There are Vipassana centers all over the world, from India, to the US, to the UK, to Sweden, Australia, Thailand, Cambodia and more.
Coming out of the retreat, I was afraid as I knew a thousand emails and a mountain of work was probably awaiting me. When In Manila, calm your mind, find yourself, understand your being and unlock the secrets of your mind through a 10 Day Vipassana Meditation Course Retreat. Vipassana Meditation is a ten day course in which you are taught how to live a happy life, without the stress it brings.
10 days of silence, total silence, to make the mind calm, and give way to go inside yourself. Come, share this unique experience & open a new door in your life, a door to a better you and a better life. For four and a half years I’d taken a weekly meditation class from Do Gong Sunim, aka John Barazzuol. Now I must admit that I am very prejudiced in favor of the Vipassansa meditation, which comes from the Theravadan Buddhist tradition in which I received my first, high ordination as a Buddhist monk. Also, in various times in my life as a lay person, I have taken a few of the Vipassana retreats run by the teachers under Goenka.
A few weeks later I was with the Vipassana group on a public bus for Sico Farm in Dasmarinas, Cavite, where Dhamma Phala is located. During the retreat, when the bell struck repeatedly at four in the morning and I had to struggle into my clothes, wash up a bit and head up the gentle rise from the women’s quarters to the meditation hall, in my head I was also hearing the temple bell and the wooden drum, loud enough to waken the dead, and the monk strolling around the courtyard, beating the wooden mokt’ak to summon everyone to the temple.
It was strange not putting palms together and bowing when I entered the Vipassana center’s meditation hall, a plain white building with cushions in royal blue on the men’s side and powder blue on the women’s side, a seat for the teacher in front and recording equipment to play audio and videotapes. Meditation began when the teacher put on an audiotape of Goenka’s chanting in Pali, followed by Goenka’s instructions. By the end of the seventh day, when Goenka informed us that we were now ready for surgery and that we should cut out those unwanted miseries we had brought with us, I thought, “How does he know?” I also felt he was right, and I did some work on the worry and resentment I’d brought with me, but not without remembering Goldstein and Kornfield’s saying, “You can learn a lot from anger.” Why should one take only one approach?
On the way home, one of the women told me she’d actually signed up for the retreat in order to lose weight, and later she sent a text that she’d lost ten pounds. Carol Dussere was a professor of English at Xiamen University in Fujian, China in 1984-86 and at Dongguk University in Seoul, Korea from 1989 to 2006. If you follow me on my blog or social media, you probably know that I recently did a 10 day silent meditation retreat. For now, I want to give you a look at what a typical day at the course is like, so below is a detailed schedule of a day in my Vipassana life! There are Vipassana centres all over the world, and if you are interested in learning more about Vipassana itself, check out the website.
To give you a quick Coles notes version, a Vipassana offers a path to enlightenment and liberation based on the teachings of Buddah. Vipassana is a specific meditation technique designed to focus the mind and allow deep subconscious pain to be released. It usually took me about ? hour to eat breakfast and then I’d go do some light exercises and stretching in my room.
After about ? hour of forcing down fruit and cursing the food situation, I’d go outside for another few rounds on the woods path. Hmmmm, speaking of ex, I wonder how my ex is doing anyway… she’s probably miserable now and….
The 10 Day Vipassana Meditation course, that isolates you from the world to dig deep within yourself and discover your true happiness or what’s really important, by leaving you alone with NO phone, NO internet and NO talking or any communication for 10 days…. Right off the bat I’d like to recommend this to everyone out there, whether you’ve found your happiness or not, whether you’re stressed out from the daily grind of work or not, whether you think you need this or not.
On the flip side, I also need to let you know that a Vipassana Meditation Retreat like this might initially sound relaxing and like a vacation, but it’s NOT! Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. The course, held in Cavite, just outside of Manila, is a 10 day (actually 12 if you include your travel days, first day arrival date and last day departure) self exploring course. Through the 10 days of more and more sharpening practices, the mind slowly becomes more sensitive, more aware, more present and sharper.
I know you can’t talk most of the time, but you do get to talk and meet the people on your arrival date on Day Zero and also on the 10th day, when the “Noble Silence” is lifted. I wish this gift of healing on my best of friends and family, so that they too may find the inner peace that they long for. I am hoping to visit other centers to again participate in this 10 Day Vipassana Meditation Retreat. But here I am, typing away as I recall the Vipassana Course experience, with a smile on my face. Vince graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication and a minor in Business. But I also experienced the same suffering as they.  I embrace the suffering and I enjoy the bliss.
My head was full of images from approximately two decades before, when Dogong and Mujin and Chikwan Sunim—all monks and nuns from English-speaking countries—took our meditation class to Sudok Temple, a few hours from Seoul, for three or four weekends of meditation. Sudok-sa was a traditional Buddhist temple with buildings with curved tiled roofs and enormous Buddha statues, all financed by the same Chogye Order which paid my university salary. For the first three days, we were to concentrate on the breath coming in and out of the nostrils, first on the inner wall and then on the bit of skin outside and below the nostrils. The woman I sat behind wore a tee-shirt which said on the back “Ang galing mo!” or “Good for you.” It seemed she was also cheering me on.
