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Neil Templar
17th June 2009, 01:01 AM
i've signed up for a 10 day retreat at a Vipassana centre.

has anyone been on one of these retreats?
any thoughts on it?

Ouroboros
22nd June 2009, 04:51 AM
i've signed up for a 10 day retreat at a Vipassana centre.

has anyone been on one of these retreats?
any thoughts on it?

Haven't been to one, although I just recently saw these 10-day retreats while I was looking for information on Vipassana meditation. You'll have to let us know how the experience goes, it looks very interesting.

Neil Templar
22nd June 2009, 02:24 PM
will do.
i'm really looking forward to it.. :)

Ouroboros
22nd June 2009, 07:52 PM
will do.
i'm really looking forward to it.. :)

I would be too!

I think it's great that they're free, and the teachers are all volunteering their time. I may look at doing one myself once I free myself from the corporate chains that bind me :P

Timotheus
23rd June 2009, 03:30 PM
:D

Neil Templar
23rd June 2009, 04:42 PM
this experience will relieve of much doubt that has kept you from listening to your true self.


i hope so Tim. that's exactly what i'm looking for... :)

Neil Templar
16th August 2009, 01:16 PM
woohoo!
i'm away tonight to the retreat....
see y'awl in a couple o' weeks.. :P

CFTraveler
16th August 2009, 06:02 PM
Have fun. Come back and share.

Neil Templar
16th August 2009, 07:51 PM
Will do! :D
right now I'm on the overnight train...
Surrounded by Russians drinking vodka, there's such an exciting atmosphere.
Everyone on some kind of adventure...
Man these reclining seats are comfy! :D

Timotheus
17th August 2009, 01:02 AM
:D

Neil Templar
29th August 2009, 04:03 PM
well....i'm back. :D
what a great experience!
VERY hard work, at least for the first 6 or 7 days... quite intense.

to be honest i'm not quite sure what to write now.
i feel like i'm still processing the whole experience... new insights and realizations keep coming up about what i've learned. 8)
i'm gonna try to not put forward any of my own personal opinions on the technique right now... i'm not sure if they'll still be what they were in an hour from now... :wink:

and i'll keep this as brief as possible, if i go into too much detail i'll be in line for the longest post ever award, and i don't want to upset Tim. :P :wink: :lol:

the Vipassanā technique is about observing the present moment of the reality, through the framework of your own body.
no visualization, no verbalization, no breathing techniques, no intending to create anything.
only objective observation of the natural state within the mind/matter construct in the present moment, keeping in mind that each moment, and each sensation observed, is subject to the Universal law of anitya/anicca (impermanence).

a sensation is to be observed and accepted, without any reaction taking place in the mind. whether it's a pleasant sensation or an unpleasant sensation, neither craving nor aversion should be generated by experiencing the sensation. no-matter how nice or bad it is.
just keep in mind that whatever the sensation, as it arises,so it will pass away... anitya
this was no easy task!

here's S.N Goenka giving a brief interview on the basic principals -
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSxVYp3X ... playnext=1 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSxVYp3X6Yk&feature=PlayList&p=BD465540C7981390&index=0&playnext=1)

and the site -
http://www.dhamma.org

the technique is apparently the one used by Gotama Buddha to achieve liberation.
practiced all over India, and many other countries, for many years after his death, then lost, and only kept alive in its true pristine form in Burma. until 2500 years after his death, and it's foretold re-emergence into India and subsequent spreading around the world.
now there are centres all over the world, on every continent, thanks to S.N Goenka.

the retreat was in a beautiful German farm-house, on the edge of the Alps, overlooking rolling green valleys, with mountains forming the horizon 180 degrees of the view. we were so lucky, the weather was amazing! mostly sunny, super hot, and when it wasn't sunny, intense thunderstorms coming down from the mountains. AWESOME! 8)

the timetable was strict -
4:00 am Morning wake-up bell
4:30-6:30 am Meditate in the hall or in your room
6:30-8:00 am Breakfast break
8:00-9:00 am Group meditation in the hall
9:00-11:00 am Meditate in the hall or in your room according to the teacher's instructions
11:00-12:00 noon Lunch break
12noon-1:00 pm Rest and interviews with the teacher
1:00-2:30 pm Meditate in the hall or in your room
2:30-3:30 pm Group meditation in the hall
3:30-5:00 pm Meditate in the hall or in your own room according to the teacher's instructions
5:00-6:00 pm Tea break
6:00-7:00 pm Group meditation in the hall
7:00-8:15 pm Teacher's Discourse in the hall
8:15-9:00 pm Group meditation in the hall
9:00-9:30 pm Question time in the hall
9:30 pm Retire to your own room--Lights out

getting up at 4am was amazing. after a cup of tea i'd go down to the exercise field, and sit and watch the stars, millions of stars, until 4.30. beautiful. ahhhh!! :D i saw at least 1 shooting star each morning, sometimes more.
living in a city, you don't get to see many of those, so that was really special.

the 10 days were divided - 1/3 Ānāpāna meditation, and 2/3 Vipassanā meditation.

