Have you ever heard of Vipassana? Of it’s 10 days silent meditation retreat? If not then you should at least once consider this amazing mind opening experience!
I was planning to do vipassana course since I’ve moved to Bali. But whenever it was time to make an actual decision and sign up for the the course I was just postponing till the next year. The whole thing just sounded too “spiritual” for pragmatic side of me or just too intense for someone like me who can’t sit still even for 5 minutes.
During vipassana course you are supposed to meditate really a lot (basically all day) and forget of any other activities. You are not allowed to talk or communicate to anyone, no laptops or phones or any other gadgets are allowed during it’s 10 day course. You can’t even read a book, listen to the music, make notes or do any sport exercise. Even yogis are asked not to do any asanas or pranayamas. Basically you have just one major thing to do: meditate. Of course sleep & eat too, but not much. Wake up call is at 4am and first meditation starts at 5am. As of meals you only get breakfast & lunch as real meals, for dinner you get only tea & fruit.
I love to eat. I am a true owl who can go to bed at 5 am without even being tired, and who is unable to wake up without alarm before 9am. I love doing different things at the same time. I love doing different activities every day to avoid boredom. How can people like me even fit into the simple schedule of vipassana meditation course?
Vipassana. I did it!
That’s why I am so proud I did my vipassana course. I am very grateful to myself for choosing this life experience. Sometimes things that seem just too difficult bring the most experience and understanding about important things in life!
I did my vipassana course in Dhamma center in Java near Bogor. There are other places in Indonesia where you can do vipassana as well, for example there are courses held here in Bali too, but only few times a year. I chose Bogor for one simple reason: I wanted to get out of Bali, see more of Indonesia and experience my vipassana in a beautiful Bogor scenery. The center is located in a very lush & quiet area in the hills near Bogor. It’s so remote from any sounds of human existence (while it’s just half an hour away from Bogor city) so the whole vipassana experience feels different.
So how does your day look when you go through vipassana course and what’s the whole purpose of this experience?
Vipassana is a tool to find your inner piece and to learn to be happy and live harmonious life. To discover the path to the inner piece you have to follow some rules and do a special meditation every day during the course. They teach you how to meditate and you are not required to have any previous meditation experience. Rules during vipassana course are following: no smoking, no drinking, no drugs, no sex, no communication, no killing of any living creatures (including mosquitos), and no other activities than those included in the schedule. You are supposed to be calm, relaxed, quiet and focused on the meditation process.
Basically we had to meditate around 10-11 hours per day. Some meditations were group sittings when you were required to be present in the main meditation hall and that is when you were supposed to be really focused. Other meditations times were personal meditations and you could perform them in your room. Those one were easier to skip. (I have to confess first two days I was so tired from the whole schedule so I just passed out in my room). I also did meditate a lot by laying down on my bed when I couldn’t bear sitting straight for so many hours. During personal meditation hours we were allowed to do so.
The first meditation starts at 5am and last one ends around 9pm. Between those times you also have rest breaks and meal breaks. I loved meals breaks because that was a nice change of the activity and I hated rest breaks, because you can get really bored during those. Every meditation last for an hour, then you are allowed to take a 5-10 minutes break before you continue to the next one.
The meditation technique itself isn’t difficult. You basically sit there with your eyes closed and observe your breath. That is supposed to calm your mind and keep it from wandering around and racing through the thoughts. That was actually so difficult part! Stop thinking and focus on your breath only. Much more difficult than just sitting in the meditation pose for one hour straight. Every day they add new instructions for the meditation, I won’t go into details here, you should experience it yourself.
To see any results of vipassana meditation you are supposed to stay for 10 days course, but lots of people leave before that being unable to live the simple but strict schedule. I have to say vipassana isn’t an easy experience and it require internal strength to commit for 10 days course and not give up. But isn’t that how we deal with all difficult experiences in our life by just quitting them? So I decided this time I have to stay till the end, which I did.
What vipassana teaches your through its course is that your ability to stay happy depends solely on you. Even in the situation you think it doesn’t. Pretty obvious, yeah? The tool to reach that understanding and the state of mind when nothing from the outside world will trigger you to feel unhappy is the meditation. The meditation shows you how your own reaction to the outside world can bring the unhappiness inside you. During the vipassana course you learn that your own reactions – different types of aversions or cravings – destroy your inner piece and make you feel sad, unsatisfied and unhappy.
It’s not easy to explain the whole 10 day vipassana course in one blog post, but if you are into spiritual search or self-development, you should consider vipassana. And what is good about vipassana is that it’s in no ways a religion or a sect or a doctrine. It’s just a meditation and after you finish your vipassana course you can decide for yourself what you gonna do with that experience. Noone gonna force you into anything.
In case you decide to go to Vipassana in Java or Bali like I did here is some tips for you:
If you decide to do vipassana in Indonesia, follow this link for Vipassana Dhamma courses schedule. You can check when they have their courses available.
If you choose Bogor, remember that It’s a rural area in the hills and it’s humid and rather cold there (for Indonesia standards). Which is really good, because you don’t get disturbed by heat, but take your warm clothes it gets chilly at nights. I wouldn’t survive without my sweatpants and sweatshirt.
You are supposed to be modestly dressed, which doesn’t mean you have to be dressed like a monk, but no short or revealing clothes is allowed (no shorts or tank tops) and no flashy fancy clothes too.
You will be on a vegan diet (no meat, no diary products) but don’t worry about food. Not a single day I was hungry, meals are diverse and filling. Give you can eat rice and asian type of food. Food wasn’t always lean & healthy but since you don’t really overeat (no dinner!) most people actually loose weight during vipassana.
During the meditation you are given all sorts of pillows to make your sitting more comfortable. In case when sitting on the mat with pillows gets totally unbearable physically you can ask a teacher to allow you to sit on the chair.
All phones, laptops, cameras, notepads, books, pens etc will be taken away from you at check-in. They are securely stored in the safe, no worries about that. But you won’t have access to any of those things during the whole course.
Although you are not supposed to talk to anyone (and you really don’t do) twice a day you have certain times when you can address a teacher if anything is unclear to you about the process of vipassana. Plus every evening you are shown an educational video that explains you the whole process of vipassana.
Participation in the vipassana course is free and you are welcome to leave donations. Considering a donation (only for those who did whole 10 day course) you are asked to give money only if you think that the experience was valuable for you and you want to give a chance to somebody else to participate in the course.
If you choose Vipassana in Bogor. To get to Dhamma center in Bogor if you go from Bali you have to fly to Jakarta (Air Asia, Lion Air or Citilink are one of the domestic airlines you can choose from, ticket is 40-70$ on way) and from Jakarta you get a Damri bus to Bogor right from the airport terminal. Those Damri busses arrived in Bogor in Botani Mall and from there you can take a cab or mototaxi. Bus fare is about 7$ (I had VIP one with wifi onboard ;) and taxi was around 9$. For taxis you have to bargain because they will try to rip you off. On the way back I took transfer straight to the airport which was 15$ per person. The whole trip will last around 2-3 hours due to heavy traffic in Jakarta and outside of Bogor.