Vipassana 10 Day Silent Meditation Retreat: 5 Helpful Tips


So, you are thinking of doing a 10-day silent meditation retreat? Maybe you have had this thought for a while or maybe you just stumbled upon this opportunity. I know when I first heard to Vipassana the 10-day silent meditation retreat from my friends I thought they were crazy. The seed was planted though, and it stayed. As I continued to journey through life and my stress and anxiety stayed with me the idea of meditation started to take root.  I found myself starting to meditate and teach others about meditation and then decided to take the plunge and go to a retreat. I honestly had not mediated much at all before going. A few CDs by Deepak Chopra and Oprah that guided you through meditations on Love. I was not prepared for the 10 days of silent meditation, but something told me to go, so I went.

I was committed to the retreat. Determined to do it right. Not brings in any books, journals or electronics. This determination faded in the first 24 hours as my mind went over how I was wasting my time. It tried to convince me that  I could be reading, studying and journaling about my experience while I was there and that I should have at least brought a journey for academic reasons. I did indeed try to see if they would let me go to my car but that was shut down. I am sure hundreds if not thousands have asked the same question on day three, regretting not bringing any outside stimulation in.

This retreat was anything but silent and though I did not have any outside stimulation my mind was going crazy. It went over every conversation that did not go how I wanted with people, it ran through millions of scenarios, speeches, ideas, it just went off. I would have done anything for silence, for peace.

On day three I almost broke. I had convinced myself that I was just going to go home and mediation more there, that I did not need their retreat to be happy. I decided I would tell them after the evening group meditation and leave the next day. As I got up to tell them my throat seized. It was hard to breathe. I couldn’t speak. It was a bit scary and I heard myself say, “maybe I will stay just one more day, one more minute, one more second.” As I repeated this to myself my throat relaxed, and I sat back down and went back to bed determined to stay just one more minute.

Your mind will play tricks on you during this retreat. It will make you feel like you can’t do it, maybe the diet is too much, maybe you need more sleep, or you are sick. At one moment I convinced myself I was anemic, and the diet did not have enough iron in it because it was vegetarian. I was convinced I was not getting enough sleep but then realized I could lay in bed all day and meditate if I wanted. My mind tried so hard to come up with any reason to leave to come up with all the excuses for why I should not be there. I would have to catch myself and think big picture. It was only 10 days and  I was not going to die that it would be okay and to just stay for one more minute. It made me stay in the present moment.

5 Helpful Tips to Get You Through The Retreat

1.    Remember WHY

It’s really important to remember why you chose to do this course. For each of us, it may be different but at the core, I believe it’s because we are suffering, and we feel lost. We have run out of options. No medication or talking is helping. No escape or numbing method is bringing us peace or happiness. We are ready to face ourselves, to go deeply within, to let go of everything that is blinding us, that is weighing our spirits down. So whatever the specifics of how you found yourself on this page and considering doing this meditation remember it. Maybe write it down, get honest and real with yourself and remember it for when you have moments of weakness during the retreat. Remember you WHY. Remember there is more to life and vipassana is the path liberation so you can live fully in the present, in your truth.

2.    Stay Present:

Now as I said, in the beginning, a bit of a manta I developed while doing the retreat was, “one more minute”. I know you are not supposed to use mantra but this one helped me to stay focused on my breath and in the present and away from the stories my mind was trying to tell me. I still use it today when I feel overwhelmed with work, school, and life. I just remember the only thing that matters and that is real, is this moment. I just start to notice my breath since that is the only thing I have in that moment and then go on to what I have to do next. This ability to stay present is really the core of what I learned in Vipassana. The part of my mind that tells stories had way too much control over me. It was all over the place. The philosophy and the skills I learned at this retreat were life changing which leads to the third thing to help you through this process.

3.    Listen and do what is taught:

Each day you will be given instruction with regards to the philosophy and practice of Vipassana. Vipassana translates into seeing things as they really are, to see the truth. The process helps you to purify yourself with self-observation. With breath and observation, you get to experience the Universal truths of impermanence, egolessness, and suffering. By observing the body without reacting by staying in equanimity you can untie the knots of suffering and liberate the Self. This process gets you one step closer to living with Self-leadership leading from your Soul and true Self.

4.    Move your body

The one limitation I believe of Vipassana is how they stress stillness. I do believe this is important but there are some movements you must make especially if they are linked with past trauma. Stillness is good if you are resisting fidgeting or slight uncomfortableness. There is a different kind of pull to move and that is from the stored energy of trauma. When this energy arises, it could be intense like memories, flashbacks, and your body may urge you to move to escape and you should to move the energy out of the body. You can stay in equanimity but move your body, so it does not get stored back in and cause a re-traumatization of the nervous system. 

The only downside to Vipassana it is not trauma-informed in this way, but I do believe it is a great tool to help heal trauma if you include some movement when you really need to. I have a history of trauma and I moved a lot during this retreat. I did not work out or run but I did walk in a circular path. I used all the skills and discipline of the course, but I put it into a moving meditation. Heavy emotions and trauma need movement to move them through and if you do have them come up and they most likely will if you have a history of trauma (sometimes not remember until intense focus on the body) the movement could help the body process and release instead of it re-traumatizing the nervous systems. Please contact me if you are curious more about trauma and mediation. Don’t be scared to move during this mediation especially if things feel too much, you will get the same effect and it may really help you, I know it did me.

5.    Be Gentle with yourself

I cannot stress this point enough. This is not an easy task to do. This meditation retreat was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life but one of the most rewarding. I had to learn to be very gentle with myself in this. To rest when I needed to rest. To not be hard on myself. To let go of the thoughts that I was not doing it right or good enough. To just let go of the expectations and come back to my breath. To move when I needed to move and to rest when I needed to rest. The most important thing was that I stayed for the full 10 days and whatever I needed for that to happen became the most important. We are so hard on ourselves and this retreat will push your limits but there is a way out. Be gentle, stay on the path and breath. On day 8 I felt like everything settle. I felt like I was home for one of the first time in my body. My mind and body connected, and it felt amazing. There was a silence, a focus, a connection. I wish this for you. May you be filled with loving kindness, May you be Well, May you be peaceful and at ease, and May you be happy.

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Kylie Feller is a Clinical Counsellor and Life Coach. She is passionate about helping people come back into alignment with their True Self. She specializes in dating, relationships, trauma, transitions, anxiety and depression. To connect with Kylie you can email her, contact her through social media or reach her through the newsletter sign up.

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