It’s officially been one week since I came home from a Vipassana Meditation Course. It was the most difficult thing I have ever done and I’m proud of myself for seeing it through. But would I recommend it? As someone who believes that growth entails you constantly challenging yourself, I’m going to say yes. But here are a few tips:
Don’t quit. After you have made the decision to go, stick with it. If you drop out halfway the blame would most likely fall onto your ego. Not quitting is going to be hard. If it’s not the constant sitting and physical constraints, it may be the obedience to authority or discipline you can’t handle. When the technique starts losing its credibility, then you’ll start putting your faith in the theory and soon enough that will also lose all credibility too and you will have find that there is nothing keeping you here except a decision you made because you thought “Why not?” Tell yourself a decision is a decision. Honestly, the only thing keeping me was my stubbornness. I had to convince my parents that this wasn’t some sort of religious cult and by Day 8, I was pretty convinced it was. I didn’t want to hear them say “I told you so” so I toughed it out. And I’m glad I did.
Realize that they aren’t kidding around when they say to surrender yourself to the technique. Don’t rationalize it or intellectualize the practice. I know this is impossible but keep telling yourself over and over that you are smart enough to not get brainwashed and after 10 days, you have a choice whether to implement this technique in your life. I didn’t really give it a fair trial because I couldn’t shut off that skeptical voice in my head. But I still learnt a lot. These were all tidbits I knew (change is an absolute, your mind is powerful etc.) but things I always seemed to forget when cravings and aversions arose. Now, these core truths have evolved into their own filter system for what feelings linger in my head.
You have to deal with a train wreck of thoughts during each meditation and sometimes after the hour is over, you’re left feeling worse than when you began. I didn’t start feeling “light” until about Day 8 and even then, it was short lived. But everyone’s experience is different because every mind is different but know that seldom does anyone say they felt pleasant during any of the days besides Day 10 and that’s largely due to the torture finally being over.
Be prepared to question everything. You will wonder if this retreat is a valid spiritual experience considering it’s induced by manipulating the mind. Is it all just psychological tricks? Is the technique not working because your chakras are blocked? Are you doing this simply to feed your ego? Is your ego making you runaway? Don’t let any of these mental conundrums convince you to leave.
Try not to be averse to the regulations and theory. You can teach someone math but unless they are open to learning it, you can sit in a classroom for a year and learn nothing. Defiance of authority and instinctual judgement is something that I’ve seen in a mostly beneficial limelight as it entails individualism and non-sheeple behavior but it became clear to me that it often has to do with the ego as well. Don’t confuse discipline with authority. Not all rules are detrimental. Tell yourself that you can’t possibly make a thorough, intelligent judgement without seeing and experiencing the totality of the course.
The worst part is the isolation. Even if you don’t speak all day, you read or watch something to communicate with the outside world. Growing up in a family of 7, I seldom keep quiet for even an hour. I think you really do come face to face with your inner demons doing Vipassana simply because you can’t ignore, express or distract yourself from them. You’d think you’d explode if feelings do not have an outlet. But Vipassana teaches you how to change your reaction, the preliminary filter system that dictates what lingers in your head and what doesn’t, so that it never needs to be released. It’s tough to get the hang of but when you do, the freedom you feel from your own emotions is liberating.
I think the environment and over-exaggeration about how much humans suffer to the point where “our lives are full of misery” isn’t entirely a bad thing because it stresses you out which in turn, puts a bigger boulder of cravings/aversions on your shoulder that you have to learn to not react to. The course is tiring and monotonous so you need persistence but also patience when the emotional roller coasters start coming in. There are days I bawled and I had no idea why. You are messing with layers of your mind so expect to be rattled over and over. But if you have the self-discipline to finish the course there is nothing you can’t do.