10 days Vipassana Meditation course taught by SN Goenka — What do you need to know about it as a first timer?

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I’ve just got back and have recovered from a common cold after my first 10-day ‘Vipassana’ course. While still trying to adjust myself to the real world, I thought of sharing my thoughts and experience of how I spent the last 10 days, the challenges I faced, things I learned or at least realized, and recommendations for my friends/relatives and others who have asked me this question: “Should I also go for a Vipassana meditation course?” or the most common one: “I feel I should also do it,” followed by some random excuses which I used to give as well, prior to attending this course.

(You can also read this on medium.com HERE)

Being a new student, I sought guidance from some of my friends who have already done this course multiple times, plus some additional knowledge gained through online blogs. As an Indian first-time Vipassana student with some experience of Hindu meditation, I also wanted to share my experience to help others before they plan to take on their first course. I understand it’s a very long post, but committing for 12 days is a big thing too and needs some understanding. Please take some time to read through this as it’s very important that you understand the whole process.

If you aren’t interested in reading the whole post (I get it, it’s very lengthy), jump to any of the given sections:

Part A — Introduction: What is Vipassana?

Part B — First exposure and work flow

Part C — Zero day

Part D — Guidelines to follow for 10 days

Part E — Glossary for first timers

Part F — Philosophy behind Vipassana

Part G — Disclaimers, my experiences and challenges (don’t skip this part!)

Part H — Some random experiences to share (fun part)

Before I continue, I want to open this write-up on a positive note. If you are reading this, I am sure you’ve already considered doing it or at least giving it a chance. Be positive about that feeling as you will only gain during these 10 days; the only thing you’ll lose is some extra pounds around your waist!

Part A — Introduction: What is Vipassana?

Vipassana is a type of Buddhist meditation which intends to help you explore the nature of reality and know more about yourself. There are different kinds of meditation and, as a born Hindu, I grew up practicing some of those forms which include visualization or chanting mantras, but didn’t focus enough on my own body, especially my mind. This specific Vipassana meditation taught by S.N. Goenka was envisioned by Gautama Buddha and is 2,500 years old.

It’s intended to be secular and not supposed to conflict with other religious beliefs.

Photo by J A N U P R A S A D on Unsplash

Part B — First exposure and work flow

From day 1 to day 3, my first impression of the Vipassana course was that you sit around all day long, from 4.30 am to 9 pm, and learn to polish your awareness of bodily sensations. So as you can easily guess, this type of meditation course involves lots of sitting without any movement.

Slowly I realized it’s more than just becoming aware of the sensations in your body (at least that’s what I understood). It’s more about how you react to different kinds of sensations and how you can put a brake on those extreme reactions. Those reactions are connected to your daily life too. For ex, in my case let’s say if I see a nice shiny camera with the latest technology available at a huge discount, I would be tempted to buy it at any cost! And if I cannot buy it due to financial reasons, that craving will turn into aversion! Vipassana is all about taking the driver seat to control your brain-car from running towards these cravings and aversions. You can also check out some of the details directly from Vipassana’s official website: https://www.dhamma.org/en/index

Part B.1. Common daily schedule (that changes on day 10 and 11):

