Vipassana Meditation

So, previously I’ve written about Ashtanga yoga. I attempted to do a program in neighboring Brookline, but it met with some internal resistance. I’m happy to say that whatever blockers that were preventing me from practicing in the past have subsided, and that I am practicing a full minimum of 4 mornings a week. It’s an important change for me, and I attribute the success to a number of things. Primarily, I’ll just say that a friend noticed one of my favorite yoga teachers was starting an Astanga yoga progam near where I live in the Cambridge/Somerville area. It’s been wonderful, and while I still can’t do lotus pose, or other bendy postures like kormasana; I’m getting there. I’m just happy to get onto my mat every morning and practice. The benefits to my body have been really positive, I’ve felt myself growing stronger; and mentally I feel much more capable of meeting the challenges of my day-to-day. It’s that mental part part I want to focus on. As you may notice from the title I’m planning on writing about Meditation not yoga. I have a much greater history with yoga, though. The two are pretty deeply intertwined for me, so you’ll have to excuse this digression for a little.

My yoga teacher is great, and I super happy to be learning from him. One of the first conversations I recalled having with them was of their experience doing a 10 day long sit at a Vipassan Meditation Center. So, after going to class every morning for a month and a half, I decided to sign up for a 10 day medidtation course in late August. I was accepted, and headed up to Canada once my classes were done. The ten-day mediation course was taught at a Vipassan Meditation Center in the Quebec province of Canada. The experience was great, and I’m thinking that it’s going to become mandatory behavior for my closing of every subsequent summer in my life for several reasons, and I’ll get to those; first I’d like to explain what the ten day course was like.

In order to complete a Vipassana course you go to a meditation center, (of which there are many world-wide.) This in part helps you operate under a number of rules: * No electronic screens - When you arrive at the meditation hall you give them your personal artifacts and place them in a safe. This means that you have to give up e-mail, twitter, facebook, or any other digital communication tools up for the duration of your 10 day course. Which is no small task in the modern world.

  • No communication - Once the course begins, all students operated under a vow of silence. No talking was allowed unless it was to specific people running the course, and really only then if you are talking about your physical needs or about your progress with the meditation. The majority of people around me were not to be communicated with. And this definition of communication was pretty broad. Eye-contact can be a form of communication; so you that was off limits.

  • No touching - Students must also refrain from touching each other. This was an interesting one. My body grew more sensitive, which wasn’t too surprising for a kinesthetic person like myself. I remember a person touched me while reaching for a bowl in the food line on the eight day. It was was the first time in a week that I had been touched, and it was startling.

  • Meals are provided - All students were fed wholesome vegetarian meals for the duration of the 10 day course. The food provided was very delicious, and it also jump-started me back into a vegan diet. Which I had lazily given up when the stress of my final semester of my undergrad had come and gone.

  • Meditation Centers are away from cities - This won’t be a surprise to many people. Cities are very stimulating. That’s one of the main reasons why I moved from Vermont to Boston over a decade ago. When you’re trying to calm your mind, it is better to have less stimulation from your surroundings, so this particulary place I meditated in was between Ottawa and Montreal.

That was pretty much it, and I’m glad that these things were considered in the location. It made focusing on the actualy meditation much easier.

Now, the meditation regiment was very thorough. We had very strict schedules which kept us quite busy. They went as follows:

Time Activity
4:00AM-4:30 Wake-up/Shower
4:30AM-6:30 Meditate
6:30AM-7:30 Breakfast
7:30AM-8:00 Rest
8:00AM-11:00 Meditation
11:00AM-12:00 Lunch
12:00PM-1:00 Rest
1:00PM-4:00 Meditation
4:00PM-5:00 Dinner
5:00PM-5:30 Rest
5:30PM-8:00 Meditation
8:00PM-9:00 Lesson/Meditation

So if you count that all up, there was 11 hours of meditation every day. My yoga practice requires me to be aware of my body, and this got in the way for a bit at the beginning of the course as I fixated on my posture. It wasn’t until the 2nd or 3rd day that I could let enough of that go so that I could work on the other stuff that I needed to. Once it was done I started getting into the meditation. Saying that it was easy is entirely correct, but it was necessary. There was quite a bit of emotional cruft that I had put aside during my studies. Having the days I did really helped me look at it, dig into it, and get closer to letting that go. On top of that, I was able to get myself together so that I could present my best self during what is the busiest period of time for my job at MIT.

Written on September 12, 2016