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The common myths about Vipassana are that it’s all about an empty stomach, and ten long days filled with nothing. The truth is, there’s more to it!
Imagine this. You sign up for a 10-day meditation course. You reach the peaceful facility located in midst of nature. Check in. Get a comfortable room. Visit the well-maintained dining and meditation halls. Eat simple, delicious food. Everything is bathed in tranquility.
Sounds wonderful, right?
Now, you are the only person in the 10 day programme, which runs from 4 AM – 9 PM daily. How would you feel?
Are you are comfortable with this setup? This is exactly what is required to get through 10 days of Vipassana!
What I heard most frequently about Vipassana before I attended the course was that you can’t talk to anyone for ten days. No mobile phones are allowed. Are you an early riser? Because they ask you to wake up at 4 AM daily! Can you survive on two meals a day? As a dedicated foodie who survives on mandatory Sunday chicken biryani, this really scared me!
But trust me when I say these are all minuscule elements in the larger scheme of things – the bigger game is putting in 10 hours a day towards meditation! A regular day at work or home is never comprised of doing just one single task repeatedly throughout the day. Just imagine, do nothing but roll chapatis morning to evening or convince (arguing with benevolence) your teammate on just one point for 10 hours a day!
Though eventually this repetition does brings its own rewards, I suppose. Chapatis become perfectly round. The teammate might agree to your point, probably because he is tired and only too ready to give up! In this case, with the hours of meditation, the mind becomes calmer and meditation becomes easier.
Vipassana is an ancient meditation technique discovered by the Buddha about 2500 years back. The word ‘Vipassana’ translates to insight – which is the final destination of the course, observing reality as it is by observing the truth. But this is done by realising the deep connection between mind and body. It is self-transformation by self-observation. For this to occur, there is a strong need to abstain from interaction with others, which adds to the calming of the mind as we move ahead with the process.
As soon as I received confirmation for the course, I began to prepare for the 10 day program. I meditated for 20 – 30 minutes every day without making any movement, and ate only soup for dinner. My cook was visibly annoyed – making roasted pumpkin soup is not easy as making rotis! These two were the easiest changes.
The pandemic was doing enough to kill social connections anyway, so further refraining from human interaction was out of question. No talking is just impossible to practise in household of two, where survival means finding a person to blame for the unwashed coffee mugs. My husband had sensed my deepest fears in the no dinner clause and trolled me incessantly that I would probably lose weight or snap on someone there out of hunger!
Some saner people told me, there is science to what they teach, so follow meticulously. So that is exactly what I decided to do – after all it is just for 10 days. And that is exactly what I did.
At the end of the course, I walked out of the centre quite relaxed, with a fair understanding of the Vipassana technique and laughed at myself for overthinking how I will survive this course.
So let me bust some myths about the course and how in reality it is actually easier than you think.
No dinner was the easiest to conquer – Last meal for the day is composed of a snack of mildly flavoured puffed rice, tea and banana, provided at 5 PM. A few hours later when you hit the bed at 9.30 PM after a long day of meditation, sleep swoops in and kicks out the mildest traces of hunger. And let’s face it, we all have skipped a meal and just got through the day quite well! In most cases, breakfast, which is most crucial meal for the day is usually missed; followed by a series of coffees and teas, spiking acidity. So if you could do that, last meal at 5 PM is no big feat.
Waking up at 4 AM – Everyone who has taken an early morning flight knows the drill. Bags are packed, alarm is set, cab is booked and you get to the airport right on time to get through morning rush. You even manage to sneak in a quick coffee before you board! If this well-oiled machinery is already up and running, how difficult can it be to let it run daily for ten days? Also when you sleep at 9.30 PM, there is a decent 6 hours’ sleep window, which is guaranteed to put you in fresh mode when you wake up!
Noble Silence – Quite honestly, this is a tough one to embrace, in certain aspects. While you are surrounded by strangers, the inherent need to interact tends to be minimal, especially when you have a hectic schedule. Also when you voluntarily sign up for course like this, sub-consciously the conviction to let go to mobile, mails, social media, etc falls in place. Missing your dear ones, worrying about their state of health, the desire to have a quick word, are feelings that normally arise. However, after the fourth day, the mind calms a bit and commits to the task of solid 60 minutes of meditation, without making a movement. Silence is not only desired, but already all-pervasive.
Meditating for 10 hours daily – Imagine those long days of Annual Review meetings, planning sessions, workshops and day-long trainings that HR organises. The same strong will which got us through such agonising events, rises again to guide us through 10 hours plus of daily meditation. Series of back, shoulder, neck pains will emerge and vanish as days progress. After all, that’s how we get through almost everything in life!
There is a set out there who think Vipassana is like ‘plastic surgery for the personality’! Let us be clear – Vipassana will not transform you instantly. It’s not 2 minute Maggi noodles or BB Cream for the Soul! It aims at creating a balanced mind filled with love and compassion through mental conditioning. So don’t sign up thinking you will go into the centre as a hyperactive workaholic hothead and walk out a smiling angel radiating an aura of calm. Well, good if that happens! But, next time you lose your cool, and prepare to swear, you will be aware of the negativity it generates, and eventually learn to handle it better.
Some call it Retreat, some call it Detox, some call it Program – every definition is right in its own way. 10 day course to learn Vipassana is a deeply thought through programme that creates the perfect ambience to learn and understand the benefits of meditation.
So, do not let the little things stop you from achieving bigger goals in life!
Image by Shahariar Lenin from Pixabay
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Electrical engineer turned into Marketer. From heartland of Tamilnadu but almost Mumbaikaar.
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