Vipassana Meditation: How 10-Days of Fatigue Cleared My Mind

April 19, 2011
gap year, health, USA
Vipassana Meditation: How 10-Days of Fatigue Cleared My Mind.

An endless flow of hours carried me through dry grasslands and flat topography. Finally, I arrived at the edge of Yosemite National Park. The destination was Nowhere-ville, California where the California Vipassana Center was located.

I had arrived. I parked in the dirt lot, turned in my keys, electronics, and valuables, and embarked on the hardest ten days of my entire life so far. If only I had known what I was getting myself into.

This “retreat” was a 10-day Vipassana Meditation clinic in which I was forbidden to talk, use electronics, read, exercise, eat meat, write, or make contact with any of the individuals around me. I roomed with 13 other women in a one-story extended trailer of sorts.We shared two showers (in which there was no hot water for the first nine days), three sinks, and a plastic front door. Our rooms were separated by cloth sheets that wrapped around the platforms we put our sleeping bags onto making my “room” for the 10 days –about fifty square feet—far from roomy.

My stomach was sounding the war chant. “Hunger!” It said, “Hunger has arrived!”

At 4 AM each morning, the wake-up gong bellowed. Vipassana meditation is the purest form taught by Buddha, and involves only focus on the breath and awareness of sensation; no visualization, no beads, no praying, no mantras allowed. With such a simple process, I had thousands of minutes to devote to calculating how close I was to the end. The number of gongs was also calculated. One down, I whispered to myself, one fewer gong.

In response to its chime, I clutched my lantern and rushed outside into the bitter air. A single white rope-light slithered along the dirt path, encouraging me to follow his dim sequinned scales to the meditation hall. The stars hardly shone any brighter. Their small amount of glow portrayed their frustration with me. I seemed to be interrupting their slumber.

Vipassana Meditation: How 10-Days of Fatigue Cleared My Mind

My reward for reaching the hall was a single garden mat in a stuffy, dark room, where I sat completely still for two straight hours. Walking home after each sitting, my legs ached and my lower back groaned from fatigue. How could sitting still hurt so much?

The next pain came during meals. Our dietary regimen consisted of two small,vegetarian courses a day. No food was allowed to be taken after noon except for one or two pieces of fruit at 5 PM for new students. As a result, on day five I entered the 4 AM two-hour sitting with writhing stomach pains. My stomach was sounding the war chant. “Hunger!” It said, “Hunger has arrived!” I found my mind completely fixed for the entire duration, though, and when the finished bell rang, the stomach ache, back pains, and sore knees were no more. In their place, I felt refreshment!Vipassana

Meditation: How 10-Days of Fatigue Cleared My Mind

About Monika Lutz

Monika LutzMonika Lutz has lived in seven countries and is the author of “Now What? How a Gap Year of International Internships Prepared Me for College, Career, and Life.” Although originally from Boulder, Colorado, she now resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts where she is pursuing an undergraduate degree in Government with a double minor in Mandarin Chinese and General Management at Harvard University.

6 thoughts on “Vipassana Meditation: How 10-Days of Fatigue Cleared My Mind

  1. Avatar
    avinash
    December 20, 2011
    Reply

    Hello,

    i am doing vipassana in 10 day,i feel wonderfull my body is refrese and i serch my soul, i realise my selfreiligetion,,,,,,,,,,its wonde,,,,,,,,

  2. monika Lutz
    monika Lutz
    July 16, 2011
    Reply

    Hello!
    The retreat is by donation only and you decide how much to give on the final day. Most people experience pain in their back from the extended sitting, but it is less painful as the days go on. I would highly suggest doing a one-day or so session first if you are worried about the pain. A google search for a Vipassana Retreat in your area will list any one-day intro courses offered.
    Hope this helps!
    Monika

  3. Avatar
    MN
    July 16, 2011
    Reply

    please reply.

  4. Avatar
    MN
    July 16, 2011
    Reply

    How much does this 10 day meditation retreat cost? I would assume that this sitting posture that causes pain is the budhalike sitting posture. If this is so I do not know if I can handle this for hours. My knees are sometimes uncomfortable,painful in that position and then my lower back begins to be uncomfortable. I have experienced it in yoga. It seems intimidating. Please kindly write me.

  5. Monika
    Monika
    April 28, 2011
    Reply

    Thanks for your comment, Elizabeth! I have been out of the country or I would have responded to you sooner. Hope it’s not too late! At the end of the ten days, I felt a huge inner calm, but also a grand sense of achievement. Vipassana comprised some of the hardest ten days of my life. It is an enormous struggle the whole way through. For me, however, just getting through the ten days proved to myself that I could stick with it through all of the hardship. Just learning that ability to push through the hard times was worth the experience.
    I hope you enjoy your retreat! It’s a very personal time filled with lots of reflection.
    Best,
    Monika

  6. Avatar
    Elizabeth
    April 19, 2011
    Reply

    Thank you for sharing this! I am doing Vipassana in 10 days. How did you feel at the end of the 10 days? I am dying to know… Was the pain and suffering worth the payoff?

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