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My Experience At A Vipassana (10 Day Silent Meditation Course)

Updated: Jun 2, 2022

I’ve just returned from my first Vipassana experience and my mum says I’m glowing.

I didn’t push myself into this decision with any intentions or expectations. My only stipulation was that no matter how hard things got, I’d stay the full course and not abandon ship in the middle of the night.

While I hate talking in clichés, I cannot help but say that a Vipassana is a truly life changing experience. I went in with the hope that learning Vipassana might brighten my spark a little, and I’m walking away with a raging inferno.

But just so there is no misunderstanding, the course is not easy. It is very intense.

Very, very intense.

To complete a Vipassana requires commitment, diligence, consistency, discipline, and an enormous amount of resilience. But just like anything you work extremely hard for – the payoff is worth it.

The daily timetable looked something like this:

0400 – Wake up gong

0430 – 0630 – Group meditation in the hall

0630 – 0800 – Breakfast and Rest

0800 – 0900 – Meditation (of strong determination)

0900 – 1100 – Meditation in the main hall, or in your room

1100 – 1200 – Lunch (all meals very vegetarian, and delicious)

1200 – 1300 – Rest (aka, nap)

1300 – 1430 - Meditation in the main hall, or in your room

1430 – 1530 – Meditation (of strong determination)

1530 – 1700 – Meditation in the main hall, or in your room

1700 – 1800 – Supper (two pieces of fruit only)

1800 – 1900 – Meditation (of strong determination)

1915 – 2015 – Teacher’s discourse (with talks by S.N Goenka - easily the best part of every day)

2015 – 2100 – Group meditation in the hall

2130 – Lights out

And you do this for ten days, with absolutely no speech or no acknowledgment of your fellow meditators, with little changes to the routine except when learning new parts of the technique. For someone who is almost perma-stimulated, it is a pleasant shock to the system.

DAY ONE – The Day That Never Ended

My first day on the Vipassana was easy-going and calming for the most part. It was truly a joy to have handed over my phone, to be free of distractions and the normal everyday worries of a busy life, and just unwind with some intense meditation. However, when one is denied even the smallest of stimulation (i.e., nodding at someone with acknowledgement), their mind goes haywire, and the concept of time ceases to exist. By around 5pm on Day One it felt like I had been tossed around in a time warp, that 13 hours felt more like…3 days? A week? It’s a very strange sensation.

DAY TWO – The Day of Adjustment and Adaption

Day two again starts with a wake-up gong at 4am and is followed by two hours of intense meditation. I notice that I’m starting to get hang the of it, and the rest of the day goes by fairly smoothly. Emotions come, and they go. Thoughts hang around for a bit, and then dissolve. I eat, I drink, I meditate, I rest. Wash rinse repeat.

DAY THREE – The Day I Was a Miserable Bastard

Day three begins with a 4am wake-up gong that pierces my soul and echoes around my head like a flail held by a bloodthirsty Viking.

The rest of the day, unfortunately, doesn’t get any better.

By supper time (“two pieces of fruit AGAIN! Are you KIDDING ME!”) I’m a miserable wreck. All I want is to be back home, watching The Sopranos and cuddling with my dogs. My brain pipes up with a “just leave. No point doing a Vipassana if you’re going to be miserable. Just bail” and honestly, I do give it some thought before firing back an internal “thanks brain,” before returning to my room to focus on my breathing and comb my beard. The only two pleasures I’m entitled to. I keep reminding myself that I’m here for a purpose, and that ten days is the minimum time required to learn this potentially life changing technique.

Begrudgingly, I stay.

“Like all things, this feeling will also pass” I remind myself. Repeatedly.

DAY FOUR – The Day I Tripped Without the Use of Psychedelic Substances

Day Four is Vipassana day. The schedule looks a little different, in that there is a two-hour block at 2pm in which you finally sit down to learn Vipassana. The first three days has been approximately 30 hours of meditating on awareness of breath, and the sensation on the upper lip. Very simple, very direct.

At this point, I really didn’t know what to expect. I was prepared for Vipassana to be anything. I’m a HUGE proponent of meditation, and personally I’ve tried myriad meditation techniques to varying levels of efficacy and enjoyment, so I’m truly excited.

