Vipassana Meditation is a bit of a funny subject to be writing about as part of a travel blog I guess.
But somehow, my life journey with this mindfulness process and as a traveller, are inextricably bound up together.
Which is one reason why this post is on the blog!
(You can learn more about this in scribblings below!)
The other reason is that this post was first published back in 2016, when I had recently started the blog and, to be honest, had no idea what I was doing!
Living in Noosa Australia at that time, I was very close to a Vipassana meditation centre at that point and, having already undertaken and volunteered on a few courses, was using this time a lot to deepen my practice.
And so it was that I decided to publish an article about Vipassana meditation on the blog that might help others considering taking a course too – in particular, by talking about what Vipassana is, how it’s done and what the benefits of a 10 day course might be.
Now, years later, with my blog as my fulltime business (which involves a constant state of flux between disbelief, delight, gratefulness and fear it might all dissolve suddenly!) I have still maintained my Vipassana practice and integrated it fully into my life – it helps a lot with the aforementioned flux of disbelief, delight, gratefulness and fear I can tell you!
So while this article may be from years ago, its initial thoughts and its connection to my travel life are just as pertinent as ever.
And I’ve also taken the opportunity to update this article over years, as my knowledge and practice on the subject, as well as the value I attribute to it, has grown.
So I guess this article is now kind of a vipassana retreat review, but also a bit of a personal story, an honest disclosure about the person behind this blog, as well as an answer to the question I so often get about whether Vipassana meditation is worth it.
Read on to discover why I think the answer is a resounding yes!
- Discovering FREE Guided Meditation Courses Around the World
- 10 Lessons Travel Hasn’t Taught Me
- 4 Reasons Why Travel Isn’t About Finding Yourself
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My Vipassana Meditation Story
I first heard about 10 day silent Vipassana meditation courses when I was travelling in New Zealand back in 2008.
These free guided meditation courses offer 10 day experiences of near-continuous meditation and silence in dedicated centres around the world.
At that stage, aged only 23, the idea of 10 days of silence seemed just a little too daunting and difficult.
However, the notion of a Vipassana meditation course lodged in my brain and, after meeting more and more travellers over the years who had visited and benefitted from the experience, I grew increasingly determined that one day I would also try 10 days of silent Vipassana meditation.
That day came in when I was travelling in Ecuador back in 2012.
Finally feeling as if I was at a place in my life where I could reasonably give this Vipassana meditation stuff a go, I signed up for a 10 day course.
Scared as I was, I had a distinct sense that I just had to bite the bullet and dive, headfirst, into the unknown.
And what a relief I did.
Since that first experience almost 9 years ago, I have sat a number of further 10 day Vipassana meditation courses, as well as volunteered on many others too.
Meditation has now also become part of my daily life and I am so grateful for the stabilising and enriching qualities it has brought me.
What is Vipassana Meditation?
The Vipassana courses I have sat, volunteered, practised and generally participated in are in the tradition of SN Goenka – a student of a great Vipassana master and Burmese Accountant General, Sayagyi U Ba Khi.
Born in Burma of Indian descent, you can learn more about Goenka and how we came to attend one of U Ba Khi’s courses here.
Taking the practice of Vipassana meditation, including the tradition and structure of the 10 day courses, from Burma to India and then around the world, Goenka helped establish this meditation technique globally, allowing millions of people irrespective of race, religious, language and social standing etc to receive the teachings.
Now there are many established centres around the world that hold regular Vipassana meditation courses, as well as informal centres that host them on a more irregular basis.
All courses, regardless of where and when they take place, follow the same programme, structure, schedule and teachings.
It is a programme of guided meditation that takes you on a journey to deepen and understand the technique.
There are rules you must sign up to before you take the course in order to ensure the safety and wellbeing of everyone.
These are clearly given, along with a timetable of the daily routine, at the time you apply, so you know exactly what is involved.
This is an open, honest and transparent practice.
The Benefits of a Vipassana 10 Day Course
There are many things to say about the benefits of a 10 day Vipassana meditation course but, in essence, the whole process is deeply personal and so too are the benefits.
It’s a simple technique, but at the same time works at a deep and complex level – kinda without you realising!
As such, I’ve stuck to the more practical and measurable benefits of Vipassana here, but there are, of course, many which can’t be put into words so easily.
Nevertheless, in view of spreading the joy, here are 10 reasons I think everyone should try 10 days of silent Vipassana meditation…
#1 Vipassana Meditation Courses Are Free and Open to All
The 10 days of any silent Vipassana meditation course taught by SN Goenka are part of a guided process through which you learn a certain method of mediation.
This method of mediation is strictly non-sectarian and open to anyone of any religion, race, gender or sexuality.
The non-denominational set of principles it employs are universal and no in way part of any dogmatic organisation seeking to convert you or fool you.
Vipassana meditation courses are free and rely solely on the donations of old students.
This makes the whole process very untainted from vested interests as well as hierarchical structures of power and influence that may distort the teachings.
#2 Courses Take Place Around the World
Vipassana meditation courses take place all over the world meaning you can participate in one just about anywhere.
The schedule for the 10 days are exactly the same no matter where you sit your course, so too is the technique.
Bilingual courses are also run in lots of different speaking countries – this how I sat my course in Ecuador – and, as the courses are conducted in near silence, so long as you can understand the guided instructions, there is no need for you to communicate with anyone else.
This makes a Vipassana mediation 10 day course a great thing to try while you are travelling.
In fact, I know of many people, myself included, who have travelled and participated in many courses in many different centres around the world.
