A couple of days ago I finished a 10 day Vipassana course. The whole 10 days were spent in silence. A total of 85 students, half male and half female. Once the course started the men were separated from the women. We could not talk to anyone, look at anyone and certainly no gesticulation. We had a set schedule every day along the lines of:

0400 Wake
0430-0630 Meditation in the hall
0630-0800 Breakfast
0800-1100 Meditation in the hall or at your own place
1100-1200 Lunch
1200-1300 Teacher interviews
1300-1700 Meditate in the hall or at your own place
1700-1800 Tea
1800-2100 - Goenka’s (teacher’s discourse)

So quite a bit of meditating… (5-9hrs roughly per day).
The food was absolutely wonderful and something I looked forward to every day. As well as walking around in the forest during the breaks for ‘some kind of exercise’ and watching the kangaroos. We only had two meals per day and were allowed a piece of fruit for supper.

The first three days we had to focus on breathing through our nostrils. "Notice the subtleties where the inhale temperature would feel cool, the exhale feels warm". We were to focus on our breath touching the top of our lip. The reason why we were to focus on breathing through our nostrils and feeling our breath on the top of our lip was to narrow our attention to one part of the body. To focus in on it and observe our sensations. A sensation could be that your nose may start to 'itch' or you may feel yourself want to scratch your top lip because of a 'tickling' sensation. But you must refrain. Observe it and let it pass. 

(The technique of Vipassana is to focus on breath and sensations only).

The fourth day we started to scan our body from “Head to Toe”, feel the sensations through out, and start again. We would do that over and over again each day repetitively. We became aware of when our thoughts would come - and take us away from this body scanning process. Once we realised we were thinking about the past or future, we would pull our attention back to the body scanning and start again… Did I mention that we had to sit still during meditation and not move at all for an entire hour? Of course Goenka said not to sit there in agony... If we had to move we were to do it very slowly and with the tiniest motion possible. We also had to keep our eyes closed for the entire hour.

I believe it was day six or seven when we started scanning our body from “Head to Toe” and then from our, “Toes to Head”. Back and forth, on repeat - feeling the sensations.

Day ten was when noble silence was lifted. We were able to talk & to really look at each other for the first time. But still, no physical contact. I remember finishing morning meditation and reading the sign posted on the wall informing all the students. I started smiling, then laughing uncontrollably as though it was energy releasing from the past ten days of no human interaction... 

During these ten days I had a room mate, Maxi. We had privacy in our room with a curtain drawn down the middle. This course does offer individual rooms for people who wish for more privacy, (if that interests you). In my case, after silence just being lifted I was so excited to see my room mate and catch up on everything. So much had gone on around the living quarters and in the past ten days that it was so nice to be able to talk about everything finally! And to also speak to the other women and hear their stories. The more people I spoke to I realised the majority had come to this retreat to rid some form of misery from their lives. Something had happened, whether recent or from their child hood that they were trying to understand and get past. It was so interesting.

The reason I went to Vipassana was because I read a book called, SEX, DRUGS and MEDITATION. It was about a lady’s personal experience with how she found out about Vipassana and her progression through out the 10 days. All the memories and emotions that were summoned up within her that she had no idea she was bottling up inside; from her child hood. How she changed her life around because of using the Vipassana technique and how now, she lives a happy and purposeful life. Once I finished reading this book I was extremely interested and Googled the closest Vipassana course near me to apply.
The reason I was interested and wanted to experience Vipassana was because I wanted to sit with my thoughts. To simply observe them and see where they wandered to and why.

A few of the ladies over the ten days experienced pain. I’m sure everyone did, including myself. But the areas in which people experienced the pain were all different. There was a lady that was trying to get over her second divorce and had to leave the meditation hall one afternoon because she was getting a migraine.
Another lady who was going through family trouble with her dad just having had a stroke and on top of that, difficulty with her brother. She was having pain in the chest.

The hardest day for me was day four. I felt a lot of pain in my lower back and my knees. But during this day, I was determined not to move an inch for the entire hour. I was focusing my utmost on scanning my body and feeling the sensations through out. Sensations through out my body like pain. My back and knees were aching so badly but I observed it and let it pass. "Unicha, Unicha”, Goenka would repeat consistently. Meaning in english, “Change”. Everything is always changing. Let the sensations rise, observe it, and let it pass.
So as much as the pain was worsening, I remembered “Unicha", observed the pain, let it pass and kept scanning my body from “Head to Toe”.

Towards the end of the hour, because I hadn’t moved an inch, my body became numb. I could no longer feel the pain in my back nor my knees. I felt an intense sensation; a vibration through the centre of me. Goenka would talk about getting to a state of mind in Vipassana where mind and matter don’t exist. At this time, my body was numb, I couldn’t feel my physical form, only this vibration through my centre. It’s as if I wasn’t in my mind but in this completely other dimension exactly as Goenka had said; mind and matter didn’t exist. Then I heard Goenka start chanting over the speakers and I lost it. The one hour of meditation was finished.

It was wonderful. I could not get back to that place in my meditation for the remaining duration of the course, which doesn’t matter. Because every sensation is always changing and we must not get attached to these sensations we feel and that we crave for. Nor should we be averse to any sensation. Just observe and let it pass.

Everyone has cravings. Be it coffee, sport, sunshine, rain, food, music, art etc. Because it makes us feel good.
When someone is upset with us or we become frustrated at a situation or a person, this sensation rises in us that makes us feel angry or upset and lash out and react.

As we become more attuned to these sensations arising in us, whether they are good or bad - we must observe them, and let them pass. It helps us not to lash out, or react. The same applies with what makes us feel good. No matter how good it feels we know this moment isn’t going to last. Everything is always changing. The law of nature.

The Vipassana technique helps us understand little intricacies in our day to day lives & helps us live a life filled with love, compassion and kindness. But one thing is also for certain. This course is hard. But if you are determined you will maintain equanimity and receive a lot of eye-opening information that will do only good!

To search a Vipassana course near you type into Google: (Vipassana "state, country”, - i.e Vipassana Queensland, Australia)

For anyone that lives in Queensland, Australia see link to visit the Vipassana Centre I went to and apply online.


+61 07 5485 2452

 Pomona, QLD Australia

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