Practical tips for your Vipassana course
2018 UPDATE: I'm moving blogs over from my old site and, along with my other posts on my Vipassana experience, this is one of my most-viewed posts even though it's about six years old. Feel free to read the below, but I also encourage you to keep searching to find newer content (and maybe specific tips for the location you're going to be doing your Vipassana course in). Enjoy!
Alright, let's be honest: I'm no pro at this Vipassana thing and there are a ton of people all over the world who have taken the course a hundred times each and know a lot more than me. But! There are a few things I would have liked to know going into the course, so I figured I'd share them here in case anyone was researching "I'm doing my first Vipassana course and I'm so scared and what do I do?" and found my blog.
1. Your back will hurt. Your legs will hurt. Your neck will hurt. It's all part of the process. Think of doing squats! When you first do squats, you're like "holy shit my legs are sore!" for the first couple days, but then you build the muscle and the pain eases. At noon on the second day my back was in so much pain I was sure I had done permanent damage, but the teacher told me to wait it out for another 24 hours (she called it a "Dhamma Pain"...the process brings a lot of shit up) and by the next morning, the ache was gone. Push through! If you have a prior injury, of course, use your head and don't be a hero. Let the course manager know and you can get a chair.
2. There will be coffee. Maybe at other centres there isn't, but if you hit up the one in Auckland, there's coffee. Blessed, blessed coffee.
3. Don't be afraid to ask the teachers questions and get everything straight in your mind. Don't worry about looking stupid either; those dudes ooze nothing but love and compassion, so there's no judgement.
4. Bring shoes you can slip in and out of easily. Like, real easily. I brought my Blundstones which, technically, I can slip in and out of...but the amount of times you're taking on/off your shoes (before going into the hall, into your room, the dining hall, the bathroom, etc etc)...like, we're talking upwards of 20 times a day. By the end of it I was just wearing flip flops with socks because I couldn't be assed to use my hands to pull on my shoes every time.
You know what would've been perfect? Crocs. If you have Crocs, bring them. If you don't, go to a $2 store and buy a pair of shitty cheap Crocs. Trust me.
5. No one will care what you look like, so go for comfort. I wasn't sure what it would be like, so I packed my mascara just in case (is that vain?) but it was totally not needed. You are sitting on your butt for at least 11 hours a day and no one will judge you. Tights, sweat pants, big old shirts, sandals with socks, blankets and scarves...half the time, we looked like hobos.
This said, a lot of girls were wearing those harem/hammer pants and they looked so comfortable and pretty. I was really convinced that I needed a pair of harem pants but hello fat chick can't play that game.
6. Bring a refillable water bottle with you and make sure to take a few gulps between every sitting. It's easy to not get enough fluids during the course.
7. You might have weird-ass dreams that will keep you up half the night. It's normal.
8. If you have the option to try a bunch of blankets or cushions, try out a few different poses. By the end of the course I had like seven cushions and six blankets with me (it was a fucking nest) but I was super comfortable and could often sit for longer than an hour without moving.
9. If your upper back is hurting, try resting a rolled up blanket on your lap and resting your hands on it. I found it really relieved my pain.
10. Don't listen to "Call Me Maybe" before going into the course. Just don't. Trust me.
11. I can't decide if I should've had a watch with me or not. At times, I wanted to know just how much time was left before the bell and I felt that if I knew I only had 15 more minutes, things would've been bearable. Buuuuttt not knowing and just accepting is also pretty important and didn't kill me. Live life by the gong.
12. If you're really keen on leaving, at least give yourself to the end of the 5th day. Don't leave before the end of the 5th day. Give yourself time to adjust, and your brain a chance to re-train itself. Just give it a chance. Be hard on yourself.
13. Accept things as they are. If your brain is thinking about chocolate scones, then let it think about chocolate scones. If you're angry and frustrated, be okay with being angry and frustrated. Use the time to accept things and be okay with what they are and who you are. I felt ridiculous that I was writing plays and books and jokes in my head the whole week, but hey! I'm a creative person. It's a *good* thing, even if it was a bit frustrating that I couldn't turn it off completely. Accept it and give yourself a break.
Those are the only tips I can think of off the top of my head. If you've done a course and have a tip of your own, share it in the comments!