, it was interesting to hear different perspectives on how people perceive this practice and what they got out of it. I also made some friends and will have more people to meditate with!

Overall, a blissful experience, but not without some pain, but these are the most rewarding ones, isn’t it?

 

 

 

Most successful people meditate. Knowing that the benefits are now proven scientific, being able to master the mind and emotions brings us back to the present and help us become happier.

How Is This Helpful?

1. Learn to be equanimous with pleasant or unpleasant sensations

  • A whole 100 hours of meditation for 10 days will give you all kinds of feels.
  • Unpleasant sensations: You will learn to sit through it, let it pass and not react.
    • Real life example: If I get pissy at somebody, I understand that this feeling will pass, I shut my mouth and stop myself from saying or doing things I will regret.
  • Pleasant sensations: You feel it, but learn not to cling to it and want it to continue.
    • Real life example: I get that constant excitement when I travel, but I know this is also temporarily, I return home to normal life without getting depressed.

If we can be equanimous with any sensations, that translates to not being attached to anything. We can still feel them, but we won’t create an illusion in our heads to want to continue the good feelings or want the bad ones to stop. Heck, you won’t even label it good or bad.

2. See reality for what it is, not what you want it to be

  • Learn to observe the breath and body sensations without controlling it.
  • You can either force your breath or let yourself breathe normally and observe it as an outsider. This technique teaches you to observe things objectively without attaching your mind onto it.
  • Since our minds keep playing tricks on us when we think about the past or the future, we don’t experience the NOW!
  • We create an image of how we want things to be instead of seeing reality for what it is.

3. Understand the concept of impermanence

  • We will experience actual body sensations. They come and go.
  • For example, I got two big ass mosquito bites on my legs, so I learned to feel it, and not scratch. The 20 minutes of itching were excruciating, but after that, it’s gone. By not scratching it, you prevent the “poison” to spread which will prevent further itching, which it’s how you eradicate the problem at its roots.
  • Everything in life is impermanent, so why attach ourselves so much onto it? Enjoy the moment and when it’s time to let go, smile and move on. (Easier said than done!)

4. Start analyzing the patterns of your mind

  • Sitting for so many hours naturally gives rise to many thoughts. After awhile, you realize they are very repetitive.
  • You can then analyze this pattern and start to be more self aware.
  • My realization:
    • My ego is huge. Always self congratulating!
    • I can judge people based on a small gesture they did.
    • My mind jumps all over the place, but knowing this is normal, I stop judging myself.

5. Grow through the suffering

  • Unfortunately, we humans tend to remember lessons much better when it’s painful.
  • Having practiced to sit through the boredom, physical pain, emotional turmoil in these 10 days, you learn to accept them and not run away.
  • Start being comfortable being uncomfortable. This helps us cope with the many ups and downs that are bound to happen in life.

6. Practical with Immediate Results

  • This was the most practical technique I have learned in personal development.
  • It can immediately be applied and reap benefits.
  • But it’s still up to you to continue to apply the technique in your everyday life!

So! Do you think this course is worth the discomfort? I definitely think so! I have to say, I am now hooked! I am looking forward to doing more courses maybe in India and Nepal, where this technique originated.

Mount Everest Basecamp in the Distance. There will be a Vipassana Centre built in Lukla, the airport area for Mount Everest hike!

Tips

  • Don’t wear any makeup or contacts, everybody’s eyes are closed most of the time. It will save you lots of time in the bathroom.
  • Try to get in the meditation hall at the 4:30am session versus staying in your room, do the course right!
  • Be aware that a bilingual course will have its pros and cons. It will drag out the instructions, making it too repetitive or a useful reminder in case you weren’t listening the first time.
  • Resist the urge to eat too much, the bloating during meditation might make you feel worse.
  • Request for dinner or back support if you feel extremely uncomfortable. They don’t want you to REALLY suffer.
  • Stretch and walk in between sittings. Bring a tennis or golf ball to self massage your sore spots, you will have some!
  • Don’t bring a watch or clock with you to meditate, it will just make you anxious.

One of the three women’s residence in the 140 acres of land in the Ontario Vipassana Centre

I understand this can be very intimidating for those who have little experience with meditating. The following resources and tools are the ones I personally used before I joined the course, to better prepare you mentally for this challenge.

I DO NOT have any affiliate links with these resources, just what I have found useful!

Books

The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation as Taught by S.N.Goenka by William Hart- The philosophy and teachings behind this meditation technique.

10% Happier by Dan Harris – The skeptic who turned into a believer of meditation.

Meditation Apps

Headspace – 2-60 minutes guided or unguided meditation with skill demo in animation. I have only done the 10 minutes intermittently for 2 years.

Retreat

Bali Silent Retreat – You can book by the day, with farm to table vegetarian meals, yoga and meditation, books you could read. A great intro to silence. I did 4 days and it was SOOOO lovely.

Website for the 10 days Vipassana Retreat: dhamma.org

  • This course is available for free, food and accommodation provided. It is afforded by the ones who have come before you who donated.
  • Donations are only for those who finish the 10 days course, and found it useful and want more people to benefit.
  • This course is available in 201 centres all over the world, here is the list.
  • I would suggest you to book 4 months ahead, they are popular!

*This article is based on my experience at the Ontario Vipassana Centre, experiences may vary depending on which site you visit.

There you have it! Please don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions. I know it can be very daunting but it’s well worth the experience!

 

By simplycloverliving, August 4, 2019
  • 6
6 Comments
  • Sherry
    August 6, 2019

    Hey! I came to your site from FIRE site. So happy to read about your 10 day vipassana course. I did the same course last February, and loved it very much as well! My experience is here http://www.gocraftyme.com/2018/03/my-first-10-day-vipassana-course-at-ontario-vipassana-center/

    • simplycloverliving
      August 6, 2019

      Thank you so much for reading Sherry! I love how your article is so full of details with the teachings. And you have it in Chinese too! So cool that you are also in the FIRE community. Hopefully we will meet one day maybe in a group sit in Toronto!

  • Kendal
    August 9, 2019

    I remember when you first told me you were going to do this and I thought it was crazy! After reading your post, it seems incredible. Although I’m not 100% sure if a silent retreat is right for me, I definitely see some sort of meditation retreat in my future. Do you know of anyone who slept during the morning meditation?

    • simplycloverliving
      August 10, 2019

      I am glad this post clarified what a silent retreat is really about! Not a lot of people showed up for the 4:30am meditation, so I am pretty sure they are “meditating” in the room! 😉

  • Emily
    August 21, 2019

    This is so awesome, Clover! What a special experience! Thanks for sharing in such detail and also for providing resources. I found a center in Massachusetts that I’ll look into. Are you going to continue to meditate in your daily life?

    • simplycloverliving
      August 22, 2019

      Oh I am so glad you are interested in the mediation! Yes I have been trying to keep up with it, although it’s not easy I have to admit! But it does make a difference when I do! Let me know if you have any questions!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

About Me
Hi, I am Clover
I show the intimidated how to turn adventures into reality by exploring: - Adventurous Travel - Right Mindset - Financial Independence
Instagram API currently not available.