An experience very difficult to describe.
Let’s start from the facts: how it looks like in practice.
Vipassana is a 10-days course of meditation, the longest 10 days of my life. Everybody arrives during the afternoon to register, get to know all the rules, settle in the small room as well as having a last chance to consider whether they are ready for such an experience. Next morning the course begins. The basic rule of those 10 days is the so called Noble Silence. You can’t communicate with anybody, neither verbal nor nonverbal. No gestures, no glances, no letters, no physical contact. The only thing you can do is to ask questions to the teacher for meditation-related matters and ask for help to the volunteers who are responsible for logistics, but even this should be limited as much as possible. Of course you can’t communicate with the outside world, not even leave the place. The first day you deposit all electronics, books, notebooks, musical instruments, cigarettes. During all course it’s not allowed to read, write, sing, listen to music, drink alcohol or smoke, nothing besides meditating, eating, washing and maybe walking, but also not too fast as sport is forbidden. During all 10 days there is a strict separation of man and woman, the only common space is the big mediation hall, but even there you sit on different sides of the room, on different color pillows, you have different teacher of adequate gender, different screen to watch the evening lecture.
Sounds like prison? Well, it feels like that sometimes. But it’s a prison you choose yourself.
The day starts with a gong at 4.00 am. At 4.30 the first two hours of meditation. At 6.30 breakfast. At 8.00 next 3 hours of meditation plus some instructions. At 11.00 lunch. At 1 pm next 4 hours of meditation. At 5 tea and fruit (for new students) or water with lemon (for those who participated in the course at least once before). At 6 pm one hour meditation, at 7 pm a lecture during which the teacher explains the theory of Vipassana and gives instructions for the next day, at 8.30 last half an hour of meditation. At 9.30 lights are switched off. All in all 10-11 hours of meditation and 1-2 hours of instruction and lecture. Everything in sitting position, possibly without moving.
It’s as difficult as it sounds, or maybe even more.
Everyone experiences it in a different way. Everyone has to face different things, has different emotions, thoughts, challenges. For me one of the most touching experience was to sit one hour without any movement, literally any. Maybe it doesn’t sound like very spiritual thing, but for me it was next occasion to won with myself, something like marathon or breaking the desk (if some of you participated in Wendo, knows what I mean).
When I heard the first time that we should stay still for one hour, without any movement or changing position, I thought that’s a joke. On the pillow, on the floor. It was so uncomfortable that I needed to change positions every 5 minutes: how come I don’t move for one hour? Yet, I’ve decided to stay still a little bit longer with every meditation.
5 minutes before the end of a meditation session the teacher starts to chant. It means that in a few moments we are free to move.
The first time I was able to stay in the same position for one hour it was in the 7th day, during the afternoon meditation. When the teacher started to chant, I cried. Even now, after few weeks, I still have tears in my eyes when I write about it. What it really means to stay still for one hour? It means to overcome your pain. It is painful, amazingly painful. You feel pain in every part of your body, every second bigger and bigger. You can’t get used to it. Rather it’s worse and worse, as after one week of sitting your body is extremely tired. But pain is only partly in the body. Much part of it is in our mind. Don't let the pain overcome you. Just observe, without any emotions, like any other sensation of your body. There is pain, ok, but it has no power over me. It’s an amazing experience.
I didn’t have any other, big, spiritual discovery. No Wow effect. Few new thoughts, few observations. There could be several reasons for that. First of all, I’m after two years of intensive work on myself, I’m quite self-conscious. Secondly, I feel I’m on the right path, probably if I went to Vipassana one year ago, the effect would have a different magnitude. This time we went there out of curiosity rather than need. It can be also that Vipassana is simply not for me and I have to find another meditation method. But it doesn’t mean it’s not for you. To know, there is no other way than try it yourself. Everyone experiences it differently. None of the reviews can give you the answer if it’s worth to try. It is. Otherwise you would never know if it’s working. Already the possibility of being with yourself for 10 days is quite unique.
Today, after several weeks, I still feel calmer; it’s easier to be here and now. I love the world a little bit more. And every day I meditate for at least few minutes.