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Sunday, May 15, 2011

!0 Day Vipassana Course at Igatpuri

Hiya Folks,
Firstly let me apologizes for taking a very long break. Hope you all are doing great. The reason for my absence was a very enlightening journey into the world of Vipassana. I had been to Igatpuri, near Nashik for a 10 Day course in Vipassana. For those who don't know much bout it well it's not a journey into any religious realms nor is it about isolating one's self from the world around you by finding solace in meditation, it as i understood is about living in the present by understanding "Dhamma" the art of living. Also it is about understanding the true meaning of "Dharma" the universal laws of nature that are applicable for everyone.

Entrance of Igatpuri Vipassana Centre

ABOUT THE CENTRE
It is a beautiful place surrounded by panoramic landscape. Located within close proximity to Nashik this place exudes an air of tranquility. Founded by S.N.Goenka all courses at this centreare run solely on a donation basis. All expenses are met by donations from those who, having completed a course and experienced the benefits of Vipassana, wish to give others the same opportunity. Neither the Teacher nor the assistant teachers receive remuneration; they and those who serve the courses volunteer their time. Thus Vipassana is offered free from any commercialization.
MANAGEMENT
The word Excellent dose not do justice to the entire management of this centre. Extremely polite and well organised staff. Everything is so well planned. After you registration you get your accommodation details and your group details, according to your group a teacher is allotted to you who will redress your queries and problems in due course.
FOOD
The food comprises of our staple Indian meal, simple and nice The new students get 3 meals a day.
Breakfast at 6.30 a.m. comprising of poha/upma/sweet daliya/idli/dhokla along with wheat bread and tea or milk.
Lunch at 11 a.m. comprising of Chapati, rice, 2 sabji's, daal/ kadhi, salad and dahi/ chaass.
Evening tea at 5p.m. comprising of kurmura's, 1 banana/slice of watermelon and glass of tea or milk.
Also the cafeteria is equipped with filtered water in 4 saperate outlets hot drinking water, regular water, cold drinking water and ginger water ( for digestion and cold )
The food was simple, nutritious but it also leaves you feeling hungry especially those who like me are ardent followers of Rujuta Divekar's principles ( Kareena's Nutritionist ) coz I'm accustomed to eat small meals every 3 hrs. Also one cannot stuff one's self as you have to meditate after the meals.
I'm a total foodie and love to experiment with food, I'm not very finicky bout food so that was a plus but yes eating the same stuff everyday especially kurmuras for evening snack cum dinner would at times get on my nerves.
ACCOMMODATION
Each individual is allotted residential quarters that are clean and well quipped with the basic amenities. The Males and Females have separate accommodation, cafeteria and meditation facilities. I had visited along with my Mom and on requesting was allotted a common room but with a stern warning that I was not to speak to her during the entire tenure of the course.
There is hot water facility for stipulated time and 24hr water supply, 24hr electricity with backup, mosquito nets on the windows etc. I wasn't expecting a lot but with all these basic facilities in place I did not have a reason to complain regarding my accommodation.

MY EXPERIENCE

Day 1:
A Sevika ( Helper ) woke me up by constantly ringing a ghanti (bell) at 4 a.m. till I finally left my abode to go for meditation. I had to sit cross legged in the dhamma hall where we would meditate for 12 hrs, by the end of the day my legs, neck, back and shoulders were paining. Also since I was a bit hungry so meditating with my tummy growling wasn’t easy But what I found to be the highlight of the day was the discourse ( Pravachan ) by S.N. Goenka on Dharma. I honestly an not a religious person, I pray to my gods but am not rigid bout accepting rituals and reforms of other religions, races or castes. I always have and always will believe in humanism as the sole religion so understanding and accepting the essence of this discourse was not a problem 'et all. Infact it made me forget the entire days pain and irritation.


The Gong
Day 2:
I had to follow the same technique of meditation that was to observe my natural breath, inhale and exhale, no matter how hard I tried after every few seconds my mind would wander in the past or future. I would hear a distant gong to symbolize the reporting, break and meal time.
I was irritated to the core since my backache had intensified and unfortunately my monthly menses started earlier, thereby further agitating me.By this time I was convinced this was an absolute time waste and sheer agony and wanned to bail out. But stubborn as I am I stayed put and decided on staying for a day longer. Again the daily discourse always uplifted my spirits and I knew I'd miss 'em if I left.
Day 3:
Considering my condition I was given an hrs rest by my teacher. It was a reliever but short lived. Initially it started with seconds but gradually I was able to focus for minutes without wandering and even if I did I was able to understand it and get back to the present and resume the process of observing my breath and the triangular area defining my nose and upper lip. This process is known as "Anna Pan". Although I was doing what was told but at the back of my mind I wasn't convinced bout spending 3 whole days doing this ridiculously boring task. My mother on the other hand was feeling a lil weak due to lack of food and exhaustion that agitated me further on the their system for designing such a strenuous schedule. I slept well on all 3 nights due to exhaustion.

