Ever wondered about 10 days in silent meditation? Find all your questions answered about this 2500 year old technique which gives you a method to reboot, reset and recharge without saying a single word.
I sat my first 10 day silent meditation, also known as Vipassana, in 2017. Whilst I’ll leave the teachings to the renown teacher, Goenka, here are a few fundamental questions I wish I had the answer to before I sat my silence!
(All questions are based on own experience and knowledge)
What is Vipassana meditation?
Vipassana means to witness and see things as they actually are. It is also known as ‘insight meditation’. During the 10 days, participants are taught a technique. The first 3 days are built upon finding focus using the breath, the remaining days go deeper into the technique itself by observing the physical sensations as they arise in the body through scanning. The key is to observe any sensations as they are happening, moment to moment, without attachment to pleasure or aversion to pain. We observe and understand a key teaching on a physiological level through this practice called Anicha – that everything is temporary and changing. (Even dead legs!)
How long do I have to meditate per day?
Meditations will be around 10 hours per day. There are breaks for breakfast, lunch and in the afternoon when you can walk around the grounds, do your washing or other errands within the facility grounds. First wake up bell for meditation rings at 4am. There are several sittings per day to develop and practice the technique.. Some sittings are called ‘sittings of strong determination’ in which you are encouraged to not move at all.
What’s the Vipassana Daily schedule?
- 4am – Wake up bell
- 4.30-6.30am – Meditation
- 6.30-8am – Breakfast
- 8-11am – Meditation
- 11-1pm – Lunch
- 1-5pm – Meditation
- 5-6pm – Tea/Snacks
- 6-7pm – Meditation
- 7-8.15pm – Lecture
- 8.30-9pm – Meditation
- 10pm – Bedtime
Why do I have to be silent?
Whilst Vipassana is coined as ‘the silent retreat’, this is only one aspect of the experience. It’s primarily so that you don’t get distracted and so that you don’t interrupt the experience of others meditating around you. A very high level of energy is consumed when speaking and interacting so the silence allows you to maintain this energy for your own introspection.
What are the rules?
When you sign up to a Vipassana course, you agree to abide by five precepts: no killing, no stealing, no lying, no sexual misconduct and no intoxicants. There’s also no communication, sex, drugs, religious worship, reading, writing, other practices such as yoga or physical contact.
What are the benefits?
There are huge mind to body benefits which have the ability to not only improve physical and sensory connection but also physiological reprogramming of old patterns, habits and processes which operate on a subconscious level. The fundamental teachings are that the source of our suffering comes from our attachment to pleasure and our aversion of pain, and so by observing and not reacting to these sensations as they come and go on a physiological level, we can change our conditioning towards them. We see that our situation is always temporary. The other benefits are numerous, I personally felt a huge release of muscular tension, reenergised, focused and refreshed.
Do I have to do the full 10 days?
For your first Vipassana meditation, it is necessary to do the full 10 days. You cannot choose to do only a few days. Whilst this may seem daunting, there is a reason why! You need the 10 days to learn the actual technique and the last day is for reintegration. After this 10 day retreat, you can do 3 day retreats and even 1 day retreats.
Do I need previous meditation experience?
No. Everyone is there to learn a new technique. So whether this is a new experience or you have meditated before, you will plenty of time to practice! Some even say that having no practice is beneficial because it means that it cannot influence the technique. Others say it can be beneficial for holding concentration. Everyone is welcome, whatever ability.
How do I sit the meditation?
In the meditation hall, meditations take place sitting on the floor. You can prop up pillows under you to make it more comfortable but you are encourage to not move too much and to rather observe what sensations are coming up. If needed, chairs are available too. As the days go on, you’ll find your set up!
Is there anyone to help?
There is an experienced lead teacher and volunteers. Each day, there is a dedicated slot where students can check in with the teacher and ask any questions or raise any concerns they may have personally. There is also team of volunteers who will be helping to facilitate the course operations. Each day, Goenka will give his teachings and meditation instructions at the beginning of each sitting by audio. In the evenings there will also be a video to explain the teachings of the day.
How much does it cost?
This is the incredible thing about Vipassana. It is entirely donation funded. You give what is in your capacity to give. There is no suggestions or required amount. You give so that others can come to learn and experience what you did. I roughly gave what I would have spent in 10 days on that vacation.
What is covered and are there any other charges?
All your food, lodging and learning is covered. There are no additional costs. The idea is that in relieving participants of these tasks and the energy which goes into preparation and work, you can focus on meditation and your spiritual growth.
What is the accommodation like in Vipassana?
All centres are divided into separate living quarters for men and women. The standards of accommodation vary from centre to centre and depending on what region and country you choose to sit your meditation in. Some centres have individual dorm rooms and others are shared. I did mine in Jakarta, Indonesia and had very clean rooms, some shared, some individual.
What’s the food like in Vipassana?
This also varies depending on the centre, region and country. It is cooked by volunteers and so is likely to be food natural to the centre’s home culture. All food is vegetarian. At the centre near Jakarta, Indonesia, the food was delicious! 2 hot meals are served at the same time each day. One is after the first meditation sitting in the morning and the last before midday. Some snacks of fruit are offered in the late afternoon. This is more than enough as most of the day is sitting still. We were also given a seating plan for the dining hall. All meals are eaten in silence. There are no alternate vegan/food options but most the food in my centre was vegan anyway.
Where can I do my vipassana meditation?
There are hundreds of centres run by volunteers in every continent all over the world. Just check the http://www.dhamma.org search tab to find your nearest centre. You can also choose to take your course abroad. You just need to check that it is taught in your language.
How do I book Vipassana meditation?
You can book your Vipassana meditation on www.dhamma.org
Once you find the centre and retreat which suits you through the search function, you can apply to it by answering a few questions. Please note that filling out an application does not mean automatic approval onto the course.
What should I take to Vipassana?
You will only need the bare essentials for living during the course, clothes, bed wear, toiletries, towel, shoes. No forms of entertainment are permitted, including books, technology, phones, pens, paper etc. This is so that you can fully concentrate on your practice without distraction or outside stimulation.
What should I wear to Vipassana silent meditation?
There is no dress code but all clothing should be moderate, cover the shoulders and be past the knees. For women, it’s helpful to have a shawl which can be thrown over the shoulders. No strappy tops, beach wear or short skirts/shorts are permitted.
Can I do Vipassana with a partner/friend?
This needs to be stated on the application form. From my understanding, you will not be allowed to stay in the same room and it is not generally recommended as it can be a distraction to your practice. Men and women have separate meditation, dining and sleeping facilities.
Will I make friends on Vipassana?
Given that the course is taken in silence with the intention of no communication of any form, no hand gestures, mouthing words etc, there is no space or time for socialisation. The only window’s to speak to your fellow meditators is right at the beginning during registration or right at the end, on the last day which is opened up for reintegration period before leaving the centre. At this point, I did meet some interesting people and share the brief time together. I social networks with a few of my fellow meditators who were travelling in the area.
For more information or to book your retreat visit www.dhamma.org
READ ABOUT MY VIPASSANA EXPERIENCE (COMING SOON)
READ ANOTHER VIPASSANA PERSPECTIVE ON THE GUARDIAN
Have you ever sat vipassana? Can you share some advice? Do you have any more questions? Was this helpful? Let me know your thoughts!