4:00 AM: Wake-up Bell

4:30 AM — 6:30 AM: Meditation

6:30 AM — 8:00 AM: Breakfast

8:00 AM — 11:00 AM: Meditation

11:00 AM — 1:00 PM: Lunch and break

1:00 PM — 5:00 PM: Meditation

5:00 PM — 6:00 PM: Tea for all, and fruits only for new students

6:00 PM — 7:00 PM: Meditation

7:00 PM — 8:15 PM: Discourse/lecture by SN Goenka

8:30 PM — 9:00 PM: Meditation

9:00 PM — 9:30 PM: Optional Q & A session

10:00 PM: Lights Out

If you are good at arithmetic, it’s basically 10.5 hours daily meditation multiplied by 10 days = 105 hours of meditation in just 1.5 weeks!! During these 10.5 daily meditation hours, you can either meditate in the main Dhamma meditation hall, a big hall with a designated spot for you, or in your room. There are also three mandatory hour-long meditation periods throughout the day (8am — 9am, 2:30pm — 3:30pm, and 6pm — 7pm) when you have to be present in the main Dhamma hall to meditate the with rest of the attendees. On day 6, new students were assigned to an exclusive Pagoda meditation cell for deep intense meditation. I got to know that only a couple of Vipassana centers in USA have such Pagodas, and consider myself lucky to have received acceptance from the center in North Fork, CA, which has the first ever Pagoda in the United States. Another person/blogger explained these cells, “It reminds me of being in a sensory deprivation tank, or solitary confinement, which oddly becomes sort of comforting after a while.”

Photo by Kyaw KoKo on Unsplash

My feedback: I think it’s difficult to concentrate inside the allotted rooms as there’ll always be unnecessary noises around you, be it snoring or random activities. I suggest taking these 10 days very seriously; try to meditate either in the dhamma meditation hall or Pagoda cell (unless you have nyctophobia [fear of darkness] or claustrophobia) as the cells are small, and will be pitch black when the lights are turned off).

There is also a very interesting mandatory session every day from 7pm to 8.15pm when you hear an old recording of SN Goenka’s original course lectures. On day 1, I wasn’t very keen to hear him but from day 2 it became the most interesting session of my day. This 75-minute lecture portion often started with a good understanding of what we were doing, mixed with some great examples and stories, and also gave insight into the next day.

Part B.2. Day by day schedule

Day 1 to 3: For the first three days of the course, you’ll spend most of your time practicing the “Anapana” breathing technique, which is basically to pay attention to your natural breathing followed by the awareness of “sensations” generated around and inside your nostrils and upper lips. If you cannot focus on your breathing for more than a minute or so, don’t get discouraged as this is absolutely normal. Basically, don’t fight with your brain and accept the reality and present situation. Also, you DON’T have to worry about these “sensations” at all, you just need to observe them. It gets frustrating after some time as most of the new folks like me have this very same question, “What am I doing, and will I keep doing this for the next 10 days?” Well, the idea is to make your mind sharper in observing even very subtle sensations so that it can be ready for the next stage on day 4.

Day 4: It was THE magic day for most people, and a lot of us, including me, admitted to crying (not because of pain or any negative feeling of course!) after the first Vipassana session on day 4.

So far, you’ve focused on your upper lips and nostril region, but all of a sudden you start becoming aware of sensations all over your body. I can visualize it now as a complete body scan using some sort of 2 x 2” scanner that passes over your head, face, trunk, limbs and other body parts. As Goenka Ji says, “Scan your body part by part, piece by piece.” You’ll be amazed how your mind becomes sharper and observes all sorts of “sensations” around your body after practicing “Anapana” meditation for the first 3 days.

Photo by Peter Hershey on Unsplash

Day 5: The day when the “Adhittana” (strong determination) meditation begins. You have to sit for these mandatory 1-hour sessions (3 every day) and practice Vipassana without changing positions/posture (if possible).

Day 6 -9: Practice Vipassana in different ways. I want this part to be a surprise for you. On day 9, it becomes intense when you start penetrating throughout your body and experience the sensations even inside your internal organs. I feel I wasn’t able to observe my inner sensations properly, but the whole focus is not to crave or search for any kind of sensations in your body. Your job is to just observe them.

Day 10: For some people, it is also a happy day as that’s when the course allows you to speak again after the Metta Bhavna session. Metta Bhavna is a gratitude, loving, Peace and Kindness meditation as you generously spread positive feelings for the beings all around you (that means the whole universe) through your powerful Vipassana meditation. Again, lots of people cry during this Metta Bhavna session as the feelings are pure and come straight from the heart.

Day 11: Morning meditation session followed by last discourse/lecture, cleaning common and private spaces (volunteer-based work) and then leaving after breakfast.

SN Goenka Ji mentioned that days 2 and 6 are the hardest of the 10 days, but I found days 3 and 7 difficult for me. I had a very strong urge to run away on these 2 days but I kept myself strong somehow with a positive attitude. Please remember if you’re struggling on these days, it’s normal as your brain is going through some deeper changes and it’s okay for it to react with some temporary negative thoughts. Consider it as a form of physical surgery where a doctor needs to open a wound to fix it, and you react to this cut with the discharge of pus from the body.

Part C — Zero day

I had applied for a 1.5 month sabbatical leave from March 2nd and decided to fly to India for my “vacation” to visit my family. Initially I had signed up for a 10-day Vipassana course in my home town, Jaipur, during this visit, but later I had to cancel the trip and then I planned to sign up for a course in California. I am very thankful to the CVC managers who accepted me as one of the first-time students for this course in North Fork, California, at the California Vipassana Center (CVC).

I coordinated a car ride-share with some of the fellow meditators to reach CVC, North Fork, which I thought was very interesting as I met some really good and experienced people. CVC has a pretty good online system to coordinate for ride-sharing, and people are mostly generous enough to help you with this.

Some of Gents from my 10 day’s Vipassana Course on departure day

When we showed up at the registration room around 4pm, it was technically Day 0. You are allowed to introduce yourself to the other meditators on this day. I was very cocky, introducing myself to others (as this is what San Francisco corporate life is all about, right?) and luckily, I soon realized it myself when I started talking to some more sophisticated and polite regular meditators. I was astonished when I got to know that a majority of these people (I think they take 50 men and 50 women) had already done this course before. A few had done it more than 10 times, and at least one person had made up his mind to become a monk. After talking to them, I categorized myself as “a meditator as per convenience,” who portrays himself as a meditation practitioner in front of others, but practices it as per his convenience. I am really glad these 10 days helped me realize so many similar traits within me, which I’ll point out later.

Part D — Guidelines to follow for 10 days

1. Men and Women Isolation

The minute you enter the male registration room, your isolation from the outside world begins. And that includes a 10-day separation from the opposite sex too, be it your friends, relatives or even your significant other who may be sitting 25’ away from you in the meditation hall.

Sleeping accommodation is separate for men and women; dining and meditation areas (or sides in the main dhamma meditation hall) are separate, and there are even separate areas of the grounds you are allowed to walk in during breaks. In the main dhamma hall, you can still peek at the opposite gender section, as I didn’t find any physical separation between male and female areas. I can understand the reason behind this separation as the opposite sex is definitely a major diversion, at least for me, from an activity such as meditation. I admit that I always appreciate coming across good-looking people in my daily life, and it worked well for me to avoid any visual distraction by not having any interaction or communication with the women during these 10 days. Also, lots of people may think of it as a great opportunity to flirt with the opposite sex as they see 50 dating options sitting nearby, but that would not be helpful and would definitely hamper your meditation course. 😊

2. Noble Silence

On day 0, we had a light dinner around 6pm followed by a brief orientation on do’s and don’ts. Then everyone was asked to assemble in the main dhamma hall for day 0 meditation where we were all assigned designated spots based on age and Vipassana experience. The front folk will always be hard -core meditators and will act as peer pressure for you to meditate more. On my course, most of the front-line guys meditated even during the breaks without moving any of their body parts.

After your first Vipassana meditation on day 0, you take a vow to practice noble silence for the next 10 days.

Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

We as human beings love to chat a lot, especially when we are extrovert and encounter a bunch of new people. As SN Goenka Ji said, the human brain is a chattering box, and continuous chattering isn’t good for your meditating mind as well as for others’ concentration. It may seem strange to hear, but I feel keeping my mouth shut for 11 days was one of the best parts of this course. It really helped me a lot to concentrate on my mind and body, and definitely brought more sensible thoughts to my mind rather than just throwing stupid words all around. Even non-verbal gestures aren’t allowed as they are thought to disturb others too. Another reason, as SN Goenka Ji explained too during one of his lectures, is that if you are allowed to talk to other meditators during the course, you’ll be more curious about their experience rather your own. If someone tells you that, “Hey! I got some electric current sensations in my body during this session,” you’ll start craving such experience during the next sessions and that completely defeats the purpose.

