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Eat, Sleep, Meditate

Updated: Jan 20, 2020

A 10 day Vipassana Retreat Experience

You might find the idea of 10 days of silent meditation unthinkable, undoable, maybe a little crazy? And you might ask yourself, "why"?

Meditation is not new to me. I have been practising and teaching meditation consistently for around 15 years and been on a few weekend retreats. This was the first time I'd embarked on a 10 day Vipassana retreat. It is something I have thought of experiencing for some time. It came from the wish to immerse myself in a deep dive experience of meditation practice, to retreat and take time out to nourish my mind & soul. I chose to take time out over Christmas, with the support and blessing of my darling husband and sons, I thought it would be a great way to end 2019 and a great way to start 2020.

Lots of people have asked me about the retreat, “Which Vipassana retreat did I go on? What was it like?”.

The International Meditation Centre, UK

The centre I went to was the International Meditation Centre in Wiltshire, which was established in the UK in 1978, to promote the teachings of the late Burmese teacher, Sayagyi U Ba Khin, by his disciple, Mother Sayamagyi. Sayagyi U BA Khin was said to be the first layman to be taught the teachings by a Buddhist monk in Burma, he realised the importance of these teachings and had a gift for passing on these teachings to others.

Theravada Buddhism

The style of Buddhism is in the Theravada tradition, also known as "the traditions of the Elders" and is said to be more conservative than the Mayhayana tradition (the other main branch of Buddhist philosophy). Theravada Buddhism abides by the Buddha's teachings by following the Noble Eightfold Path. Theravada Buddhists strive to be Arhats, who are perfected people who have gained true insight into the nature of reality. Vipasanna means "insight", by practising meditation regularly and consistently, a calm mind and clarity of awareness is developed.

When The Buddha became enlightened, he had a realisation about suffering. That in this life we all suffer and that the suffering happens in the mind. He named the Four Noble Truths: There is suffering, there is a cause of suffering, there is an alternative to suffering, there is a path or way out of suffering. The objective of meditation - (which is the path out of suffering) - is to reduce suffering of the mind and to cultivate calmness, steadiness and peace.

Settling in

Arriving for dinner on the Friday, I checked in and handed my mobile phone over. No contact with the outside world, no texting, emailing or google. What no phone for 10 days??? - I hear you gasp! I was relishing the digital detox!

We were allowed to speak to fellow meditators and meet our room mates. Then for the rest of the time until the afternoon of day 9 we observed noble silence. In order to take part in the training we are asked to adhere to the 5 precepts, i) No killing of sentient beings, ii) No stealing iii) No lying iv) Observe celibacy . v) No drink, drugs or other intoxicants.

The objective of observing noble silence is that we can also observe the precept of right speech, which means we are not indulging in idle chat and therefore there isn’t an opportunity to say anything thoughtless or to offend. In the dining area women and men sit separately, as in the meditation hall. This is to observe the precept of not indulging in sexual relations so that celibacy can be maintained and one is able to concentrate wholly on the practice of meditation.

The Schedule

The morning began early, the bell went at 4am :-

4:00 am Wake up

4:30 Meditation in hall

5:30 Morning discourse

6:30 - 8:00 Breakfast and rest

8:00 - 9:00 Group meditation in hall (for all)

9:30Individual instruction (for all)

11:00 - 1:00 pm Lunch and rest

1:00 - 1:45 Meditation

2:00 - 3:00 Group meditation in hall (for all)

3:30 - 5:00 Meditation, and interviews for new students

5:00 - 6:00 Tea and rest

6:00 Evening discourse

7:30 - 8:30 Group meditation in hall (for all)

9:00 Retire