Sunday, April 01, 2012

10 days Vipassana Meditation Retreat

A few years ago, when I noticed a change in my friend’s behavior after she returned from a retreat in India. I only knew that it was free and very tough. Later, I met more people who have done it and all of them gave good review of this ancient Buddhist technique.

I was very intrigued about this technique, when I watched this movie about the introduction of the vipassana meditation technique in an Alabama prison. View this Youtube Video.

About 2 months ago, a good friend had a tragedy in his life. When I asked how he was coping with it, he told me that this technique helped him greatly and he highly recommended me to try this meditation technique.
I went for this course @ St John Island. This organization has presence in most countries, you can refer to the website:

(St John Island - Meditation Hall)

This is a FREE course, but not an easy one. There are rules to be observed throughout the 10 days – Noble Silence (No communication, including eye-contact with anyone), 2 Vegetarian Meals each day (Breakfast & Lunch), Taking the 5 precepts (ie. No killing of any being; No stealing; No sexual activity; No lies; No intoxicants), No entertainment (ie. No book; No writing material; No handphone/mp3 player; No diary; No writing), No exercise (except walking), No religious objects or ornaments, Modest dressing, No perfume or accessories.

The rough daily routine was – 4am wake up, 4.30am meditation, 6.30am Breakfast & rest, 8.00am Meditation, 11am Lunch & rest, 1pm Meditation, 5pm Tea Break & rest, 6pm Meditation, 7pm Discourse, 8.30pm meditation, 9pm Free time, 10pm Sleep.

This is the rough course (remember: I did not have any paper to jot down). First 2 days, we were supposed to observe our breath only. On the 3rd day, we observed the sensation on nose area. On the 4th day, we observed the sensation on the upper lip. On the 5th day, we observed the sensation on different parts of the body by moving our awareness. On the 6-10th day, we were supposed to observe the sensation throughout the body by mentally sweeping across it.

Physically, it was tough. I had back-pain and shoulder-pain from seating on the upright position for long time. Mentally, it was even tougher. My monkey brain was filled with random thoughts that arise and disappear without my consent. However, I am surprised how my mind works.

For instance, if I focus my concentration on the subtle vibration on my head or other parts of the body, the back & shoulder pain became less intense and disappeared at times. But as soon as I divert my concentration back to my back & shoulder, the pain came back and intensified.
And finally, I could sit down and meditate continuously for 1 hour!

The 2 core pillars of this meditation is cultivated the qualities of EQUANIMITY and AWARENESS.  And always be mindful of the IMPERMANENCE OF LIFE. Anicca Anicca Anicca. Everything in Life Changes. (ie. The sensation experienced throughout our body, our thoughts, our emotions, our decaying body, our physical possessions, our relationships etc…) A lot of sufferings arises from Cravings and Aversions. Attachment to any craving brings suffering. Aversion to any pain brings suffering too.

I left the retreat with slight disappointment, as I went there with the wrong expectation. I was hoping to understand or experience the quality of EMPTINESS and BUDDHANATURE, but that was not the objective of this meditation. Nevertheless, I realized the benefits of this technique immediately – I was more aware of my speech and behaviour, and even my thoughts. I was less reactive, and I caught my thoughts before I react in speech. That’s really good.

I would recommend this retreat to anyone irregardless of religious & societal background.
The 10 days retreat is only the beginning, and the real challenge is to practice the meditation on a daily basis. That would be really difficult.

Mr Goenka (the current teacher) said that there are 2 yardsticks to measure if you are progessing well on the path:
1. Compassion 
(Are you more willing to serve others? Are you more willing to help the weak and needy? Are you giving without expecting any return?)
2.       Gratitude 
(Are you feeling more grateful for everything?)

1 comment:

KidbuxBlog said...

Looks good for your 10 days retreat. Yes, Vipassana meditation is good for our life and did help us be mindful all day as well increase our wisdom. I met a guru who practice for over 30years, he is Venerable Vimokkha and did share his teaching in MP3 files in my blog. Feel free download this free Vipassana meditation MP3 at: