My Vipassana Intensive Meditation Course Experience
I have just returned home to Germany from my meditation retreat at the Sirimangalo International Meditation Centre in Hamilton, ON, Canada. Well, it is really not easy to relate all that has happened to me on an emotional and psychological level. Indeed, I do not really know where to begin but I had better start writing my thoughts down now while everything is still fresh in my mind.
Vipassana Meditation Course Experience
Before coming to the intensive course, I completed the online meditation course with the Ven. Yuttadhammo. I guess without this Vipassana online course first, I would never have gone on a retreat in a far away country. Indeed, this undertaking was daunting and great step for me. However, finally I felt confident enough to do the 3- week meditation course.
First of all, doing the online course really got me into Buddhist Insight Meditation, in the tradition of Ajaan Tong Sirimangalo, and I could already feel that it brought a lot of benefit and wholesomeness to my daily life. Thus, I intended to deepen this experience by going on a retreat. I did quite a lot of daily meditation at home and by the time I went to Canada I felt quite established in my practice. However, little did I know what the intensive practice would be like. Indeed, once I arrived at the centre I did not feel so self-assured anymore and I had the feeling that I was falling apart. Everything seemed strange and unfamiliar to me and it took me a few days to get adjusted.
The time that followed was marked by mood swings and mixed feelings. I had the impression that all sensations and feelings were more intense in the environment of a retreat. Hence, I suffered and worried a lot about all kinds of different things. However, there came a time when I really felt quite OK and happy in my new surroundings and I was glad to meditate. What is more, I felt less clinging, did not miss anything and did not get homesick at all.
Nevertheless, there where still ups and downs and my greatest breakdown came one Sunday about one week that I had been at the centre. I was very desperate, felt that I could not really concentrate on the practice and everything seemed so bleak to me. At that time, I just wanted to go home. Well, that is not so easily done if you come from far away. In my devastation, I could not imagine how one could ever walk out of the centre happily and with an equanimous mind. Hence, the Ven. Yuttadhammo reminded me that I came to this place for a purpose and that half of the practice was already accomplished. Thus, I took this to heart and after my tears were dried I already felt much better, relieved and able to carry on. So I rolled my sitting mat out again.
From that point on my practice got much lighter and I often felt very happy and calm. In fact, I thought it a relief to be at the centre and devote myself only to the meditation practice. I thought about how great and beautiful it was just to meditate, eat and sleep, not having anything else to do and not to be distracted by the outside world. However, the hardest and most challenging part of the intensive course was still to come. Well, I really understood how one could want to practice the Dhamma day and night and indeed that is what the final part of the course is about. Hence, I had three days to work with a different determination each day.
That seemed challenging to me at first but I already noticed that during the course I was never really tired because body and mind were not stressed. Thus, after the first meditation day in this way was accomplished, I was really going strong and also a little astonished about my own strength and endurance. However, honestly by the time the third day came, I was a bit exhausted and even resigned but also very clear and peaceful in my mind. Hence, I was about to give in to cessation and this was exactly what happened, not for very long but it happened. This is certainly a part of the practice that could be deepened but anyways, I had accomplished my aim to finish the foundation course. Thus, by that time, I did not want to leave the centre because I felt that I could continue with my practice for some further months or even years…
Summing up, I can say that I have learned a lot about myself during the Vipasanna Intensive Meditation Course and I also came into contact with my endurance in difficult situations. It was not easy but a profound experience. Thus, there was one last test for me to prove my patience: My flight to Germany was terribly delayed because of the snow and so it nearly took me one and a half days to get back home. And last but not least, my suitcase went missing…in the past, this would have upset me extremely. However, in this situation I was quite relaxed and calm, knowing that things are not under my control. Hence, I am glad I did the intensive meditation course and I would do it again at any time.