Tired Of The Sound Of Your Own Voice? I Have The Solution… (Pt1)

What Meditation SHOULD Be Like

As I sit here drinking a mighty-fine scotch at a mighty-fine price* I think back to a time when there was no scotch. Actually, there was no anything really, except for endless hours of meditation & me alone with my (fucked up) thoughts. What follows is my account of a 10 day Vipassana meditation course at Blackheath in the Blue Mountains on the out-skirts of Sydney NSW in Australia.

If you’re still reading this, I suspect you fall into 1 of 3 schools:

School 1) “I’m interested in doing one of these courses myself.”/”This sounds intriguing.”

School 2) “Why in holy freakin hell would you do more than laugh at the sheer incredulity caused by the mere mention of this concept!?”

School 3) “I love to read about anything that Ryan has done because he is AWESOME.”

So clearly school 3 are the coolest of the bunch but don’t worry, I’ll cater to all 3 of the schools, that means you. So I’d been meaning to do this thing since forever. ie. About a year before the course I attended towards the end of ’09 but I had to keep putting it off, mainly because of my job working at Turtlerock Mastering. The end of that job meant the freedom to pursue this most fascinating of ideas: To go 10 days without speaking. The idea really resonated with me, to me it represented the elusive promise of a mental detox or maybe even a mental reboot of sorts.

Image from joyoftech.com

So, I logged back onto the Vipassana website (pronounced Vipashna)  & read over the ‘Code Of Discipline’ . Now if you have not already decided that this is a ridiculous notion then I’m sure a thorough read-through of ‘the code’ will get you there. For those too lazy to click the link, here are some excerpts from the official website:

The Precepts

All who attend a Vipassana course must conscientiously undertake the following five precepts for the duration of the course:

  1. to abstain from killing any being;
  2. to abstain from stealing;
  3. to abstain from all sexual activity;
  4. to abstain from telling lies;
  5. to abstain from all intoxicants.

There are three additional precepts which old students (that is, those who have completed a course with S.N. Goenka or one of his assistant teachers) are expected to follow during the course:

  1. to abstain from eating after midday;
  2. to abstain from sensual entertainment and bodily decorations
  3. to abstain from using high or luxurious beds.

As you can see, they are quite strict. But don’t worry, I broke precept no.1 a few times, (squishing annoying insects before I realised what I was doing) I even broke precept no.3 a couple of times. (That got you thinking didn’t it?) Anyways, you hand your phone in before the course: That’s right, I handed my phone in for 10 days. For those of you who know me, you will know why this is a pretty big deal. For those of you who don’t really know me, I used to get the shakes when I couldn’t check my twitter/email. While I am currently pretty over twitter/facebook/foursquare/timewastingwankfestspace, late last year I was probably at my worst & was thoroughly addicted. Another part of the ‘the code’ is Seperation of Men & Women, so if you have some kind of romantic notion of finding your spiritual soul-mate at one of these courses… It aint gonna happen.  Now let me just jump ahead a little bit & say that on the day of my release (yes I lasted the 10 days) I went straight to the blackheath pub with 2 of my new friends, waited for it to open & then proceeded to sink enough beers for the trip home to be fuzzy in my memory banks. Was this because the course was so unbearable that I needed the numbing properties of some booze? Well, I think rather than answer that question you should read on & draw your own conclusion.

Even with my day-job out of the way, the universe seemed to not want me to attend this course. I had to reschedule no less than 4 times due to 2 weddings & a bucks night. But I was determined to attend no matter how many diversions I might encounter, so on Mon 30-Nov-2009 at around 6pm I rocked up to the centre & handed in my iPhone. I was to stay ’til Fri 11-Dec-2009.

The entrance to the centre

I’ll try to keep things chronological from this point onwards but try to stay with me if  I randomly veer off on a tangent… So I signed the paperwork & was assigned a bed in a dorm room with about 7 other dudes. Now the other part of this meditation course which I failed to mention earlier is that all the food is provided free of charge but it comes with one caveat: It’s all vegetarian. This didn’t bother me so much, I’ve been a vegan before for around 9 months a few years ago. I found it too inconvenient to keep up & so one day when my meat cravings overwhelmed me I made a conscious decision to get a whopper & a zinger burger on the way home & haven’t looked back. (Although I do sometimes miss my 8-pack abs, they were the best burgers I have ever had & I think at the end of the day, most of us are not strong enough to trade burgers for abs.) Besides, you can’t really complain what they feed you when the course including food, accommodation & instruction is essentially free & supported by optional donation only. I felt like 10 days of vego food might do me some good (a detox of sorts) & to be totally honest the meals were way more tasty & varied than you might imagine.

vegan diet + lots of exercise = lots of abs with no photoshop

Dinner was served that night; a hearty & delicious (vegetable) soup with buttered toast. It really hit the spot as it was pissing rain when I arrived. We then attended a short introduction to the meditation technique in the hall. During the introduction we were instructed that as of the moment we left the hall, we were to observe ‘noble silence’ that is to say we were not permitted to speak or engage in any form of communication with any other student. Here it is as listed on their website:

Noble Silence

All students must observe Noble Silence from the beginning of the course until the morning of the last full day. Noble Silence means silence of body, speech, and mind. Any form of communication with fellow student, whether by gestures, sign language, written notes, etc., is prohibited.

Students may, however, speak with the teacher whenever necessary and they may approach the management with any problems related to food, accommodation, health, etc. But even these contacts should be kept to a minimum. Students should cultivate the feeling that they are working in isolation.

The main meditation hall

So it’s beddy byes at 2130. I lay in bed that night, restless, excited, unable to sleep for some time, wondering what I had gotten myself into & frankly not too excited about the 0400 wake-up bell. I often don’t get to sleep until 0400 (like now, it’s 0356 & I’m writing this blog!)

When the bell rang the next morning, I awoke to face one of the hardest days of the course & maybe even my life…

Tune in next time for the continutation – Tired Of The Sound Of Your Own Voice? I Have The Solution… (Pt2)

Drop me a comment if you happen to have any questions in regards to the course or just say hi. Subscribe to my blog to be notified of new post via email & live long & prosper.

*Johnnie Walker Black Label – $39 from Dan Murphy’s

8 Responses to “Tired Of The Sound Of Your Own Voice? I Have The Solution… (Pt1)”

  1. I find this very fascinating!! Looking forward to the next instalment ;)

  2. i’m hooked – write more

  3. […] me to deviate for a moment for those who have not read my first instalment, it’s probably a good place to start if you are interested in Vipassana. If you want to take […]

  4. […] I mentioned in Pt1 of this series of Vipassana meditation themed blogs, day 1 was one of the hardest days of the course & quite possibly one of the hardest of my […]

  5. Hi, just a suggestion. Maybe its just me but reading this was very uncomfortable to my eyes, i swear i got dizzy and kept getting lost between sentences. Maybe im dyslexic ;-) but there is something disturbing to the eyes to have white font on a black back ground.

    • Hey there,

      I’m sorry about that, I guess that’s the price we pay for having a cool looking theme lolz. I am interested to know if anyone else had this same issue.

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