A reader emailed me about mindfulness and self-awareness. I mentioned to him a meditation retreat I did a few years ago and found an old post I wrote about the experience, answering another reader’s questions about the course.
I did a ten day Vipassana course a few years ago.
What it’s about: It teaches you a meditation technique and gives you the time and space to practice it. It’s based on buddhist beliefs. We meditated for 8-10 hours per day for ten days. That’s basically it. You aren’t supposed to read, write, gesture, etc, except to ask the instructor questions. They provide food and instruction on what to focus on.
Was it hard: Yes, it was hard. The first couple days were painful while getting used to sitting still for so long. I started getting comfortable by the second day. Ten days is a long time (the place I went in Massachusetts required your first session be ten days) so it’s a mental challenge.
Keep in mind, thousands of people have done it. It’s hard, but anyone can do it. You just have to persevere.
Main benefits: Some people had profound, life-changing positive experiences, understanding more about themselves and their perception of the world around them. Some people go regularly. On the other hand, some people left early. I found the experience positive.
The main benefits were a better understanding of my priorities in life, calmness, less attachment to things, more freedom. I haven’t meditated much since then, but I do sometimes, and I keep many of the benefits. I’ll probably go again for shorter sessions periodically.
I later added
By the way, I don’t like religion, so I didn’t like some of the buddhist stuff, but no one else I talked to had a problem with it. I guess I’m more sensitive to religion than most. You can generally ignore the religious part if you want and just get the technique. I did, anyway.
Regarding location, I don’t think it would make that much of a difference. My eyes were closed to meditate around ten hours a day, sleeping seven or eight hours a night, meals in an eating room. There is not much room for variation. Nor should there be. All one needs is quiet.