10-Day Meditation Course

Numerous people had told me about the Vipassana technique; The first time I heard about it from a fellow traveler in Hong Kong, later several people in Thailand recommended it to me. Since then I had tried to attend a course at one of the numerous meditation centers in Thailand and later in Malaysia, but they had all been booked out well in advance. When I found a vacancy for the upcoming course at the Indonesian center, that settled my uncertainty as to when and where to go from Malaysia.

I signed up for a ten day course, the “normal” and most often held course, suitable for new and old students. The course was conducted at the “Dhamma Java Meditation Center” which is located in the hills south of Jakarta and has facilities for approximately 80 students. Dhamma is (as I understood it) an international non-profit organization that unites meditation centers all around the world, teaching the same technique: Vipassana. It is, as was stated over and over again, a non-sectarian and universal teaching, open to people from all religions and backgrounds. The “pure teaching of Buddha” (not to be confused with Buddhism!).

It was not what I had expected it to be – peaceful and pleasant, but instead: pain! At least for the first six days physical and mental agony dominated my experience. And it felt like it was never going to end, every day felt as long as a week. But I continued diligently and was determined to make the most out of my time there (“after all, it’s only ten days in the outside world”, I would often think to myself), and I learned a lot. It would not make sense to share my experiences here, as they are subjective and personal. Everyone who does a similar course will experience different things, and in different ways.

I would recommend to everyone who is interested to attend a Vipassana course, at least once in their life – it gives you some insight as to how your body and your mind work and shows you how to be a better person, provided you bring the necessary will-power and patience to go through with it (not everyone did)…

All around the world these courses are held free of charge, and the centers run solely on the donations of previous students. There are strict rules, but only to create a good working environment and to enable everyone to get the most out of their stay: Obviously no smoking, alcohol or other drugs, but also no talking, no communication at all (except with the teacher or the administration, if there is a problem) and no writing, no books nor technical devices. That left me with so little to do that I often spent my (limited) free time with meditation also. More than 12 hours of meditation a day, for almost ten days straight (when the “noble silence” was discontinued on the last day, meditation hours eased up as well).

It felt very strange to enter the “outside world” again after this intense time!

(The ban on technical devices explains the sad choice for the title picture: From when I got my camera back until I left the center it was either dark or raining.)

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