A few months ago I learned of a 10-day Vipassana meditation course that entailed waking up at 4am every morning, meditating for 10 hours daily, eating a simple vegetarian diet and living in complete SILENCE for those 10 days. At first this sounded like pure torture but the more I thought about it, the more I became intrigued by the idea. After being on the waiting list at the Southern California Vipassana Center for several months, I found an opening at the Southwest Vipassana Center in Kaufman, Texas (40 miles southeast of Dallas) and within a week I was in Kaufman taking an oath of silence with 99 other meditators looking for peace & harmony.
What is Vipassana?
Vipassana is an ancient Indian meditation technique, which involves observing your breath and body sensations. The basic idea is that if you can understand that all sensations within your own body, both good and bad, are impermanent you will understand that all occurrences in life, both negative and positive, are also impermanent. Understanding this helps to eliminate craving and addiction towards the good as well as aversion and fear towards the bad leading to true happiness and harmony.
So, how did I do?
Having never meditated a day in my life, I found it hard to concentrate; on a good day I spent 30% of my meditation time actually meditating, the other 70% of the time my mind was wandering or I was fighting sleep. I definitely never woke up at 4am and it was quite embarrassing when the course manager busted into my room and caught me sleeping during meditation hours. The part that I was initially most perplexed by (10 days of silence) ended up being the part that I enjoyed the most. Even though there were 99 others attending the course, the mandatory silence allowed each of us to be alone with our thoughts.
I eventually learned to tolerate the pain caused by sitting with my legs crossed for over an hour (because after all, it is impermanent) and I eventually stopped craving the euphoric feeling I experienced while in deep meditation (because once again, this is impermanent), so theoretically I should understand the law of impermanence and be perfectly happy & harmonious now! Not quite; my harmony with the universe is definitely still a work in progress, but overall Vipassana was an incredible experience and even though I had a hard time concentrating, it prompted me to think about things I would have never thought about had I not been in remote silence for 10 days. I highly recommend Vipassana; although the experience will be different for everyone, I think that anyone could benefit from it.