One of the landscape

Day 4:
We were taught Vipassana, finally! Whatz that??Well it's about observing the stimuli on you body that occur naturally, pain, itching, tickling, sweating anything.But man the minute I started doing it I felt a sharp pain pierce my head, my eyes hurt and I couldn't close my eyes. The minute I closed my eyes I'd feel a warm and painful feeling curse down my head and spine. I have migraine but hadn't had a severe attack for more that 8 months but it surfaced with a throbbing headache. I cruised through the day in a painful state. The next morning when I woke up at 4 I was disoriented, I was loosing my balance while walking and had problem focusing my vision.
Day 5:
I don't smoke/drink or take drugs for 2 reasons I never felt like it and the other being I always want to be in control, for me loosing my power to think and analyse is the biggest fear and this fear surfaced cos I was feeling woozy and decided to leave right away before my condition deteriorated any further but the person I didn't wanna leave behind was my mother and she was adamant on completing the course. I was worried bout her health and mine, apart from the weakness she seemed to be adjusting and absorbing the new technique but I was total mess. I was extremely angry and tried very hard to control my tears that threatened to well up. I also sought counselling for this problem from my teacher but it didn't prove fruitful. I couldn't sleep that night further adding to my agony.
Day 6:
I took a break the whole day, I skipped my morning 4.30-6.30 meditation regime, stayed in bed and got out for breakfast. In dhamma hall I just closed my eyes and let my thoughts stray again, but i kept a check on my breath, I couldn't help it, I was just accustomed to it by now. I thought n thought and recollected all those moments of pain and anger, some very fresh and raw while some hidden away for more than a decade. Strangely the people I was angry at were those who mean the world to me. I realised I would link one hurtful incident with another thereby lengthening the strain of my unpleasant memories. I dunno what got onto me but am glad I did it, I forgave everyone who was part of those hurtful memories and then I erased 'em from my memory, shift+ del, literally! Also I forgave myself for those stupid things I said or did that use to haunt me. By the end of the day I did feel a bit woozy but also felt light inside. I came outside the dhamma hall and sat in the garden, it was beautiful but I was too agitated and occupied to notice it in the last 5 days. An Ant caught my attention who was carrying a huge load on her head, I guess a dead bug, she went around in circles, direction less for almost 15 minutes untill finally she met another ant who guided her and finally she dumped her load in a corner and went off. I felt I too was like this ant carrying a huge load of unpleasant memories and finally I had dumped it, freed myself and u know what, it felt really good, after those 5 grueling days today I finally felt myself smile.

Clock Tower

Day 7:
I had a smile on face n swing in my step. The migrain didn't recede so I approached my teacher 3 more times in the days that followed regarding the pain but her reactions and guidance again didn't improve my condition but I grew patient as time passed. Today I violated the code of conduct of not exercising or doing any kinda workout and did surya namaskar and pranayam, also I jigged away in my room to an imaginary tune ;D I love to dance and it surely lifted my sprits. I was also allotted a shunyaghar for the day, it is a tiny room in the pagoda without any windows for meditating alone. As I entered it the atmosphere is so charged you can feel the vibes around you and strangely I loved meditating here.
Day 8:
I was able to do Vipassana but I didn't strain myself, I was feeling the sensations on my body and observed 'em keenly. My mom too was feeling well by now. I loved the daily discourse and eagerly waited for it. It was very enlightening, many things and examples mentioned in the discourse caught my attention but one such example that is embedded in my memory is..." once there was a mad painter who drew a beautiful picture and was so mesmerised by it that he wanned to spend his life with it, people told him how could that be possible as it was not a real humanbeing but a figment of his imagination but he would not agree, similarly he drew another horrifying picture and was terrified by it and kept chanting thios monster would kill him, again people around told him this too was not possible as this too was a figment of his own imagination.....we all are just like this mad painter, we draw a dream considering people around us, our loved ones and expect it to turn into reality just the way we want it, .....when asked who is the person you love the most we generally mention the name of a loved one but the fact is the person any individual loves the most is Himself/ Herself, and we love people around us only because they help us in completion of our dreams, the minute the behave otherwise we get angry, agitated or hurt. If we loved the person in real sense we would understand that he/she too has picture a different dream and thus behaves accordingly. You don't agree, I know most of you don't but that's ok it's your dream after all :D
Day 9:
The day dawned with hope that today I will give my best shot and will try to get to the depth of the art of Vipassana. I was also able to sit in "Atishthan" a state while meditating when you sit in the same posture for an hour without opening your eyes and moving your hands and legs. It was tough but I got through it and finally the pain didn't matter coz determination takes over. I know it sounds easy so try it out for yourself :) we humans hate being tied up and this particular process makes you test your endurance to pain, itch, tickle, heat, cold and the likes. as the day drew to an end I was not only able notice the sensations on my body but also was able to mentally control 'em to a good extent. I was able to understand the meaning of "Panna" to develope wisdom, "Anicca" nothing is permanent, "Sankhara" mental reactions that because of our ignorance keep flooding our minds with fresh negatives, aversions and cravings. Vipassana helps us destroy this very ignorance.

