Travel Magazine

The Vipassana Meditation Course- 10 Days, and Maybe a Lifetime.

By Tilda Y

The women do not speak. And neither do the men on the other side. They walk, stretch, and sit in silence, taking in the generous warmth of the sun in the limited time that they are given. Some look troubled, some in pensive thought, and a few seemed simply disengaged.

This looks like a scene out of a mental asylum, I thought.

Well, this is one. We have all checked ourselves in to the Dhamma Sukhada Vipassana Meditation Centre in Argentina, voluntarily, to do some serious work on our minds. The treatment? A 10-day Vipassana Meditation Course, where the simple and yet profound technique of self- observation would be imparted. With my cell-phone surrendered on Day Zero for safe-keeping, and a strict code of discipline and silence, I had begun my first steps in learning the Art of Living.

Vipassana Meditation- seeing things as they really are.

The ancient technique of Vipassana Meditation was rediscovered by Gotama Buddha more than 2500 years ago. Using the mind-body interconnection as a framework, the technique trains the mind to be highly aware of realities, both obvious and subtle, while maintaining balance and equanimity. As one becomes acutely aware of the various bodily sensations that arise, pleasant or otherwise, one contemplates and directly experiences the law of impermanence – Anicha.

With practice and discipline, Vipassana Meditation enables one to live with true peace and compassion by overcoming mindless reactions to tendencies towards delusions and self-inflicted miseries caused by desires and aversions.

A 10-day bootcamp for the mind

This was everything but a relaxing retreat for the mind. The daily schedule consists of waking up at 4 am to the strike of the gong, and being in the meditation hall by 4.30 am. You meditate, or try to, for about 10-11 hours each day with instructions and guidance. In the evenings, a video is played, through which the late SM Goenka explains the technique and shares ancient wisdom with his infectious brand of humor and goodwill.

Reading, writing, and speaking are not allowed. In other words, you are fully with yourself, and the convoluted mind of yours.

I didn’t expect this to be easy, but nothing prepared me for the physical and mental challenges ahead.

Pain, pleasure, and the mind that has a mind of its own.

My legs and back took turns to present me with varying degrees of numbness and pain. At times so intense and overpowering, I was sure that the law of impermanence must have applied to everything in this world, but my pain. And well, isn’t this how we feel when we are drowning in the depths of our misery?

As the days passed, the pain began to bother me less, and I started to observe each sensation objectively. The mind began to condense and concentrate, and with the stillness of the mind, I began to feel subtle sensations that I had never been aware of- pleasant pulsations, tingles, and even the intense and quick vibrations of my eardrums. But these too, arise and disappear. Willing them to surface was not only futile, but a contradiction to the goal of seeing reality as it is, and not as you want it to be.

Getting the mind to be still was nothing short of a monstrous task. It could analyze, solve, judge, and react skillfully. But ask it to simply observe the breath and sensations, and it could not perform this simple task for more than ten minutes without rummaging through memories and creating new fantasies and nightmares. At times, holding my mind still for even a minute seemed like a feat worthy of a Nobel peace prize.

The mind-body connection also became very apparent. Any thought that generated anger would soon be followed by hot flushes, others with short and quick breaths, and waves of goose bumps.

My deepest insecurities, fears, and anger surfaced one after another. It took great effort to simply observe them for what they were, and to hold myself back from the habitual tendencies of multiplying them with toxic reruns or denials.

I first came to know about Vipassana meditation through a couple of documentaries and talks. The mere intellectual curiosity turned into a strong impetus during a significant personal experience in the Amazon jungle. At the end of the 10-day course, it was clear to me once again that while I had taken many journeys in the outer world, I had barely scratched the surface in learning about my inner world.  If the most important travels are to the world within, then meditation is the free ticket available to anyone with self-discipline and a big fat cushion.

Information & Resources

Doing Time, Doing Vipassana– Great documentary about the introduction of Vipassana meditation in the most notorious jail in India.

  •– There are 284 centres worldwide offering the same 10-day meditation course. The courses are completely free and run purely on a donation basis.

  • Vipassana Meditation and Body Sensation– a Ted talk by filmmaker Eilona Ariel.

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