3. Cellphone, books and journals

The second best thing for me was to put my cellphone in a CVC locker for the next 11 days. Those 11 days were so good without this tiny box of misery and a major reason for our sufferings in the current era. On day 10, when we were allowed to take back our cellphones, most of us weren’t ready to see hundreds of messages popping up. I, along with many others, decided to keep my cellphone at rest for another day in the locker. I seriously believe that this “black mirror” technology is one of the major reasons why our current generation (including me) is full of stress. Computers, smartphones and all these newer technologies plainly kill the awareness from our minds, and we stop noticing how powerful our brain is. Have you ever thought how super-comfortable folk were in finding the directions to their favorite pizza place 20 years ago when navigation systems didn’t even exist for common people?

Photo by Mikayla Mallek on Unsplash

You’re not allowed to read or write too as it can also disrupt your awareness of your body. Remember, you hand over most of your daily routine things and live like a monk when attending this course.

4. No intoxicants, although you are allowed to take tea and coffee during breaks.

5. No lies, which is easy considering you are in silent mode.

6. You can’t kill, not even insects. If you find any insects or reptiles, CVC provides you with “insect re-locators” to move them away from your space to nature.

7. No stealing. Do you really want to steal if you are here to find your inner peace?

Part E — Glossary for first timers

SN Goenka Ji likes to use some words on a regular basis during the course, and you’ll be surprised how many times he used words like sensations, misery, craving, aversions etc. I won’t take too much of your time explaining all the chanting in Hindi, Sanskrit and the Pali language but some of the frequent English words have a very deep meaning in the context of this 10-day course:

Sensations: It can be a pain, throbbing, dryness, hotness, perspiration, itch or any sort of physical feeling on your body. As SN Goenka Ji explains, we as humans either like to crave pleasant sensations (subtle pleasant vibrations), or avert unpleasant (pain or itching) sensations that arise on our body.

Misery, craving and aversion — We create our own problems (or miseries in SN Goenka Ji’s words) either by craving worldly pleasures or averting unpleasant situations. Cravings and aversions are the two reasons for all the misery across the globe. Either someone hates something/someone a lot, or loves/craves something/someone a lot. And that comes with a lot of mental misery followed by physical misery.

Equanimity — I have never heard or used this word before the meditation course, so I was very confused about its meaning. SN Goenka Ji explains that you remain “equanimous” towards all the generating sensations, which means not reacting to either pleasant or unpleasant conditions. For example, if you observe a very pleasant sensation in your body, you don’t want to get excited about it as it will generate a craving in your brain to have a similar sensation again. Also, if you find yourself in deep pain during a meditation sitting, that can be unpleasant. Try not to react to it by adjusting your body. I can understand it can be difficult not to react at certain moments, but try to maintain “Adhittana” (strong determination).

Photo by Patrick Schneider on Unsplash

How is it connected to my real daily life? SN Goenka Ji explains that we have to understand that real happiness doesn’t lie in worldly pleasures as they come with either craving or aversion. For a happy life, we should be equanimous and try not to react when we go through certain extreme experiences on a daily basis, although I can tell it’s a bit hard for householders like me not to crave certain things.

Sankharas (Pali language) or Samskaras (Sanskrit) — These are complex concepts, with no single-word English translation, which fuses “object and subject” as interdependent parts of each human’s consciousness and epistemological process. It connotes “impression, disposition, conditioning, forming, perfecting in one’s mind, influencing one’s sensory and conceptual faculties” as well as any “preparation, sacrament” that “impresses, disposes, influences or conditions” how one thinks, conceives or feels. In simple English, when we repeat certain things over and over, physical or mental, it becomes a habit. These habit patterns can turn into certain kinds of cravings or aversions with time. Another example, if we start disliking a certain section of society, we eventually develop a feeling of hatred towards everyone who is connected to that section and our brain now stops caring about a particular individual from that society even if he/she is harmless. These Sankharas live either as feelings of craving or aversion in our body, and these cravings and aversions provide us with certain sensations all around the body. For example, in your teens how did you feel throughout your body when you saw an attractive person near you?

During meditation, our subconscious mind will keep bringing these Sankharas to the surface of our brain, and we observe them as certain sensations in our body. The whole concept is to remain equanimous to these sensations to helps us get rid of these Sankharas.

