Vipassana Meditation in India: Silence For How Long?

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The Himalayas as seen from Dharamsala in north India.

Ten days. Ten full days of complete and utter silence. Do you think it is worth inner peace? I thought so.

However, no talking is just one code of discipline for Vipassana – a form of meditation that’s been practiced in India for thousands of years.

In order to learn Vipassana, I took a 10 day meditation course in Dharamsala in, India.

Was I scared?

Yes, but my fear didn’t stop me…

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How I Got Myself Into That Mess

I first heard about Vipassana through a friend who’d visited India and taken the ten-day course in Vipassana meditation. He raved about the results stating, “I’m a changed man!”

Fast forward two years and I found myself traveling through India without any plans.

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Walking to the meditation center on that cold rainy day, I began to have doubts.

How am I going to live in this center only eating two meals per day? How am I going to meditate for 12+ hours a day when I haven’t sat cross-legged since I was four? How can I last 10 full days without uttering a single word?

I thought about turning around and grabbing a beer and some mo-mos (a delicious Indian snack) at the nearest town, but my feet continued forward.

When I reached the center, there was a group of reluctant individuals standing out front chatting away. I joined them and was comforted by their concerns.

About thirty minutes later, we were greeted by a volunteer staff that registered us gave us a brief run down.

The rest of the day I meandered the grounds, found my basic accommodations, attended the orientation where volunteer staff reviews the code of discipline and attended my first meditation course.

The Next 10-Days of Hell and Peace

The next 10-days were the most physically, mentally and emotionally challenging days of my life.

The meditation techniques were explained daily by Mr. Goenka (the “Vipassana guru” as I like to call him) in hour-long videos at the end of each day. He addressed my concerns, hesitations and questions all without me even needing to ask in a lighthearted manner which put me even more at ease.

Each day, I became more comfortable with the silence and just being; however the physical pain was almost more than I could stand. Who would have thought that sitting in a simple cross-legged position could inflict so much pain?

But I learned that pain is part of the process.

Vipassana teaches you to avoid cravings (such as “gosh I could go for a leather recliner instead of this hard floor”) or aversions (such as “gosh I dislike sitting for 12 hours a day”) and to simply be content with your current situation whatever it may be.

No talking or eye contact was also part of the journey which is yours and yours alone. And while I was initially intimated by this code of discipline, shortly after the first day, I realized how necessary it is. If you chat with someone about their journey or yours, it removes you from focusing solely on yourself and that’s the whole point, right?

There were times that I wanted to cry, talk, and quit – but that would just be giving into more cravings and aversions.

By the end of the tenth day, I felt like I’d conquered the world… or better yet, myself.

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If you want to challenge yourself on a physical, mental and emotional level – Vipassana might be just what you’ve been searching for. There are Vipassana Centers all around the world.  Be sure to give yourself 12 days for the course; one day for orientation, 10 days for meditation, and one day for wrap up.

The Vipassana Centers are completely free and include accommodations, meals, and training on the meditation techniques. They also accept volunteers and donations if you feel like giving back.

This is a guest post from Darcie Connell. Top photo credit: the Himalayas as seen from Dharamsala in North India by Mariellen Ward.

Mariellen Ward
Mariellen Ward is a freelance travel writer whose personal style is informed by a background in journalism, a dedication to yoga and a passion for sharing the beauty of India's culture and wisdom with the world. She has traveled for about a year altogether in India and publishes an India travel blog, Breathedreamgo.com. Mariellen also writes for magazines and newspapers.
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