Ānāpāna is mindfulness of breathing -
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anapana

this was to train us to focus our awareness on a specific area of the body - the nostrils/nose/upper lip area.

Vipassanā is insight into the nature of reality -
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vipassana_meditation

we moved our point of awareness around our bodies, section by section til we covered head - toes.
sound familiar? :wink:
anyone familiar with NEW would have no problem with this technique.
infact it was my own understanding of NEW that caused me some problems.

the fact that i've been meaning to create a routine and practice NEW for ages, but been to lazy/undisciplined to do so, meant that when i started feeling subtle vibrations on my face, i instantly wanted to start playing with them. moving them around, make them stronger.
this is not what Vipassanā is about.
i got excited by the prospect of finally being aware of my energy field and being able stimulate it. i couldn't help but move the tiny currents of electricity around my top lip.
this is not what Vipassanā is about. :x
then i got frustrated with myself for getting excited! :evil:
this is not what Vipassanā is about!

i had a hard time remaining equanimous about the sensations i was feeling.
remaining equanimous is what Vipassanā is about!
this was really what was toughest for me the whole time.
i'd make some progress, be pleased about it and get excited. Doh! :roll: remain equanimous!!!
these sensations may be nice, but they are simply to be observed. next time around they may not be there, then, if you've reacted to them before, craving for them to appear starts.
this is not what Vipassanā is about.

the whole 10 days were full of ups and downs like that. moments of feeling like you're making great progress, and moments of feeling like you're regressing, unable to feel anything.
looking at it like that, the whole experience was one big expression of the law of anitya
nothing is permanent..

a few of my own personal highlights - breakthrough moments i had...

Day 1 - i instantly noticed that every time i moved my body position or refocused my attention/concentration, i'd tighten my jaw.
seems i store alot of tension there. no surprise really - i used to grind my teeth in my sleep up until i was about 27.
i made a continuous effort to loosen it, and by day 3 i had to remind myself to keep my mouth shut! :lol:
about 1 hour after i started doing this, keeping it loose, an uncomfortable physical feeling manifested in my throat area. just behind the back of my jaw bone.
like a ball of tension there. after about 3 or 4 days, it disappeared.

Day 4 morning - having spent the past days continuously catching my mind drifting off from being focused, i worked out how to keep it focused.
i remembered something Goenka had said the night before in the evening discourse, about the impermanence of all things.
he gave the example of a candle flame. what looks like a continuous flickering flame, is actually one single flame, arising then passing away, only to be replaced by another instantly. this happens at such a rate, that we only see what appears to be a flickering continuous flame.
i realized, that instead of focusing my attention, and trying to willfully hold it in place for extended periods of time, (which creates tension of it's own) i could simply re-focus it with every outward breath.
this worked wonders! my attention only had to be held for a few seconds, then it would be re-focused... great! 8)
in time i hoped that this would result in training the mind to stay in one place for longer and longer periods.
it worked! :D

Day 5 - the 1 hour long, 3 times a day group meditations, now became Adhi♥♥hāna sittings. sittings of strong determination.
during these periods we had to try our best to remain in our chosen position, neither moving the legs, arms, or opening the eyes. :shock:
during the morning sitting i did okay, but my legs were still in alot of pain. the last time i spent any extended periods of time sitting cross-legged was when i was about 10, doing karate.
so in the afternoon, during the period before the next Adhi♥♥hāna, i left the technique, and focused only on making the pain not an issue.
i sat, and when the pain arose, and i felt like moving, i repeated to myself - "this pain is only an indication of change. and change is a good thing."
so many times it seemed unbearable, but i gritted my determination and repeated it again...
after some time, and much pain, the pain eased off, became unimportant. that was nice.
i sat for some time more, comfortable at last. :)
i got up, and went to the hallway, to stretch my legs, and to check the clock, see how long i'd sat for.
1 hour and 10 mins!! :D woohoo! in your face stupid pain!!

after a quick cup of tea it was time for Adhi♥♥hāna. i'd never been so excited about sitting still in my life! :lol:
that hour was easy. still some pain, quite alot still, but bearable, and i knew it'd only get better from that point onwards...