Part F — Philosophy behind Vipassana

As now you know you have to spend the first three days concentrating on your breathing, that will help your brain to become sharper and observe even the most subtle sensations which you generally don’t feel during your daily routine. These sensations arising in your body can either be pleasant or unpleasant, but the key is to remain equanimous without any reaction, and understand that this state of body/mind is impermanent and will eventually change with time. As I explained above with some examples, the brain has these Sankharas (or habits in simple words) to react to pleasant sensations with craving, and unpleasant sensations with aversion, followed by certain reactions (for example, making verbal fun of someone’s disability) that can cause certain misery. During these 10 days, you’ll learn to observe these sensations, and not react by remaining equanimous.

Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash

During your meditation periods, you’ll start realizing lot of things about yourself and become cognizant of your own feelings. You’ll begin to notice that there is always a feeling or sensation that comes before a reaction, for example what happens to your respiration when you are angry. If you get angry, try to pay attention to what sensations you have in your body along with heavy respiration. Even if you cannot control your anger at that exact moment, you’ll eventually boil over very fast as you start observing the scenario in a much more sensible way this time.

Part G — Disclaimers, my experiences and challenges

This 10-day Vipassana Meditation course developed by Gautama Buddha and taught by SN Goenka Ji is very intense, exciting, hard and gets frustrating from time to time. Being a first timer, I’ve definitely had my days when I felt like running away but somehow, I managed to stay due to some very great positive days. There are some misconceptions about such meditation, and I want to point them out here:

Retreat or hard work? I won’t call it a retreat as this meditation is really very hard and needs lot of commitment. Of course, the harder you work, the better your results will be. Don’t go with an attitude of just giving 50% effort as you won’t even achieve that target. Plan to give 100% effort, and that’s when you’ll achieve somewhere between 80–90% of the target. I tried my best to give 100% but either my brain or body didn’t allow me to concentrate during a couple of sessions. Also, don’t consider these 10 days as relaxation time, trust me, you’ll be shocked. You have to keep working from 4am to 9.30pm and it really drains you by the end of the day.

Although at the end of the course, your level of happiness and positivity will definitely be touching the sky, and you’ll find yourself very relaxed and calm. This calmness and happiness have given me a great motivation to share my thoughts with you, and I consider it a very positive change in my life. And the MOST important thing one more time, stay for the whole course! Don’t give up after a couple of days, as you’ll carry a sense of regret plus you’ll end up wasting your time too. Don’t even keep an option of leaving at some point, as lots of people think: maybe I’ll try it for a couple of days and see if I can do it. Don’t go with such an attitude! Arrange a car-ride share so that you don’t even have the option to drive back by yourself.

Should I take my girlfriend with me? — Don’t go with your relatives, especially your significant other, reason being — if one member goes down, all go down together. Plus, you end up exchanging some kinds of verbal or non-verbal gestures during the course. We had a father-son duo and on day 2, I can tell the son is finding this course difficult, while the father is still alright. And on day 3, both of them were gone!

Nadal versus Federer Tennis match — I had different experiences during each and every meditation session. Most of the time, I ended my sessions with a positive happy feeling, but some of them were very distracting for me. I figured out that the part of my brain which helped me to focus (I will consider it “myself” just for the sake of conversation) started playing a tennis match with the notorious part of my brain (I will refer to this part just as “brain”) and it kept diverting my attention. Every meditation session was a points game, but you win eventually if you stay for 10 days. Most of the time, I won the game by a margin of 40–30 or 40–15, but I rarely defeated my brain 40–0 as there were always some kinds of thoughts in my mind. Sometimes I lost too but with a respectful score of 40–30, but on day 3 and day 6 during lunch sessions, not only was I defeated 40–0, I was also hammered by the tennis racket on my head and was knocked out on the court like a wrestling match. I needed to open my eyes multiple times and couldn’t concentrate. Do you want to know the reasons? You’ll find them down below.

