10 Day Vipassana Meditation Course
June 25, 2010 by
Sit, breathe naturally, and keep your attention on that breath. How can something so easy, be so difficult in practice? just sit down, relax, and observe. Don’t judge, analyze, predict, worry, wish, or imagine. Just observe. The technique taught at the 10 day meditation retreat was Vipassana, the technique the Buddha used to achieve enlightenment. The first three days were spent developing concentration and mastery over the mind (Samadhi) by keeping your attention confined to the area around your nostrils. Attention was placed on the normal, uncontrolled breath, and how it felt to have slightly colder air flow in, and slightly warmer air flow out. After that we were taught the main technique, which is to scan your entire body and observe sensation without judgment. You observe pain in your back, just feel it and go to the next sensation. You shouldn’t tell yourself “I wish my back didn’t hurt” or try and skip past certain parts of your body. This new habit of observing sensations without reacting to them is practiced so that when you go back to your regular life, you’ll be less likely to react as strongly in anger, depression, or craving. The Buddha’s teachings were fairly simple. He believed in order for people to find true happiness they have to live a moral life (Sila), have mastery over the mind (Samadhi), and wisdom that all experiences are temporary (Panya). Vipassana allows you to practice and experience first hand the transitory nature of sensations. When you are meditating you can notice that you have an itching sensation on your face, but if you don’t react to it, the itch will eventually pass away. The Buddha taught that this arising and passing away occurs with all sensations, and that we shouldn’t become attached to any outcome and accept the present moment. You can learn more about the philosophy of Vipassana meditation and the rules of conduct for the 10 day course at Dhamma.org. The schedule throughout each day includes 10 hours of meditation, 4 hours of rest and meal time and an hour and a half video discourse at night. You weren’t allowed to talk to any of the other meditators in the course or to write anything down. This is a pretty rigorous schedule, especially for someone’s who’s a beginning meditator. The Facilities I went to Dhamma Manda in the small northern California county of Kelseyville. The center is fairly new, being finished in 2008, and the service was great. The food was a well rounded vegan delight. A mix of Indian curries and Esalen style dishes filled the table for lunch. In the meditation hall I was having difficulty sitting on the floor without back support. I told the manager and he gave me a back-jack to use during the course. There were hiking trails outside of the meditation hall that you could walk on during breaks. Since I went in the summer the afternoons were nice and warm and the forest was scattered with insects. There were beetles, spiders, caterpillars, ants, lizards, and birds. Being in such an environment with nature is very rewarding for a meditation retreat. What I got out of the experience There were times when I would sit, and would have to bring my attention back to the breath 100 times in one hour. I learned how to be at peace with the wandering mind instead being frustrated and trying to force the mind to be quiet. Once I accepted that, the thoughts were still there, but they were in the background, and weren’t monopolizing my attention. I found I could truly relax my body and just sit and breathe, without “trying” to sit. I learned how meditation is a practice, and I should enjoy the path instead of becoming attached to any goal of a quiet mind, or enlightenment. I have to accept wherever I am in my practice, whether it is quietly sitting focused for an hour or I have to bring my attention back to the breath 100 times. Why go to a 10 day Vipassana Course? So why should you desire to wake up at 4am and spend 10 hours of your day sitting and observing yourself? Some of my reasons here were to discipline myself and have mastery over my mind. Through meditation I can calm my mind and become more focused and efficient when I go out into this world. I also wanted to become more present in every moment. In this course you are asked to be constantly in a meditative state, when you walk in between sessions you should notice the feeling of every step, the wind on your face, the touch of cloth to your skin. For 10 days you are asked to keep your awareness in your body without judging any sensation as good or bad. I will be going to massage school this next month and I plan to use this technique before class to increase my awareness of my body. Then when I receive the technique we’re learning, I’ll be more present and able to feel it completely. I recommend this to anyone who wants more peace in their life, and who’s willing to work dilligently and patiently for it. I would recommend you greatly discipline your mind before hand, especially if this will be your first meditation retreat. This can be achieved by waking up at 5am and running or exercising for an hour, eating a vegan diet, meditating for an hour a day, and/or including any other habits you would like to create. This self-discipline will make the samadhi or “mastery of the mind” part of the meditation course much easier. Keep working dilligently, persistently, and patiently and you’re bound to be successful, bound to be successful.