Sunday, March 7, 2010

an open letter to Page...a quick summary...

One of my blog followers, Page, is scheduled for the March 10th Vipassana course, so I wanted to get something posted quickly since Blogger won't let me email directly.
  • the course is extremely rewarding and worth every single minute
  • the longest sit was one two-hour sit (on the 4th day, I believe) in which you are asked not to move at all.  this is when you are receiving Vipassana from Goenke.  it is fully guided and he is chanting between sections.  you won't even think about moving during this sit and was the most powerful experience of the whole course for me.
  • the longest period of required sitting is in the evening - one hour sit, 5 minute break, one hour sit watching discourse from Goenke on DVD, 5 minute break, one hour sit, then bed time
  • sign up for shower time as soon as you get there because you'll be expected to maintain that schedule for the duration of the course.  i'm a morning shower person, and ended up with 7:15 (6:30-8 AM is morning break time and one of the longest break periods when you can shower).  sign up is on the bulletin board near the bathroom (there are only 2).  if you prefer evenings, 9:30 is the best time because you usually get out of the final meditation around 9:15, lights out at 10 PM
  • use your breaks for BREAKS!  do not meditate during the morning, lunch, or evening break.  stretch, lie down, or take a walk around the walking trail.  during the afternoon rest, sleep.  that is the best and only real naptime you want to indulge in.  avoid any type of mental stimulation.  the brain is easily agitated in the beginning and is like taking steps backward if you lose that much fought for quiet mind.
  • i reverse the advice of an earlier posted video. do NOT sleep every chance you get! you are there for a unique experience and snoozing through it will not yield optimum results. cat naps are okay.
  • practice the breathing technique you learn the first day during everything you do!  shower, walking, eating  (as a result I was falling apart by the end of the first day)  LOL
  • do not talk!  the less you talk and the less you connect with others, the better for your experience (although it is challenging if you're sharing with two other people and the room gets too hot and you wish to open the window to cool the room)
  • if you meditate in your room, do not LIE DOWN on the bed.  best practice is to meditate only in the hall or outside.  reserve your room for sleeping and it confuses your body and mind less. 
  • there are lots and lots of cushions, backjacks and other things to choose from.  at Registration let them know if you require a chair or wall for back support. otherwise, you will be assigned a seat away from the wall and will have to meet with the teacher on the first day to request a wall or chair. 
  • know the difference between PAIN and DISCOMFORTdo not push yourself to the point of severe pain during a sit without moving.  if you reach the painful level, then shift.  just do so slowly.  i pushed myself too hard and ended up re-injuring my knee
  • try to remember when you are cresting on a wave of extreme doubt, indecision, anger, sadness, pain, or whatever -- THIS TOO SHALL PASS.  It became one of my mantras when I was trying not to shift during a meditation.  As well as what the teacher told me during a private interview when discussing the discomfort, "something hurts, SO WHAT?".  :)
  • do not overeat at meal times.  take 3/4 a plate the size you would normally eat.  more food makes you drowsy.  no food, only fruit, juice, and hot tea for the evening "meal", so really only two meals a day.  breakfast and lunch.  hope you like rosemary and vegetarian food.  if not, well, it's a great way to lose weight!  they do require you eat and no fasting is allowed.  i ate a lot of apples and bananas while i was there.  :)
  • take a water bottle that is insulated and easy to carry around.  you will drink a lot more water than you realize.
  • recognize your physical limitations.  i thought because i already sit in 45-minute periods that i would be fine.  not so.  i didn't think about the fact that these were 1 hour sits with a 5- or 10-minute break between.
  • remain as disciplined as possible about meditation periods.  the mind and ego are very strong and under attack.  they will grasp at anything to discourage meditation (bodily discomfort, mental agitation, etc.).  the more disciplined you are, the sooner your mind will become your ally.
  • be kind to yourself and don't try to be perfect.  this is a method you will be practicing for the rest of your life and cannot be mastered in 10-days or less.  the 10-days are more to provide you with an uninterrupted environment to experience the results and develop the discipline and practice.  i must admit i am awake at 4:30 every morning now and am able to complete a one hour sit without any problem.  it's a good habit to develop.
  • your two favorite words will become, "Anand..." and "Take rest, take rest..."  :)
I will blog more about my experience later, but can say it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I do not regret one single minute of it.  I had no expectations and was completely blown away by my experience.  I found everything I've been searching for while I was there.  I answered many questions for myself and even realized questions I had not yet formed.  I reconnected with my inner spiritual self, although the technique itself is not spiritual.  It is based in dhamma, the law of nature, of cause and effect.

The hour-long evening discourse with Goenke on DVD is a dhamma talk.  Some of what he says is in the book, "The Art of Living" by William Hart and is in the video you will see.  (Excellent book, BTW)  Goenke has a sense of humor and is charming and sincere.  Even though he is on DVD, you feel as if he is there with you, speaking to you, encouraging.  He chants before each group sitting.  It is wonderful, especially if you open your heart to the message behind the chanting.  More than once I was moved to tears by the sincerity of his chanting.

