Vipassana Diary : The Expectations

Last month, I went for a 10 day Vipassana course. Vipassana is a mediation technique which was re-discovered by Gautam Buddha some 25 centuries ago. It is a technique in which one learns to observe their mind, thoughts, emotions, and the effect they have on their body, without reacting with either craving or aversion.  Vipassana means insight. It means seeing things as they really are and not as one would like them to be. It’s an experience of self-discovery, self-awareness, and experiential wisdom that can truly be understood only by going the through the process.

I was keen to explore this and as soon as the program dates matched with my schedule, I registered for the program.

The orientation session on Day 0 told us in simple and clear terms that it was not an easy course and it had some very strict rules and regulations. As students, we had to…

  • Abstain from killing. Of course, I had no plans to kill anybody, but this rule made me think twice whether to kill the mosquito on the wall or not!
  • Abstain from stealing or telling lies. This one was easy as I am not into any of these vices.
  • Abstain from using any type of intoxicants. Thankfully, tea / coffee did not qualify as stimulants.
  • Follow noble silence ie any form of communication whether by physical gestures, written notes, sign language and words was prohibited. We were not allowed to speak with fellow students. We could speak to the teacher whenever necessary though.
  • Abstain from practicing any other meditation technique or spiritual or healing practices or religious  rituals or yoga.
  • Abstain from reading, writing or using phones or any other gadgets.
  • Handover all personal items viz wallet, phones, Kindle or any other valuables.

Our day would start at 4 am and end at 9 pm. Each day was packed with learning the mediation technique by experiential method. We spent 12 hours every day learning the various steps of the technique. There were breaks in between to relax.

The food was simple and vegetarian. Breakfast was served at 6.30 am. Lunch was at 11 am and supper consisting of tea and a snack was served at 5 pm. I was worried that I would feel hungry at night. But surprises of surprise, I found myself adapting to this new routine without any hassle.

We had to clean our rooms and bathroom on our own. We had less number of women in our course so, all of us had individual rooms to ourselves. And I truly glad for that!

Before the course, I thought that 10 days of complete silence, with no talking or hugs or even eye contact, and no phone or laptop or internet and no books would certainly make me stark raving mad. But, I was so wrong. I simply liked the solitude and time that I got for myself to learn, think and introspect too.

I travel a lot, but I am always in touch with KG via phone or messages. It was for the first time, that I was not communicating with KG at all. I was ok for the first 4 days. But I freaked out on Day 5 and no amount of thinking positive thoughts or meditation would calm my mind. When I could not handle the turbulence on my own, I asked the teacher to call up KG and check with him if all was ok at home. She was not keen on doing that but seeing my state, she relented and called KG.  After her chat with KG she told me that I was worrying unnecessarily.

It was only on the 10th day when we were given our phones back and were allowed to talk, I came to know that my Mom was not well on Day 4 though she was ok by Day 5. My premonition was a few hours late!!

Was this technique of mastering the mind easy? Was this 10 day journey of learning the basic discipline of self-reflection and self-control a cake walk? What did I learn from these 10 days of solitude? All about this and much more in the subsequent chapters of the Vipassana Diary. Stay tuned…

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42 thoughts on “Vipassana Diary : The Expectations

  1. So pleased to hear of your experience Shilpa thank you and I look forward to future diary entries. My older son Mike did this course this time last year and found it extremely profound. Same rules, no phones, books, note books, no talking, early rise, early bedtime, same purpose … I gather that some found it so difficult they left after a few days yet those who got through the first few days were ‘changed’ with the gift of being able to introspect and see things as they are .. Pleased also to hear that your Mom was ok by day 5! πŸ™‚

    • Your son did this course too!! Wow, that’s wonderful. Yes, they have the same course pattern all over the world.
      Thankfully, everyone from our batch persisted till the end. But yes, it is not an easy journey and not everyone is cut out for this spiritual path. Vipassana is indeed a life changing experience. I am so glad that I went for it. Folks here tell me that Mom gave them a real scare, but by god’s grace, she is better now. Thanks Susan. πŸ™‚

  2. What? Seriously?
    I’m sure it was rewarding. With the early breakfast lunch and supper, even I think I would be hungry all night. I understand that you cannot use your phones and speak to your dear ones. But not to students too? πŸ™ I am already freaking out. I just want to know how you survived all these days. Will come back tomorrow to read for sure!
    Shalini R recently posted…Aloo Methi – Potatoes with Fenugreek LeavesMy Profile

    • Hahaha! Calm down dear girl. I know, being cut off from family and gadgets, different meal timings and noble silence for 9 days appears to be a scary and difficult proposition. Believe me, it IS!! It is not a easy journey. But then you learn to accept everything that comes your way! Hope to write about all this in tomorrow’s post! Thanks for dropping by, Shalini!

  3. I was waiting for this post Shilpa:) …not sure if you would make one…so was thinking of asking for it after Diwali…Glad you are coming up with it in series….sounds tough to be away from family ….waiting to read more.

    • Aww! You are a sweetheart! Was in two minds about writing this. And then this NaBloPoMo decided it for me. πŸ˜€
      Hope to share this 10 day journey in 4-5 posts! πŸ™‚

    • I did it at Pushkar, near Ajmer. I am not a morning person. I mean 6-6.30 am is my morning, but I used to get up at the first gong with a spring in my step. I dont know how that happened. So, 4 am and dinner at 5 pm will be least of your worries πŸ˜€

    • Oh, that’s cool. is he practicing it daily at home too?
      Yeah, it’s the same for KG too, he believes that its not his cup of tea too!
      Thanks Corinne. Yes, mom is better now. Usually I believe, if something doesn’t feel right then probably it isn’t πŸ˜›

    • You can do anything, Bikram if you decide to do so. So dinner at 5 pm will work too. And believe me, it’s a great way to lose weight. I shed a few kilos too! πŸ˜€

  4. I would like to do this…just cut off from everything..but not sure if I can..kids..house..husband…mom…work…all dance in my brain…will wait for tomorrow’s post..

