Monday, March 8, 2010

Checklist for women attending Vipassana course in Jesup, GA

Here's a quick checklist for women attending one of S.N. Goenka's Vipassana courses in Jesup, GA.
  • Bring minimal clothing.  No one is paying attention to what you are wearing and eventually, neither will you.  They have a bucket with soap for handwashing garments if you find the need.  Just bring plenty of underwear and socks.
  • NO PERFUME or smelly hair spray!!  PLEASE!
  • Shoes:  one sturdy pair that can be worn walking outside in mud, clay, and sandy areas that are wet.  If you can get a pair that are easy to slide on and off (without ties) they are the best because you'll be pulling them off and on a lot.  I found wearing socks inside was enough and only needed the shoes when going outside.  I did wear Ugs when it got really cold at night to wear in my room and the hall when socks just weren't enough.
  • Clothing:  Hoodies are a plus when it is cold out.  Sweatpants or loose, comfy pants are best.  Loose t-shirts are good.  I liked using a scarf around my head to help minimize distractions for me when others moved, sneezed, or coughed around me.  Sometimes my mind would seize on the slightest thing!!  There are scarves available outside the dhamma hall that you can use during meditation.
  • Bring a warm shawl or blanket (separate of the one you sleep with) for the dhamma hall.  Sometimes, it is cool and you will be glad you have it.  You can also leave it and any other cushions you use where you are assigned so you don't have to carry things back and forth to your room.
  • Bring a small bag with cough drops and tissues.  Cough drops help when you get a tickle and you aren't supposed to leave the hall.  You aren't allowed to have water, so sometimes they can help. 
  • Bring an extra blanket and don't forget your sheets and pillow case.  If you do, it's okay, they have extra sets for those who don't have them.  They also have a nice blanket and decent pillow on the bed for you already.  
  • Plan for a minimal period of time in the shower.  Try to organize yourself so you are in and out quickly.  Don't use too much hot water.  We seem to have an issue of running a little cool toward the end of a shower at times. 
  • Snoring!!!  Don't worry - they have No Snore strips available in the dining hall and in the student closet for us.  I only know of one situation in which someone snored loud enough to be heard throughout the hall.  The only reason I heard her was because I woke up in the middle of the night needing to use the restroom.  The rest of the time I think everyone was too exhausted to notice someone snoring.  :)
  • A sign-up board is posted near each bathroom to sign up for the time you wish to shower.  Everyone is asked to adhere to the same time each day.  The largest window for showering is morning break from 6:30 until 8 AM.  Study the schedule carefully for break times as they are the only times you are permitted to shower.  I recommend saving the afternoon nap time for resting.  Take morning or evening shower times, depending on your preference.
  • If you wish to speak to the teacher, try to be the first to sign up on the board in the dining hall each morning.  You are usually called in the order you sign up and the time for private teacher interviews are from noon until 1, which is also your rest time.  If you aren't first, you can wait up to 30-40 minutes before your turn.  30-40 minutes of your rest time spent waiting outside the dhamma hall.
  • You can also ask questions of the teacher after the last meditation of the evening between 9:15-9:30.  People are still in the room either meditating or waiting their turn to ask questions, so it is not private.  Each person takes a turn sitting in front of the teacher and quietly discussing their question.  If what you wish to ask is not personal, it's as good a time to ask questions as any.  Only use the private interview time when it truly needs to be private or might be an emotional discussion best held in private.
  • Cut yourself a break every now and then, but try to stick to the scheduled meditation periods as closely as possible.  Try to limit resting to your room, but meditation for the meditation hall.  The more you slack, the less your results will be. 
  • Pay attention to your body!!  There is a fine line between discomfort and pain.  Recognize when it becomes pain and move.  Don't worry about everyone else sitting like stone and you have to move.  Just do so very, very slowly and quietly.  Most won't even notice you moving.  Just be sure you are truly in so much discomfort you can no longer bring yourself back to just the breath anymore.  Count the number of times you move and try to reduce by one each sit.  If the back pain is too much, request a back jack, wall or chair to assist you. 
  • Be sure to take a walk after each meal.  This helps digest your food, but also work out any kinks in your muscles between sits.  During each break between sits when you are returning to the meditation hall, always be sure to stretch your legs before sitting again.  DO NOT stretch in the meditation hall.  Exit outside and do so gracefully and discretely.
  • Use the port-a-potty!  People are shy about using it in the beginning, but eventually, when you've REALLY got to to, you won't mind using it.  They keep it very clean.  There is hand sanitizer and toilet paper inside.  Instead of standing in line and fuming because you have to wait behind someone having bathroom issues, take it outside and get it over with.  If it's cool out, the brisk air will help wake you up and re-energize you!
  • Be mindful of others.  QUIETLY close doors and flip light switches. 
Most important advice of all
  • When it gets really rough (and it will), just keep telling yourself:  "This too shall pass" and it will. 
  • When the discomfort or the itch becomes unbearable and you just have to move, say to yourself, "It itches, so what?  If I don't itch it, so what?  It will rise and then it will pass.  My mind is strong enough to watch it rise and pass without reacting to it."
  • If it does not pass after a considerable period and you are no longer able to focus your mind on just your breath, it is time to shift - quietly and slowly.  Shift as little as possible, then observe the pain and see if it begins to lessen or if it moves to another location.
Good luck to all who undertake this wonderful opportunity!  It is worth every single minute of it and one of the wisest choices I have ever made. 



