Vipassana – What I found in 10 days of Silence

July 28, 2011

“Liberation can only be gained by practice, never by mere discussion.” -Goenka

It’s been hard to write about my Vipassana experience, mostly because the point of Vipassana is the EXPERIENCE. Not the words, not the description, not the intellectual discussion.

So, for all of you who are curious about my experience, I say:

Go. Experience it for yourself.

Here is a list of centers in North America: http://www.dhamma.org/en/bycountry/na/

The 10 day retreat is free. TOTALLY FREE. Your lodging and food (actually, quite good food!) is included. And at the end of the retreat, there’s no pressure – there’s no long guilt-inducing speech to get you to donate; there’s no one looking at you expectantly, holding a bucket. I was actually quite surprised.

The 80 centers worldwide make enough money to continue providing free retreats because the people who experience Vipassana realize the value it holds; so they donate for the next person that will be helped by learning this meditation practice. You don’t need to know how to meditate to go. Though it probably makes it more difficult, there were people there who had never meditated a day in their lives.

I understand that 10 days seems like a lot. You’re too busy, you can’t afford the time off of work, you don’t think that you can go for 10 days without talking. But when 10 days is compared to the 50 or so years you have left of you life – 10 days of 18,250 days, assuming the 50 years – 10 days is a small price to pay for the opportunity to learn how to end your own suffering.

Vipassana is not a religion. It’s not a cult. It’s a practice. On the Vipassana retreat you have 10 days of training in the purest form of meditation that was taught by the Buddha, maintained by a small number of monks in Burma over the past 2500 years. It’s not sectarian – Buddhists, Hindus, Catholics, Baptists, Muslims and Atheists can practice Vipassana meditation. It holds no conflicting beliefs with any religion, and it’s actually very scientific, which is interesting since it was created a few thousand years before the dawn of modern science. Vipassana teaches you to objectively observe your experience of reality, without judgment or reaction. You experience reality through your body. You THINK about reality through your mind, but you can actually only EXPERIENCE reality through the senses of your body.

Two of the main causes of suffering are cravings and aversions. Addictions/desire and fear/hatred. But there is a greater truth than this, and that is that all things are impermanent. All cravings and aversions are impermanent. Your body is impermanent. Every experience you have, every thought you have, is impermanent. You experience the truth of impermanence through experiencing the impermanence of the sensations of your body, and during Vipassana meditation you practice not reacting to these sensations; they’re impermanent anyways. Over time, this leads to equanimity. Peace. That one thing that every single human wants, deep down. Peace.

The 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat was one of the most profound experiences of my life. I loved being in silence. People doubted I’d be able to go 10 days without talking, but that part was easy.

During 10 days of silence – no conversations with anyone else, no eye contact, no input from books or tv or the internet, no cell phones, no nothing – you really get to know yourself. The clarity is incredible. You get to observe the insane workings of your own mind. And that’s the funny thing – we’re all insane. One definition of insane is “in a state of mind that prevents normal perception.” We don’t actually perceive reality, we perceive what our minds think about reality.

One realization I had the first day was that I have an image of everyone I know in my mind, and I talk to them in my head. All. The. Time. I’m either having a conversation with someone I know, planning in advance what I’ll say to them next time I talk to them, or I’m narrating a blog in my head.

If you don’t think you have this voice in your head, it’s because you’re not aware of it. Either that or you’re enlightened (Congratulations! 😉 ). I became aware of the continuous narration in my head when I was around seven years old. We all have this voice in our  heads – the voice of the ego that creates the story of our experience. It is in response to this story that we react – not the objective reality of situations, but the story that we create in our minds – ie this event/person is good/bad/right/wrong, this should have happened, this shouldn’t have happened, I didn’t do that right, I’m not good enough, I deserve more, etc etc.

During the Vipassana retreat I also met my shadow side. I got to observe how arrogant I can be, how critical, judgmental, and angry I can be. I was given the perfect opportunity – the girl bunking next to me was a drug addict/bulimic, and though part of me felt like I ‘should’ have been compassionate towards her, I was pissed because she’d make noise all night eating and snorting things, vomiting in the bathroom, and then I could hear her snoring behind me during the meditation periods. Prior to this retreat I knew that I had shadow sides, but when in silence they get so much LOUDER; it becomes incredibly, painfully, embarrassingly clear.

