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Living Like a Monk for 10 Days: How Vipassana Meditation Taught Me About Peace of Mind


Well well well, last week I just crossed one of my life goals. I joined a 10-days Vipassana Meditation course.

And now, I am excited to share my experience with you guys. This will be a long post. So, brace yourself and keep reading until the end!

First of all, I just finished my college! Yay finally!

It means that I have a lot of time for anything that I wanted to pursue in life. So, I look at my list of life goals, and there’s one thing that I always wanted to do but never got the time before. Vipassana Meditation.

I’ve been looking for the schedule on http://java.dhamma.org/ for roughly a year. But since I was still working on my final project, I couldn’t find 10 free days.

It’s not an easy thing to get out from your daily life and go to somewhere without communication. What if something important happened when I leave? What if I miss any deadline? Yeahh, that happened.

After considering the plus and minus for some time, I decided to take the course on 6th-17th September 2017. I am very curious to try this course after reading Dan Harris book, 10% Happier.

Well, my curiosity always led me to a weird path. A path that few people of my age has crossed. So, here I am.

I think it is unusual for a fresh graduate like me to join this kind of “spirituality” program. And yes, when I got to the site, I found out that I was one of the youngest students there.

FYI, there is a 19-years old boy that joined, but he didn’t finish the program for some reason. I have no idea why. The other students are foreigners and ranging from mid 30s to late 50s. There is also a monk that joined us, he is around 70s or so.

So, What The Hell is Vipassana Meditation?

If you are not familiar about meditation, you can imagine this.

No, it's not me.

No, he’s not me.

You sit down in a floor, possibly on a cushion.

Then, you crossed your leg. They said it is unnecessary but everyone else did it. So, yeah.

You close your eyes, and be quite for some time.

You observe your breathing, just breathing, in and out.

Your mind will wander around, you just observing it.  Do not react, observe, observe, observe.

Or if you’ve ever tried meditation, maybe you familiar with guided meditation. Apps like Headspace, Calm or Zenfie have the guided meditation program.

Usually I did it for 15-20 minutes per day. I’ve been practicing meditation quite regularly for the last 2 years.

But Vipassana is actually different from regular meditation.

The word Vipassana itself means “Seeing things as they are“.

It’s a technique that discovered by the Buddha 2500 years ago to free mankind from suffering. Siddharta Gautama reached enlightenment after meditate using the techniques for 6 years.

The story said that the technique has been “lost” from the world after the Buddha died. At the 1960s, the technique got reintroduced and popularized by a Burmese industrialist named S.N. Goenka.

Unfortunately, S.N. Goenka already passed away in 2013. So, the practice of Vipassana Meditation continued by his students from all around the world.

In Indonesia itself, there is only one meditation center founded by S.N. Goenka. It called as the Dhamma Java Meditation Center that located near Bogor, West Java. There are also several non-center courses in Bali and Jakarta. If you are interested, you could see the schedule on their website: http://java.dhamma.org/

Dhamma Java Vipassana Meditation Center

Dhamma Java Vipassana Meditation Center, the place I took the program

Though it was rediscovered by the Buddha, you don’t need to be a Buddhist to join this program. People from any religion can join the course and still get the result. Because the program IS NOT about religion. It will only teach you about the technique and have no doctrine at all.

In my experience, the people that joined the program in my batch have diverse background. From Muslim, Christian, Catholics, Buddhist, and even Atheist. Just keep open-minded and prove the technique by yourself.

What Are The Techniques All About?

I would not go in-depth on the technique because I am not qualified to teach about this, but I will tell you briefly according to my experience.

In the course, there are two main techniques for meditation.

1. Anapana Meditation (Observing the Area of  Your Breathe)
2. Vedana Meditation (Observing Body Sensation)

It sounds simple, right? How could observing your breath and body sensation be hard? I always did it nearly every day for the past 2 years.

Well, that’s what I thought the first minute I got there. And that thought only last a day.

The Struggle That I (And Others) Faced

1. The rules are very strict.

The basic rules looks like this:
1. to abstain from killing any being;
2. to abstain from stealing;
3. to abstain from all sexual activity;
4. to abstain from telling lies;
5. to abstain from all intoxicants.

Here’s what I see:
1. No phone.
2. No reading.
3. No talking.
4. No writing.
5. No listening to music.
6. No Youtube, Spotify, Instagram, Line.
7. No snack, No Pringles, sadly.
8. No chicken, beef, fish, other meat.
9. No fun stuff, only plain boring one.

For more information about the rules, you can visit: https://www.dhamma.org/en/about/code

2. The schedule was tight.

Even though I already meditate regularly, it turns out that doing it for 15-20 minutes is significantly different from doing it for 10 hours per day.

The schedule is exhausting. It’s very tight and you just meditate all day. The  schedule looked like this:

Vipassana Meditation Daily Timetable

In the meditation practice, the first 3 days focused on the breathing part, and the next 7 days focused on the body sensation. The Vipassana practice started in Day 4, before that you just sharpen your focus to observe your breathe.

There are three activities that I always wait: breakfast break, lunch break, and tea break. For bonus: the night discourse.

