What is Vipassana –
Vipassana is a form of silent meditation helping to teach a technique to bring awareness into your body. It is a ten day retreat done in complete silence, genders separated, restricted food, and all outside influences. Vipassana is life changing.
What can you expect from Dhamma Katana Vipassana in Kerala india –
Getting to Dhamma katana
Take the train from Kochi or wherever you are in India to Chengannur since it’s easy and cheap! Then grab a tuktuk from the station to DK. The instructions say to arrive between 4-5pm but if you’re one who needs a bit of time to settle in and get the lay of the land and meet people then I’d suggest showing up at 3.
They will ask you to fill out a bunch of forms if you are a non resident. They are required to send forms in to the government within 24 hours of your arrival with a photo of you so don’t be weirded out with the lengthy form asking questions about your father etc.
Next you will surrender your phone which must be turned OFF and your valuables to be locked away. This gives you peace of mind so you don’t worry about your things while you are there. At 5 pm they have a small dinner. Mine was couscous and white sauce. Don’t come hungry but try to reduce your diet before you come otherwise you may starve the first couple of days getting used to the 2 meals and a snack.
Take this opportunity to get to know your dorm mates. When you go into silence you’ll want to know at least a little bit about everyone so you don’t feel like they’re strangers. Say hi to everyone, they’re just as scared/nervous as you. Trust me. You only have a couple of hours to do this so make it count. Next you will be called into the meditation hall and the course begins. You will now be in silence for the next 10 days.
You will start out slow and learn to become aware of your body. Just observing. Day 1-3 everyone was very uncomfortable and moving around a lot trying to settle. By day 3 most of us could sit for an hour with only one or two adjustments. A miracle in my mind. By day 5 they believe you now know how to breath and will teach you Vipassana. This is the tricky part and EVERYONE experiences it differently. Essentially you’re now ready to become aware of the rest of your body. You must be prepared to let the bad out before your mind can settle. This can come out as nightmares, dreams, daydreaming, emotions, out of body experiences, sleep paralysis etc. so if you have serious mental conditions this may not be the technique for you. I think I’m fairly mentally stable but on night I had a nightmare mixed with an out of body experience which almost sent me into a tailspin. Luckily the guru was very helpful and explained what was happening to me and I got over it quickly. It happens. It’s supposed to happen. Let it be.
Food is restricted to 2 meals and 1 snack per day. Not being used to South Indian cuisine it was very tough on me to want seconds or even sit with people eating with their hands. Thankfully they had spoons for me to use. Breakfast was my least favourite as there was only usually one starch with one curry or sauce. Dinner was more substantial with more variety generally a rice with 2 curries/sauces and raw veggies. Tea was my favourite surprisingly. They served beans with grated coconut on top and fruit and tea. Sometimes they mixed it up and gave us dessert but beans kept me full and I was happy about them. Some of the girls had very high metabolisms and really struggled with two meals. I saw one girl putting sugar in her water at night to keep her going and asking for extra food at meals. Make sure if you struggle with diabetes or a high metabolism you let them know so they can arrange more food for you.
You will share a room with one other person or be in the big dorm room In gender separated housing. I attended in the hottest month of the year and the fans were decent enough. I was much warmer in the meditation hall in the afternoon. The beds are wood framed with a thin pillow-like mattress. Make sure to tuck in your bug nets as there are creatures around but don’t look too closely for them for your own sanity. I asked my server if I could take a second mattress from one of the unused beds as I toss and turn and bruised my hip on the wood. They provide the bed sheets and pillows. Washing can be done in the shower buckets with your own soap. Bring washing line clips if you’d like to keep your clothes on the line and not in stray dogs mouths. Bathrooms are Western (!!) but you’ll need to bring toilet paper. Showers are decent with lukewarm water. They both get cleaned often.
What you need to know
This was a life changing experience for me but no walk in the park. I wanted to quit almost everyday so don’t feel sad just go on with determination.
Try not to read too many personal accounts of Vipassana. The more you expect the more you’ll be focusing on why isn’t this or that happening to me, it happened to them on this day or when we did that. It’s nice to be prepared but in this instance, not knowing will help you.
This technique doesn’t mix well with serious mental illness so consult your doctor before applying.
Make sure you’re fully committed and determined to fully experience Vipassana. It’s a great break for daily life and you’ll feel amazing afterwards, I promise!
Vipassana is practiced all over the world, If you can’t get to India check your country, I almost guarantee they have a center or two.