Page said...

Thank you Karen. I'm repacking my bag tonight after I get home from work. Also, thanks for the heads up about no water in the meditation hall.
It will be what it will be.
I'll let you know my experience when I return. I hope I last all 10 days.

Karen said...

Good luck, Page! I will be thinking of you. Remember, it is about getting the most out of the experience that you are meant to. Don't put too much pressure on yourself and just remember to keep breathing. It's one of the first times in my life I've actually lived at the minute-by-minute level in order to get through. I look forward to hearing from you and will send prayers of strength to you and Nancy. I hope you can meet each other before the silence sets in!

Metta to you both,

Jo-Ann said...

Thank you very much for all the information. I'm going on my first course in September in Hereford, UK, and its nice to have an idea of what to expect and what to take. Also have a course booked in Delhi as I'm tarvelling out there in December!
Best wishes to you
Jo x

Yashoda said...

Thank you Karen :) I'm attending to the next couse next week in Georgia. It's very hot these days and I was wondering if the rooms have a/c during summer. They don't mention it on the checklist. I don't want to pack unnecessary clothes so if there is no a/c I could just pack light clothes and a hand fan.
I see you attended during the cold season, but did you see any a/c machine around? hehe
Thanks again for the list, it's very useful.

Karen said...

Hi Jo-Ann and thanks for the feedback. I've been "away" for a while, but hope to start posting meditation blogs again soon. I'm happy you found the checklist helpful. Please come back and post and let us know about your experience -- if you blog it somewhere, give me the blog address and I'll post it here.

Good luck to you! What a life-changing experience!

Karen said...

Hi Yashoda! I'm happy you found this helpful. As far as A/C, it is a central heat/air system (I believe), so you should be okay. However, I think they keep the temps set higher in the summer, lower in the winter to conserve energy. I would pack a couple of pairs of sweats, just in case it rains and gets chilly since you are surrounded by woods. Mostly I think I would pack shorts and light tops. You can always layer tops, if needed. You can always bring a small fan to place near you if it gets too warm.

Please post back and let me know how your experience was. I'm planning to go again, but it will be a few years. I want to be much further along in my practice before attempting it again. Next time I WILL make 10 days!! For me it was more physical challenges, so that is what I have to work on.

Good Luck! Metta

Kiran said...

Thanks Karen for the detailed post. Just wanted to clarify two things-I seem to have a bit of a problem with the upassana dates and my monthly cycle clashing. Is there any problem w.r.t this or should I schedule this for another 10 day period? on the other hand, is it fine for pregnant women to take this up?
Appreciate your suggestions.

Alegre said...

HI Kiren,

I saw your post. Are you going to the Aug 22-Sep 2 Retreat? I will be at that one. I hope you won't let your cycle deter you. I'm curious as to what Karen of the blog might say about that, but I think she'd encourage you to embrace your total experience come what may. :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi, for women that have long hair, is it permissible to take a hair dryer along?

Anonymous said...

Yes, a hairdryer is alright although rarely used by meditators for two reasons: it is noisy which is more difficult during silence and many of the meditators are not concerned about appearance and enjoy the liberation from such daily routines.
Peace and happiness to All.

Anonymous said...

Monthly cycle will not interfere with your practice of Vipassana. In fact, you may even find it helpful in your practice of remaining equanimous and maintaining your mindfulness of Anicca (impermanence).
May each of you be blessed with wisdom from your course.

Anonymous said...

About shorts:
Anything above the knees is not permitted as modest and appropriate attire is required at all times even though there is gender segregation at all times except in the Dhamma hall and during beginning and closing meetings.
Appropriate attire communication is well presented along with what to bring on the Dhamma Patapa website.
May All Beings Be Happy

Anonymous said...

Can I wear leggings on kurta

Vicki said...

I am bringing a friend to the next course, beginning 02/24/2016. This will be my 5th course and, I find, I feel like a beginner every time I begin! Sending much metta to all.

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