In July I attended a 10 day Vipassana Silence meditation. It turned out to be a stunning experience. Back home I got a lot of questions from people about my experience and therefore I decided to dedicate a couple of blogposts to it. In those posts I describe my 10 days in silence. It is a personal blog where I also will relate to different theoretical aspects and make a link to daily life.
So there it started my 10 days of silence, experiencing the life of a renunciate. The course was held in a convention centre in the Glind in the Netherlands. There were separate male and female areas. The meditation hall was the only place where men and women where together, both on their own side of the hall.
During the 10 days we had to live like monks without any valuables. Which can be described as a sober and simple lifestyle, living on the charity of others. The whole course is paid with the donations of old students. I slept on mattresses on the floor in a dormitory with 7 other women.
At arrival I had to hand in my telephone and other valuables. People that were by car also had to hand in their car keys, since it was not the intention to leave the property.
We were also asked not to practice any yoga or other physical exercises, to give the technique a fair try. So I decided to leave the yoga out and to stick to the program as it was giving to us.
All other things that could stimulate the senses, like music, books, non-prescripted medication, where not allowed either. I also had to reduce the use of essential oils. Eventually I ended up using DigestZen, to keep my digestive track going and Melaleuca as a bug repellent and later also as deodorant (during the week my body became so sensitive that I couldn’t use my not 100% natural deodorant any more). Also note books were not allowed, so no journaling.
During the course we were served with breakfast and lunch. At 17.00 there was a tea break and we were able to have some fruit, but there was no m eal. A really light diet suitable for such intense mediation. Furthermore I agreed with myself not to drink coffee and to stay away from carbohydrates.
Teachings from a video
The course was given by Mr. S.N. Goenka, who died in 2013. In order to keep the teachings pure without any interpretations of others, his teaching are recorded and shared through video and audio. Although it might sound a bit weird, the teachings where clear, efficient and interesting. During the course there were 4 assistant teachers that were guiding the sittings and were available for questions about the meditation practice. For practical questions there was a female and male manager around whole week.
All days had the same rhythm. Every day at 04.00 in the morning we were waked up by a gong. Mediation started at 04.30. With food breaks and some resting periods in between we spend about 10 hours a day on our mediations pillow. At 19.00 there was a 1,5 hour discourse from Mr. Goenka. I really enjoyed those, they gave some more background information about what we were practicing. But certainly they also gave a little break and lightness at the end of the long days of meditation. The day ended at 21.00 after the last meditation.
From the evening of our arrival we had to observe noble silence. Which means no talking, eye contact or any other non-verbal communication. From the moment the noble silence was introduced I immediately felt comfortable with it.
During the first gathering in the mediation hall we had to undertake five precepts for the duration of the course
- to abstain from killing any being;
- to abstain from stealing;
- to abstain from all sexual activity;
- to abstain from telling lies;
- to abstain from all intoxicants like alcohol and drugs
I didn’t see any problem in undertaking those precepts. I do not kill and steal, sexual activity was not the thing I was aiming for joining the course. Lying is quite difficult when you are not allowed to talk and since my face is an open book I find it really hard anyway. Last but not least I only drink alcohol once in a while and I never use drugs anyway. So easy peasy.
But then during the meditation on the first day I was bothered by a mosquito on my arm. Without even thinking about it I slapped it with my hand to get rid of it and it died. The first precept was broken already. That made me realize that my actions have deep unconscious roots. What else do I do without even realizing it. Do I always tell the truth? Do I ever steel? Where does it come from and what is the impact of my thoughts, words and actions?
Next post: Can you sit with pain?
This blog is based on my personal experiences and is not a description of the course outline. It is not my intention to teach this practice in any way. The experiences of attending a Vipassana course and the effect from it will differ per person. For more information about the t course you can check the dhamma website.