We sit down to learn the technique and are advised that henceforth, we’ll be doing three one-hour sittings a day with “Noble Determination,” meaning we are advised and encouraged to not move or change our posture. I know some pain is coming, so I allow my inner David Goggins to come and sit calmly in my brain, reading to enforce the law if I slip.

In essence, the Vipassana technique is observing sensations in the body as the arise and inevitably dissipate. It is experiencing the law of nature – that everything is impermanent – through our own sensations, without reacting to them. If we can train ourselves to not react to sensations in the body by aversion or attachment, we can reduce our misery and the misery of those close to us. One sensation I found in my first Vipassana sitting became extremely obvious to me – pain.

At roughly the one-hour mark of my first sitting, I started observing the pain developing in my lower back. It started as a dull ache, morphed into a burning sensation, changed again into a crushing sensation, worsened into a fire-in-the-bones type sensation before its final metamorphosis into some type of mutant alien agony I had never quite experienced before. All I wanted to was bail.

“I will not yield” I say to myself internally

The pain continues to worsen, baiting me to shift positions, or leave the meditation hall in tears.

“I will NOT yield” I say to myself again, a little louder this time.

Still the pain continues to worsen, infecting other internal parts of my lower and middle back that I’d never even known existed.

“I WILL NOT YIELD” I scream inside my head. Repeatedly. Like a total weirdo.

The pain continues to worsen, until…BOOM

I completely left my body.

I couldn’t tell you where I went. All I know is that it didn’t feel human. I have a vague recollection of some incredibly vivid extra-terrestrial imagery and a harmonious humming pulsing throughout my body.

The next 45 minutes may as well have been 45 seconds or 45 hours. The concept of time completely dissipated as I zoned in on the vibrations exploding throughout my body, from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. I felt absolutely filled with a powerful type of energy I had never imagined possible. Neither pain nor pleasure existed in this world, I simply existed as I am – a collection of atoms.

DAY FIVE – The Day I Considered Murder

After the amazing experiences on day four I entered day five with a sense of unbridled optimism, fully believing I had passed the hump and that things moving forward would be easy, comfortable, and effortless. In doing so, I had forgotten the main point about Vipassana – that everything is impermanent. Everything is always in a state of change, whether we are aware of it or not.

Consequently, I wasn’t prepared to deal with the frustration, annoyance, impatience, irritation and ultimately, fury that I had to withstand on this day.

Every little thing bugged me. I had no appetite, and so being at breakfast, lunch and supper was irritating for me because I simply did not want to eat. My roommate had a bad cough, and I wanted to scream. I couldn’t comprehend that while it was day five, I still had SIX more nights here. “Six more nights of self-imposed suffering” was what I thought, again forgetting the purpose of Vipassana – to recognise the impermanence of all experiences.

Yes, on this day there were times I wanted to scream, throw things, and snuff out my roommate. I was extra sensitive, and my emotions were not pleased.

DAY SIX – The Day I Changed My Name from Sam Drake to “Parsley” - The Cool, Calm, Collected Customer

Day Six was brilliant.

Every meditation I sat, I improved my technique and got deeper and deeper.

I was calm from sunrise to sunset.

I was grateful for life, grateful for the experience, and grateful that I’d decided to undertake such a serious task.

I basically felt like I was walking on a cloud all-day. While it was wonderful, I still reminded myself that “this will also change” and tempered my expectations going into day seven, falling asleep with a huge smile…

DAY SEVEN – The Purge

…And waking up with a grimace at the 4am gong.

Grumpy and irritable is how I’d accurately describe myself to start day seven. My first sitting from 4:30-6:30 was a disaster. I was unable to focus, concentrate or feel much in the body. Following day six, this felt like a failure on my behalf, and I couldn’t help wondering if I’d lost the ability to engage with the Vipassana technique.

Instead of being defeated however, I decided that I’d work extra hard and employ a relentless sense of fortitude to the remainder of the day.