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Wear comfortable cotton clothes — The major reason why I couldn’t concentrate on day 6 was because of my polyester pants that I initially felt were comfortable before I left my house for this course. They turned out to be extremely horrible during the “strong determination” sessions as they didn’t allow my legs to breathe and because of discomfort I needed to adjust my position multiple times and ended up causing fabric noise from my pants which I feel must have been very annoying for the other meditators. Imagine the kind of silence during the session when you can hear the noise of your plastic fabric pants!

Yay, it’s lunch time! — You cannot meditate with your stomach full of food, period! On day 1, I decided to stuff myself at lunch as I knew I wouldn’t get dinner but it was a huge mistake I made. I needed to take a long nap during the break and I couldn’t concentrate during the afternoon sessions. You’ll be amazed when SN Goenka Ji explains the exact same thing in the lecture on day 1. Wise old man knew about it already but he wanted us to experience it first-hand and that’s why no instructions were provided on day 0 or during the sign-up to it.

Sensations and observations — You’ll be surprised how your mind starts observing even the subtle sensations in your body that human beings cannot distinguish in daily life. These observations become clearer with time, and you’ll start noticing more activities happening all over your body. Although very important, don’t crave or avert any particular sensations that make you react to them. Whole idea is to just observe these sensations with an equanimous state of mind.

Cushions and pain — The default set-up that is provided by CVC on day zero is a simple 24 x 24 x 2” cushion with a simple 12 x 12” bean bag on top of it. By day 3, you’ll see lots of love seats of “game of thrones” coming up instead of this simple default arrangement as people want to make sure their sitting position is comfortable based on their needs. Luckily, CVC provided an enormous collection of various cushions, beans bags and meditation stools that you could try and see if it was comfortable for you. I also tried at least 15 different set-ups and finally came back to the default option. Make sure you are comfortable with your sitting position and set-up as it will definitely make a huge difference to your meditation. You don’t want to have an uncomfortable continuous pain in your legs and back because of your cushion set-up. A sitting of 105 hours during 10 days stretch can be very uncomfortable and in case you have your own cushions, feel free to bring them with you. Most experienced meditators brought their own cushions with them. Although the whole idea is to observe discomfort and even pain, you also don’t want to torture yourself.

Photo by Gabriel Matula on Unsplash

In case you don’t want to sit on the floor, make sure to request a chair with back support. To be honest, each and every set-up you try will be uncomfortable after 1–2 sittings, so, yeah, this is going to be an ongoing battle during these 10 days.

Sleep versus exercise? If you have the chance to take a 15-minute power nap during a break, utilize it; although a lot of people end up extending this nap to a sleep which isn’t good for your next round of meditation. On day 1, I “utilized” my break time to take a 75-minute sleep but that didn’t help me at all during my noon meditation sessions. I started utilizing my afternoon break time to clean the common spaces or take a warm shower which really helped me a lot during my follow-up meditation sessions.

Once the half-way point of the course has been reached, you’ll realize your body needs less food and sleep, which is completely normal and actually good for you. During the meditation process, you give your brain a good rest. So, during sleep time, only your physical body needs rest, not your brain. If you need a really good rest, try to observe the sensations when you are lying on your bed. It will definitely help you to have a very good sleep and next day you’ll wake up as fresh as river water.

You are not allowed to do any exercise during these 10 days and initially I thought that concept was very stupid. After day 1, I decided to fast-walk at least 3–4 miles a day just to keep my body busy and fit, but I realized after a couple of days that it’s not a good idea. I am here to work mostly on my brain, so I need a fresh body during meditation. A simple slow walk is fine, but try to give your body at least a 5–15-minute rest during the break. Or try it first-hand!

Full of pleasure and enjoyment — As SN Goenka Ji says, nothing is permanent and even these 10 days will fly by like everything else. During these 10 days, you’ll keep counting each and every session, and if you are as freaky as me, you’ll start calculating what percentage of the course is left. But on day 10, you’ll realize how precious these 10 days were, and how much benefit you got during them. Trust me on this, I am as skeptical as you on almost everything, but these 10 days were a blessing for me, and even after the course I can still feel the benefits. So, please be positive about everything and enjoy the process. On day 10, you’ll be a better, kinder and awesomely updated version of yourself.

