Every one of us is in pursuit of peace and happiness. Some of us look for it in friends and family, experiences like parties, travel, food etc and some of us turn to spirituality.
I started meditating 7 years ago and ever since I heard about Vipassana meditation I have been wanting to try it. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Vipassana is a silent meditation program where you switch off your phones and meditate in silence for 10 days.
Vipassana meditation was practiced by the Buddha and then passed on to disciples, unaltered, generation after generation. It took a while to find a program and I was excited to learn that I got off the waitlist and made it to the program.
I flew into the Twin Cities a day before the retreat began and took a ride into a small town in Wisconsin where the retreat center was. It was a beautiful location set in the woods. I checked in, and everyone in the program was given an orientation about the program and the expected conduct. I was sharing a room with 2 other girls and we were allowed to meet and greet each other on the arrival day but were to begin our silence the next day when the program started. So we all switched off our phones and turned them in before we went to bed that evening.
I was truly amazed at how the program was run completely by donations and volunteers. There were volunteers cooking meals for us and setting up the meditation hall and the center. You don’t have to pay anything to register for the program. After you complete your program you choose to make a donation you can afford and/or you could choose to volunteer to help out with upcoming programs.
Here is how the program roughly looked like. Wake up at 4:30 am, get ready and go to the meditation hall at 5 am to start your meditation. Then breakfast is served around 7 am. After which you get some free time to take a shower, take a walk etc. Then you sit down for your next session which runs until lunch. After lunch you have another break before the next session which runs approximately until 5 pm. Then you are shown some talks by Mr. Goenka, the man who started it all. After that everyone retires to bed to wake up the next day and repeat it all.
The program was challenging on both my body and my mind. After a few days the aches and pains intensified but I kept at it. My mind was also constantly focused on the next task at hand. For example I would look forward to breakfast during my morning meditation and then look forward to lunch during my afternoon session. Towards the end of the program I could feel the sensations in my body and tune into my body more easily. In the end I was glad I persevered till the end. I realized how strong my mind and body is.
I have since tried to keep a regular practice but had my lapses. Every time I go back to doing it I find a lot of peace and joy. From the recent books I have read on spirituality by Echart Tolle and Michael Singer, I have realized that Vipassana is a truly great practice to live a more joyful and empowered life. The true path to peace and happiness is one that takes us within us.