I sat for every second of the three afternoon meditations with complete determination (I did not move a muscle for any of them) and found that my focus was incredible. I started feelings sensations under my skin I had never experienced before, like small implosions.

I left my final afternoon sitting at 1700, feeling quite dizzy and dazed. I had a feeling of calmness, but simultaneously felt on edge, nervous, and anxious. I sat down for supper and ate my two pieces of fruit.

And then it started.

Tears started forming in my eyes of their own volition. I stood up and left the dining hall, crying more and more on the way to my room.

And then I began sobbing like I’d never sobbed before. My face and chest were completely obliterated by a flow of tears akin to the flow of water at Niagara Falls. I looked like a state of pure despair – wailing and howling like a man who’d lost everything.

Then the laughter started. That kind of true belly laugh that you get when something is so outrageously funny you cannot even comprehend life anymore. I was filled with a mutant emotion I’d never experienced before, something like the cross point of complete sorrow and unrestrained jubilation. I was literally convulsing on my bed covered in tears, trying to get a breath in but feeling as though I was only breathing out, trying to expel something deep within in me.

I then observed as something putrid, rotten, and decaying was torn loose from deep within my chest and expelled into the air through my mouth. My laughter and crying stopped almost immediately, and I was lying on the bed in a state of complete elation and calm. I knew I’d just processed and removed a part of me that had been festering for years – maybe even a lifetime – and I felt reborn. No words can describe the feeling I had at that moment, but I knew I’d changed permanently. I knew I’d be leaving the Vipassana a different version of the person who had shown up a week prior.

DAY EIGHT – The Day of Impatience

After the events of day seven, I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed in how day eight panned out. Yet again, I had forgotten to acknowledge that everything is always in a state of change, that all my feelings, moods, thoughts, sensations, and experiences are impermanent.

While day eight wasn’t my best day, it was far from my worse. I think that after day seven, I perhaps thought that all my hard work was over and that I could leave and receive all the lifelong benefits of a Vipassana course. This led to a feeling of perpetual impatience throughout the day, as I found each meditation went longer than I anticipated, and I had major troubles concentrating and getting in touch with myself.

DAY NINE – The Day of Anticipation

On Day Ten of a Vipassana, at approximately 10am, the vow of noble silence is lifted.

Subsequently, on Day Nine I was filled with a sense of excitement and eagerness to share my experiences with the other Vipassana practitioners. While I did a great job of remaining present and focused in my meditation sessions, I still couldn’t help smiling about the prospect of soon chatting away with everyone and getting an idea of what they experienced on their own Vipassana journey. I was also cognisant of the fact that I had only two nights remaining here and would soon be reunited with my loved ones. I went to bed with a smile.

DAY TEN – The Best Day of my Life

I cannot begin to express how good it feels to be able to talk without reservation for a natural extrovert who had taken a vow of silence and was unable to say a word or even acknowledge his fellow practitioners for ten days. The words flowed from my mouth like Eminem at a concert, freely and without a shred of anxiety or worry. It felt so good to laugh again, to share the interesting aspects of my experience, and of course hear about others’ experiences also. I didn’t shut up from 10am until bedtime, and you’d be hard pressed to find another person who didn’t treat their newfound liberation the same way. I had a feeling of pure joy, real contentment, and carefreeness that I’d seldom experienced before.

The aim of a Vipassana is to purify the mind. To bring things to the surface, so that they may dissolve. Everything is impermanent, so if you manage to bring these things to the surface, you will notice that your experience is the same. All sensations arise, only to dissipate. What comes up, must come down. The feeling of this on an experiential level is hard to quantify but is something I hope will inspire others to complete a Vipassana of their own.

A Vipassana is a serious undertaking. While I think every single person should at least attempt one in their lifetime, I also acknowledge that many people will simply be unable. All I can say is that completing a Vipassana has been the best, and most important decision that I’ve ever made. I feel lighter, less burdened by the stresses of life, by my own anxiety and fears, anger, and sadness. I’m calmer now, and ready to handle the trash life throws at us with a more stoic, grateful, and accepting nature. You can’t put a price on that.

May all beings be content

May all beings be peaceful

May all beings be liberated.

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