My experience with 10-day Vipassana Retreat

Recently, I finished my first 10-day Vipassana retreat which is a full silent retreat and based on the principles of self-purification by self-observation, originally taught by Gautam Buddha, the tradition which was later spread all over the world by S.N. Goenka.

This technique is taught in the centers all over the world. I did mine at Southern California Vipassana Center.

Vipassana is one of India’s most ancient meditation technique. The word Vipassana means seeing things as they really are. It is the process of self- purification by self-observation. One begins by observing the natural breath to concentrate the mind. With a sharpened awareness one proceeds to observe the changing nature of body and mind and experiences the universal truths of impermanence, suffering and egolessness. 

Let me explain how this retreat works, what is the schedule of each day, and what to expect at the end of the retreat.

There is no religious or sectarian annotation associated with this retreat. Anyone, religious or non-religious, any race, any background can practice this technique. It is a pragmatic, and a practical technique that is spread out through10 days that teaches us how to watch ourselves and clear all negative thoughts and patterns that may be either at the surface level or suppressed level in the mind.

The retreat is fully run by volunteers, so this is absolutely free. If you wish to donate, you can only do so after the finish of 10 days of retreat. During the retreat, you are well fed, and well taken care of , without even paying a single dime.

During the course you are fully cut-off from the outer world. On Day 0 (a day before course starts), you need to hand over your phone and other devices that are locked and are kept safely. You get them back on Day 11. This way they give you a full bubble with no outside world interactions, to let you give a fair trial to this technique and see if you notice any positive changes.

You need to practice noble silence, meaning you will not have any conversation with fellow students, not even eye contact. Only time you can talk is if you have any questions for teachers or management.

You will be given a single bedroom, where you will stay for 10 days. The room is nice and clean with all the necessary equipment needed for your comfortable stay.

The course schedule is:

4:00 am Morning wake-up bell
4:30-6:30 am Meditate in the hall or in your room
6:30-8:00 am Breakfast break
8:00-9:00 am Group meditation in the hall
9:00-11:00 am Meditate in the hall or in your room according to the teacher’s instructions
11:00-12:00 noon Lunch break
12 noon-1:00 pm Rest and interviews with the teacher
1:00-2:30 pm Meditate in the hall or in your room
2:30-3:30 pm Group meditation in the hall
3:30-5:00 pm Meditate in the hall or in your own room according to the teacher’s instructions
5:00-6:00 pm Tea break
6:00-7:00 pm Group meditation in the hall
7:00-8:15 pm Teacher’s Discourse in the hall
8:15-9:00 pm Group meditation in the hall
9:00-9:30 pm Question time in the hall
9:30 pm Retire to your own room–Lights out

There is in total of 10 hours of meditation and about one hour of discourse. My favorite part of the day was from 6 pm to 9pm where you meditate for one hour and the discourse of Mr. S.N. Goenka is presented and then you mediate for other 45 mins. The discourse was very helpful as he explains about the technique and answers popular questions that students may have during that day. He would tell us a lot of stories and examples and the discourse will always charge and pep us for rest of the retreat.

During the first 3 days, we are taught ‘Anapanna’ technique that is a way of observing our normal breath. This helps to sharpen our minds and be aware of sensations that arise around the nose by observing the breath closely.

On day 4, after observing our breath for 3 days, we are taught the ‘Vipassana’ technique in its pure form which was taught by Gautam Buddha 2500 years back. We are guided to observe the body from top to bottom and scan it in an equanimous way without generating the feeling of craving or aversion. If we feel a nice sensation, we should not generate the feeling of craving and if we feel painful sensation, we should not generate the feeling of aversion.

The base of the experiencing all the sensations is ‘impermanence’. No sensation, be it good or bad, will stay permanent. Neither good time, nor bad time will stay permanent, so this technique helps us to develop an awareness to view everything with equanimity. No attachment or detachment. Just equanimous.

This course is no doubt challenging but is very rewarding at the end of it. Not just rewarding, it is empowering as it gives you a hands-on tool that can help you alleviate deep rooted pains, and tribulations that are triggered as body pain and sensations and make you observe your mind, whenever a new pain or reactivity pattern is started.

The course also recommends following the path of service and helping other so that the wheel of service that Buddha started, will continue for generations and generations to come.

I highly recommend anyone who is on a spiritual journey of self-observation and self-realization to give a fair trial to this technique. This technique will, show you how you can come out of self-misery and then help others come out of theirs.

Bhavatu Sab Mangalam. May all beings be happy.

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