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  • Writer's pictureVanessa Vella

Assorted Thoughts About My 10-Day Vipassana Meditation Course

Updated: Sep 12, 2021

Well, I’m back from my 10 Day Course, and so far my reintegration into ‘society’ has been great! I'm happy I went and I'm happy to be home :)

I am only struggling with one thing: answering the question “So, how was it?” that I keep getting asked. I’m stoked that people are interested, but it’s kind of a hard thing to explain.

For one thing, there are so many adjectives to describe how it was! It’s really hard to give a short answer like “Great,” ya know? If you’ve ever been on a proper adventure of any kind - literal or figurative - I trust that you know what I mean.

And so, I’m a bit conflicted about how to write this blog post. I don’t want to just summarize what we did everyday, because that’s been done. Many times. In any case, here is the daily timetable if you're interested in that:

Let’s Start With Answers To Questions Peeps Have Been Asking Me:

Yes, I woke up every day at 4am. I really did. It was not as hard as I thought it would be. It’s hella easy to go to bed early when you have no books, TV, iPad, phone, pen, crayons, food, pets, city noise, or other people around. I was staying in a cabin so I had to walk about 45 seconds to the dormitory to use the bathroom, which pretty much ensured I got up immediately in the morning. Thanks, bladder!

My little Vipassana cabin in the woods

Yes, I would (will?) do it again. Having done the ten day course I now appreciate why it is ‘so long.’ You really do need the ten days in order to really learn the technique. I’m also way too curious not to go see what it’s like a second time through. Also, everyone at home really missed me and I’m digging all the love, so repeating that again sounds good to my ego!

No, I am not a whole new person (at least I don’t think so!). But, yeah, I realized things (important things!), thoughts were thunk (way too often..), and resolutions were made. The real test is being home and continuing to meditate one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening. So far, I’m killing it! I’m not sure how long I’ll last but it will probably be somewhere between “soon” and “a long time from now.” Only time will tell!

No, being silent was not that hard. Not making eye contact or smiling or glancing at people was actually much harder. But at times, like at 4:00am, it was really nice not to have the expectation of chit chat. The weirdest part about that was on the 10th day when you can finally talk to each other. I felt so discombobulated at first! I was a bit shaky and had this knotty sensation in my stomach. After spending 9+ days doing all this serious meditation work around so many people and it’s so awkward to be like “So, do you like stuff?” like any of those questions even matter anymore! *dramatic hair flip* The woman who sat beside me in the mediation hall was also my cabin neighbour so we saw each other 100% of the time while also trying to avoid acknowledging each other (weird times!) so I was happy when she came looking for me so we could finally talk :)

Yes, I missed my family (even the annoying people).But honestly, it wasn’t as hard as I thought (Sorry, family!). I didn’t do this on a whim; I’d been thinking about it for about 4 years, so I felt as prepared as I could have been. I kept telling myself everyone was just fine without me, which fit in nicely with the whole ‘deflating one’s ego’ theme. I told my family to call the Centre if anyone died, and since no one called, I figured all was well. Every night around 9:30 I did a “Goodnight Moon” routine so I could spend a few minutes ghost hugging my family and friends. Did you feel my good vibes? I hope you did!

No, it wasn’t hard to give up my phone. I’ve been aware for some time that I don’t “wear the pants” in the relationship with my iPhone, so I was ready to say “See ya!” to that nosy jerk for a little while. But it was hella disconcerting that it took over 3 full days for my reflexes to catch up. I would reach over to my table or into my pocket to text someone or google something and then realize I’m a crazy nutbar. This reinforced my good feelings about having a break from the phone and I was actually pretty freaked out to get it back after that time. I held it like it was a tiny bomb for a few minutes (which wore off pretty quickly once my brain was like “I wonder what’s up on the internet.”)

No, I was not bored. Quite the opposite, in fact! My brain is hella active, random, and hilarious! The music that was popping off in my head was quite… eclectic. Like when “The Skeleton Dance” popped in one day as I was reminding myself that when I sit cross legged the right leg needs to always go on top of the left leg. Or when I left my cabin at 4:15am one morning and the song “Oh, Yoko” by John Lennon popped in and didn’t leave for two whole days! Sometimes I would just lay on my bed and think. I worked out quite a few issues with people in my mind, though it remains to be seen whether that had any effect in the real world. Maybe my brain is magic and if I gave it more range to roam on a daily basis I would have more resolutions?

