Friday afternoon I packed my duffle bag full or pajamas and set off to Dhamma Vishuddi in Menomonie, Wisconsin for a two day Vipasanna Course. The course was short- only Friday through Sunday, but as always, it brought me peace and clarity. I know many have you are curious about this technique and my experience, and I would love to share more with you about it.
Vipassana is a style of meditation that was developed by Buddha that takes you to the deepest layer of your mind to remove the “roots” of misery. The technique includes a rigorous schedule of waking up at 4:30 am and meditating for 11-13 hours.
Anyone who wants to learn this technique must commit for 10 days to start. If you have taken other meditation courses that are less than 10 days or not in noble silence, they are not the same as Vipasanna, but I’m sure they were awesome! You have to do the 10 days first in order to learn the technique. Once you have done a 10 day course you can take shorter courses of 2-5 days but also longer ones of months at a time.
The center I frequent offers about 15 courses a year, and only about 5 shorter ones. That being said, when one of the shorter ones comes around, I jump on it.
Two days is extremely manageable. The course started Friday at 6pm. We had a light dinner of soup and salad then sat down for orientation. At 8pm, we were escorted into the Dhamma Hall and the course began with a commitment through chanting. After a short meditation, noble silence was set which means you have to cut off all communication. You cannot communicate with others through speech, eye contact, or gestures. You must turn in all your electronics. You cannot exercise, write, read, or listen to music. You cannot practice any other types of meditation, healing or yoga, you have to fully immerse in the technique for the duration of the course.
Friday night we all went to bed early so Saturday we would be ready to start the course bright and early. The first gong goes off at 4am. The gong ringer was my roommate and…. we all overslept. Thankfully, I had an alarm set for 415, and it went off and woke up our dorm.
You sit from 430-630 then have breakfast. I love breakfast at the center. The oats are a must eat. They coat your stomach just the right amount to carry you through the entire day. I always eat breakfast quickly so I can get back to my room and nap for about 45 minutes before the first official group sit.
The whole group sits together in meditation three times a day. This means everyone, including the teachers and servers will be there. The first sit is from 8-9 am then you are allowed to meditate in the place of your choosing until 11am. The lunch gong goes off then, and you can help yourself to a simple vegetarian buffet. There is always a main entree then salad bar. There is a variety of teas to choose from, which is why I love sitting in the winter months.
After lunch, you can take a break – shower or nap – until 1, and from 1-230 you meditate on your own. At 230, there is the second group sit and after that, you can meditate on your own until 5pm when there is a tea break. As old students, there is no dinner. It’s the hardest time of day for me, it’s when I start to get agitated. I’m hungry, there’s only tea, and because I sit in winter, it’s dark.
The group reconvenes to meditate from 6-7pm, then at 7pm the discourse starts. Usually, our teacher’s (S.N Goenka) discourses are pretty funny. He had the biggest heart and could weave the philosophy in between silly jokes and fun stories. However, this was the first discourse I heard that was simply intense. It was all down to business. After discourse, the group meditated until 9 and after that, off to bed.
This schedule only lasted 1 full day for the 2 day course, but the first time you attend, this schedule is everyday for 10 days. It’s tough and sometimes awful. Your body aches in places you didn’t know existed, and no communication with anyone starts to make you feel lonely. So why go? Why would anyone do this? Because it is life changing.
Vipassana has changed my life. Hands down, one of the best things I have ever had the pleasure of encountering. The technique has guided me to deepest and darkest places of my misery and helped me take charge of my happiness.
I went on my first course in 2014. Before the course, I was constantly angry. The smallest things would irritate me and I often felt foggy and overwhelmed at work and at home. After my first course, I came home a different person. My husband thought they had drugged me, for real.
For weeks, I buzzed with happiness. Everything and everyone was beautiful, life was simple and for once, I felt free. Eventually, being in the real word settled in, and my practice faded, but that’s why I try to attend at least one short course and serve a few times a year. It refreshes my understanding of the technique, and every time I return home from the center, I feel happier and more grounded.
Yesterday, I was bouncing off the walls. Everything was joyful, even teaching three intense yoga classes. My mind was buzzing and I couldn’t help but feel constantly gracious the world around me. There were things that would usually irritate me, like the guy crossing the street very slowly when there was a cross walk a half block away. Instead of getting irritated, I smiled and thought to myself- you have no reason to get mad at him- he is just being. What did he ever really do to you? Nothing got to me, nothing even pinched my happiness, even spilling coffee all over the carpet just made my laugh. It wasn’t a Monday. It was a beautiful day. The best day.
If you ever have 10 days in your life you can commit to the technique, I highly recommend it. Doing the full ten days is not easy, but it is so worth it. It’s kind of like doing an early morning bootcamp. You don’t want to go, but you are grateful for what it does for your health.
I’ve written a few blogs about Vipassana that are linked below. If you want to check out more on the center, here is a great link that takes you their site about the course as well as the technique. Please reach out to me if you have questions. There are many paths to peace, and this has been mine.