Vipassana Meditation: An experience

Vipassana Meditation: An experience

Pagoda and Cells

TLDR: You can scroll to the end of the post if you are only looking for FAQs and personal experience.

I believe in mindfulness and mental health for a while now, I'm also practicing guided meditation. And meditation has its benefits to develop a healthy mind. Initially, I heard about Vipassana mediation from one of my close friends, she attended it and when I asked her about it, she told me you need to experience it. At that time, I just thought it's just another meditation technique, later I caught up in routine life.

Recently during the pandemic, we all experienced multiple uncertain events and meditation helped me a lot to go through it. In the last quarter of this year, I decided to give a try to Vipassana and started enrolling in the course.

Enrolling in a course is an easy task, but application acceptance is tough. Coming back to basics, anyone who is attending Vipassana first time needs to attend a 10-day course and be tagged as a new student till the end of the first course. One needs to enroll on their website, and it's recommended to enroll for multiple courses, which increases the possibility of acceptance.

I enrolled in courses in Igatpuri and Pune centers. And my first application at Igatpuri got accepted for the duration 30Oct-11Nov. With this all COVID-19 situation they were accepting a limited number of applicants and there were many safety protocols like full vaccination or valid RTPCR was mandatory. I was quite excited as I read about Igatpuri campus, and its history. I even went one step ahead was checking Vipassana Subreddit for any tips. 🙈 The advice I got there was priceless, i.e. go with no expectations, follow the rules and keep strong determination. I didn't understand it much at that time, but later during the course, I realized every piece of advice was correct.

Coming back to course and skipping my journey towards Igatpuri. Igatpuri campus is named as DhammaGiri i.e. Hill of Dhamma. The campus is on a hill one can walk to the main gate or get an auto rickshaw from Igatpuri station. At gate, we have been asked for a negative RTPCR test or a full vaccination certificate. After performing basic registration formalities, we have been asked to deposit our valuables (including mobiles or any communication device), talisman or religious items, reading- writing material, wallet, and so on. Then we received a blanket, bedsheets, pillow cover, and a doormat. Then we have been asked to go towards our quarters.

My quarter was in the far corner of campus. The campus is very beautiful and surrounded by trees. In the quarter there was a stone slab with a mattress. There was an attached washroom. The quarter was so properly managed which impressed me like anything. All required things were in place which includes fully covered windows, so no insect can enter into the room from there, a small hook to hang your lock, broom, bins, and buckets. After arranging stuff in the room, I walked back towards the entrance for an antigen test. This was introduced as part of all Covid-19 protocols, then we moved towards orientation which was followed by the first session of meditation.

During meditation daily schedule was explained as below

4:00 Wake up
4:30-6:30 Meditation
6:30 - 7:15 Breakfast
8:00 - 9:00 Group meditation
9:00 - 11:00 Meditation
11:00 - 11:45 Lunch
12:00 -13:00 QnA and rest
13:00 - 14:30 Meditation
14:30 - 15:30 Group meditation
15:30 - 17:00 Meditation
17:00 - 18:00 Tea Break
18:00 - 19:00 Group Meditation
19:00 - 20:15 Discourse
20:15 - 21:00 Group Meditation
21:00 - 21:30 QnA
21:30 Rest

Then explained various rules, one of the important rules is we need to follow noble silence for 10 days. Noble silence means no spoken or nonverbal communication (With anyone except teacher or servers). Yes, you read it correctly you can't talk to anyone for 10 days. 
 
After explaining rules and instructions we have done a few formalities to start meditation and our noble silence started. Here onwards we had to maintain it for next 10 days. Then Acharya S.N. Goenka explained Anapana (It’s a breathing technique) which literally means observing our breath. We practiced it for some time then our 0th day ended. We retired to our quarters.
 
The next day at 4 O’clock a small bell started ringing in front of our quarters, I had my alarm clock, so I got up already. But servers were ringing small bells almost in front of every quarter for some time. That was the signal to get up. The day started with the first meditation session of Anapana where we simply need to observe our breath. It sounds so easy and simple but believe me it’s not. Who all practice any kind of meditation or try to concentrate must have experienced how quickly the mind wanders. And we had to practice Anapana for 3 days. I saw a few people had given up on 3rd day. But as everyone was following noble silence, we were only able to see the empty places in the hall. 
 
Every day in the evening there was a recorded discourse where various things about Vipassana meditation were explained. On the 4th day, the actual Vipassana technique was taught. The technique is similar to the body scan technique in meditation. And during this acharya explained Anitya (Impermanence) and being equanimous. In the evening we became familiar with Adhishthana i.e. strong determination. In simple language here onwards during group mediation, we can’t change our posture, we can’t open our eyes, and continue to practice meditation for an hour without moving. It was tough, and I saw many people leave the course on the 6th and 7th days.
 
On the 10th day which was metta day. We all gathered in the hall, we went through another session of group meditation, and our noble silence ended, which was followed by collecting our personal belongings. That day during lunch first time we got a chance to talk to people we were seeing for 10 days. It was difficult for some time to talk but as people started sharing their experiences in the last 10 days discussion went ahead. It was an interesting discussion about the experiences people got. Later in the day, we continued our schedule. We were allowed to leave campus on the 11th-day post breakfast and group a group meditation sitting. 
 
It was all about the Vipassana meditation in a nutshell. My personal experience was wonderful. I have read about being equanimous and the reality of impermanence in many places. But the first time in life I have experienced it. Personally, it was a big win for me. 4th day onwards initially it was a bit tough during Adhishthan sitting. But as one understands the reality of impermanence and the technique these sittings won’t bother much. The coordination and discipline in the campus are admirable the discourse we used to listen were recorded in 1991. But Acharya could exactly tell what we all are going through. I know that’s possible with analysis and feedback, but it was impressive. There is nothing spiritual about this meditation technique. It’s simple if you practice it, you’ll get results. I'll encourage people to give it a try once in a lifetime. People asked me many questions when I returned from the course I’ll try and answer a few of those here.
 
1. What are the charges for this course?
a. This course is completely free of charge, which includes accommodation and food. Courses are run by volunteers on donations given by old students. You can donate any amount post-completion of the course. (Again, it’s not mandatory)

2. Do I need to follow any particular religion to practice Vipassana?
a. No, not at all. Anyone can practice Vipassana as I mentioned there is nothing spiritual about meditation. It’s kind of science and logic.

3. Do I need to attend courses in the future after attending the first course?
a. It’s not mandatory. But it’s recommended to practice meditation in a silent environment and the campus is an ideal location for it. So, they request to attend 3 days course in the future if time permits. Also, group meditation has its own benefits.

4. Will this course change my life?
a. Yes and No. Yes, in case you practice meditation and technique regularly without making any alteration in it. No, in case you simply attend the course and wait for the change. 😉
 
If you have any questions about it, I'm happy to discuss.☮

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