The Pagoda with dhamma hall and shunyaghars.

Day 10:
Today we were taught "Mitta bhavna" where you practice selfless love for all beings from the depth of you heart, also every day of this course Goenkaji would recite a line " Sarva Mangal Bhavatu!" i not only understood it's meaning but also felt the power in this statement, it ment " May All Beings Be Happy " when you say it with heartfelt wishes it makes you too happy in true sense. After this we left our "Maun" i.e. we were not allowed to speak at all, except to our teachers and helpers for last 9 days, hearing your voice after such long span is an experience in itself. You feel thankful for this ability and realise how much you misuse it daily. After the Maun was over the place was a chaos, everyone was desperate to grab their cellphones from the valuables counter and call their family and friends. Everyday in the cafeteria we would sit quietly and eat and there was a board that said "Be Happy" but in last 9 days I never did once see anyone smile but today as I sat to eat my lunch I saw each and every single women smile and chatter away :D last 9 days I sat across a lady but never spoke but today she burst into a lengthy conversation with me. I had waited eagerly for last 10 days to get out of this place, to speak to my family, my friends but today I was missing the silence and I knew I would miss this place. I got lotsa free time today since we had just 5hrs meditation so I spent it absorbing the beauty around me. I just wanned to be quite and left alone....
....One thought kept nagging me though, why Anna Pan and why Vipassana, what was the underlying reason for this 10 day rigorous regime. I got my answer in the evening discourse, when there rises any feeling in a living being, like pain, anger, lust, and the likes there are two very natural and instant reactions, one being that the natural course of our breathing changes and second we get some kinda sensation on our skin. Anna Pan and Vipassana teaches you the art to observe this which generally goes unnoticed due to our ignorance and thereby helps us control our emotions in due course.
Also we generally spend most of you time either recollecting the past, good/bad or dreaming bout our future, good/bad but in due course we let our present slip away, Vipassana teaches us to stay in the present and for a person like me, it surely saves my precious and productive time.
To sum things up it definitely was a testing experience for me, but am glad I was able to sail through and learn a lot along the journey. If you do decide to go for this course then let it be your decision, don't let anyone else manipulate you into doing it otherwise u might get frustrated.

THINGS TO REMEMBER:
  1. You are told to report by 2pm but people keep comming in till 7 so make sure you've had a nice lunch and also carry few snacks along with you for that day if you do get hungry.
  2. Carry all your essential medication along, also make sure to carry vitamin B capsules and gluconD along for weakness, Cold N Cough medicines, and massage oils /creams/ sprays for body pain, u'll need 'em. For women, do carry your sanitary napkins.
  3. Cameras, cellphones,laptops, MP3 or any reading or writing material is not allowed during the duration of the course.
  4. Laundry facility is available.
  5. Carry very comfortable clothing and you wont have time or inclination for makeup so just carry bare essentials from you makeup and skincare range.
For more information visit http://www.dhamma.org
And finally when you go just go like a clean slate, without any perceptions or preconceived notions, let things unfold naturally and gradually. Take Care :D
SARVA MANGALUM BHAVATU!

13 comments:

  1. Really Great review, I think I should do it once :)

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  2. I so wanna do it too, been thinking about it for a long time. Thanks! :)It helped. <3

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    Replies
    1. Sure, do try it, it's an experience one must have atleast once in his/her lifetime, take care :D

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  3. That's helpful..thank you for sharing.

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  4. Thanku for sharing and I need to ask why is writing material not allowed?
    Brcpz I feel that helps in releasing a lot of pent up emotions.

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    Replies
    1. Hi,
      The idea of vipassana is to spend time understanding yourself and avoid any kind of distractions, I personally feel no amount of words can actually sum up the surge of emotions one feels. Also it's about living in that very moment and not thinking bout the past or future. Just feel the moment of being truly alive..tc :)

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  5. hi,
    Thanks you very much for this guidance. i have got the email from them and i am going this months end only. as i am a mail and going for the first time can you please guide me and give me more details.
    is there any shops inside available for cloths or food e.t.c. or we have to take all the things with us??

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  6. Hi,
    Thanks for sharing. i have got email for the confirmation. i am going this months end. need to know more details like if any shops available inside for cloths , foods, e.t.c. or we will have to take everything from here..

    thanks.
    palak bhatt

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    Replies
    1. Hi, when did you get the confirmation email? after registration? How was your experience? I have registered online for December 28th course. Will they call me to confirm?

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    2. Hi Aishwarya, you will get an email from their end with all the details if you have opted of that option....best wishes n go with an open mind...let things unfold :)

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  7. Hi priya,
    the review is very helpfull thanks for such a detail description. I will definitely do it. its really exciting after reading all this. sureally it will be amazing and life changing experience.

    ReplyDelete