One of the things that appeals to me most about Vipassana is that it’s a practice for daily life. It is a tool which, if used, will actually change you, and make your life better. It teaches you to observe, question, experience, and come to your own conclusions. This appeals to me in a way that no religion ever has, since most religions rely on dogma, ideology, blind faith, rites and rituals; not actual work towards making yourself a better person.

I want freedom. Not the illusion of freedom that is provided by a democratic government or the choices of capitalistic society; the true inner freedom of not being controlled by fears or addictions, cravings or aversions. I have been seeking freedom, and the resulting happiness and peace, since I can remember; around 4 or 5 years old, I remember deciding that I wanted to be Happy when I grew up. Not a Doctor or a Teacher or a Veteranarian; just Happy. I have explored many paths, read and discussed and tested many things. Vipassana resonates as being the truest path to freedom and happiness of anything I’ve found. I think it’s because it’s so simple, so personal, so direct. It’s just you. Within you is everything you need. So simple, and so true.

http://www.dhamma.org/en/bycountry/na/

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26 Responses to “Vipassana – What I found in 10 days of Silence”

  1. Erika A said

    Wow – well, I hope one day to do it. It’s funny, but I’m actually a little scared by the thought of going 10 days in silence. I guess that’s reason alone to do it.

    Glad it was what you needed. xox

    • lunasealife said

      You can ask the meditation teachers questions during appointed times of the day, so you don’t have to *completely* abstain from talking. 🙂

      Big hug!

  2. tarah said

    Really really lovely, michelle. Thank you for sharing. I’ve always been curious about these retreats… so happy to hear about your experience 🙂

  3. Fantastic, I can’t wait to do this! 10 days in silence sounds like HEAVEN.

    • lunasealife said

      You are going to LOVE IT!!!! And you are going to love S.N. Goenka. He is a funny, funny man. When he’s chanting, though, he kinda sounds like a cross between a bull frog and Homer Simpson…now that I’ve planted that in your mind, I bet you’ll start laughing during one of the meditations… heeheehee

  4. I just signed up for the one in November. I was tempted to do the 3 day which starts August 3rd, but 10 days sounds like you can really get to know yourself (as you said).

    • lunasealife said

      Yes!!! Awesome!

    • Deb said

      I don’t suggest you do the 10 day course unless you understand that it is not really empirical. That drained me from day 4, when I learned the real workings of the practice. The philosophy makes sense, but the practice does not. I was in agony knowing I was wasting my time!

      • lunasealife said

        Well, I don’t quite agree with you, since empirical means “dependent on evidence or consequences that are observable by the senses,” and Vipassana is just observing the sensation of your body… and wouldn’t the agony you were going through be the dissolution of sanskaras? But I suppose it’s not for everyone. Have you found something that works for you?

  5. […] https://lunasealife.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/vipassana-what-i-found-in-10-days-of-silence/ Related Posts :Regarding YouTube Messages… 8/2/11 Every Day Connection Radio Show 5pm – … Maximum Self Esteem Ask and It Is Given Filed Under: China, Meditation, Spiritual […]

  6. stee said

    Michelle! Thank you so much for sharing this with me. I’m definitely going to try to sign up for this in September. I enjoyed reading about your experience! 🙂

  7. Bella said

    Hi Michelle, I came across your blog from another website and just took a look at dhamma.com. It sound good. I’ve been a yogi for years now,and I would love to try Vipassana, most likely next year, unless I decide to go to a farther state..I live in OH. Thanks for the link.

  8. […] After trying a number of techniques over the years, the one I connect to most and still practice today is Vipassana; it’s the form that’s closest to what the Buddha taught, and there are centers around the world where you can learn the technique during a free 10-day silent retreat. It’s amazing and intense – you meditate about 11 hours per day. Read about my experience of 10 days in silence here. […]

  9. plaintain1 said

    Hi Michelle
    Thanks for sharing. In fact, you are the appropriate person to ask questions. I’ve been meditating (Mindfulness) since January of this year and back in 90s I did Raj yoga to help me with cancer. This is was for 3 years ago but I stopped as I began to get headaches.

