Saturday, January 29, 2011

10-day vipassana meditation course: Overview

In prior posts, I discussed my journey into meditation and various meditation techniques that I have been exposed to. This next series of posts are an attempt to capture my experience at a 10-day Vipassana meditation course taught by S. N. Goenka. I've attended 3 of these so far. The first one was in May 2007, the second was in July 2008, and the third was in June 2010. I took the first and second courses at the center in North Fork, CA, and did the third one at a newer center in Kelseyville, CA. This account is mostly about my first course, but I'll point out things that were significantly different between the courses.

I was quite apprehensive before the course, both because of concerns about being brainwashed, and also about the physical and mental discomfort that I knew would result from sitting for several hours of meditation each day. However, I decided to sign up anyway, because I was really attracted to the teachings as described to me by friends and acquaintances that had taken the course, and I expected it might transform my life. The latter despite often being told not to look at meditation as a quick fix to all of one's problems. For more about why I even got into meditation to begin with, you can read My journey into meditation.

I should mention a few things that I feel helped prepare me for the course. First, I personally knew several people that had taken this course. Of these I knew 2 quite well so I had the chance to ask several in-depth questions about the course including the type of instruction and the physical and mental strain induced by the course as well as what benefits I might get from attending it. Second, I had read The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation by William Hart which is a Q&A-type discussion between the author and S. N. Goenka. That book does not give any clue about the actual course instruction but rather discusses the foundations of the technique and how it is designed to work. Finally, I had been meditating regularly for 5 years by the time I took the first course, so I had been exposed to what meditation was like, and the struggles of mind and body with being able to sit still and silent; however, as I was to find out later, meditating for such extended periods as done during the course is quite different and results in a very different experience.

I'll be discussing my experience in separate posts:
I should note that these posts are simply a description of my experience and can hopefully serve as a guide to what one might expect should they decide to take the course. It is not an attempt to persuade anyone to, or dissuade anyone from, taking the course.

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