No, coming back to ‘civilization’ was not hard. It was great! It was so awesome to finally see my partner and my cats, and talk to my parents. My cats had just eaten when I got home and so did not give a crap about me, which was more good fuel for detaching from my ego, I guess. I admit I got too excited to be home and decided we should go to the Toronto Islands for a beach day. I got too much sun, drank a shandy, ate oysters, steak and pork (at different times!) after ten days of vegetarian eating (do not recommend), and in the end I became very tired, got a wee headache and had a sleepless night. Worth it though! A super fun day full of happy memories, which I made by enjoying it mindfully :)

Answers to (My) Vipassana Existential Questions

Is boredom even a thing?

I’m now convinced it’s not a thing. Something I realized is that if boredom is an absence of having something to do or think about, then I don’t have it. When I say I’m bored, I’m just craving a different experience and / or experiencing aversion to the reality I’m in. Like if I’m bored at a party because everyone is hella drunk and chit chatting about dumb stuff… I’m not bored, I just want to be somewhere else. And if I ever manage to develop enough equanimity, I’ll have less craving and aversion and more acceptance of what is. But for now, I’m going to take boredom as a clue that I’m not accepting my current reality and go from there.

Is it possible to peel an orange without once spraying yourself with juice?

In my experience, no. It didn’t matter how slowly or intentionally I peeled my daily orange, I always got myself with at least one squirt. My theory is that it’s nature’s way of laughing at humans: “Enjoy using your opposable thumbs to eat this delicious orange, I ‘hope’ you don’t get acidic citrus juice in your human eye.” The Universe is a worthy foe with a robust sense of humour.

Will intense foot pain caused by sitting uncomfortably for an hour cause my leg to fall off?

No, but my brain will convince me that such leg loss is imminent. The crazy train of thought went like this: “You’re causing permanent nerve damage right now… your leg will fall off and then you’ll be a one legged life coach…. You’ll have to explain that you lost your leg at a meditation course and people will think you are crazy!” Oh, brain, where to start with this malarkey? Literally none of it is true. Sitting still and observing all the sensations, even the unpleasant ones, is not supposed to be an exercise in torturing yourself, but I had gone too far and was exactly torturing myself. Well, I didn’t do that again! Lesson learned

Musings on (My) Remaining Vipassana Existential Questions

Can I really keep meditating for two hours every day forever?

Sure, I can - meaning I am capable of it. It is possible. Will I do it? Honestly, probably not. I can’t foresee that nothing will get in my way and knock me off my habit. Fortunately, re-starting habits is one of my strengths and I’ve managed to develop enough self-compassion not to shit all over myself when I find myself in one of those situations where I need to circle back and rebuild. They recommend a ten day course every year, which I plan on doing at some point in time.

How much equanimity did I develop in 10 days?

Surely not as much as I need to deal with all of “life’s vicissitudes” to borrow a line from Goenkaji. However, it is as developable as anything else, so as long as I keep working at it, it will come. Even within the ten days I did notice much less aversion to being hungry and not being able to snack at will, having nothing to read or write with, and being very cold or very sweaty, all things which normally annoy me quite a lot. I am looking forward to becoming even better in my emotional regulation and less reactive with my big feelings.

How much will this change my life in a lasting way?

This remains to be seen, of course. The major themes of the teachings were: accepting the impermanence and ever-changing nature of life (cool!), being equanimous by accepting reality instead of having aversion or craving (I dig it!), developing wisdom by becoming deeply attuned to yourself and your own body (agree!) and being a good person (sign me up!). If I can shift further towards all that good stuff, then I’d call it a success. And I also managed to slow down my eating and brush and floss slowly and properly like the Dentist keeps telling me to do.

I understand that ten days feels like a huge investment of time, but... it really isn’t, not in the grand scheme of things.

So this was either: a cool adventure I once had, or just the beginning of something big in my life. Either way, I know good will come of it :)

Stay tuned for more updates on my Vipassana related adventures!

Would you ever do a Vipassana course? Why or Why not? Let me know in the comments!


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