    The meditation I do now is great, where I receive peace but after awhile I get agitated and sometimes angry – with people, with situations and of course, with myself. Strangely, I find myself reading more and more about the retreat and the incredible experiences that people have had and what it has done for them. In fact, it all began with the Guardian article I read, of a journalist who attended and found it to be so emotional cleansing) My research eventually led me to the dhamma site.

    If I do attend a retreat I believe I’m attending because I want to consolidate my meditation practice; to ‘confront’ myself and achieve more of peace and harmony; to move on with my purpose. Do you think this retreat could be of benefit or would it be too much?
    Many blessings to you Michelle,
    plaintain1@yahoo.co.uk

    • lunasealife said

      Hello! I’ll reply on here and will also email you;
      If you feel drawn to Vipassana, I would definitely recommend going. Part of the process of Vipassana meditation is digging into samskaras, which is karma and old fear/pain/memories that are trapped within your body. The anger you’re speaking of is coming up to be healed, with the ultimate lesson of you learning to love and forgive yourself. Total self-acceptance (and the realization of and love for our physically-manifested divine selves in these skin sacks) is what it all comes down to.

      When you go to a Vipassana retreat you are asked to stay for the full 10 days; not to leave. There are meditation teachers who run the course and are available at certain times of the day to meet with; so though the majority of the retreat is in silence, you can make an appointment to go to them with questions or difficulties you are having. However, if the retreat truly is too much for your, you are always free to leave. In each course there are some people who leave after a few days because they are not ready.

      I’d recommend you apply and give it a go! It sounds like you already have a meditation practice and are ready to go deeper.

      Joy, Love and Light!

  10. plaintain1 said

    Dear Michelle

    Thank you so much for talking the time. A ton load of blessings to you.

  11. plaintain1 said

    And just one more thing….as I continued with my research I came across some sites where people have had negative experiences when going on the Vipassana retreats ie, mental illness, nightmares etc. It could be that I’m drawn to it but how best to find out if it is safe for me?

    Thanks again!

    • lunasealife said

      There is no protecting yourself from life. Fling yourself in the direction of your excitement, joy , bliss and trust that you are supported and protected, that you are strong enough, that everything will work out in your highest, best interest.

      And it will. 🙂

      “Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering its a feather bed.” ― Terence Mckenna

      • Jan Tijmes said

        Very vice reply, Michelle,
        I’ve seen 16 yr olds to 82 yr olds go through the program and we all go through it at the level we are at. Courage is a beautiful attribute.
        It helps to have support as well, so after a retreat, purchase some of the Goenka group sitting audios through their “Pariyatti.org” site. Likewise, we’ve developed a series of Vipassana CDs to hold the space for Anapana and Vipassana meditators, consistent with Goenka’s technique. Audios help so much if our practice waivers in consistency.

        Blessings to you and for sharing such supportive comments for Vipassana.
        with love,
        -Jan
        Vipassana New World

      • lunasealife said

        Thank you Jan! I agree, it’s really good to have something to continue your focus and remind you of what you’ve learned/experienced for greater integration.

  12. Thank you so much. I am going to do the retreat at the end of April and I am going for similar reasons to you… Happiness. Bless you… I will let you know how I go.

  13. Jk Rao said

    Hi! Friends,
    What I read & understand here in these forums/discussions is all about the experiences during the course. These experiences are found in abundance across the net.
    My questions & curiosity are of the following.
    1. What is the take away from the course?
    2. What happens after the course if you don’t practice or repeat the course latter?
    3. What benefits does one experiences after say few days / weeks / months / years after completion of the course? The learning & experiences are only profound during & immediately after the course only. What after that? What happens to one’s awareness, understanding & controls of the conscious & subconscious mind during the latter life after the course?
    4. Individual Personal experiences on what life style changes did one experience in terms of habits, thought process, better self controls, channelizing the energies / thoughts, did it really change ones insight / outlook towards life, was it a life changing experience, life style changes, etc
    This will be a very great help to me, kindly share your experiences.
    Best Regards
    Jk Rao
    PS. I’ll be glad to receive your replies. Pls also email me your replies to GetJKRao@gmail.com

    • lunasealife said

      Fantastic questions! I don’t have time to answer at this moment but perhaps I can use these questions for a future post. Thank you!

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