But the basic things people want to know are easy.
Did you make it all 10 days?
No. I left the morning of the 7th day. I tried many different sitting positions, including chair and sitting with back support and my legs stretched out in front of me. Each day my left knee and right leg became worse until the pain only subsided to a continuous dull ache between sits. Once my knee began to swell again I knew it was time to leave before I was unable to drive a long distance.
How long did you really go without talking?
Define "talking". I spoke to the female manager or the teacher at least once every day or so. As for my room mates, only when the shower schedule became a little complicated and sign language no longer was able to adequately convey what we were trying to communicate that we succumbed to verbal discussion. Going without speaking, on a whole, wasn't that hard. I had a constant conversation going on in my head all the time anyway, so what's the difference? The one in my head just got more attention when we didn't speak aloud.
Was it really that hard?
Yes. Each person there had their own challenges and faced their own demons. No one was skating through this experience, no matter how many times they've attended before. (One women was attending for the 17th time!!) Most who will walk, leave within the first 2-3 days. I was proud that I could push myself to a full six days before finally pulling out of the course.
What did you do all day?
Breathe and sit. Sit and breathe. Each day you were taught an additional step in the technique which helps to sharpen and strengthen your mind through focus and awareness without attachment. On the fourth day you receive the Vipassana technique of meditation. That is another blog all by itself. That was orgasmic bliss. No other way to describe it.
How was the food? What did you eat?
If I were vegetarian, then I could probably rant about the food. I discovered a much-used spice that I do not like. Rosemary. Now I like it even less. I tried things that, since you can't speak to one another, I have no idea what they were - other than, lactose-free, gluten-free, and taste-free. I ate a LOT of apples and bananas. I had cold, lumpy, tasteless oatmeal every morning with a huge glass of orange juice. I would, secretively add about 1/2 cup of sugar to my oatmeal to help get it down since I knew it was probably the most solid thing I'd have to eat all day. Drinks were limited to water, lemon juice, hot tea, cider or juices, and milk (soy, rice, or good old-fashioned cow's milk). No, Chas, there wasn't any kool aid offered.
What was your room like?
I had a room on the end, near the bathroom, and shared with two other women. Our room had a bunk and one single bed. I was lucky enough to get the single bed and the other two shared the bunk. The rooms were very small. Maybe 7 feet by 18 feet? The width of the room was the length of my bed with a couple of inches to spare on each side of head board and foot board. Privacy could not be an issue because there wasn't any, yet I wasn't uncomfortable with my unknown companions at all.
How do they teach the method to you?
S.N. Goenka is the teacher of this method of Vipassana meditation. In 1991 he was audio and video taped while leading a 10-day course and it is used by each center now to teach new and old students. There is an assistant teacher who is physically present to answer any questions or discuss concerns about the technique. The teaching you receive, however, is directly from S.N. Goenka via digital. It is just as powerful and it's simplicity in technique leads easily to this format of teaching. Each section begins with a chant recited by Goenka in Pali, the original language of Buddha. Each mantra or chant, is designed to impart wishes of peace, health, and well-being to those who hear.
What is the most important thing you have learned so far?
That I was searching just for the sake of searching but with no real goal in sight. Once the daily demands had been removed for a couple of days and a new, gentler schedule settled in, I found things became much more clear, much easier to understand than before. I realized, on a cellular level, my connection and place in the web of everything. I realized that which I have always sought lies not only within me, but beside me each and every day and night. Unconditional love. Acceptance. Willingness to allow me to try new things. Devotion. Security. Peace. Undying Love. If one has that, how can they possibly ever want for anything else? Realizing this, it made things so very, very clear and so much simpler.
I will share more intimate detail of my personal experiences on my other blog Windsong Reflections. This blog, Insight Found Inside, will remain dedicated to meditation practice and meditation-specific topics only.