Vipassana: 10 Days' Meditation (Part 1/3)

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Day 1.

4:00am - 4:30am: wake up.

4:30am - 6:30am: meditate.



I’m awake. Groggy, but-


I grab my toothbrush and claw my way out of the mosquito nets and curtains surrounding my dorm bed/cubicle.


I shuffle out of the room and outside. There are other men doing and feeling the same, but they don’t exist… Or I’m supposed to pretend they don’t exist… Or I’m supposed to ignore them… Or I’m supposed to avoid communicating with them… The instructions are about as unclear as my mind. Whatever. I’ll figure everything out soon enough because-


Today is my first day of Vipassana meditation.

I wanted to learn how to meditate. I thought it would be a useful skill and an interesting cultural experience, so I decided to try out a Vipassana course. There are hundreds of meditation centers worldwide and I took the course inthe Bangalore location.

The ten day introduction to meditation is intense. You must follow a rigid daily schedule that involves ten hours of meditation a day. There were ~50 men and ~40 women attending the course as students. This is a list of some of the things you must abstain from doing for ten days:

Day 2.

6:30am - 7:00am: eat breakfast.

7:00am - 8:00am: wash and rest.

The chanting over the speakers lasts for a few more agonizing moments…

“Good. Rest now.”

I stand up immediately from my meditation mat/pillow. Meditation sucks. My mind runs around while my body cries at me. I can concentrate on my breath for about seven seconds. I can sit upright in the same position for five minutes. Two hours of this is torture. Whatever, I get to eat now.

We walk out of the meditation hall in single file. Four or five at a time, we poke into another room to collect our sandals. We shuffle towards the eating room, each following four feet behind the person in front of them. We wait in line to collect our plate, spoon, vegetables, rice, and tea, careful not to stand too closely and accidentally touch someone, but anxiously hovering to get our breakfasts. We find seats a healthy distance apart and eat while staring blankly at the wall resting a foot away from our faces. The food is consumed. We take our dishes to the sink, taking turns washing the metal plate, spoon, and cup in our hands before depositing them in the drying rack.

I expected to experience significant isolation during the course. It ended up being the most social experience I’ve had in the last four months. So much effort was spent intentionally not communicating that we instinctively developed new social rules. I found out that there is great camaraderie in mutual avoidance and suffering. The real purpose for the ‘no communication’ rule is to experience deep introspection. We were undergoing a deep and personal surgery of the mind.

Day 3.

8:00am - 9:00am: meditate.

9:10am - 11:00am: meditate.

I had taken to concentrating on a single nose hair near the entrance of my right nostril originating at the back-left part of the rim. I could feel it move in and out during respiration.

Concentrating, nose hair bends in… nose hair bends out.

I’m sitting on my meditation pillow. I’ve been meditating, unmoving and content, for the last twenty minutes. There’s a tiny bit of pain in my legs, but things are going well.

Concentrating, nose hair bends in… nose hair bends out.

There’s a foreign sensation creeping up on me. My hands and feet begin to seem incredibly far away. It feels like my perspective has been reduced to that of an atom or molecule, making my body parts - and the distances between them - appear unfathomably large. These feelings don’t concern me. I have more important things to think about.

Concentrating, nose hair bends in… nose hair bends out.

The feeling continues developing. Still sitting rigidly upright, my face feels like it’s sinking. Sliding down until it reaches a resting position in my lap. I know my head is still where it should be, but my eyes, nose, face - they’re hovering in my lap facing forwards towards my hands. In the visualization of my proprioception, I can see my hands straight ahead and feet just down and behind me, all impossibly distant. Still not worth contemplating.

Concentrating, nose hair bends in… nose hair bends out.

Suddenly, I realize a void. There is my face, there are my hands, and there are my feet. There is nothing else. I’ve forgotten that things other than me can exist, but I know there should be me-stuff in between my face and hands/feet. I divide my concentration to explore the feeling. It’s pure and beautiful.

Time was lost to me. Chanting - it signifies that five minutes are left, so twenty more had passed. I savour my final moments of bliss.

“Good. Rest now.”

I almost cry out in the silent hall. I fall forwards out of my sitting position. The reality of my surroundings and pain rush back and the pain quickly fades.

I was just going through the motions of the course, and I found flow. I wanted more. The feeling brought craving and drive.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Note: I’m neither spiritual nor religious.

03 Nov 2013