Day 6 - Aches and pains, old 'stuff' coming up - during day 6 i felt a number of aches and pains that i remembered from past moments in my life. twinges in my kidneys just like i had after being ill when i was 21.
a pain in the groin that had troubled me very briefly in my 20s.
my elbow, which i broke when i was about 25.
memories of various moments. arguments had, friendships lost. people i'd cared for who are no longer in my life. times i'd hurt someone, or myself, through ignorant action.

the sittings this day were a breeze, and i think the fact that my body was so much at ease, and my mind more focused, allowed this 'stuff' to come up and re-manifest, before dissolving away...
as a result, the last evening sitting was amazing.
i walked out with subtle vibrations covering my head, my back and my arms. i felt elated. i felt better than i'd ever felt. i'll go as far as using the word bliss! i wouldn't use that word lightly. the state of bliss is, i my opinion, not very frequently experienced.
i walked out into the night. every breath prolonging the feeling.
i went to the exercise field and lay down on my back on a bench. watching the sky darken and the stars brighten, i kept the feeling going... i felt so loose, so light.
eventually i had to go up to the room, it was almost time for lights out.
as i went in, after brushing my teeth, i turned out the light.
and i had one of those 'light in the head' experiences.
i lay in my bed, eyes closed but observing this 'light' until it faded, and i drifted of into an easy slumber... :D

however, enjoying the experience wasn't what i was supposed to be doing with it. observe, accept, move on... :roll:

Day 7 - almost nightmare - the night before had been blissful, but one further pain was to cause me to almost leave the course.
around 2-3 am, i woke with a nasty pain in a tooth at the back of my mouth. an old cavity that had been filled, and the filling had fallen out, and i'd been avoiding doing anything about it for ages.
well now, it seemd, my body was telling me it was time to get the bugger out! :twisted:
i couldn't believe it! i tried to get past the pain during the morning sittings, but it was impossible.
the pain i could possibly bear, but i was so distracted by it that my mind was totally unable to focus.
i was sure my only option was to go home and get to the emergency dental hospital and have it taken out.
fortunately, when i talked with the teacher about it, he suggested we get some painkillers - ibuprofen, which would also help kill any infection and ease the swelling in my gum, and get some mouthwash for me. then we could see how it went for the rest of the day, and re-evaluate the situation that evening and take it from there.
apparently this was another storm i'd have to try to weather as best as i could.
he also arranged for a snack at night so i wouldn't go to bed on an empty stomach, and hopefully sleeping would be easier.

it worked. the next day the swelling was less, the pain was less. concentration was back up and i was determined i was gonna stay the whole course. :D

Day 8 - remain equanimous!! - during the morning Adhi♥♥hāna, i experienced for the first time, full body subtle vibrations.
i was able to sweep the entire body with a free flow of awareness, head to toes, toes to head.
excellent!!
remain equanimous?? no chance. :P
before i knew it i'd created a disc of awareness. imagine creating an energy ball, then flattening it to a thin disc.
i took this and swept up and down my body, creating a lovely warm wave of energy flowing through the entire body.
i was loving it!
at the end of the hour, it had been the easiest sitting yet.
i walked out og the hall, feeling the loosest i've ever felt.
usually the legs would be sore and stiff. now they felt like i could jump over the roof if i wanted. amazing!

dammit! remain equanimous! i'd gotten lost in sensations, and had spent the last hour going against the technique.
ah well, i guess i'd have to remain equanimous about that then eh? :wink:

unfortunately the rest of the day was an expression of the danger of not remaining equanimous - i felt almost no sensations, and grew increasingly disappointed with myself.

Day 9 - the final full day of 'hard' work. to remain equanimous, or not to remain equanimous, that was the question... -
as the day started, i felt sure i was unable to do this. i was sure that after the course i was gonna go home, use what i'd learned as a foundation for getting proficient in NEW, and say to hell with it.
i spent most of the early sittings warming up my energy body, section by section, then doing some NEW exercises i could remember from the book ENERGY WORKS.
i was bouncing little balls of energy up and down my thumb, then my fingers. it felt good and as i'd already been focusing on both sides of the body simultaneously, i was doing split awareness exercises. both hands at once. great, head start, i thought!
i moved onto the feet, then the arms, and the legs.
i felt good, i was finally getting into doing NEW properly, so even if i didn't continue with Vipassanā, this wasn't going to be time wasted.

later in the day tho, i felt like i should at least give the last few sessions a chance.
again with strong determination, i set my intention to remain equanimous, and do the technique properly.
i'm very happy i did so. the remaining sittings went very well. i was able to remain focused, and equanimous. i had subtle vibrations and swept with a free flow through many areas, and it didn't matter. i just accepted it and moved on. :D
this is what Vipassanā is about! :wink:

