Yesterday I got back from a 10 day Vipassana course. 10 days of complete silence. 10 days of meditating 11 hours a day. 10 days to be alone with my thoughts..
I think before I go any further I should probably clarify what exactly is a vipassana.. I know before I had done this course I had absolutely no idea what is was, even after I had signed up and booked my place I was still unsure what I was getting myself into. So here is a little bit of an explanation for you:
Vipassana is a meditation technique which has been around in India and surrounding counties for thousands and thousands of years. It was rediscovered by the Buddha 2500 years ago, he used this technique to meditate and that was how he became fully enlightened. He went on to teach this technique of vipassana and the path of Dhamma (essentially the law of nature) to many many people and it started spreading again through northern India.
When you go on a vipassana you are there to learn the exact technique that the Buddha practiced and taught. The technique is taught piece by piece over the 10 days and each day you have about 11 hours of meditating to practice what you have learnt. You wake up at 4am each day to start meditation and the whole of the 10 days is spent in complete silence, not speaking to anyone else or even making eye contact. You are not aloud any technology, not aloud any writing or reading materials and you are not aloud to exercise. The course is devoted purely to meditation with no distractions.
So this is what I embarked on. . .
Like most other people who have completed a vipassana I have realised a lot of things over the course of the 10 days. I think the first realisation I had was that I don’t know myself that well.. I thought I would have no problem sitting doing nothing all day. I knew that the physical pain of staying in one position for a period of time was going to be an issue for me, but it turns out you are actually aloud to move and shift your posture so I didn’t need to be so anxious about that after all! But I had no idea that I would get so restless doing nothing… I mean, this really should be obvious to me since I am someone who always has something on the go. I hate spending an afternoon in bed, even if I am sick, I feel as though I have wasted so much time. I have been like this all my life, all the time go go go, yet it is funny how I never really knew that about myself..
The first few days were tough. I wanted to move. I wanted to do yoga. I was feeling stiff and restless and had too much energy to just sit and meditate all day. We weren’t even aloud outside durning meditation periods so I felt completely caged and I was definitely feeling resentment and many other negative emotions boiling inside of me because of this.
Each break I would stay outside for as long as possible, lingering under the trees before we had to go back in the meditation hall. You could tell the people who were feeling resistance towards meditating because these were the people who were last to sit back down in the hall, I have to admit that the first couple of days I was one of these people.
But the days went quickly and the food was good. I was enjoying being out of London and finally back in nature. I enjoyed the silence. By the 5th day I had found peace within myself. I remember walking around the park after breakfast, walking slower than usual and realising that I didn’t have this urge to run. I sat down and just watched the birds for the rest of our break, feeling no need to tire myself out walking round and round in circles. I knew that I was at peace. The big realisation that came with this was that I was sure that if I ever lost my equanimity again I knew where to find it, I knew that I could return back to that place within myself any time I ever wanted. I thought that this was pretty magical to discover and it made me feel very calm knowing that I have that place now within me that no storm can reach.
This peace surround me for the next couple of days and I was very happy. I stopped missing my family and my partner so much and I settled down into the routine of meditating. I had made peace with the fact that this was the way of life now- slow and maybe a bit mundane, but it wasn’t forever. I knew that I could last the rest of the course.
Well this peace was short lived.. By the 9th day I was agitated again, itching to get home. The day seemed slow but I made it through. What was awaiting me on the other side was pure bliss.
The 10th day we were aloud to break silence and speak to each other. This felt so amazing, having spent 9 days in silence living with these people who I had never ever spoken too, it was great to finally speak to them and get to know them. Everyone sounded so different to how I imagined, and I think the nicest thing was seeing people smile again! We had all spent the past 10 days with glum faces, so to be able to break that was actually quite a relief. The whole atmosphere changed and the day felt like one long party.
I return home feeling refreshed.
I return home feeling as though my perspective has been shifted, this was much needed and I am grateful now for the different angle.
I return home knowing that I am a better person. I have learnt a great meditation technique and also learnt so much about myself, this has helped me to grow and I know I will look back on this as an essential part of my path.
If you are interested in hearing more about my Vipassana experience I have done a whole podcast episode on it, you can listen HERE on iTunes or HERE on Soundcloud. Please check it out and let me know what you think!
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