My Vipassana Meditation Part 1: First 3 Days Were Torture

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Vipassana meditation centre, Gambang, Malaysia

Meditation hall, Vipassana meditation centre, Malaysia

This is the part 1 of 3 describing my 10 day silent Vipassana meditation course in Malaysia.
See Part 2: Tingling, Vibrations and Sensations and Part 3: Phantom Bug Bites, Insights and After the Course.
Visit dhamma.org for a list of meditation centres around the world.

I expected to explore feelings, thoughts and memories in the 10 day Vipassana (“Vee pash na”) meditation course, Instead, it was more objective and purely based on observing sensations on the body.

Over the course, I went from feeling like I was being humanely tortured through solitude, to seeing my concentration improve, to experiencing new sensations from head to toe like tingling, vibrations, aches and later, even phantom bee stings.

I found words to articulate things I couldn’t express before, like lessons I’ve learned since my journey started, and had epiphanies about my behaviour from why I love holding a Starbucks cup to why I keep thinking about certain things.

Noticeable effects from the course

My course ended a week ago and I still notice an improved focus and a calmer mind. I have:

  • Less cravings: I haven’t craved chocolate or Starbucks (shocking, I know!)
  • More focus: No desire to spend untracked time on Facebook, Twitter and online
  • More body awareness, even when I’m not meditating, for example, feeling sensations when I eat, talk to others, or think
  • More objectivity: about stress and anxiety, like around my year-off is up, what to do next with myself

10 days of vipassana is not for the faint-hearted

You commit to complete silence and mental pureness for 10 days.

In addition 10+ hours a day of sitting meditation starting at 4:30am everyday, there is:

  • No talking, no phones, no internet
  • No outside food, no books, no writing materials, no cameras
  • No religious/superstitious symbols
  • No physical contact with anyone
  • No yoga, jogging or exercise except walking
  • No smoking, alcohol or other drugs

Day 1 to 3: Humane torture through solitude and concentration

I thought no talking, no writing, no internet and sitting all day would be difficult. But concentrating for 10 hours a day turned out to the hardest.

For 10 hours a day, we sat and observed our breathing, concentrating on the sensation by the nostrils.

I couldn’t focus for more than a few minutes at a time. I was bored. My mind wandered. I felt drowsy. I fell asleep and woke up to a course assistant gently pulling on my cushion telling me to keep my head up and to keep trying.

These three days were painful, boring, annoying and hair pulling days.

I thought the government should use this meditation technique as a humane physical and mental torture to interrogate detainees or suspected terrorists.

Luckily, these three days was only the pre-meditation.

The real Vipassana meditation started on day 4, and some amazing things happened.

Continue reading Part 2: Tingling, Vibrations and Sensations →

>> Have you tried Vipassana or other meditation techniques? How did you feel when you first started?

This is the part 1 of 3 describing my 10 day silent Vipassana meditation course in Malaysia.
SeePart 2: Tingling, Vibrations and Sensations and Part 3: Phantom Bug Bites, Insights and After the Course.
Visit dhamma.org for a list of meditation centres around the world.

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  • MSL

    Congrats, Lily! I stumbled  upon your blog and happy that I did. You are one brave, amazing soul to travel a year solo and to have experienced a Vipassana. I did this last summer and I agree the first 3 days were brutal!!!

  • tia

    i c0uldn’t d0 it..God made beautiful creatures when he made the human being!!!

  • http://www.indiatravelblog.net/ travel in india

    Hi,
    this article is so lovable one and i think i handle in right way..

  • Anonymous

    Great post. I have been thinking of going on a retreat in India so this was really useful :)

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  • Kirkcmu

    I just sent you an email, hope to hear from you. Courtney

  • Flipnomad

    i tried it a couple of days ago… was supposed to be a 10 day program that i tried in chiang mai… i gave up on the 7th day… its so difficult… ill try it again though… 

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Oh no, I’m sorry to hear that, but congratulations for sticking it out a week. It wasn’t easy. Are you considering trying it again later? I found day 7 particularly hard for some reason, I kept feeling phantom bee stings that day, and thought I was going crazy.

      - Lily

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Oh no, I’m sorry to hear that, but congratulations for sticking it out a week. It wasn’t easy. Are you considering trying it again later? I found day 7 particularly hard for some reason, I kept feeling phantom bee stings that day, and thought I was going crazy.

      - Lily

  • http://twitter.com/Kaypachatravels Mica Ivealis

    Wow Lily, you sure are tough. I love meditation for a few hours, but not sure about a few days. Then again, the mind is a strong thing and it can handle anything we throw at it. What a wonderful experience.

  • http://twitter.com/Ladyexpat Ladyexpat

    I have thought of doing this. The operative word here being…thought…. haha.
    I do admire you for giving it a go!

  • http://nomadicsamuel.com Nomadic Samuel

    I think engaging in such a retreat would allow one to break a lot of habits that are done more out of routine than anything else.

  • http://twitter.com/DangerousBiz Amanda Williams

    I give you a lot of credit – I don’t think I could handle it!

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Hi Amanda,

      Haha – I didn’t think I was going to get through it either, especially on the first three days when I felt like tearing my hair out from having to sit and concentrate for 10 hours a days! But like the teacher taught us, it will all pass :)

      Thanks for stopping by! - Lily

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  • Lois

    Wow! I can imagine how difficult those first few days might be. When I first heard about this experience from the book Holy Cow, I thought it was funny. But I guess not so much if you are the one experiencing it. Amazing feat, Lily!

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Hi Lois,

      The first three days were much harder than I imagined. I thought the hardest part would be waking up early and sitting all day, not concentrating. It was good to learn that that’s an area my mind needs to practice :) I still meditate, and finding concentration is much easier now that it was during those first few days!

      - Lily

  • http://twitter.com/swgraphic Sarah Wu

    wow, sound like a cool experience that you need to adjust, but without the yoga part ahah

  • Pingback: Vipassana Experience Part 3: Phantom Bug Bites, Insights and After the Course

  • http://www.manonthelam.com manonthelam

    I admit, I would probably have fallen asleep with 20 minutes. I’m surprised by the “no yoga” though…

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      I was a bit surprised by the no yoga as well. I think it’s because they don’t want you practicing anything that might entail envisioning, or being distracted by, things outside of “yourself” (which I suppose also explains no cameras and no books!)

      - Lily

  • http://twitter.com/gastrategist Jennifer Barry

    As someone with severe ADD you don’t have to convince me this was torture. I’m glad it got better for you.

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Hi Jennifer,

      Oh gosh, I can’t even imagine how this experience would be for someone with ADD. I had no idea concentrating was so challenging, I thought no talking would be the most challenging part!

      - Lily

  • http://travelingted.tv Ted Nelson

    Wow, that sounds like an awesome experience once you adjust to the completely different lifestyle.

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