I decided to go on a Vipassana meditation course about 8 months ago and nervously waited for the sign up date. After a tense wait for the final hour I clicked the link and saw that my application had been successful. I was in!!!
When I got there it was exactly as my brother had said it would be, I looked like I had no idea what I was doing. Would I really not be allowed to talk for 10 days? How many hours a day would I have to sit and meditate? What would the food be like?
I don't want to tell you exactly what it was like. I don't want to spoil the experience for you. You need to discover your own truth, not my truth nor anyone else's. That's why I will leave out some key pointers for you to discover on your own.
What I am going to tell you now is something I wish someone had explained to me before I went - Trust the process, do not question why because you will only be wasting your time. This approach worked for me, so if you focus it will work for you. If you have questions you can always ask your teacher.
I remember how disappointed I was when, after 4 days, I was introduced to a new type of meditation. I said to myself "I spent 4 days preparing myself to do body scan? Is that it?” Well the answer is: yes that's it. And this means much, much more than I could have imagined.
Insight 1. Pain is in your head.
Yeah right! We have all heard this but it still hurts.
Pain is part of the process. You need to be able to feel pain to be able to experience it. The experience of it is the only key to truly knowing that the pain is only in your head.
You will have to go through some tough experiences to get to this point but trust me on this - It is only in your head. Tip. The more focused you are the less pain you will feel.
Insight 2. Everything changes.
I know it and you know it. It's obvious.
I must admit I worked out the pain side of change. However I got a bit sad when I was told that good things also change. Nothing remains stationary. We will constantly experience ups and downs. That's how life goes.
It all manifested later during the course. It's been 10 days since I finished the course and I'm still trying to working this one out. But I will explain that in a bit. Keep reading.
Insight 3. You will actually feel your body - maybe for the first time in your life.
You will find out what walking really feels like, and feel how your food moves down your throat. You will discover the full depth of flavour in your food. You will be able to tell whether the pain you are feeling is only in your head or whether you are feeling an old injury.
By doing this you are learning to understand the connection between your brain and the psychosomatic response in your body to your problems. All this is possible because you do a "body scan”.
Insight 4. I can eat twice a day and still feel good.
While I was on course I ate twice a day. Breakfast and then lunch in the afternoon and I felt fine.
I continue this kind of eating now. While I was there I lost 6 pounds (3 kg) but I was still giving my body what it needed. I had one massive meal in the day to keep my body satisfied, as I like to eat a lot, then a 16 -18 h fast before the next day's breakfast.
I don't remember achieving the same level of performance on my BJJ training in 2 years ago and I have lost another 2 pounds since I finished the course.
So where is my "wow" experience??
Going there I expected the "wow” experience. But nothing seemed to happen at all - until the 10th day when I talked about my work. Then I had huuuuge "aha moment” and because I had learnt about body scan I could connect that exact feeling in my head with actual sensations on my body. I realised that other types of meditation, especially visualizing my perfect future, only made me crave that future.
My craving wasn't a healthy motivator. I felt that my anxiety attacks where caused by an intense feeling that I wasn't achieving what I wanted so badly to achieve. I felt physically sick from my strong desire for a better future.
If you were to ask me if it's worth going on this course my answer would be yes. You should definitely do this. Even if it turns out that it's not your thing, you might have funny story about how you lived like a monk for 10 days.