I'm a big fan of Vipassana meditation, which is a free course organized for people who want to learn about meditation in a comfortable, quiet and safe environment over a 10-day period. I went when I had some time before Peace Corps in 2008 and I really enjoyed it. Meditation can seem like a confusing concept, but I found this retreat really easy to understand and very well run.
You can read more about my experience here and here, but I wanted to share some thoughts from Daniel who talked with me a few weeks ago before he went on the retreat himself. He just completed the retreat earlier this month and I thought you might enjoy hearing what he had to say. I just asked him a few questions and he gave some great answers:
Why did you want to do this retreat?
I saw the Dhamma Brothers documentary and was intrigued. Not sold - just curious. I'd also been exposed to Asian philosophy before. I liked that Vipassana was avowedly NOT religious.
Were you nervous?
I was very nervous. In the days before the retreat I kept trying to justify flaking out. I got close several times. I was seriously afraid that this could be a cult. Mostly, I think, because the whole course was free. Who does that? If you're giving away a week-long course with food and board, surely you are in the business of mind control. But I kept telling myself to just be curious about this thing.
Was it rewarding?
It was immensely rewarding. Not in the sense that I got out and had a smile permanently tattooed on my face, or that I decided I wanted to worship someone. I felt noticeably better in a way that feels sustainable. Meditation is a practice, and after 10 days you really are able to begin the practice solo.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about going, but they are a little nervous?
I would never try to talk someone into doing a Vipassana retreat. If they don't want it, they absolutely could not handle it. But to someone who is curious but hesitant, I'd say go for it. Don't commit. That'd be silly. But go and give Vipassana a chance for ten days. Ten days. It's sounds long, but you'll have the right combination of business, rest, challenges, and support. No one will ask you to do anything weird, no one will ever even kind-of push you to give them your money, and if you really hate it, you can leave without any trouble. But, if like almost everyone else who went on my retreat, you're a nice, normal, curious, nervous person, you've got ten short days to lose and a whole lot to gain.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us Daniel, it's awesome that you had such a great experience!
If you want to learn more about Vipassana meditation, you can visit their website at dhamma.org and sign up for a retreat of your own at any time. Good luck and let me know if you ever need any help!
Have questions? Ask us on Facebook!