My 10-day Vipassana Meditation Course Experience
Observing the impermanence of mind and body
2500 years ago, Siddhartha Gautama rediscovered the vipassana meditation technique, attained nirvana by its practice and became Buddha.
Vipassana meditation has helped hundreds of thousands of people to overcome their misery and pain in life.
Vipassana is an ancient meditation method that originated in India.
Rig Veda also mentions this method. Still, this method was lost because people started combining their sectarian rituals with it. Later this was again discovered by Buddha and he spread it in its pure form for many years. But after 500 years, history repeats itself and it started disappearing.
India again lost this invaluable method which brings peace and harmony to one’s life. Thanks to the neighbouring countries who have maintained this ancient method in its purest form.
S. N. Goenka learnt this technique in Burma from Sayagi U Ba Khin in 1955. This was a life-changing experience for him.
In 1969, S.N. Goenka re-introduced this method to the country of its origin and established centres across the country. An organisation purely run-on voluntary donations have now more than 300 centres in over 100 countries with teachings in all major languages.
About the 10-day course
It is a 10-day course where you need to stay in their centre with no communication with the outside world. Free accommodations and sattvic food are provided by them over the course period.
Code of conduct of the centre has to be followed which includes noble silence (no communication through words, eyes or facial expression) and mobile phones, physical exercise, reading books, yoga, any religious practice, fasting, mantra chant, singing, reading is strictly prohibited. You have to go with no preconceived notions about any religious biases.
The day starts at 4 a.m. in the morning and ends at 9:30 p.m. in the night. More details about the schedule and code of conduct can be found here
The general routine is 10 hours of meditation with 1.5 hours of recorded pravachan of S.N. Goenka for 10 days which cumulates to 100 hours of meditation with 15 hours of pravachan. Both theoretical understanding and experiential wisdom give you a holistic view of this.
Before sharing my experience, let me tell you about the universal path of dhamma.
The Path of Dhamma (Universal and non-sectarian)
Universal path (Dhamma or laws of nature) is being taught by them which has no relation with any religion or sects. There is no intention to convert anyone.
Although people with strong religious biases and blind-eye toward any other views will find it difficult to understand this. But with open-mindedness, this universal path can be understood easily as it does not involve any preaching and is based on the laws of nature.
The path to Dhamma is called Noble Eightfold Path which is divided into 3 sections:
(For simplifications I am not using original language to teach this noble path. Also, I am only mentioning the classification of the path. This path can better be learnt by attaining the 10-day course.)
1. Ethics (moral conduct):
Right speech and purity of vocal action
Right action and purity of physical action
2. Concentration (Developing mastery over mind):
Right effort and right exercise
3. Wisdom (Development of wisdom):
I knew about the vipassana method and the 10-day course since my 12th standard, I never had a chance to attain this 10-day course due to my busy schedule. Luckily, I was able to arrange the situation and attain this program starting on 29th May 2022 and ending on 9th June 2022.
I applied to the Kutch Centre which is situated 25 km away from Mandvi, Kutch. 10 days course was starting on 30th May and I reached there on 29th May to complete the formalities and submitting the valuables and mobile.
1st 3 days were really tough for me. My legs, knees and lower back were having intense pain. Every 10-15 minutes I had to change the folding of my legs, open my eyes and relax my lower back.
Initially, for 3.5 days we were instructed to observe uncontrolled breath i.e. Anapana Meditation. There’s a catch here. The moment you control your breath like making it shallow or consciously taking a long breath, your mind can be focused easily. If you use some mantras, words or images, your mind can be focused easily.
The moment you observe the natural breath and don’t take control over it, your mind will start wandering again and again. This shows that if you focus on something on which you have control, your mind will concentrate easily because it falls under the territory of your mind.
Watching uncontrolled breath was really tough for me. Although I was instructed not to use any mantra or imagination or words to concentrate, out of my frustration I did try mantra which I learnt in transcendental meditation. Later I found that it can help me concentrate but won’t be useful. So, I started observing my breath objectively and making no attempt to regulate it in any way even though my mind was wandering a lot.
The reason for my frustration was my past meditation experience. I remember while meditating some time back, I experienced a stage where I knew I was present but was not able to feel my body. That was such a pleasant experience which I was trying to get it back in the centre.
Sadly, in the path of spirituality, an experience never repeats and the desire for such experience becomes an obstacle to growth. This has led me to do practices even though it was denied by them.
Later, when Goenkaji taught me about the impermanence and nature of the mind, I understood where I was wrong and what made me do that.
Still, the intensity of pain was the same. But I was slowly getting used to the environment.
On the 4th day, I was given the vipassana meditation method at 3.30 p.m. The pain was reduced drastically but it was still there. In this method, we were instructed to objectively observe sensations of the body.
