10 Days of Silence + 7 Best Parts of a Vipassana 10-day Course

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“Vipassana is one of the world’s most ancient meditative techniques. It was practiced 25 centuries ago by Gotama the Buddha, who said he had rediscovered a much older practice. After his enlightenment in 528 BCE, the Buddha spent the remaining 45 years of his life teaching the way out of suffering. Vipassana is the essence of what he taught. The Buddha’s teaching is known by the general term Dhamma (Sanskrit: Dharma).” – Dhamma.org 


My Journey to Vipassana

I first heard about these Vipassana silent retreats in early 2016 through a few of the podcasts I listen to all around the same time (the universe seemed to be telling me something). I had recently left my corporate life of 6 years, so I was free and had the time. I had started using the Headspace Meditation app (which is very beginner friendly), progressed into a deeper meditation practice, and had developed a consistent physical yoga asana practice at local yoga studios over the past 9 months. I always enjoyed personal silent time and was getting more comfortable meditating for long periods of time, so I felt this was the next progression in my spiritual evolution. However, I kind of jumped into it blindly my first time around, lol. But I think this was best for me as a Vipassana first-timer so I couldn’t talk myself out of it before I even started. I was a little naïve which let me be my usual excited and eager-self heading into this new experience.  

You see, these 10-day courses usually fill up 3 months in advance so you definitely have to be thinking ahead of the game and be willing to commit if you really want to attend a course. There are only two Vipassana centers in the northeast – Shelburne, Massachusetts & Claymont, Delaware. People come from all over the world. I was thinking there had to be something special about this experience, right?!  

I understand 10 days of silence & meditation may seem like an overwhelming experience to many people. Understand you are not alone in that thought. But I also urge you to consider that we are all here to grow and evolve as spiritual beings having a human experience. We have to get outside of our comfort zones to experience personal growth – there is no growth inside of the comfort zones we already know! If the thought of accomplishing something makes you feel uncomfortable, that is all the more reason to do it! It is in this moment that you have an opportunity for growth. And the experience never turns out as bad as your small, negative-thinking mind tells you it’s going to be. 
 

My Personal Experience

With this understanding I trustingly signed up for my first 10-day Vipassana silent meditation retreat last June 2016. I successfully completed that first course and, as most of you know, I recently completed a second 10-day course two weeks ago in early June 2017. 

The second time around I found myself having to work on my quality of patience as I already knew the technique of the meditation and my mind wanted to move at a quicker pace. However, I knew what I was getting into this time :p so I was able to grasp the meditation technique and digest the nightly 1 hour discourses at a deeper level.

Both of these 10-day retreats have been extremely beneficial experiences for me. I absolutely love the technology & negative media detox (no phones or computers). It has allowed me to create a space of love, compassion, peace, and harmony within myself to practice non-reaction. You know… that space you wish you had taken a moment or hour or day to respond to a family member, friend, or complete stranger in a positive way instead of responding negatively with anger, hate, or judgement.  It’s a practice, just like anything else in life… you just don’t get good at it by happenstance. 
 

The Teaching

“With time, all things change” – that is the basic teaching of Vipassana. At a deeper level, “wherever there if life, there is constant change.” This is explained by the words “Dhamma” and “anicca.” Dhamma means “the law of nature” and anicca means “impermanence and constant change.” That is how every living thing is born, grows old, and eventually dies or withers away. Nothing is permanent. From millisecond to millisecond, everything is constantly changing at such a rapid rate that our eyes cannot detect. 

So theoretically, if everything is constantly changing there is no reason to have attachments or aversions to anything in life. It is very hard to be consciousness and awareness in every moment – that is why they call it “enlightenment.”

Through the Vipassana meditation technique you are able to understand this at the experiential level within the framework of your own body, not just merely at the intellectual level as science has already proven. As you sit in quiet and stillness, you begin to feel the sensations occurring all throughout your own body. From the top of your head to the tips of your toes there is constant sensation, and therefore change. 

Whether subtle sensations or gross sensations it does not matter, all that matters is your “equanimity” – not having any craving for pleasant sensations or having any aversion to unpleasant sensations. Just sit with the sensations and observe… it is that simple and hard at the same time. Through this practice, you change the old habit patterns of the mind from one of reaction to one of non-reaction, releasing deep rooted suffering and misery in the process. Your “sankharas” are erased. Don’t be fooled though – it takes diligent hard work, patience and time – maybe multiple 10-day courses, maybe years, maybe decades, maybe a lifetime, maybe many lifetimes. You are the only one who can fight your own battles to rise out of your suffering. If you can learn to be happy with whatever changing pleasant and unpleasant sensations you experience throughout your own body, you can learn to be happy with changing nature of everything going on around you in the physical world. 

 

7 Best Parts of a 10-Day Vipassana Meditation Course

1) “Dhamma”: this means “the law of nature.” The meditation technique is therefore universal since there are no restrictions for any human being to experience this law of nature. It is not particular to any sect or religion. All prior backgrounds and beliefs are welcome. 

2) “Bhavana-Maya Panna”: this means “wisdom based on direct personal experience.” The technique is all done at the experiential level, not the intellectual level or some higher plane that you cannot quite understand. As long as you are willing to work at feeling the sensations throughout your own body, that is the only requirement. 

3) “Dana”: this means “generosity or donation.” The course is totally free to sign up but donations are welcome at the end. And honestly, there is absolutely no pressure or sales tactics whatsoever from any of the teachers, management, or volunteers to get you to donate. I end up feeling that I have benefited so much from the 10 days that I just freely donate however much I feel comfortable. 

4) Goenkaji & his nightly discourses from 1991Goenkaji is the man from Burma (east of India) that brought Vipassana to the US. He looks just like a regular guy. No turban, no long beard, and no malas, jewelry, tattoos or piercings. Literally, a regular Indian dude. And he is funny as all hell. He tells the best stories in his nightly 1-hour discourses which relate back to Vipassana to help you understand how to go about daily life.   

5) Technology detox: the absence of technology for 10 days is amazing and absolutely eye-opening. Most of us are addicted to our phones, tv, computers, and the media on some level. I am not an exception. The media constantly bombards us with negativity, hate, violence, and messages that we are not enough without the biggest house, hottest car, most expensive watch, etc. Having the opportunity to gain perspective and step away from all the noise for 10 days allows you to understand you have a choice in how you go about using these technological tools, hopefully in a more positive way going forward.

6) 4:30am-6:30am morning meditation sitting: this is my favorite meditation sitting of the day by far! However, it unfortunately has the lowest attendance as you might expect. I understand it sucks to get up that early. But if you get your butt up and complete the 2-hour sitting, you feel like you have conquered the world already before the rest of the world is awake! The energy and vibrations at this time of the day are absolutely amazing too! All experienced yogis say this is the best time of the day to meditate or do whatever sadhana practice you like to do. 

7) Natural intermittent fasting: meal times are 6:30am-7:30am for breakfast, 11am-12noon for lunch, and fruit/tea at 5pm-6pm. New students are allowed to have fruit at 5pm but old students are asked to abstain from eating after 12noon and only have tea or water at 5pm. As an old student, you would then naturally be doing intermittent fasting for 19 hours every day. This gives your body tremendous ability to rest & detox for longer periods of time than most of us normally do. 

 
Final Thoughts

I highly, highly encourage anyone interested in taking a Vipassana 10-day course to do it. Seriously, I can’t recommend it enough. I understand most people have obligations to jobs and family/friends, but don’t let those negative demons in your mind come up with a million excuses of why you can’t do it. If you really want to take a course, you can find the time. I promise the benefits you will receive are boundless.