What exactly is a Vipassana meditation retreat?
Vipassana meditation is one of the oldest types of meditation in India, going back to more than 2500 years ago, that has spread throughout the entire world.
The true meaning of the word Vipassana is to see things as they really are.
Awareness and equanimity are the heart and soul of this meditation. In the same way a bird needs both wings to fly, one needs the balance of these two in order to get the lasting results of this meditation technique.
How long is the retreat and what are the main rules?
The retreat lasts 11 nights/10 days. The main rule of being in vipasanna is noble silence. This does not simply mean not talking, it also includes avoiding eye contact, sign language or any forms of communication.
At the beginning of the retreat you will need to deposit (in a safe location) all cell phones, computers, phones, electronics, reading/writing material and food products (unless you have a health reasons).
During this time you must refrain from any drug use (alcohol is a drug), cigarettes and refrain from any sexual activity (masturbation included).
Clothing must be modest and no shorts are required. Loose and non transparent clothing are required. Footwear is prohibited in the mediation or dining halls.
Exercise must avoided during the week. You can walk briskly or stretch, but other things are discouraged during the length of the course. On my breaks I did squats, but that was the extent of my exercise.
Laundry is only allowed to be done during break times. You may choose to hand wash your clothes or laundry services are offered at different times of the week.
Mosquitoes can become quite a problem, however killing of anything thing that is living is against the code of conduct. I learned that the hard way as I killed multiple mosquitos before I was called to the side and warned.
You must clean up after yourself and quietly wash own dishes after every given meal.
If you are unable to follow these rules, you are asked to leave. Also, if you feel the retreat becomes to difficult, you may leave at anytime after first informing the teachers.
How much does the 10 day retreat cost?
The Vipasanna course is free of cost. However, If you complete the full 10 days, you will have the option to donate money or time. They only accept volunteers who have already completed a 10 day course and by choosing to do the same, you will get the chance to bless others by serving them throughout the day.
Keep in mind, the price is free, but this is not a vacation and a place to relax.
You have to follow a very strict schedule and you will find that it is much harder than you think. However, self growth is almost always difficult and painful at times, but in the long run so useful.
What is the schedule for the day?
Here you can see a full schedule of our day. As you can see, it’s not a day full of free time and relaxation. In our retreat they followed the schedule to the second reinforced the rules strictly.
Wake up call is at 0400 and morning mediation starts IN the meditation hall at 0430, so make sure to arrive at least 5-10 minutes early.
You get a break for lunch, for evening snack and for the discourse in the evening, but other than that expect to be mediating in hall in all other moments.
The last meditation ends at 2100 and lights out at 2130.
What can I expect during meditation time?
On day one you will be given an assigned a pillow in the floor that you will sit in during all medications. Along with the cushion you sit on, you will be given an extra small cushion for padding.
During the times of meditation there is no lying down, sitting against the wall or opening your eyes.
There will be two teacher and two assistants in the front of the mediation hall monitoring what is going on. Any time I opened my eyes I was automatically signaled to close my eyes again, which at times was quite difficult at times.
You will begin and end meditation listening to a short audio tape recording, intended to help guide you in your practice, but it’s normally less than 10 minutes.
One of the biggest rules is no stretching your legs out towards the teachers. Get used to that rule, because considered very disrespectful in many Asian countries.
During group meditation there is no leaving the hall for any reason, however during regular times you can leave for a 5-10 minute stretch break.
In the case you have serious back problems, you may be offered some sort of special seating in the mediation hall.
What are the meal times like?
Obviously the biggest rule of meal times is noble silence. You will start breakfast at 0630 and you will be offered some sort of food high in carbohydrates (often rice based). In addition you will get hot tea and milk with added sugar if you like.
Lunch time begins at 11am and again, something high in carbohydrates will be offered, as well as a soup and some sort of veggie. You may or not be offered cold pink, but water is always available.
The last meal is at 1200 in the afternoon. You will be offered a light snack, fruit, hot tea and milk in the evening at 1700, but after there is nothing offered until 0630 the next morning.
You may go back and ask for seconds, but the general rule is that you want to keep at least 1/4 of your stomach empty, because it helps you to meditate better.
Filtered water is available without restrictions on intake.
What if I have problems or need I want to discuss during the week.
If you have problems concerning anything, you may privately talk to a teacher and discuss it with her during set times. If you need something during the retreat (soap, feminine products, shampoo, etc) you may write it down and put it in the box offered on day 1.
The volunteers will try their best to get you what you need and you can pay for those items at the end of the week.
Do I have to follow a certain religion to attend?
No, Vipassana is a universal form of meditation. It has its base in the teaching of Buddha, but that does NOT mean you must be Buddhist to attend. There were people of all different religions attending.
If you have religious rituals or personal meditation techniques, you are asked to refrain from all of them during the course and focus on only learning the teachings of Vipassana.
No chanting, singing or funky breathing techniques allowed.
How can I sign up? Can I do it with my husband or wife?
Vipassana is offered in thousands of locations throughout the world. Check out the website to find a retreat location that is best for you.
Keep in mind that you must apply in advance and by doing will not guarantee you a spot. These retreats fill up fast, so make sure to look ahead of time.
You may do this with your partner, however you must follow the same rules as everyone else. You will have to refrain from seeing each other during the length of the course.
Women and men are completely separated at all times until the last day.
Don’t forget to also check out:
- CAMINO DE SANTIAGO: MY MOST COMMON QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
- THE BEGINNING: FROM SLAVE TO LENDER
- FACE YOUR BIGGEST FEAR
Would you ever attend a 10 day silent retreat?
What would be your biggest struggle in doing so?
Share your stories and thoughts below!