#3 They are Conducted in Safe and Caring Environments
Vipassana courses are usually conducted in established centres or other peaceful and secure locations around the world.
Normally situated in quiet and rural areas, the centres are great environments for contemplation and reflection.
Although you are in silence for the majority of the 10 days of a Vipassana meditation course, there is always a pastoral team of volunteers there to ensure your well-being throughout the experience.
You are able to speak with any of these people at any time should you have any issues, problems, concerns or queries.
#4 10 Days of Silence Allows you to Challenge Yourself
The secure environment provided by Vipassana meditation courses makes them an excellent place to push yourself beyond your comfort zone – knowing you are still safe and cared for.
Don’t worry if 10 days of silence scares you – it does most people and it certainly did me on my first course.
Acknowledge that fear and harness your inner courage by signing up to try something difficult and different.
You’ll probably be amazed by your success.
#5 It Grows Confidence in your Abilities
Doing something that scares or challenges us often helps us grow.
Discomfort isn’t always something to be avoided, especially if it is experienced in a healthy and conscientious way.
Sitting through 10 days of silence at a Vipassana meditation course might seem an impossible task.
However, when you surprise yourself by doing just that, your sense of achievement will show you just how capable you really are.
I can’t tell you the amount of people I see at the end of the 10 days with huge smiles of satisfaction on their faces.
Challenging yourself can massively boost your self-esteem and self-confidence; you push your boundaries, test your resilience and come out glowing with the knowledge you endured something you found both difficult and uncomfortable.
#6 It Helps Effect Changes you Desire in Life
The self-assurance you glean from setting yourself a goal – like remaining silent for 10 days – and meeting it, can’t help but get you thinking about what else you are capable of achieving.
Harnessing this awareness of your own abilities can be a potent catalyst in changing unwanted habits in your life or adopting new patterns of behaviours you may want to effect.
Whatever your goals are, sitting through 10 days of a Vipassana meditation course will give you the power to believe they are possible… and the tenacity and strength of mind to achieve them.
#7 Vipassana Mediation Courses Help You Switch Off the Mental Chatter
With 10 days of focusing your mind and not really interacting with others, it’s no surprise that the stream of constant thoughts we experience every second of every day, starts to slow down.
As a result, you start to experience fleeting mini-moments of true calm and peace.
This can be a very liberating sensation, allowing you to dumb down those negative thought patterns, to-do lists and unnecessary anxieties we all suffer from.
To lose these, even for a mini-moment, can grant you a sense of clarity that is far more productive in life than any mental checklists.
It’s also wonderfully liberating and truly revitalising.
In fact, it gives you a whole new perspective on the working of your mind and your behavioural patterns.
#8 It Gives you Time to Focus on Yourself
Focusing on just yourself for 10 days may sound selfish, but actually, it’s likely to do you, and those around you, the world of good.
We all get times when we feel lost, confused or down – and often our families and friends bear the brunt of this.
Having an extended period of time in your own isolated world can, ironically, be a grounding and stabilising experience.
Helping you out of an emotional rut you may be stuck in or giving you some fresh perspective, it can bring a new focus to your state of mind.
Undoubtedly you learn a lot about the meaning of happiness and gratitude.
#9 10 Days Can Help you Bring Calmness into your Daily Life
In my experience (which you can read more about here), the benefits of Vipassana meditation aren’t just limited to a 10 day course.
The refreshing perspective they have shed on my life beyond this, and where I’m headed, has penetrated my everyday reality too.
I’ve found this to be increasingly true now that I’ve built a daily meditation practice into my morning routine.
It may involve setting the alarm clock a bit earlier, but it’s worth it for the way it grounds me during the day and helps me weather the storms of life with a greater balance of mind.
Such practice would have been impossible for me without learning the Vipassana method of meditation and having 10 days in which to silently learn to establish this technique had greatly helped me.
#10 It Makes you Grateful for What you Have
After all, there’s nothing quite like getting away from it all to develop in us a deep sense of appreciation for all we have.
You have a lot of time in 10 days of silence to think about what you are “missing out on” in the real world and therefore how fortunate you really are.
10 days of silence gives you a new perspective on what a beautiful world it can be and just how lucky you are.
Coming out of the silence, you repeatedly feel a renewed sense of gratitude for life in general.
So if this isn’t enough to convince you to try 10 days of silence Vipassana meditation, then I don’t know what is!
Please be aware that these 10 reasons are taken from my own personal experience and are not certified or guaranteed outcomes.
To found out more about 10 day silent Vipassana meditation courses taught by SN Goenka visit dhamma.org.
Is Vipassana Worth It?
As you can tell from this article, my opinion is that yes, Vipassana meditation is incredibly worthwhile.
It has changed my life for the better in so many ways.
And it has changed those of many people I know for the better too.
Many of my friends have also tried Vipassana 10 day courses following my recommendation and they too have found the benefits enormous.
I have also met, made and stayed in contact with many people I have met at courses around the world, many of whom I now consider friends.
With courses and centres around the world, I still manage to incorporate Vipassana meditation into my travel life – indeed it is a great way to meet like-minded and interesting people around the world.
When I’m at home in the UK, I also visit the UK Centre Dhamma Dipa, where I have sat and volunteered on a few courses.
I try to take a 10 day course every year and also practice vipassana meditation daily.
It has helped me cope a lot with the undulations of life we all experience, to let go of things beyond my control and to practice calmness of mind and gratefulness in the present moment.
I see it as a real gift – one I can never be thankful enough for.