True, we maintained silence and avoided even nonverbal communication, but it was clear that, except for the three who left early, everyone on the women’s side was following the rules, working on the meditation, maybe also feeling she was having a life-altering experience. I discovered I’d lost six and a half of the fifteen pounds I’ve been wanting to take off for years—and that’s without exercise. I’ve got to say, it was a wild experience!  I definitely want to share my experience with you, but I don’t feel like I understand it enough yet to properly discuss it, so I’m going to hold off for the moment.

It welcomes all religions, faiths, and denominations (though no rituals, rites, or other such practices may be done during the 10 days). I just got to Ottawa last night from Montreal, and it is soo nice to be here!  I did my undergrad at Carleton University, so I’m in town for a couple of days to visit friends, and then I’m moving on to Toronto on Friday. I loved this part of the day!  It felt so nice to stretch, especially with all of the sitting we were doing. At this point I was seriously over meditation.  I did my best to sit still, but it was hit or miss.
The actual meditation technique continually evolved throughout the course, so after the discourse, we would listen to an audio explaining the technique for the next day and then practice is for about ? hour. I was always super tired, but it usually took me awhile for my brain to wind down and let me sleep.  Once I did fall asleep though, I stayed fast asleep and generally woke up pretty rested. I really think that everyone should try this 10 Day Meditation Course at least once in their lives. This retreat was actually one of the toughest things I’ve done, and I’ve been through military boot camp! 10 days is actually the minimum for new Vipassana students and the courses can go as long as months. The more you get attached to different things, tangible or intangible, the more you can become miserable. It really depends on who you talk to as I had some people complaining about how they didn’t like the tiny single beds and the small bathrooms, while others talked about how great the facilities were. You will get to talk to everyone on the last day though after the “Noble Silence” is lifted. They called it sort of a “shock absorber” instead of just letting us back into the real world right away after not talking for 10 days. It was as if so many of the irrelevant things I’ve held on pedestals of importance quickly got put into perspective.
I also wish this on my most bitter enemies (not that I consider anyone as such), so that they may also find forgiveness and inner tranquility that they need. I think I’ve better able to categorize important things in life from the distractions. He has over 10 years of international experience in marketing, advertising and creative writing. He trains his teachers to run a very tight ship as far as discipline and rules and regulations go. We sat for eight hours a day in the meditation hall, mostly facing the walls, while the old clock creaked and banged its way through the hour. In contrast, the Vipassana Society is supported entirely by donations from former students—no religious affiliations, no corporate grants, no commercial exploitation of the method. It was hard to imagine anything more exotic—the hour, the silhouettes of the temple buildings in the dark courtyard.
I’ll also never forget sitting for three days at Sudok-sa trying to follow my breath but listening to my thoughts making one judgment after the other, mostly that something was bad. Since I was unable to write anything down, it insisted on remembering by repeating again and again—even editing sentences or finding the right words.
I was learning “the technique.” When Goenka introduced it to us with a guided meditation, I was amazed at how much physical sensation I could feel in my face. I felt less isolated in this overwhelmingly Catholic country with these people who were doing Vipassana during Holy Week.
It’s not like breathing exercises or yoga where you “work out” with the proper breathing, but rather you just observe, that’s it, you observe your normal breathing. It really brought perspective as to what the real important things in life are and should be. He served as an Information Systems Technician in the United States Navy, was a Marketing & Development Coordinator at the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Senior Media Planner for Bright Box Media, was a radio DJ and hosted a tech TV show in Manila.
We were also forbidden any reading or writing materials—I’d heard about this before with Zen practice. Initially, it all sounds like a bit too much to put up with—but just accept and go with it and you will find yourself in a wonderful meditation environment. Now I am in no way suggesting you program yourself to go to this retreat expecting to suffer or to be blissed out. Inside the temple, the cosmic patterns painted everywhere, the shaven-headed monks in their robes, the rich light falling on the Buddhas and the paintings, the sound of the brass gong.
As he explained in the videotaped lectures, the idea is that by observing our physical sensations and reacting to them with equanimity, we can train the mind to avoid making immediate positive reactions, which lead to craving, or negative reactions, which lead to aversion. It was frustrating and humbling, and it taught me something about thinking always in dualities. Sometime in the second or third day I realized I’d come up with a post for this website, a blog for another, and the contours of the first chapter of a novel—a misdeed of some sort in a setting of Noble Silence where the participants weren’t allowed to communicate with each other. Sometimes I felt really good vibes on my body and told myself not to get attached to the feeling. In a flood of pent-up thought and emotion we shared with each other what we’d been through for the past nine days. Of course, with the tougher things you do in life, the rewards are also multiplied by just as much! You’ll find your crazy mind wandering to different thoughts and memories from the past to the future, from real to fake and from positive to negative! After completing the course, you too may donate for future students to hopefully learn from this technique. We were fortunate enough to have an amazing Indian chef as our volunteer and the food was AMAZING! I would say that all the facilities were donated so you shouldn’t expect any 5-star accommodations.

