Intro: What is a 10-Day Goenka Vipassana Retreat?
by MetaWorldPeace

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Ten days of silent meditation, following a strict schedule and a bunch of rules: no internet, no talking, no touching, no reading or writing, no food after noon.. you’re not even allowed to steal!

For the first 3 and a half days you meditate on your breath to develop concentration. Whenever you notice your mind drifting from the breath to other subjects, you gently bring your focus back to your breath without negativity or guilt. On days 4-9, you do the “real work” of Vipassana, observing bodily sensations and your reactions to them. On day 10, after finishing "surgery on your mind," you apply the "soothing balm" of "lovingkindness" meditation.

Your only stimulation is a nightly lecture on DVD from S.N. Goenka, the founder of the “free 10 day retreat” movement and the “teacher” of the course.

There’s an “assistant teacher” who, unlike Goenka, is physically present at the retreat; his job is basically to press play on the DVDs. The assistant teacher has his own assistant who sort of spies on everyone and makes sure no one’s cheating.

It’s an intense setup – many experienced meditators recommend against Goenka retreats because of their torturous, prison-like quality.

But it was the fall of 2010, I was hopelessly addicted to altoids, and I figured that only a program of radical suffering could save me. I had the trappings of a decent life – a girlfriend, a reasonable career narrative, 6 feet tall, etc. – but I was extremely deep in the Dostoevsky stream. If you were to observe me closely for (say) 24 hours, you’d have marched me straight to the vet.

Did 10 days, 10 hours a day of silent meditation cure what ailed me? Was it hard? Was it worth it? Did I have any bizarre wet dreams? To the mirthmobile!

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