1 Year of Vipassana Meditation—Part 1: My First Course

1 Year of Vipassana Meditation—Part 1: My First Course
The men's meditation hall at the Quebec Vipassana Meditation Centre.

On February 1, 2023 I embarked on a journey of 10 days that completely changed my life and shifted the way I interact with the world.

This journey was a 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat at the Quebec Vipassana Centre in Montebello, Canada. A detailed timetable, an explanation of the practice and answers to a host of other questions can be found on the official website of the specific school of Vipassana meditation that I practiced under (as taught by S.N. Goenka).

The men's wing of the meditation centre. Image taken from Rahul Ranjan on Google.

For 10 days I: had no access to any electronic devices, ate vegetarian food, did not speak a word to any other participant and refrained from sexual conduct. This was asked of all participants who wished to join the course.

I woke up between 4 and 5 AM every day and followed a schedule of: 2 hours of meditation—breakfast—rest—3 hours of meditation—lunch—rest—4 hours of meditation—snack—rest—1 hour of meditation—a 1.5 hour discourse—30 minutes of meditation—bed.

Multi-hour meditation windows were broken up by short breaks.

The women's side of the dining hall. Men and women were fully segregated until the final day of the course.

I was told what to do with every single minute of every day. Every meditation session was guided with painstakingly clear instruction. I was also instructed how to eat and what to do while resting.

Following those instructions was not easy.

Upon starting the course I was asked to fully surrender myself to the guidance I was to be given over the coming 10 days. This was a very important step, for anything less than full surrender would've most likely kept me from experiencing the full wealth of benefits that I stood to gain by engaging in the practice as it was intended.

Even having made that momentary decision to surrender, I was not flawless in my execution. As I would come to see, surrender is a constant decision. Awareness and equanimity—the two cornerstones of Vipassana meditation—are constant decisions.

On the 10th day of the course silence was broken and participants were free to mingle. It was incredible to hear the sound of nearly 100 simultaneous voices after so many days of only listening to recorded audios and the voice of the in-person assistant teacher.

I left the next day to return to the "real world".

A new chapter in my life had just begun.

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