Basically every activity that are not involving meditation on it. 😉

3. I cannot sleep for the first 5 days.

Honestly, what I thought could be a relaxing experience to think about my future turned out to be a hard-working process to purge the trash on my mind.

The weather is cold there, it’s like 17-20 degree celcius in the night.

It’s hard for me to fall asleep in the first 5 days, I usually started to sleep at 2 am. And need to wake up at 4 am. Yeah, exhausting.

But then, in the discourse on day 6, the Guru said that it is a normal thing if you cannot sleep. It happened because you train yourself to observe any body sensation, even when you are trying to sleep. It means some progress for me.

4. It’s so painful, physically.

You will feel pain in your foot, back, and neck area. Every area that are supporting your body. And because you are meditating, you cannot move and change your position.

What makes it so hard is because you need to keep your attention on your breathing and body sensation for an hour straight every session.

No moving, no going to the toilet, no reacting to any sensation that happened.

5. And also, emotionally.

Your mind will go anywhere else but meditate, you will experience the most of your:
1. Fear
2. Shame
3. Guilt
4. Worry
5. Desire
6. Crave
7. Loneliness
and other uncomfortable sensation.

As I observe my mind, there is some pattern of the thought that appeared.

It’s going back and forth between the past and the future.

6. I even considered quitting the program…twice.

It’s SO DAMN HARD! even myself considered quitting the program twice. In the first day and the sixth day.

The reason I stayed was that the management kept my phone and wallet. I couldn’t go anywhere without my phone and wallet.

And I knew that it was only my fear and excuse to finish the program. This is the real reason, though.

The Bright Side And Lesson Learned

By the way, I’m really glad I stayed.

Things started to get better on the 7th day. I became more relax and calm. Here’s some of my experience on the bright side:

 1. You will understand more about yourself.

I understood more about my self, my thinking process, and how the mind works.

I found out that I only became the victim of my mind for the rest of my life. Through this technique, I could learn to control how I create the reality in my mind.

2. Equanimity, perfect balance of your mind

If I could conclude my experience with this technique in one word, it would be “Equanimity“. I believe that most of you are not familiar with that word.

It means not wanting an uncomfortable sensation to end, while also not craving for a pleasant sensation to be present.

In other words, equanimity means maintaining mental balance and detaching from the reactive habit that we used to have.

The technique will force you to NOT be reactive to any sensation that appeared. You maintain stable mind and remain equanimous with any thought that appears.

When you meditate, you conditioned your subconscious mind to break the habit of reactive to anything that happened.

If you are not reactive to what happened, you will see that every negative emotion is only the product of your mind. All suffering, misery, sadness, anger is just an illusion

3. Impermanence, nothing last forever.

There is one word in Pali language (the ancient language that Buddha used) that always get repeated. The word is “Anicca”. It means “Impermanence”.

Basically, every single thing in this world is impermanence. Everything changes at any moment.

The person I am today was not the person I was yesterday. So as you, your emotion, your experience, your family, and everything else in this reality.

Remain balance on everything that happened in life is the only way to experience eternal joy and peace of mind.

4. The moment when all the painful sensation gone.

There is one moment after you resist and observe all the painful sensation, the pain started to fade away.

Your consciousness started to blur and it feels like you fused with your surroundings. The reaility being immersed. In my experience, I only feel my breathe at the moment, no pain at all.

It feels so peaceful. I could feel the serenity and the tranquility of that moment, whatever that word means.

The first time it happened, I cried. I literally cried. Not a lot. But, yeah.

It’s really weird. I cannot explain it through words. You need to experience it by yourself.

But then, I remember that I should not attach myself into this sensation. Even if it’s pleasant, it will not last forever, so as the painful sensation. It’s not the goal of the meditation. In the end, I just experience it and let it go.

Lastly, who is this Vipassana Meditation for?

You should come if:
– You interested in meditation, Buddhism, or any personal development.
– You are in the middle of a life-changing situation.
– You have suffered badly in the past.
– You are open-minded and having high intention to learn.
– You are not sure what should you do with your life.

You should not come if:
– You are very skeptics and close-minded about anything but your belief.
– You have a chronic mental or physical illness.
– Your motivation is to get a vacation.
– You cannot be disciplined for 10 days.

Final Thoughts

The goal of Vipassana Meditation is to help you understand that good and bad is only a label you give to the event that happened to you.

When you suffered, you chose to suffer. It’s not the event that makes you suffered but rather it’s your mind that makes you think that you should suffer.

By breaking the habit on the subconscious level to be reactive to anything, you will eventually experience peace of mind

In the end, you don’t have to believe everything that you read here, keep open-minded and please prove it by yourself.

There is no use to believe me or the story other people said or even the Buddha in the first place. If you are too lazy or not willing to take action, nothing will ever happen to you.

Just because other people experience good things and you believe it, doesn’t mean it will change your life unless you prove it for yourself.

I may do the 10-days Vipassana Meditation course again next year or whenever I thought I need it. Anyway, I hope that this article could help you in any way.

May all being lives in peace and joy. 🙂

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Living Like a Monk for 10 Days: How Vipassana Meditation Taught Me About Peace of Mind

by Gilang Agustiar time to read: 8 min
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