- Ten days of silence and no type of communication
- Eleven hours of meditation a day
- Waking up at 4 AM
- Not eating anything after 11 AM (or before 7AM)
- No books, music, writing material, sport… No distraction
Is it prison? Was I grounded? No, I attended a meditation camp called Vipassana.
What is Vipassana?
In a few words, Vipassana is the meditation technique developed by Buddha himself more than 2500 years ago. It isn’t religious, it’s ‘only’ about control of the mind, wisdom about oneself and morality.
The idea is that we are responsible for our own misery. By always craving more for the things we like and creating aversion against the things we don’t like, we don’t appreciate the present and create a spiraling constant stress. For example: you sleep in the street and want a roof. Once you have a roof, you want a room for yourself, then an apartment, a house, a larger house, a palace, a castle… You always think you’d be happy with just a little bit more and crave for it. Vipassana helps you training your unconscious mind to stay equanimous and controlling your emotions by observing your sensations (heat, itching, numbness, etc.). It helps you see the things as they really are, avoid being led by your emotions and create craving or aversion and thus misery. At the same time, observing the fact that sensations come and go allows you to be more detached from everything (belongings and emotions) as everything is just passing, nothing in life is permanent. Neither the positive nor the negative things. Simply enjoy the current moment.
(ok, it wasn’t as short as I hoped.)
How was it?
Let’s start with the questions I had entering the course:
- Will I get enough food? / Yes!!!
- Will I fall asleep during the meditation / Yes!!! (but coughing people woke me up)
- Will i have to sleep in a dorm with several with other snoring guys / Yes I slept with ear plugs and a pillow over my head…
- Will I be able to sit during hours and hours… / Yes
- Did I bring enough toilet paper? / Yes
- Will it really be a life changing experience / Don’t know yet…
Ten days without speaking or communicating was actually really cool. Walking like a zombie ignoring the other students is easy. It’s a bit like being in a public transport in Switzerland. It also gave me time to think a lot, something you can never do in your ‘real’ life.
The 11 hours meditation were actually much harder. It’s not only meditating, it’s staying seated with closed eyes all that time. If you add the 6 hours of sleep, you stay with closed eyes 17 hours a day!
The first two days are 100 % dedicated to the observation of your breath: in/out, in/out, in/out, in/out, in/out, in/out, in/out, in/out and then in/out, in/out, in/out, in/out, in/out, in/out, in/out, in/out. Try doing it during 10 minutes then tell me also how many times you actually started thinking about something else!
On the third day, you can start observing the area between your nostrils and the mouth. I am sure that you think it’s boring, but I can tell you from experience that it actually feels like you just got a new PlayStation game! Yeah!!! A new area!!!!
The fourth day is the happiest day there as your start the real work and start observing the sensations all over your body. You feel like having a new world opening… But two days doing it and again, you feel like going away running.
Sometimes, they add some chanting, in Buddha’s own language. It’s supposed to help the concentration. After five days, I felt like throwing my chair against the speaker… Not very equanimous, I know… I am still a student Also, they had two cocks and two chicks… During rest time, I loved them as it was like watching a telenovela. But during the meditation, the constant cock-a-doodle-do gave me ideas of chicken soup…
On the third day, they add a new fun part: the strong determination sitting. Three times as day, during one hour, you are not allowed to move… at all! Even (especially) if your back starts hurting like hell… It’s supposed to help you observe the pain and see that often, it is less strong than what we build in our mind. It was actually true, but well… It was still veeery long.
A cool side effect of all this observing is that when you have time to rest, you feel like heightened senses. Similar to wearing glasses improve the vision, all our senses started being much sharper, as well as our attention. I spent 30 min observing a fly on my hand, another 30 feeling the touch of an ant walking on my arm and an hour listening to the breathe in the branches of the trees. And I must say I enjoyed it all a lot!
It’s very early to speak about the results of the meditation. Just like fitness training, you have to watch it on the long run and should continue practicing it. But 2 days out, and I must say that small things which used to annoy me don’t annoy me anymore, I enjoy much more the current moment and worry less about upcoming potential problems. So I actually feel an improvement to my quality of life. Let’s see if it lasts… I will do a follow up post in several weeks. In the meantime, Be Happy
PS: I finally understood why the answer to the question of Life, the Universe and Everything is 42! It’s so obvious now! Do the course if you want to know! (Hint: read ‘the hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy’ if you don’t know what I am speaking about).