I registered to join the Dhamma Malaya Vipassana Meditation Centre 10 day course in December of 2016. It was a course that I had been thinking of challenging myself to do for about 2 years since I found out about it from a friend. What made the ultimate push was actually being able to get that many days leave at the end of year rather than a mental readiness. All in all, the course actually was 12 days rather than 10.
So what is Vipassana Meditation?
I’m not even going to attempt to explain it. There are tons of information about it as thousands and thousands of people all over the world have tried it and no matter what language you speak, you will most probably be able to find a review of it in your language.
But for those who are interested, check this link.
There were a few reasons why I wanted to do the retreat.
1) I had tried various meditation techniques before and had success with a few of them but for a while I had problems going back to it, I just couldn’t focus. I wanted to get my focus back and I thought not having access to the internet and not talking could help with that.
2) For a few years now, the end of the year from Christmas leading up to New year usually meant eating a lot,shopping and parties. I wanted to try something different, to go into the new year alone (mentally). (The retreat went from prior to xmas to the 1st of the new year).
3) I use social media a lot, I spend HOURS on youtube. It felt like if I did this it would be a kind of digital detox.
The mediation center in Kuantan is situated inside a palm tree plantation site. Apparently the owner is also a fan of Vipassana. It felt tranquil and sets your mood in the right place as you drive in. Once I arrive, there was a registration process which was slightly chaotic (all of the people who runs the courses does it on a volunteer basis, thus I can understand why it would be slightly chaotic).
Once registered, you are to hand in your personal items like phone, wallets and passport. They don’t check your bag , so if you decided to not follow the rules of not bringing books, pens, laptops, it is actually possible to do so.
I’m not going to go through each and every single event of the program as there are many blogs that do give details. I recommend reading those blogs to get a good idea of what to expect and also what to bring for the trip. Necessities change and is different for a different meditation center as well. For example, i remember a lady saying that the center provides clocks but when I reached there , the center no longer does that. A lot of people have watches on , but I don’t. I always relied on my phone for the time and with my phone in storage, I spent 10 days without knowing what time it was and it was pretty uncomfortable at first as there was a schedule to keep to. But at certain parts of the day, like start of meditation or meal times, a gong sounds to let people know. And there is nothing like a continuous few minutes worth of a loud gong sounding at 4 a.m in the morning to wake you up.
I have to admit, the first 4 days I was there, I regretted it. I asked myself what I was doing there. There was nothing to read, write or occupy my time before I slept. I always read something, write something and having done nothing much but just meditate for the whole day made me feel restless at night and I wanted to read something every night. I ended up reading labels on my toiletries bottles. Not all at once, I rationed them out to be read.
The funny thing was the first three days, I had some issues with mediating, I seemed to get what I later felt were junk images whenever I start to meditate, I couldn’t seem to settle down, my brain was racing ahead in front of me. But it appeared that having no distractions does seem to work, from the fourth day onwards, when I meditated, I didn’t see that rush of images no longer assailed me and although I still had stray thoughts, I was able to be more mindful.
There were many sensations that the teachers said that we might have, from a tingle to other sensation that I would say I did not feel at all. Which is difficult to admit to when you are called to have a short group talk with the teacher sometimes. But I will always say that I don’t feel that sensation. Having practice meditation before, I realize that different people will have different reactions. And even if you felt or see something this time doesn’t mean you will feel and see it another.
Sitting cross legged all day long is by no means an easy feat, as the hours lengthen into days, I saw more and more people pad their buttocks with cushion, folded, rolled into different positions. More and more chairs started lining up the side of the meditation hall as more and more people requested to sit on chairs to meditate. There was one guy on the men’s side of the hall, who simply sat on what I would call a rug. He used no cushion and was able to sit perfectly straight throughout for hours (please note that even the teachers slouch when in their meditation pose). I noticed the guy eventually tried to sit on the floor with nothing between his ass (well, he did wear loose pants) and the cold hard marble floor. In a later session I noted that the rug was back. I guessed his buttocks disagreed with how hardcore he could get.
We ended the meditation on the second half prior to the last day by ending the oath of silence. Most people were nice and friendly and quite a few asked me about my coughing (if you have ever read my blog, you would note that I have a back drip issue that causes coughing, going on vegetarian does not seem to help at all.) So quite a few noted me coughing during the Looooong meditation sessions and asked me about it. Some offered advice and I was appreciative of their concern.
Although I did exchange numbers with a couple of people, we never contacted each other after the trip. It was to be expected I guess, as most of the time we had went through the experience in solitude, there was no bonding involved to the point where one would need to remain friends after.
I stopped meditating about 1 month after I came back. Although it was an interesting technique that was taught, I did not feel it was suitable for me. I still felt that using the chakras to meditate or to concentrate on the breathing alone worked better for me.
There are times I feel that my body/mind/spirit needs meditation and times when I don’t feel it needs it. I wish I could do it on a frequent basis to master it so that when I do need it, it doesn’t feel so hard to gain the benefits.
Things I learnt from the trip
1) The amount of information and media I consume a day does actually fill my head with so much junk that it makes it hard for me to slow down the body and brain.
2) It is possible to live without your phone, internet and any sense of time
3) Cold water showers hasten the timing of your shower
4) Being unable to exercise is excruciating
5) Lizards makes loud noises at night