Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Why I Left My Vipssana Experience Early

Imagine going skiing for the very first time, and instead of taking a class and trying out the bunny slopes, you went to the black slopes, chose the most difficult, and jumped off the side of the mountain, praying you made it down in one piece. That is how Vipassana felt to me. Check out my original post Why Vipassana Meditation Made It On My 2011 Intentions to see why I went in the first place. Needless to say, not the experience I anticipated.

The experience is 10 days, in a remote retreat. You take a vow of silence, which also means no eye contact with your fellow students. The morning bell rings at 4am, with approximately 10 hours of meditation scheduled during the day, half mandatory in the hall, a few hours on your own in your room, and the rest up to the teachers discretion. Meals are served at 6:30am and 11am, simple vegetarian meals. Tea is at 5pm, and in the evening we watch a video created by one of the original teachers of the method. All that I took in well. Granted, it takes awhile to adjust to the sleep schedule and no dinner, but it gets easier. The silence is actually very peaceful. The only time I found it challenging was in those basic social situations, such as bumping into someone and wanting to say "Pardon Me". I had a lady elbow me hard in the head, and you could tell she automatically wanted to apologize, but since she couldn't look at me or speak to me, she scuttled off as quickly as possible.

The meditation itself got to me. Most boring experience of my entire life. I knew Buddhist meditations were simple, most focus on breathing, some do have visualization, and I knew this would be very simple, HOWEVER, I did not expect to spend 3.5 days FOCUSING ON MY NOSTRILS! Yes, my friends, the secret to gaining clarity in meditation and the first step on the path to enlightenment is  to spend approximately 40 hours in 3 days focusing on the small triangle area of your nose. Observe, observe, observe.....for hours, and hours, and hours....yes, I went nuts. Day 4 in the afternoon we learned the actual technique of Vipssana, which basically you do the same thing, working your way through every single part of your body, for the next six days, approximately 65 hours of mediation. I expressed my desire to leave that night and was on the train to Portland the next morning. I knew it would be challenging, and I discovered I was not the first to leave, but I really wasn't prepared. Bunny slopes, bunny slopes.

I have the utmost respect for those who continue the program, and repeat it many times. I hope to one day be in that place and have a better appreciation for it. On a positive note, the establishment was in view of the mountains and had a lovely walking area we spent about an hour in everyday. Deer would come up to the dorm rooms, and one day the kitchen made the most delicious chocolate banana cake squares (which I snuck extra, yum!). The people were friendly and really kind when I chose to leave. Definitely a unique experience.

Do You Meditate? What Forms? Have You Ever Experience Vipssana or Thought About It?


  1. It doesn't sound like my kind of meditation either, I am surprised you made it as long as you did! Fortunately there are many other ways to meditate.

  2. Thanks BTW for the postcard! I am sorry it did not turn out as you had hoped. I applaud you for trying! I couldn't even try it. I have tried meditation. I did it for about a month, and if you looked at how well I felt I did, it would look like one of those sine curves, where the first week or so I couldn't sit still for 5 minutes and focus on nothing, then I got the hang of it, and then for some unknown reason I couldn't do it anymore. Yeah, that was a few years ago. I realize I do much better with guided meditation or prayer. It may sound corny, but my favorite and best chance at success is through the rosary. For a few reasons:
    1. there's something for my hands to do
    2. it's guided and specific...so I have to pay at least some attention
    3. it's repetitious enough that I stop focusing on the words and can go into that little trance
    4. it only takes 20 minutes
    Not sure if that helps, but it works for me...I also discovered on that Alaska trip that it works at keeping me from thinking about how much pain I'm in if hiking too hard.

    I know you will find something that works just as well for you. Good luck!


Related Posts with Thumbnails