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Meditation hall, Vipassana meditation centre, MalaysiaThis is the part 1 of 3 describing my 10 day silent Vipassana meditation course in Malaysia. Over the course, I went from feeling like I was being humanely tortured through solitude, to seeing my concentration improve, to experiencing new sensations from head to toe like tingling, vibrations, aches and later, even phantom bee stings.
For 10 hours a day, we sat and observed our breathing, concentrating on the sensation by the nostrils.
I thought the government should use this meditation technique as a humane physical and mental torture to interrogate detainees or suspected terrorists. I think engaging in such a retreat would allow one to break a lot of habits that are done more out of routine than anything else. Haha – I didn’t think I was going to get through it either, especially on the first three days when I felt like tearing my hair out from having to sit and concentrate for 10 hours a days!
Wow, that sounds like an awesome experience once you adjust to the completely different lifestyle. Concentration: The initial stages of training in Zazen usually emphasize concentration, by focusing on the breath often aided by counting. Just Sitting (Shikantaza): Shikantaza is objectless meditation, in which the practitioner does not use any specific objects, anchors, or content of meditation, but uses the power developed in concentration to remain aware of thoughts that arise and pass in the present moment without any interference. By practice one by one, the practitioner learns to regulate the body, then the breath and finally to regulate the mind.
The posture of Zazen is seated, with folded legs and hands, and an erect but settled spine.
Burmese Position: a cross-legged posture in which legs are crossed and both feet rest flat on the floor. Half-lotus Position (Hankafuza): Left foot is placed up onto the right thigh and the right leg is tucked under the left thigh.


One should improve the sitting posture over the period of time and can use even chair to sit in the beginning. Counting: The beginners can utilize the technique of count, counting each inhalation and exhalation until they get to ten.
Time: If sitting longer is an issue due to physical discomfort or the practical constraint of time, start with around 15 minutes. It is better to give the gap of around 2 hours after taking the meal to sit for Meditation. The aim of Zazen is to suspend all judgmental thinking and letting words, ideas, opinions, images and thoughts pass by without getting involved in them. I thought the hardest part would be waking up early and sitting all day, not concentrating. I had no idea concentrating was so challenging, I thought no talking would be the most challenging part! In order to post comments, please make sure JavaScript and Cookies are enabled, and reload the page.
Koan consists of a word, phrase , statement, dialogue,  story, anecdote, or question, the meaning of which cannot be understood by rational thinking but may be accessible through intuition. The eyelids can be half-lowered, the eyes being neither fully open nor shut so that the practitioner is not distracted by outside objects but at the same time is kept awake. Are you considering trying it again later? I found day 7 particularly hard for some reason, I kept feeling phantom bee stings that day, and thought I was going crazy. It was good to learn that that’s an area my mind needs to practice :) I still meditate, and finding concentration is much easier now that it was during those first few days! Zen emphasizes experiential wisdom in the attainment of enlightenment and de-emphasizes theoretical knowledge in favor of direct self-realization through meditation.


Since koans are, ostensibly, not solvable by intellectual reasoning, koan introspection is designed to shortcut the intellectual process leading to direct realization of a reality beyond thought. Although Meditation happens in mind and not in the sitting posture, so one should not stuck up in having an ideal sitting posture. The eyes are kept lowered, with the gaze resting on the ground about two or three feet in front of body.
By keeping the back straight, the diaphragm is allowed to move freely, which results in deeper, easier and natural breathing.
Zazen calms the mind and increases the ability to concentrate enough to experience insight into the nature of existence and thereby gain Enlightenment (Satori). When beginners reach the level of reaching to the count of ten without getting disturbed by thoughts, they can start to count an inhalation and exhalation as one instead of two. I fell asleep and woke up to a course assistant gently pulling on my cushion telling me to keep my head up and to keep trying. Eventually practitioners can just concentrate on the breath, without any need of the counting. Zazen settles the mind in its original state of purity and clarity, from where one can see the world as it is. The hands form an oval, which can rest on the upturned soles of feet if sitting full lotus or rest on thighs if sitting in Burmese or any other position. Once the mind is able to be unhindered by its many layers, one will then be able to uncover and realize one's true nature or Buddha nature.



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