Even as a regular meditator, I was not prepared for the intensity of Vipassana. BUT I think nobody is fully prepared to meditate for 10 hours a day, except those who wear robes 24/7 (this might include the late Hugh Hefner). I also believe that the struggle is part of the magic, because no matter how advanced you are, Vipassana is difficult and will force you to confront your limitations. Not easy for us proud folk.
Yes, meditating for that many hours is painful. Even sitting in a chair was painful – of which I spent more than half my time in.
Honestly, going into the retreat I was more concerned about being hungry than sitting. Only two main meals, with a light dinner of fruit and tea? I decided ahead of time to stuff my face for breakfast and lunch so as to never have a sensation of hunger. But after day three I started reducing my portions because I found myself uncomfortable not out of hunger, but from eating too much! (Even still, I lost five pounds during the ten days.)
Everyday there entered at least one thought about quitting. Most days it could be easily dismissed and the next day I would feel great again. Then came Day 8.
After not sleeping well for four nights and a terrible 4:30am meditation session where I was too tired to focus, I decided to quit. Heck, I could coast the remaining two days and nobody would know the difference. But I thought better and decided to tell my intention to the teacher.
Thankfully (or regrettably) with a few words, he somehow got me back on the horse, or pillow in this case.
I could go on with excruciating detail about the various pains, emotional highs and lows, heightened sensitivities, funny bathroom stories, or intense dreams, but I'll just assume if you do Vipassana you'll have your own unique experience. Let's move along.
Going from silence to society can be a real shocker. So the 9th day is a shock absorber and you are allowed to talk again.
When that moment came one should be excited, right?
Actually, I felt incredibly frustrated. I didn't see what was so life-changing about Vipassana. Did I do it wrong? Much less did I want to talk to anyone! Was I going to be the only idiot who comes out of Vipassana pissed off??
When I did start talking to my roommates, I realized many had similar experiences to me. Thoughts of giving up. Pains in knees and backs. Doubts. Weird sexual dreams (I even heard my bunkmate talk in his sleep during one of these dreams. Did I mention I had a hard time sleeping?).
The more I talked, the better I felt. In fact, me and my five roommates stayed up late that night talking and sharing metaphysical stories.
Continue to Part 3 for my life-changing Vipassana takeaways.