Mon 14th Dec: today will be the most difficult day

Everyone I had spoken to who had done this before had all said the same thing independently: Day 4, is the most difficult. Today, Monday 14th December, is Day 4 and is supposedly the day when the mental trials reach their peak.

It’s the day with the highest drop out rate. It’s the day that, those who complete the course look back on as the day with the most confusion, the most frustration, the biggest urge to probe, question, argue and/or discuss. Unfortunately, the silence means you’re left to battle out the arguments in your head alone.

Ricardo whom I had met in Cambodia described how “On the 4th Day, you’ll find that little monkey that lives inside of your head, sitting in the corner of the room, the corner of your mind, smashing two cymbals together.”

As I wrote this post (roughly 6 days ago, the day before I arrived at the centre) I wonder whether even a self-proclaimed, hard-hearted, stoic will go through the same journey or whether day 4 will come and go, rather uneventfully, with an anti-climax that requires the embarrassing redaction of this post’s title. I’m finding out right now. You’ll find out in a week’s time. In the meantime I’ve queued up a whole bunch of blog posts so you have some reading while I’m offline.

Background

On Thursday 10th December, I will have arrived at the Vipassana meditation centre in Jaipur. It’s a 10-day silent meditation retreat.

I’ve been wanting to do this ever since I started my trip in December 2014 last year. For various reasons I missed out on doing it in Thailand. When I arrived in India, I felt that the opportunity had presented itself again. The Jaipur centre’s schedule lined up with my somewhat erratic schedule. I would have ideally liked to do it in Rishikesh or Dharamsala, somewhere in the mountains with a nice view and fresh air. Unfortunately, at this time of year those mountainous regions are too cold so the centres don’t offer courses. Even my week in Dharamsala and Rishikesh felt cold. There would be some welcomed heat in Jaipur.

The premise is simple. You live voluntarily in the centre. You observe strict silence for 10 days, with no communication – no smartphones, no books, no writing diaries/journals, no nothing…nada…nope…absolutely diddly squat. You follow a course schedule which is made up mainly of meditation through the day with some teaching and class peppered throughout.

My main concerns at the time of writing this, are whether I’m going to keep falling asleep during the meditation (my body doesn’t do so good at waking up at 4 am, then sitting still with my eyes shut) and whether eating only two proper meals a day will be enough (I’m quite a hungry person).

Vipassana Details

So below is a few more details about the course. I’m not mad, honestly. I know it sounds like a cult…but…okay, I got nothing for that.

The course is very strict. The daily schedule is as follows:

4:00 am – Morning wake-up bell

4:30-6:30 am – Meditate in the hall or in your room

6:30-8:00 am – Breakfast break

8:00-9:00 am – Group meditation in the hall

9:00-11:00 am – Meditate according to the teacher’s instructions

11:00-12:00 noon – Lunch break

12noon-1:00 pm – Rest and interviews with the teacher

1:00-2:30 pm – Meditate in the hall or in your room

2:30-3:30 pm – Group meditation in the hall

3:30-5:00 pm – Meditate according to the teacher’s instructions

5:00-6:00 pm – Tea break

6:00-7:00 pm – Group meditation in the hall

7:00-8:15 pm – Teacher’s Discourse in the hall

8:15-9:00 pm – Group meditation in the hall

9:00-9:30 pm – Question time in the hall

9:30 pm – Retire to your own room–Lights out

The Course Rules:

  1. The technique is taught in a ten days residential course during which you must follow a prescribed Code of Discipline. Please do read it at http://www.dhamma.org/en/code.shtml.
  2. You will have to stay for the complete 10 days and remain in the centre till the end of the course. Only those who feel that they can honestly follow the discipline & time table scrupulously should attend the course.
  3. You have to set aside all other meditation practices, energetic healing techniques, rites, rituals, recitations and prayers for the duration of the course.
  4. Outside contact is not permitted during the course period.
  5. You must observe Noble Silence from the beginning of the course. Any form of communication with fellow students, whether by gestures, sign language, written notes, etc. is prohibited. You may however speak with the teacher whenever necessary and you may approach the management with any problem related to food, accommodation or health etc.
  6. Complete segregation of men and women is to be maintained. Couples married or otherwise should not contact each other in any way during the course. The same applies to friends, members of the same family, etc.
  7. It is important that throughout the course there be no physical contact between persons of the same or opposite sex.
  8. Please note that cotton clothes are most comfortable for meditation e.g. shirt, cotton trousers, slacks, Indian style pajama-kurta, dhoti-kurta, etc. for men; and salwar/kurta, sari, slacks/cotton trousers, etc. for women. Tight, transparent, revealing or otherwise striking clothing (such as shorts, short skirts, tights, legging, sleeveless or skimpy tops) should not be worn. Sunbathing, partial nudity, etc. are not permitted. This is important in order to minimize distraction to others.
  9. You could bring with you your basic requirements such as towel, bathing soaps, toothpaste, toothbrush, mosquito repellent, torch (searchlight), umbrella for rainy season (June to October), shawl/cardigan/sweater during winters (November to February).
  10. Mattress and pillow for sleeping, blankets, mosquito net and cushion for meditation will be provided by the Centre. You may bring bed sheets/blankets/sleeping bag with you for your convenience.
  11. Although physical yoga and other exercises are compatible with Vipassana, they should be suspended during the course. Jogging is also not permitted. Students may exercise during rest period by walking in designated areas.
  12. Religious objects, Rosaries, Crystals, Talisman etc. should not be brought to the course site.
  13. Narcotic drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, chewing tobacco or any other intoxicants should NOT be brought to the site. This also applies to tranquilizers, sleeping pills and all other sedatives. The technique demands your full alertness during meditation sessions. In case you have any such addiction, please ensure that you meet the Course Conducting Teacher on the registration day.
  14. Persons with health problems like Heart disease, BP, Diabetes, Epilepsy, Mental illness, etc. need to bring a doctor’s fitness certificate in order to attend the course. Please ensure that you meet the Course conducting teacher and inform him/her about your condition on the registration day.
  15. The Centre takes no responsibility for any health problems of a participant. Any medical expenses will have to be borne by the participant.
  16. In case you are using medicines which are prescribed by your doctor, you should get sufficient stock of your regular medicines for the course period. Those taking medicines or drugs on a doctor’s prescription should notify the teacher on the first day of course.
  17. In case you are physically challenged and if you cannot manage 10-day stay on your own, please bring an attendant to help you. The attendant should be a Vipassana meditator, having done at least one 10-days residential course.
  18. If you suffer  from  any serious  contagious  diseases like  excessive cough,  phlegm or any other serious  illness  we request you to please  postpone your participation  to a future course. Your illness may disturb other participants. Please participate in a future course only after recovery from illness.
  19. Persons with addiction to alcohol/drugs should stop its use at least 2 weeks prior to joining the course.
  20. Simple Indian, vegetarian food is provided at the Centre. Outside food is not allowed.
  21. Laundry service is available at the center at the nominal charges.
  22. Outstation students should arrange for their own Railway/Road/Air tickets etc in advance. Vipassana Centre is not responsible for it.
  23. At Dhamma Thali, Jaipur, Vipassana teaching is offered in Hindi and English languages to all the students. However, a facility is also available to offer the teaching in 44 languages. 24. You are advised not to bring any jewelry, valuables, etc. with you. In case you do bring, these will have to be deposited with the management for the 10 days period.
  24. Foreign students must carry proper travel documents with them like Passport and valid Visa in order to be registered to the course. We will keep it safely for the duration of the course. No one should bring anything prohibited under Indian laws.

The full list of things can be found here.

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