My First 10 Day Vipassana Course at Ontario Vipassana Centre
I first came to know about Vipassana course was from a counselor’s twitter feed. I thought it was an interesting, and maybe beneficial course, so I did some googling, and found a lot of positive experience with it. I have been debating for a few month because some of its restrict rules during the 10 day course, I wasn’t sure if I was up for it. Then last October, the Ontario center held an open house, and I went there for a visit and a tour. After I came back, I signed up for a course 4 month later.
The main reasons that I’ve decided to take the course are:
1. I bought a meditation DVD several years ago, which contains 15 min yoga and 15 min meditation, and I’ve never able to complete the 15 min meditation at the end. I would end up frustrated because my mind could not calm down at all.
2. The course is free, and they only take donation at the end of the course. I thought that was pretty hard-core non-profit organization. They must teach some valuable information to be able to survive 15 years in Ontario.
3. A lot of reviews mentioned that the course really helped them to be more peaceful, and happier person in life. I was SO curious on how they help people do that.
So after waiting for 4 month, this day came.
Day 0: I arrived at Ontario Vipassana Center about 3pm, got a room assignment at the front office, unloaded my stuff, signed up for shower time in the residency’s hallway. Just before surrendering my cell phone and wallet, I was wondering around a bit in the area, and enjoyed some really beautiful serenity:
There was a very tasty vegetarian dinner (no more dinner for the next 9 days, but has tea and fruits), and we got first meditation instruction on Anapana Sati – the observation of our natural respiration after that. Nobile silence officially started.
Day 1: Comparing to my body ache during meditation, waking up at 4am was really nothing. Every inch of my back muscle, my neck, my shoulder was in pain. I was changing postures every 10 minutes, checking my watch every 5 minutes. My mind was constantly being reminded the discomfort all over the body. I finally got a back rest during discourse at 7pm, and got to keep it for the rest of the course.
Discourse: I came to this concept of “mindfulness” last year – focus on present time. I had really hard time understanding this concept. What should I do to be on present time. I had really great explanation from Mr. Goenka: when you are meditating, your mind might wonder away. When it wonders away, it’s either in the past time (which is memory), or in the future time (something hasn’t happened yet), but never something in the present moment. If you focus your awareness on your respiration, that IS your “present time”. Life can really be lived only in the present. Therefore, the first step is to learn to keep the mind on a present reality.
Day 2: Started focusing the triangle area around nostrils, feeling the incoming and outgoing air around the nostrils. One lighting moment for me: maybe I have sore back muscles because I sit with rounded back. If I sit with straight back so that the muscles have proper support, it wouldn’t be screaming so hard to me. Yes, I was right! I could sit with straight back during the 3 one-hour group meditation without back pain. I was still using a back rest for other meditation time.
Discourse: the goal of the course is to change your behaviour pattern. I thought, oh, I did not know that; and I got more curious about the rest of the course.
Day 3: Focusing awareness on the small area between nostrils and upper lip, and notice any sensations during your respiration. My mind still wonders away from time to time, but less and less now.
Discourse: It is proved by physics experiment that the entire universe is constantly changing, nothing is permanent. Everything is ephemeral, arising and passing away every moment. A lot of illusions are created by apparent and integrated reality, ie: illusion of physical beauty. You have just done a beautiful nail art, it looks very nice on you, but a cut piece would look disgusting to someone. (Yeah, I just did my nail last month)
Day 4: Been given first instruction of Vipassana in the afternoon: exploring the truth about yourself at the level of body sensations – move your attention through the body in order, and examine each part for any sensations.
Discourse: There are three types of action: physical, vocal, and mental. Both physical and vocal actions are the results or projections of the mental action, which is your mind. There are 4 segments of the mind:
|Segment of mind||Example|
|Consciousness||Notes the fact that a sound has came|
|Perception||From one’s past experience, one recognizes the sound:
words of praise = good; words of abuse = bad
Perception gives the sound a valuation
|Sensation||According to the valuation, sensation becomes pleasant or unpleasant|
|Reaction||Pleasant sensation = liking it, and develops into great craving
Unpleasant sensation = disliking it, and develops into aversion
Vipassana teaches the art of living: how to become master of the present moment, and how not to generate a reaction at this moment.
Day 5: Continue practicing first instruction of Vipassana. Checking my watch every 10 mins from day 1 to every 30 mins now.
Discourse: All the sufferings in life, are arisen from one of the following four attachments:
1. One’s desires, to the habit of craving. Ie: craving for brand name handbag, is actually craving for the sensation of owning that handbag.
2. Clinging to I, mine. Attachment to something impermanent is bound to bring misery.
3. Attachment to one’s views and beliefs, and cannot bear any criticism of them, or even accept different views.
4. Clinging to one’s rites, rituals, and religious practices.
Day 6: Scanning through your body part by part in order, examine multiple parts simultaneously and symmetrically. Rain has stopped in the afternoon. Fog started to dissipate. The top half the tree is clear, but bottoms half the tree still foggy. It was heavenly scenery. I was like: damn! I wanted my camera.
Discourse: Every reaction is a seed which gives a fruit, and everything that one experiences in life is a fruit, a result of one’s own actions.
Day 7: Kept going through body part by part simultaneously and symmetrically, from head to toe, then toe to head. I got assigned a personal meditation cell today! But I was a bit hesitate to use it, because I find meditating in the hall was comfortable enough.
Discourse: Two aspects of the technique: awareness and equanimity. You must develop awareness of all the sensations that occur within the framework of the body, at the same time one must remain equanimous towards them.
Day 8: Decided to give the personal cell a try. It actually helped me focus better, because it also blocked my hearing sense. Booked an appointment with teacher after lunch time to clarify the definition of craving: once the desire creates an unbalanced mind, then it becomes a craving. I realized the stuff that’s constantly on my mind were actually cravings of one type or another.
Discourse: the law of multiplication: when you plant a seed, it starts to develop, and grows fruit year after year, and every fruit of that tree contains a seed or a number of seeds. Similarly, every time one generates reaction to a sensation, which sooner or later gives a fruit – same reaction, and one’s misery multiplies.
Day 9: As Mr. Goenka said, today is the last day of some serious meditation. Because tomorrow noble silence would become noble chatty, you would not be able to meditate well. So everyone worked hard. Although I did not feel the warm flow of vibration, I probably need more time to practice it.
Discourse: Application of the technique in daily life: don’t run away from the problem; face it. Observe whatever impurity arises in the mind. Observing does not mean suppressing it, nor expressing itself in harmful vocal or physical action. Action is positive, but reaction is negative.
Day 10: Metta day – loving kindness meditation. We finally could talk after morning group sit, so meals took a lot longer now. It was interesting to know how other people feel about the course, and their meditation experience. I suddenly felt Mr. Goenka’s chanting was so cute, and smiled during my meditation. LOL
Discourse: share your love and compassion with other people, ie: your family, your friends, your enemies.
I am so grateful that the weather has been warm and most of the days have sunshine. The hardest part for my body was not lack of dinner, but lack of cardio exercises, so the good weather was really helpful, and I made sure of 30 mins walk after my breakfast and lunch everyday. The vegetarian meals were quite tasty, I even snapped some photos of their recipe before leaving.
Above concluded my 10 day Vipassana course, it’s a bit lengthy, but I want to remember as much detail as possible. I had doubt in the middle of the course, but I actually noticed the difference it makes in my mind and behaviour. However, it requires consistent daily meditation practice though. They have extensive support system for old students, there’s 1 day meditation course in Toronto area, and I even found a group sitting in my neighborhood. I hope I’ll continue that in the future, and possibly return for volunteering.
May all beings be happy!