Day 10 - meeting friends - day 10 is when the noble silence agreement is lifted. a chance to talk to the folk you've gone through this wonderful experience with. you still do a few sittings, but the whole things is much lighter-hearted.

it's funny, you sit there day by day. sitting next to the same guys. you get to 'know' them in a way. you know their movements, their noises, breathing etc.
and when you finally get to talk to them, it's like "Dude!! how's it going?"
it's like, by sharing such an intense experience, you make friends, without uttering a single word.
amazing!

i left feeling like i'd become part of a community.
i'll definitely be going back again next year, probably somewhere different.
and i'll definitely be giving some of my time to go to the centre nearest me to do volunteer serving work.
also there's weekly group sittings here in Amsterdam, so i'll be going to those when i can.
i highly recommend it to everyone. if you're already used to sitting it'll be easy, and if you're already good with focussing awareness in the body, you'll progress quickly...

and if you're experienced in none of those, like i was, you'll learn a hell of alot and do a whole lot of growing. :D

oh, i almost forgot to mention - during days 1- 6, i was experiencing something new.
when i closed my eyes, instead of the usual "blobby" coloured darkness, i started seeing a focal point. right in the centre of my field of "vision".
around this focal point, spun fractal patterns, geometric patterns, like sacred geometry, flower of life etc. also at times the patterns looked like a microscopic view of blood cells or bacteria or something like that, viewed through a microscope. they constantly moved and changed.
and often, in front of these patterns, shapes would form, of random objects. completely free of suggestion from my conscious mind.
for example, one time i was observing these patterns, when an image of a jug of water appeared. it looked so life-like. the water even had reflections of sunlight on the surface. it was in full colour. then it would ripple and be replaced by something new.

i have to mention that on the first day, i did something i've never done before.

in the past month, i've read a couple of books, channeled information, coming from the Pleiadians, and from the High Council of Sirius.
both books talk extensively about the sun's rays having encoded information, and our bodies being receivers for that information. naturally decoding it and integrating it into our DNA.
on the first day, as i stood in the field, in the glaringly hot sunshine, i sent out a message to the sun.
saying i acknowledge my place as a receiver of this information, and gladly welcomed whatever it had for me.
it was while i was saying this with my eyes closed facing the sun, that these fractals first appeared.

after about day 6. they seemed to fade, whether i was looking at the sun or not.

now i can't say if i was indeed receiving information from the sun, or if something about the meditation was awakening some part of the mind. whatever it was, was new and unusual, and i'll be keeping my eyes peeled(or shut) for it.. :D

Neil Templar
29th August 2009, 05:24 PM
there'll probably be more from me in the days to come on this... :wink:

CFTraveler
29th August 2009, 05:36 PM
Very cool, Neil.

a sensation is to be observed and accepted, without any reaction taking place in the mind. whether it's a pleasant sensation or an unpleasant sensation, neither craving nor aversion should be generated by experiencing the sensation. no-matter how nice or bad it is.
just keep in mind that whatever the sensation, as it arises,so it will pass away... anitya
this was no easy task! Some months ago I went to a spiritual retreat (1 day only) at my church, and we had an exercise like this at lunchtime. Lunch was guided "take a bite, observe the taste without any reaction, etc..." and it was an incredible experience. It seemed that it took a long time, and the tastes were incredibly magnified, from the peaceful observation, yet in reality a very short time had passed. I can't wait for another one.

Beekeeper
30th August 2009, 08:10 AM
This is brilliant, Neil. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I think you'll be glad you recorded this when you return to read it later. What a great experience!

Danilcrag
28th December 2011, 10:29 AM
That was very huge and interesting post. You have very tight schedule and maintaining your schedule was really great.

johnnytheswede
28th December 2011, 12:38 PM
I have very deep respect for the Vipassana community. I've also been to it... it was a really strong experience for me too... I will never forget the words in Goenka's deep reverberating voice, "The fifth day is over. [bzzz bzzz, ting ting ting, whole room shaking, drinking glasses close to each other clanging into each other]. You have yet five more days to work. Seriously. Ardently. [bzzz bzzz, ting ting] Diligently. [bzzz bzzz, ting ting] Patiently and persistently, patiently and persistently. [bzzz bzzz, ting ting]. You are BOUND to be successful, BOUND to be successful."

jacobavali
16th January 2012, 04:35 AM
This was fantastic post. ?You have given awesome information about this Vipassana mediation. Your time table was really good. Your adjustment of the time in a day was nice. Any ways keep doing.