I made us coffee in the morning, we gave each other backrubs, and between meals we pigged out on junk food.
While the cold wind blew through big cracks in the walls, our group stood behind the monks and participated in the bowing and chanting. I knew also from experience that examining a thought or feeling dispassionately without feeding it any emotional energy can take away its power. When my practice, such as it was, was only to follow the breath, if the mind wandered off to make a banana cream pie I could pull it back and begin again with an in-breath.
The first chapter would end in the washroom with the protagonist secretly scrubbing dried blood from a black silk shirt.
I had fears of dropping the soup and watching it spread out over the linseed-oil-papered floor. When I felt a pain in my back or in my right leg, I warned myself against developing aversion—and when it got really bad I moved the leg a bit. One woman said that after great agony she’d crawled over to the teacher, a native speaker of German.
Just need to focus on breathing… just breathing… ok… inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale, ex…. This is normal, but upon realization of this, you simply go back to focusing on breathing, which then brings you back to the present, to what you’re doing, which is breathing. Goenka, though seen only through video, radiates a certain charisma and charm, or should I say radiates good karma, that made us feel very close to him and make it feel as if he were there himself. It was also really cool how people there came from all different backgrounds, nationalities, countries and walks of life. At the Vipassana retreat there would be no backrubs because we weren’t allowed to touch each other for the duration of the course. The rules include putting aside all religious objects and practices until the end of the course.
However, I’d just finished rereading Goldstein and Kornfield’s Seeking the Heart of Wisdom: The Path of Insight Meditation, taken copious notes and loved it.
But now, when using the mind to scan the body for physical sensations, I’d come back to what I was supposed to be doing and realize I didn’t know exactly where on the body I’d been when my mind wandered off.
Referring to herself as ‘this humble person,’ she begged to be given her old seat where she could lean against the wall. I waited and I listened to my heart, my guts, my bones (despite the unexpected pain that sprang from wherever I’ve unconsciously buried it). Honestly, it must be great to be in that place where you are willing to make the sacrifice in order to achieve something more. Later on the technique gets more and more concentrated like being asked to focus on tiny sections of the body which slowly trains your brain to be more sensitive and it sharpens the mind.
Since they were mostly serving Filipino students, the veggies were cooked in stews and dishes that were made as your “ulam” to go with the rice. I met film directors, silicon valley investment heads, musicians, jewelry makers, millionaire entrepreneurs, permanent travelers and so many more cool people with amazing stories to tell! It was really frustrating to tell myself time after time, “Okay now, start over at the top of the head.” The teacher, who was there to answer students’ questions as well as to play the tapes, suggested that I combine concentration on the body with concentration on inhaling and exhaling. You untied your set of bowls, lifted out each one and set it on the placemat in the proper order, served or got served, gobbled up your food as rapidly as possible while wasting not one grain of rice, rinsed the bowls with water, scrubbed them with a pickle, poured the dregs in a bucket for the “hungry ghost,” ate the pickle, tied up your set again and stood in line to put the bowls back on the shelf. I seemed to be holding up as well as the other students, almost all of them half or a third of my age. I have the sense that my focus has sharpened, even though I’m not sure what that means. And on the last minute of the last hour of the last day, during metta [loving-kindness] meditation, I heard the answer. It may sound trivial but it’s really something that you have to experience for yourself to realize how this really works. It wasn’t like salads everyday like some people might think once they hear the word “vegetarian.” Again, the food was EXCELLENT and was actually one of the highlights of the trip.
Other than a meditation hall, barracks and dining hall, we had a tiny garden to walk around. The buildings are metal prefabricated constructions which can be taken apart and moved when the society buys its own land.
I was not at all sure I was willing to follow Goenka’s insistence that one use this technique only, forsaking all others.
Once during the group meditations, when we had to sit motionless for an hour, I felt the sweat running down into my ear, tickling unbearably inside my ear, and tried hard to maintain equanimity. I seemed to have finally gotten what I need to maintain a steady meditation practice, and I was glad to hear about the regular sittings where people who have finished their first 10-day course can practice together. Like what a friend of mine told me, the answers to our questions are really simple and just under our noses.
But do note that aside from breakfast and lunch, you are only served tea and fruits at 5pm for your dinner.
I got on the internet and found a very helpful pamphlet which assured me that students could work independently much of the time, in their own quarters if they like, where they could stretch out on the bed for five minutes if necessary.
I guess you’re not there for the outside views anyway, you’re there to view yourself on the inside.
This was clearly not the kind of situation where you had to be sitting in the meditation hall the whole time and a monk would come around and whack you with a stick if you weren’t sitting up straight. I came up with recipes for peanut butter cheesecakes, chocolate-coconut cakes, peanut butter banana cakes.

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