Practical Tips for Your Vipassana Course

This is my last post about the Vipassana course I did. Find the first two entries (one post, one video) right before this one. As always, if you want to know more just shoot me an email!

Alright, let’s be honest: I’m no pro at this Vipassana thing and there are a ton of people all over the world who have taken the course a hundred times each and know a lot more than me. But! There are a few things I would have liked to know going into the course, so I figured I’d share them here in case anyone was researching “I’m doing my first Vipassana course and I’m so scared and what do I do?” and found my blog.

1. Your back will hurt. Your legs will hurt. Your neck will hurt. It’s all part of the process. Think of doing squats! When you first do squats, you’re like “holy shit my legs are sore!” for the first couple days, but then you build the muscle and the pain eases. At noon on the second day my back was in so much pain I was sure I had done permanent damage, but the teacher told me to wait it out for another 24 hours (she called it a “Dhamma Pain”…the process brings a lot of shit up) and by the next morning, the ache was gone. Push through! If you have a prior injury, of course, use your head and don’t be a hero. Let the course manager know and you can get a chair.

2. There will be coffee. Maybe at other centres there isn’t, but if you hit up the one in Auckland, there’s coffee.  Blessed, blessed coffee.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask the teachers questions and get everything straight in your mind. Don’t worry about looking stupid either; those dudes ooze nothing but love and compassion, so there’s no judgement.

4. Bring shoes you can slip in and out of easily. Like, real easily. I brought my Blundstones which, technically, I can slip in and out of…but the amount of times you’re taking on/off your shoes (before going into the hall, into your room, the dining hall, the bathroom, etc etc)…like, we’re talking upwards of 20 times a day. By the end of it I was just wearing flip flops with socks because I couldn’t be assed to use my hands to pull on my shoes every time.

You know what would’ve been perfect? Crocs. If you have Crocs, bring them. If you don’t, go to a $2 store and buy a pair of shitty cheap Crocs. Trust me.

5. No one will care what you look like, so go for comfort. I wasn’t sure what it would be like, so I packed my mascara just in case (is that vain?) but it was totally not needed. You are sitting on your butt for at least 11 hours a day and no one will judge you. Tights, sweat pants, big old shirts, sandals with socks, blankets and scarves…half the time, we looked like hobos.

This said, a lot of girls were wearing those harem/hammer pants and they looked so comfortable and pretty. I was really convinced that I needed a pair of harem pants but hello fat chick can’t play that game.

6. Bring a refillable water bottle with you and make sure to take a few gulps between every sitting. It’s easy to not get enough fluids during the course.

7. You might have weird-ass dreams that will keep you up half the night. It’s normal.

8. If you have the option to try a bunch of blankets or cushions, try out a few different poses. By the end of the course I had like seven cushions and six blankets with me (it was a fucking nest) but I was super comfortable and could often sit for longer than an hour without moving.

9. If your upper back is hurting, try resting a rolled up blanket on your lap and resting your hands on it. I found it really relieved my pain.

10. Don’t listen to “Call Me Maybe” before going into the course. Just don’t. Trust me.

11. I can’t decide if I should’ve had a watch with me or not. At times, I wanted to know just how much time was left before the bell and I felt that if I knew I only had 15 more minutes, things would’ve been bearable. Buuuuttt not knowing and just accepting is also pretty important and didn’t kill me. Live life by the gong.

12. If you’re really keen on leaving, at least give yourself to the end of the 5th day. Don’t leave before the end of the 5th day. Give yourself time to adjust, and your brain a chance to re-train itself. Just give it a chance. Be hard on yourself, you pussy.

13. Accept things as they are. If your brain is thinking about chocolate scones, then let it think about chocolate scones. If you’re angry and frustrated, be okay with being angry and frustrated. Use the time to accept things and be okay with what they are and who you are. I felt ridiculous that I was writing plays and books and jokes in my head the whole week, but hey! I’m a creative person. It’s a *good* thing, even if it was a bit frustrating that I couldn’t turn it off completely. Accept it and give yourself a break.

Those are the only tips I can think of off the top of my head. If you’ve done a course and have a tip of your own, share it in the comments!

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10 thoughts on “Practical Tips for Your Vipassana Course

  1. Thanks for writing this. I’m currently whiling away the days until I go do the course at Vipassana Ontario, in an odd state of hope and eek, so it was lovely to hear some tips. Whee.

  2. Great suggestions. I second the crocs and water bottle. Also, Next time I will make sure I do core-strengthening exercises like Pilates regularly so I’m in shape for the sitting.

  3. i go in a couple of days. it will be at the foot of the himalayas. uhun, that’s right! i live large! i’ve been reading posts to get an idea of the pitfalls. and maybe build a strategy towards escape from where the ‘nirvana’ window may be located.

    you didn’t write this for the experts. you wrote this for people like me that want to know before we go. and for that peek, i thank you: thank you for the post. be happy! :0D

  4. Great to have found this this morning… I’ve been accepted to a course in February 2014…. so I begin thinking about cults, craziness, and dumb faith healing…. I can’t imagine what I’ll be thinking in February…

    Nonetheless, thank you for your frank and decidedly non-scary approach in this article…

    Now…. I am going to go focus on breathing (as opposed to panting in a panic)….

    Namaste.

  5. I was just contacted by someone at a vipassana that starts on the 27th…5 days away! Up until now they had told me there was no room, so I was in a state of limbo. I have to coordinate someone to cover for me at work, and watch the dog, because this has been such an important journey for me, I would hate to miss it. Is it crazy-making to cram all this preparation to attend, and should I tell them (for the third time) that I cannot ?

      • Luuuv your tips. Mainly because you are so funny and now I’m tempted to listen to that song…but I will be sensible so I won’t. Doing my first vipassana next week nov 2015 in England as I live in London. My biggest fear is lack of coffe, I get headaches. But I don’t think they provide us any unfortunately. Crocs! Thanks for that one. Already got the harem pants. Beautiful writing Jenny – you are very talented.reg Paula

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