Please write to me, Page, and let me know how your course was!  Send me an email so we can correspond outside of Blogger, but post a comment here about your experience after you return so others can read about your experience as well.

Be well!  Know peace.  And long sits.


PS - if you're going to GA center:  Don't worry about bug spray.  Too cold, no bugs.  Just take a few outfits and wear them over and over.  They have a bucket with soap for handwashing clothing with a clothesline out back.  Bring your shoes in at night.  If it rains at night they might get soaked.  They have extra blankets.  Blankets work better than sleeping bag.  Minimize, minimize, minimize!  You don't have a lot of storage space.  Don't forget your own towel and wash cloth.  Dress in layers.  T-shirts were good when staying inside, but hoody and jacket were used when going outside or walking to dining hall.  If you have an umbrella, bring it. It will rain.  Wear socks and they will do for the meditation hall and indoor.  Have a good pair of tennis shoes or hiking boots that do well in squishy clay, mud, and water.  The walking trails are mushy and wet if it has rained and you walk a trail to the dining hall three times each day.

They have electric alarm clocks you can borrow at Registration.  Other than to know what time it is when you're in your room, you really don't need it, especially if you have a watch.  A bell is rung every time a new period starts (such as morning bell to wake up, breaks, group sittings, etc.) and schedules are posted in multiple spots.  Don't worry, you'll hear the bell.  :)


Page said...

Thank you Karen!
I have been awaiting your comments.
I'm a vegetarian and already only eat two meals a day, so no problem there. I only weigh 105, so no dieting for me.
I'm familiar with the territory also. I have spent many March weeks paddling in the Okefenokee Swamp, which is just south of Jesup.
I plan to take an long rain coat, as well as an umbrella.
I run cold, so I also have planned layers.
Are the blankets sufficient for someone who runs cold? I plan to bring a bottom sheet and my sleeping bag, which is rated down to 40 degrees.
I'm naturally social, so I'm going to have to focus on keeping my eyes on the ground.
I don't know how to get your email address...I'd love to chat one on one.

Karen said...

Hi Page! I'm so glad you got to see my post to you! You can email me by clicking on my profile photo near this post or toward the bottom in the right pane on the main page of my blog. That will take you to my profile and there's an "email me" link you can click on to send me an email. I look forward to sharing more and hearing about your experience.

You will do awesome! There will still be the mental or emotional challenges, as we are all unique. But at least you don't sound like you'll have as much of a physical challenge as I did.

You will definitely want to bring more blankets then. They usually left the thermostat around 67 degrees, which amazingly, wasn't as cold inside as it sounded. We actually opened the windows a few days for fresh air and it wasn't too cold. If you run cold, you'll want to take hoodies, long sleeved shirts and extra blankets. The one they provide is warm, but I was using two and I'm not too sensitive to cold.

The only thing I found with my sleeping bag was that it is REALLY LOUD in the middle of the night. LOL It wasn't all cloth, but had this light vinyl material on the outside that was very loud when rubbed together in the middle of the night. I'm a restless sleeper by nature, so I constantly toss and turn all night. I finally took it off the bed because I was afraid I was disturbing my speechless roommates. :)

Funny experience related to casting the eyes downward, which is the only way to keep from smiling or interacting with others. On my way home I stopped at a McDonald's to use their restroom. They only had two stalls which were currently occupied and two women were waiting in line already. As soon as I walked in and saw them, I immediately cast my eyes downward. I had to chuckle because I had been standing that way for a few minutes before I even realized what I was doing. LOL

I'm looking forward to hearing about your experience. The best piece of advice I can think to give is to know your weaknesses. Once you start working your mind will use those against you. Whatever you're attached to or have as a personal weakness, it will use against you to discourage you and your practice. Recognize it and remember, this too shall pass and I'll still be here, breathing through it all. The only constant is breath.

Good luck, my new friend!!


Anonymous said...

Thank you Karen & Page. I am Nancy and I will be joining Page for this next session. Karen your feedback has been very helpful. I am a double knee transplant so know knee pain! I have studied meditation at the Chopra Center, but there we practice Premordial meditation.
Sharing bedroom space with others has me concerned because I may snore!
Thanks again & take care of those knees!


Karen said...

Nancy - Good luck and please let me know how it goes for you - especially as a fellow-knee sufferer!!


E Ruiz said...

This is SO SO helpful! Hi, I'm E, and going to Jesup for vipassana on Dec 27, 2016-Jan 6, 2017. (No telling if any of you will see this, lol)
Karen, the posts on your experience have been incredibly valuable! I've been re-reading what the Center emailed to me about "what to bring", and was still feeling very uncertain. Your blog was among the first that Google found, and to my delight, specifically about the Jesup center. (the heavens opened & angels sang) Synchronicity is so cool :)
Thank you for creating this space & being so diligent about posting on your experience, and helpful tips to others.