When you google for a 10 day vipassana experience, you come across blog posts filled with negativity. That was one of the reasons I canceled my application when I applied for the first time 4 years ago. This post is to explain objectively what vipasana is and how to decide if you are ready for it.
Expectations vs Reality
A week before vipassana retreat I started worrying if I would be able to handle their difficult rules – wake up at 4, last meal at 5pm, no phones and no communication with people around throughout the course, meditate for 10 hours a day without backrest, no reading, no writing.
My husband and I sat through and made some assumptions about what the worst that could happen and how to handle each of the situations.
I will get super hungry and therefore angry at 9 and can’t fall asleep.
Surprisingly, I could feel my stomach growling at times but there was never the situation of sleeping with hunger. In fact their food was so good and filling that everyday I put food on my plate, I offered gratitude to have such tasty food without working hard for it. Their Mint rice, Ragi malt and Kheer was the best I ever had. I didn’t have any cravings to eat any kind of junk food throughout my stay over there.
2.Addiction to phone
I would miss my phone terribly and won’t be able to stay without it for 10 days.
The first day, I felt that it was such a beautiful setup to disconnect from the outside world and create space and energy to only focus on yourself. There’s a natural mother in me who wants to go around and nurture people irrespective of whether they ask for it. That drains me a lot on a day to day basis because I am always giving myself to others and not enough to myself and when I don’t receive enough nurturing the cup becomes empty soon and I get cranky.
Over the period of my stay there, I realized how I didn’t need a phone and the phone makes me use it because it exists. I should surely move towards reducing phone usage.
The photographer in me missed my phone/camera from time to time every time I wanted to capture the beauty in nature around me. Otherwise I had no addiction to phone.
3.Communicating with people
I would miss talking to people.
My husband and I are workaholics. We don’t talk much throughout the day except for the time in the night when we update each other about our day. With work from home set up, I don’t talk much except for essential meetings. I was so busy meditating throughout the day that I didn’t need a phone at all. But I surely missed talking to my husband in the night to update him about my day.
4.Meditating for 10 hours
I would enjoy meditation and healing.
I always did easier forms of meditation – heartfulness, pranayama, guided meditation, yoga nidra, reiki. Thoughts are very easy to manage with these types of meditation as there is a state of bliss you experience throughout. Vipassana is not easy. There were hundreds of thoughts which kept bombarding me that I forgot what it meant to be kind to myself and went through so much negative talk. Eventually, I also was able to categorize them and start managing them. But the first few days were awful.
I won’t be able to live without journaling.
That was true. I deal with my thoughts through journaling without which my mind is a mess.
When it comes to thoughts, one of the most troubling thoughts was about a conflict I had with a friend before I went to the retreat. Between my husband and I, we have an easy conflict resolution style. We talk about how each of us were impacted, how each of us contributed to the problem, accept our mistakes and the chapter closes. But it was completely different with this friend who put the entire blame on me (I accepted and apologized for my part) which meant to me that he valued he being right (he didn’t want to look at how he contributed to the conflict) over the friendship we had. I was very upset because I wasn’t aware of this side of him and always associated him with maturity. It took me a long time to digest the reality.
Retrospectively that conflict helped me measure my Vipassana experience of how I was progressing over the days as my thoughts went from “How could he do that? How was I blind to this side of him? This turned out to be exactly what the soul contract between us was. I learned my lesson by speaking my truth. Why is he not able to learn his side of the lesson?” to “It doesn’t matter to me about what he chooses to do with his life. He will learn his lesson when he is ready. How can I forgive him and accept him for who he is?”
The next set of thoughts were around how I wanted to share my learnings with the world. This helped me realize how I am very much connected with my life purpose.
I would go through a lot of emotional purging.
I haven’t cried at all in my stay over there nor did I feel that I released a lot of negative energy. When I spoke to a friend who has been to the retreat, she said that maybe I would have done it but it doesn’t look like in the traditional way that I identify it as. After I returned, I have been sleeping for 12 hours a day which is a sign of my body integrating healing.
On the other hand, since I cleared a major chunk of my past sorrows, there was no aversion or pain to deal with. My misery stemmed from my craving, “How can I ascend in my consciousness further at a fast pace? How can I open up deeper to my psychic abilities?”
It would be a deeply healing experience.
I could not identify with the healing part as I didn’t feel the way I usually do it. But the entire experience was enlightening. Equanimity was my main takeaway. In what ways, am I showing aversion, craving and clinging in my everyday life? That’s the path towards liberation. My tarot card for the month of December was Libra. I understood the deeper meaning of Libra (balance) by understanding equanimity.
What is the technique of vipasana?
Here is a brief overview written in my own language, but the detailed technique is best learned from the master SN Goenka.
Day 1,2,3 – PhD of nose
The first three days you are asked to observe your breath. Don’t make any changes to the flow of breath. Just observe it. This is also known as Aana Paana.
Day 4-8 – PhD of skin
The next 4 days you have to scan the entire body and observe the sensations on the skin. The sensations might be pleasant or painful. For either of them when you don’t react, you are getting rid of your samskaras/trauma/deeply ingrained patterns.
Day 9 – PhD of body
Once you master the skin, go deep into the body and repeat staying equanimous.
Day 10 – Compassion/Metta
Share the joy and compassion with the world.
I was surprised, then annoyed and finally relieved in the first four days with breath observance. It started with “Did I come here to observe my breath?” Then moved to, “This is something I have already achieved in the past. I can feel the nostril and temperature effortlessly.Why can’t I observe it now?” Finally on the fourth night, when I stopped observing my breath and moved to body, I noticed how the breath flow was very clear and my entire body had sensations that night in turn not allowing me to fall asleep.
While the fifth day was exciting and I was very productive in the meditation sessions, the sixth and seventh day moved into boredom until I started observing inside my body and this boredom further moved into “When do I go back home?” But once I stopped taking the meditation seriously, the inside body started vibrating. All my chakras were vibrating at once and the connection from root to heart chakra was effortless. I could feel vibrations in the entire spine too.
On the night of the ninth day, even before Metta (10th day) was introduced , I felt a huge surge of compassion flow through my heart at 2:30 in the morning. It was so powerful and overwhelming that I couldn’t go back to sleep.
On the tenth morning, for the first time I saw a butterfly on the window sill of my room. I took it as a sign that the transformation has been achieved successfully.
- Learn to be humble
- Don’t be a control freak. Surrender to the process, only then you will experience it.
- Equanimity. Don’t measure the success of your meditation session with the amount of bliss you experience. Measure it with how balanced you felt throughout irrespective of what was coming up.
Vipassana is not a meditation technique. It is a way of life. I want to make it my attitude towards life. It is a very long way to go and reach the destination while walking on this path of equanimity and move away from the reward loop.
Who should go for Vipassana?
One of my students mentioned that Vipassana is a painful experience. So do the other blog posts. If your cup is filled with a lot of sorrow and observing all of it at once could be very overwhelming. You could try other easier methods to calm down first and then apply for the course when you are ready to look at it objectively.
If you are already into meditation, this is something you should definitely go for so that you don’t get sucked into the blissful rewarding state. Instead open up to the path of liberation which is the true purpose of the soul.
To keep the post short, I haven’t talked much about the philosophy and other enlightening thoughts I had about the entire process. I will cover it in another post. In the meantime, you could listen to the discourses on youtube. His energy was so palpable. Whenever I was stuck and requested for a way ahead, I felt that he was guiding me.
Note: After a long break and rejuvenating thoroughly, I am now open for bookings. You can reach out to me for 1:1 life coaching sessions, tarot, astrology, reiki via contact form or through Instagram.
Happy being equanimous!