    • I can understand your dilemma, Saritha. It’s challenging to be away from family and responsibilities for 10 days. But if you can find a way out or a support system, then you must go for this course!

  5. Oh wow Shilpa – was really intrigued reading your part 1 diary, and will stay tuned for sure. In India, I did some Art of living courses- seems a bit similar. I would love to challenge myself with silence and living without phones etc… Think the silence could be most challenges, but totally believe that this could be very good for us… Very curious to read more on how you did—:-)
    Eli recently posted…Bye bye October!My Profile

    • Oh wow! You have done Art of Living courses, that’s cool, Eli! Vipassana and Art of Living focus on meditation though the technique is different. I think being silent is not that challenging. You will be able to do it pretty easily. I did not struggle with silence. I was perfectly ok with no talking. πŸ™‚

  6. Like I told you already this seems really really difficult to do. Cutting yourself off from everything – I cannot imagine myself doing that. I can understand why you freaked out. Kudos to you Shilpa for taking this up. I think at some point in life we do need peace and quiet to introspect. Looking forward to reading about you day at the camp. How on earth did you get through the entire day without interacting with anyone at all??
    Beat About the Book recently posted…Rita Just Wants to be Thin – A ReviewMy Profile

    • I had actually gone with an open mind and found the experience of being a student very interesting and novel. So, I accepted all that was expected from me and thus was able to follow the noble silence easily. I loved the time that I got to think and introspect. To be honest, except for a lil worry about not being in touch with KG, I didnt even think about phone, Facebook, blog or whatsapp. πŸ™‚

    • Hi Jayashree. Yes, Vipassana is not an easy course and is not everyone’s cup of tea as well. But those who have gone through this believe it to be a life changing experience. πŸ™‚

  7. YAY…Shilpa…good to be back here πŸ˜€

    Vipassana…Oh my !! Not to talk for 10 days huh ?? I think I would die πŸ˜›
    Anyway, being in solitude is something I love and I would love to know more about this and am happy it has helped you a lot.

    3 cheers to NaBloPoMo (y)

    • Hi Uma! Good to see you here too. LOL πŸ˜€ No, you wouldn’t die. You will love the experience. It’s challenging but pretty rewarding. It’s great to be doing NaBloPoMo with you πŸ™‚

  8. Have heard a lot about this from a couple of friends who have done the course too. Even I would be left wondering about life without all those things mentioned. πŸ™‚ Especially not keeping in touch with the loved ones.

    Glad your mom is better now.

    • While it is easier to let go of phone or gadgets or books or TV, not being in touch with family is something that I struggled with. But the course demands total isolation and solitude!
      Thanks Swathi, yes, she is doing good now!

  9. Loved the details of Vipassana you shared because all of them sound doable except not contacting anyone. Time to read what happened on the following days πŸ™‚
    Happy NaBloPoMo, so glad to be doing it with you.
    My Era recently posted…FlawedMy Profile

    • Yes, that’s the biggest hurdle. But one has to follow the code of discipline. Ten days is certainly a very short time to penetrate the deepest levels of the unconscious mind and learn how to eradicate the complexes lying there. Continuity of the practice in seclusion is the secret of this technique’s success. So the strict rules and regulations have been developed keeping this practical aspect in mind. πŸ™‚
      Aha! Happy that we are doing this NaBloPoMo together! Cheers!

  10. seems a changeover.
    learning to keep calm and control.
    had heard many doing it, but thanks for sharing your experiences that helps.
    although i have lived without mobile for 15days and believe me i had loved the break of knowing myself and nature…

    • True. Taking a break from technology is not that difficult and it does a world of good to us. In fact one should do that often. Yes, Vipassana is a great tool to calm and clears the mind. Thanks Pragun.

  11. Hi Shilpa, so nice to read this post, brought me some memories of my first experience of vipassana. I had a very time sitting for one full hour, and found it very painful. I did not have problem with the food and I surprised myself managing with what was given. But at the end of it I really liked the experience and then I continued to go for another two years and for one year I just went to volunteer. Its a tough meditation, but really worth it. Thanks for bringing this memory back to me and I do long to revisit some times again..

    • Yes, sitting still for one hour was challenging initially. Like you, food was not an issue with me. In fact, I did not eat rice and chapati during lunch and always had just one serving and surprisingly that was enough. It changed my perspective about food too. Wow, you worked as a volunteer too! I’d like to do that sometimes as well. Let’s see when that materializes. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Genevive. Appreciate it!

  12. I can see a lot of plusses in this course, learning to be away from all sources of distractions, be it mobiles or human beings, inculcate a life of discipline, including food habits, and not being judgemental since we are not being allowed to interact with fellow participants. I would surely love to do this someday.

    Was it possible to continue your disciplined way of life after the course was over?

    Shubhangi @ Ground Coffee Bean

    • You are spot on, Shubhangi. The program indeed is very beneficial if you have that bent of mind.
      We were told to practice it for 2 hours daily (morning-evening). I am able to do it in the mornings for 30-40 minutes and just for a few minutes before going to bed. It’s challenging, but I am trying my best to stick to it.

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