Summer 2018 was really bad for me. I had an exhausting study year, at that moment I was doing two Master’s Degrees simultaneously, and I was working part-time during studies. The only entertainment during this summer, which was away from my boyfriend and all my friends, was social media and Netflix.
When I was scrolling through YouTube, I came across a video where a famous influencer told about the Vipassana meditation retreat. I clicked on the video and I was impressed. Wow, I thought. In just 10 days you can change your entire life. And you know what? I believed it (it was a rather desperate idea of me but it met all my expectations). I started to prepare for this meditation retreat with 10 minutes of meditation with an app called Headspace.
In September, when I returned to the Netherlands, my life changed dramatically but not for the good!
At that time, meditation with Headspace did not work at all. But I continued practicing meditation because I believed that it should help me. Also, I signed up for the retreat in October. The retreat was planned for January 2019.
Preparation for the vipassana meditation retreat
The first challenge I had to face was to wake up early because the meditation sessions started at 4 o’clock in the morning (at the end of this post you can look at the timetable of the retreat, every day was the same schedule, even during the weekend) and I am not an early bird at all. From October I started to wake up at 6 in the morning. Some days I found very difficult and some days were easy, but that was very useful training for me!
The second challenge was meditating for more than 20-30 minutes without changing a position. First of all, I had to understand which position was the most comfortable for me. Secondly, my body started hurting after 20 minutes. My advice here: before going on the retreat, try different positions that you find the most comfortable and try to prepare yourself for long sittings already at home. At least you will have a feeling of what does it look like and will be less afraid at the retreat itself.
The arrival to the Vipassana meditation retreat
I arrived there at 5 in the evening, registered and checked in. The retreat took place in Germany, but you can check out the website and choose the location that is most suitable for you. In the room were four beds, one bathroom, a table, a chair, and a cupboard, so the room was small but cozy. My roommates were three german girls.
I put down my suitcase and went downstairs for dinner.
That day we had a vegetarian soup and coffee/tea. After the evening meal, we went to the meditation room for instructions. All instructions were in an audio format. The teacher who gave the instructions was S.N. Goenka. When we came out of the meditation room, the “noble silence” began. That means that you were not allowed to talk to others, only to the manager or the teacher. You could also not use body language or have eye contact.
VIPASSANA meditation retreat (FIRST THREE DAYS)
The bell rang at 4 in the morning on Thursday 10th. I was very energetic. The first meditation started at half-past four and during that meditation, we could stay in our own room and meditate. The first meditation lasted two hours and that was slow, very slowly. At half-past six: the bell rang for breakfast, finally! The breakfast was delicious. On the table were peanut butter, different kinds of jam, butter, cereal, cornflakes, chia seeds, home-made bread and much more. After breakfast, I went to my room because I was very tired and wanted to sleep. At 8 o’clock in the morning, the bell for meditation rang and we had to go to the meditation hall.
That meditation was with the teachers and mandatory. After the meditation, the other meditation started till lunch. The lunch was also delicious: home-made bread, pasta, salads, vegetables, baked potatoes, different kinds of nuts, home-made bread (did it mention it already? it was too delicious) and much more. During the lunch break, we could take a walk outside or rest in our rooms.
After resting I went back to the meditation hall. There were other three meditation sessions from 1 pm to 5 pm. In between sessions, we had 5-10 minutes breaks, because the whole body hurt and we needed to move. In the afternoon after meditations, there was a break for tea/coffee and fruits (apples, bananas, pears).
After the break, there was one hour of group meditation and then a film about what we were actually practicing during this day with explanations by S.N. Goenka. The film was the best part of the day (for me) because you were not allowed to talk, read or listen to music all day long and the film was great brain activity. After the film, there were 20 minutes of meditation with audio instructions from S.N. Goenka for the next day and then: sleep. My impression from the first day was complicated: enthusiasm together with tiredness. The second and third days looked the same as the first one: the same technique that we had to practice during meditations and the same timetable.
IN SHORT ABOUT THE FIRST THREE DAYS OF THE VIPASSANA RETREAT
The schedule of the first three days Vipassana meditation retreat was basically the same. During the first three days, we needed to practice a meditation technique called “anapana”, where the participant must focus his / her attention on the upper lip and nose and observe the inhalation and exhalation. If the mind focuses on a single object, it gradually becomes calm and wanders less.
The 2d part of my vipassana retreat experience you can find here.