I won’t be able to go into the intricacy of how this meditation is done because it will be considered a disservice as I won’t be able to give all details required to do this meditation within this article.
To provide you with an overview, to understand this method at an intellectual level and not an experiential level, you need to understand why Aversion, attachment and delusion/ignorance arises in the mind, sensations in the body, and the total process as a whole and how that can be controlled.
For example, if someone says something bad to you or did something that you don’t like. Firstly it will be processed in your mind, in turn, a biochemical reaction (sensation) will take place in your body. The mind will not like it and aversion will be created through a chemical reaction.
From the whole process conclusion can be drawn that until the sensation is created, nothing is in your control. If you practice keeping your mind Equanimeous while sensations arise in your body, slowly external activities won’t be able to disturb your mind.
This is the result of vipassana. Although there is a deeper realisation that comes with time and practice, there’s no point in talking about it unless we have some experience. Otherwise talking only at an intellectual level gives nothing except fake satisfaction of knowing.
After we were given vipassana, 3 sessions of 1 hour of Adhisthana (strong determination) sitting were done. This means that I had to sit with Sankalp (strong determination) that for the next 1 hour, I won’t open my legs, move my hands or open my eyes.
For the first 3.5 days, I must have opened it 10 times in 1-hour sitting. But this time with just Sankalp (strong determination) before starting the session, it reduced to 1 or 2 times and later not even once.
Games of my mind
Now the real game was started. Every day my mind used to come up with a new argument for why I shouldn’t do meditation. For 3 days regularly at 4 a.m. when I woke up, I was unwell, either cold or weakness in the body. But I did my best to avoid medicines in any case. Whenever I feel unwell, I did my session in Shunyagaar (Small rooms for individual meditation practice with intense silence and minimal light). After that, I used to get normal.
Later it so happened that parts of my body used to feel intense pain, like once I got pain in my left thigh and continued for the whole day. I thought it was because I was pushing my boundaries. But later I found that it was just my mind games. On another day I was completely ok and the same pain was in my other leg and later on the lower back.
Once on the 4th or 5th day, I don’t exactly remember the date, when I closed my eyes I used to see big cockroaches and ants while sleeping. Again it was due to another reason which I found later. The point is your mind may play games to not let you stay there because 10 hours of meditation takes you deep inside your brain. So whatever happens, if you go for that course, make a strong determination that no matter what you won’t leave the course halfway.
For the last 5 days, variations were brought to do the Vipassana meditation.
On the 10th day, Mangal Maitri (Metta Day) was taught. Our Noble silence (Arya Maun) ended at 10 a.m. Then we were given back our valuables submitted to them except mobiles.
For the last 10 days people to whom I only gave expressionless faces, on the 10th day I talked with them, what an amazing people out there. Not only in terms of material achievement but in terms of mindset and way of thinking and looking at life. The friends I made there were really amazing and I learnt a lot from all of them.
At 4 p.m. we were given back our mobiles and then after almost 11 days, I made a call at home. My words are incompetent to express that feeling.
Later the day ended as usual with a meditation session and pravachan. The next day we had 1 session starting from 4 a.m. and had a pravachan of S.N. Goenkaji. Then we were shown a new centre built for long course students and had breakfast and were finally allowed to go home.
Things you should remember
This was my personal experience. You may not feel the same. On the spiritual path, each and every person has different experiences. On asking other people about their experiences, they had a completely different experiences that I can never imagine. So maybe the experience I described won’t happen to you. Don’t get stuck on what I say and don’t build blurry expectations based on it. Your path is completely different from mine.
To summarise everything
After attending this course, I become more self-aware about the aversions, attachments and ignorance that arise in my mind and I am able to ignore them and act objectively and with Equanimity.
This does not happen that each and every time I am able to observe aversions and attachment that arises. But out of 10, maybe 3 or 4 times I become aware and control it.
Progress is the key and not perfection.
The clarity of mind is insane. Personally, I am able to sort out things quite naturally after this which earlier used to take high mental bandwidth. All my insecurities are gone. I can stay in silence without talking with anyone for hours.
I am able to stay connected with my basic nature. All the need or rather I would say insecurities that used to make me stay in touch with people is gone. Now the choice is mine whether to talk or not. Both the way the state of my mind is the same.
Without practice, there is no point in talking about anything. Practice is the key. I am guilty of maintaining consistency in the practice. Through this article, I will try to hold myself accountable for practice.
I am at a very early stage to say whether this was a life-changing experience or not. But surely I can say that my understanding of myself and my self-awareness has increased drastically.
Book the 10-day slot, spare time for yourself keeping aside everything. And experience the impermanence of your mind and body and how it tricks you.