Vipassana, 10 Day Silent Meditation Retreat: The Schedule vs My Schedule
*Note — this may be a little controversial ; ). I don’t recommend reading it if you like to follow the rules to a T. ALSO! Don’t read this if you are planning on doing Vipassana + want to go in with no expectations.
Let’s begin with the “official” Vipassana schedule:
Meditation: Yes, that comes out to 10 hours + 45 minutes of meditation… every single day. The first day, you strictly focus on your inhale + exhale. Each “teacher’s discourse” you learn a new step to the technique, eventually learning Vipassana on Day 4.
Dinner: You are looking at the schedule correctly… there is no dinner :). You get fruit [apple, banana, + orange] ++ tea during “dinner time hours.” I would also down a couple glasses of soy milk for protein/calories. You get used to it [kind of]. Nevertheless, I’d wake up starving + so excited for breakfast [if you’re dying to know: oatmeal, dates, cereal, toast, apple, banana, + orange ; )].
Rest + Interviews: The “interviews” with teachers were optional, + if you chose to sign up for it, you can 10 minutes with the teacher. The rest of the break time, you could walk, sleep, shower… or meditate some more if you wanted to, aha.
Teacher’s Discourse: This was probably my favorite part. Goenka is wise + hilarious. Before the retreat, my friend Cat said: “I can’t wait to have Vipassana inside jokes with you.” Now I totally get it. Every “old student” has access to the discourses online, so I’m excited to eventually watch them again.
Don’t Forget: It’s 10 days of no talking, no phone, no reading, no journaling, no looking at others, no killing spiders [lol, but really], no yoga pants.
If you’ve even meditated for 20 minutes, you may be able to BARELY imagine how extremely difficult it would be to meditate for 60 minutes… 10x a day. I think I would have had an easier time if Vipassana was “visualization” meditation, but it’s not: Vipassana is only about present moment awareness, so you are told to only focus on either the breath or specifc parts of your body — depending on what day it is.
I can’t even put into words how sloooooooow the day would go… how sloooooooow even an HOUR would go. I felt like one day was 10 days. + 10 days was at least one month. It was crazy. Being present really does extend the days! Not always a good thing if you aren’t loving what you are doing ; ). However, Vipassana is about practicing equanimity — no craving or aversion… letting every thought [“I’m bored, this is uncomfortable, how many more hours until we can eat again…”] pass… as well as not getting attached to pleasant bodily sensations as well.
I made it through Day 5 keeping the schedule. I was doing fine — part of me laughing through this experience, part of me thinking it wasn't too bad, part of me BORED AS HECK, part of me exhausted. I really wanted to sleep in. I decided to give myself a “treat” + allowed myself to sleep during the Day 6 4:30 AM meditation… + then it was downhill [or uphill ; )] from there. I ended up sleeping through every 4:30 AM meditation after that day because it felt SO GOOD to sleep in + my body needed it. I asked myself… “What would it look like if I listened to my body? What does my body need?” Hilariously enough, a couple of my roommates followed suit.
Day 6–10, this is what my schedule looked like:
- 4 AM — hear the gongs, sleep in until 6:30 AM.
- 630 AM — breakfast + walk… around the dorm + in the parking lot. Literally, the walking path was .15, I’m not even kidding. I don’t recommend going to Wisconsin strictly for that reason. It felt like we were truly in a prison, confined to a tiny parking lot to walk. It was crazy!
- 8–9 AM — meditation in hall, this was actually my favorite time to meditate.
- 9–11 AM — meditate for 45 minutes in the hall… + then I’d go back to my room + do static yoga postures. I needed to get into my body.
- 11–12 PM — lunch, by far the best meal. It was always exciting to see what was on the table. A couple days we even go a cookie + hersey kiss for dessert ; ). Also walked after lunch, in the parking lot!
- 1–230 PM — I would typically nap during this time. ++ meditate for 30 minutes somewhere during this chunk on my own.
- 230–330 PM — meditation in hall.
- 330–5 PM — meditate for 30–45 minutes in the hall… + again, back to my room! I brought a lacrosse ball, so I’d alternated between foam rolling + staring out the window.
- 4–6 PM — tea time + walk, walk, walk.
- 7–815 PM — discourse, the best part.
- 815–9 PM — meditation in hall
- 9 PM — shower + PASS THE EFF OUT.
I should mention: every time I’d see Isaac, I’d say hi with my eyes [sometimes lip talk to him… ++ make sure he was okay, aha]. It was so so comforting to see him every day.
On the 8th day, during my “yoga time” [lol], my roommate was also in the room [about to do yoga] + she said: “Do you want a piece of gum?” At first I was shocked to hear a voice, + then I said, “YES!” As soon as I starting chewing on the gum, I started hysterically laughing, “This tastes sooooooo good.” That led to an hour conversation about our lives + it was SO REFRESHING. Once we broke the silence, we couldn’t stop sharing. Every chance we got, we went to our rooms to hang out + whisper. Another one of our roommates joined in pretty quickly after.
Writing this out, I sound like a horrible Vipassana meditator + if I am being honest: I really don’t want to share this. I’d rather keep my “schedule” to myself + pretend that I meditated 10.5 hours every day. But, this is my experience! One of my favorite definitions of meditation is: “doing one thing at a time.” That’s it! I will say that I did absolutely that during Vipassana — whether it was eating, walking, meditating, doing my stretches… I was totally immersed… + THAT to me is totally a win.