Posted by Mansi
Note: Vipassana is a meditation technique first taught by the Buddha. In order to learn it, students are required to live at a Vipassana Center for ten days, during which they follow strict rules (complete silence!) and a schedule that includes 10 hours of meditation every day. The course, lodging and boarding is free of cost. For more information, visit www.dhamma.org.
It’s been four days since I hightailed out of the Vipassana center at Igatpuri with all the zeal of a convict breaking out of prison. On returning to Mumbai that afternoon, I had lunch and margaritas at Sancho’s, shopped for an iPod, and attended the last leg of Mahindra Blues Fest, dancing to Buddy Guy and drinking copious amounts of white wine. “Vipassana hasn’t changed you at all,” my mother sighed.
I laugh and agree, because it feels silly to try and describe the newborn awareness that coats my thoughts and reactions like sheets of cling film, thin, transparent, but still formidable protection. My anger at the office guy’s foolish bumbling is dimmer now; the prospect of an uncertain, uncontrollable future less frightening.
Still, I have doubts. I question to what extent this awareness will help me. I draw distinctions between the technique and camp rules (no talking, no reading or writing, no eye contact, no cell phone or internet), trying to figure out whether it was the meditation or the complete isolation that facilitated my awareness. I wonder if this awareness will last through next weekend.
It’s too early to tell, to do profit-and-loss analysis of ten days that are monetarily free but at the end of which I was mentally and emotionally spent.
But I can tell you this: what seem like biggest barriers to doing this course – complete silence, for instance – are the easiest to surmount. And there are moments when you’re meditating that are unlike anything you’ve ever experienced: for me, they included a session when my entire body seemed evaporate into bubbles, and two days of mixed tapes from when I was 12 constantly playing in my head.
Tips for if you go:
1) Bring food! They don’t serve dinner and breakfast is very, very early in the morning. Strictly speaking, outside snacks are not allowed, but I suggest you take along a stash of cookies and chips.
2) Request for a single room. First time students are usually assigned roommates, and you have no control over who you land up with out of a very, very mixed crowd.
3) Take your own linen. They provide basic sheets and blankets, but I drew a lot of comfort from my own rajai – it made me feel less lonely.
4) If you MUST cheat, sneak in a book or an iPod – these are the least of the evils, and will distract you if you’re going completely nuts.
5) Talk to people who’ve done the course before going. There are days (Day 4 and 6 are doozies) that are particularly difficult. The better prepared you are, the easier it’ll be for you to get through them. Start with this super account of a “Vipassana Virgin” on CNNGo.com.