Photo by Willian Justen de Vasconcellos on Unsplash

Will I recommend it to others? — On day 7, I made up my mind not to recommend this course to anyone as I found it super-difficult, painful and frustrating. But now, I want to recommend it to everyone, especially to those who are super-stressed about stupid things. So, the answer in just one word is YES! Definitely, it needs a big commitment, but what else doesn’t need a commitment that benefits our body and mind?

Will I do it again? I am already planning on it! I have seen a great reflection of my positive mind in my daily life. For ex, now my anger goes away within minutes, I am more focused and I am working aggressively to shatter my self-ego. Everyone carries a huge amount of self-ego, and even a realization about it through such meditation is a big achievement.

Am I am practicing it every day? I would say I am trying my best to give it 100%, but I am not able to. But still, something is better than nothing. Even if I get a chance to sit and meditate for 30 minutes, it helps somewhere.

Part H — Some random experiences to share

My best friend in my residential quarter — Maybe it’s just me, but I made a “spiritual” friend during the course in my residential quarter to share my thoughts with non-verbally, through “telepathy”. I had a huge spider hanging in its web from the top of my bed from day 1 to day 4, and on normal days I would’ve killed it but we became friends during this course. Something like “Wilson” from Tom Hanks’s Castaway movie. Fortunately, it never came closer to me when I slept, and I considered it as a meditating spider too. On day 4 it went to someone else’s room, and eventually it came back on day 7. I think my brain just wanted to have some kind of “spiritual” company during the course, but it seems funny and stupid now even to read, right?

Oh, my God, will I get good food? — The food was much better even than what my wife and I cook for ourselves. Every day, they had a different vegetarian cuisine menu — Indian, Chinese, Mexican, Italian and so on. Not only the food was delicious, they took care of all sorts of nutrition for our bodies during the course. So, don’t worry about it at all, you’ll definitely enjoy each and every meal of yours.

A sense of giving and serving others — I’m usually always open to help others, but I wasn’t sure of cleaning common restrooms for 10+ or maybe more people during the course on day 0, but that feeling changed completely for me. CVC ask you to volunteer to clean the common spaces, but I realized after a couple of days everyone was very kind and good about serving others in every sense without disturbing someone’s space, integrity and peace. You’ll find that feeling within you too after some time.

Smells bad, it’s not me — You’ll realize people get super-comfortable about farting even when others are around. In fact, some of the folk really enjoyed farting super-loud. I get that!

Peeking at the women’s meditation section — Maybe it’s just me, but as a man I definitely had a craving to peek at the women’s section to know who else had joined the course. You get familiar with every one of the same sex around you, but you never get acquainted with even half of the crowd of the opposite sex. That’s obvious, isn’t it?

Photo by Nourdine Diouane on Unsplash

Should I be bit wicked now? — I definitely had some cravings to disturb my friend Jason (whom I met for the first time during the car-share ride on day 0), and he admitted to having the same too. I think it’s normal for your brain to be a bit mischievous, I guess.

Nature all around you — As all Vipassana centers across the globe are surrounded by nature you’ll realize how beautiful everything is when you don’t have any sort of technology around you. The sunset, sunrise, plants, birds, animals — everything looks a wonderful creation of nature. I, and everyone on the course, were mesmerized by these natural phenomena around us, and that feeling was wonderful.

Did I crack a new bone just now? — during breaks, everyone will try to stretch a lot. Some of the folk will be Yoga or gym folk, and they’ll also inspire you to stretch yourself in an innovative way. I think I ended up cracking or stretching some new bones and muscles in body. For example, one day I gave a jerk to my neck so hard that it made a cracking noise like a coconut. Fortunately, I didn’t break my neck doing this, but it was very scary.

Finally, I want to end this long post with a positive Metta Bhavna now. May all beings in the universe be happy! May all beings experience real peace and harmony! Bhavtu Sabab Mangalam!

Feel free to share your thoughts and feedback too, looking forward to hear of your experiences.

Thank you,

Harshul Singhal

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