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What is Vipassana: Why do people pay to stay silent around strangers for 10 days?

While the winter broadcast on the banned social network was divided into two camps – Bali or Thailand, one of my friends decided to break the system and flew to India to try Vipassana. Agree, it would be funny to look at the face of a customs officer who, when asked at the airport about the purpose of the visit, would hear: “Keep silent for the money.” Of course, no one says this, but if you, the reader, decide to have this experience, let me know.

In general, Vipassana is a type of meditation that emerged in India about 2500 years ago as a remedy for all kinds of pain. In very simple terms, participants take a vow of silence for 10 days, rejecting all contact with the outside world and remaining alone with themselves. As strange as it sounds, Vipassana has enough followers; people travel to the ends of the earth to join him.

We decided to find out what the secret of the popular spiritual practice is, where to look for Vipassana in Moscow and how much it costs.


How does Vipassana work?

Vipassana takes place in special isolated places. Most often they are located outside the city and far from civilization. In general, the geography of Vipassana is quite wide: you can receive it both in the nearest Moscow region and in India, Thailand and even China. There are private tours where everything is organized at once: from flights to transfers to stay in the meditation center. But more on that later.

Upon arrival, you are asked to leave any distractions (phone, laptop, books, pens and notebooks, religious items). You only have clothes, bedding and personal hygiene items with you. At the same time, clothes should be discreet, not rustling and comfortable for sitting for long periods of time.

Participants have three main activities: meditation, rest (i.e. sleeping and walking), and eating. However, the rules may differ slightly in some centres. In some of them it is forbidden to talk to each other, even say a few words, in others you simply cannot have long conversations. One of the most challenging types according to Goenka rules is Vipassana. This is a long-dead teacher, but recordings of his voice are used in lessons.

For example, in the centers where this practice is carried out, talking is completely prohibited, running and doing any kind of sports are prohibited. They also have a strict daily routine. In addition to the lessons, there is contact with the teacher every day, where you can ask questions about meditation.


Vipassana rules

On the first day after arriving at the center, the person rejects all communication with the outside world and takes a vow of silence for 10 days. No matter what happens in the world, you won’t know about it. No laptop, no phone. There is nothing with which you fill your free time: movies, books, music, drawing. There is only you, nothing else. And at first glance it looks like luxury.

True, it turns out that very few people can withstand it. There are situations in these centers where students cannot stand it and break the rules. At best, they just go home and sometimes begin to interfere with others, for example, start scandals or even decide to start a mini-riot. The centers are not at all surprised by this and explain it by saying that the person is purified from toxic substances in this way.


What is the price?

Initially, Vipassana was free for all students, and all centers where meditation was taught were maintained by donations. Now they have turned it into a well-profitable fashion business. Approximate prices of Vipassana in different centers of the world are as follows:

Moscow region – from 40 thousand rubles
Altai – from 21 thousand rubles (excluding flights)
Puttaparthi, India – from 60 thousand rubles (excluding flights)
Chiang Mai, Thailand – from 46 thousand rubles (excluding flights)
Tibet, China – from 89 thousand rubles (excluding flights)


What should happen to the body

Stress levels decrease. According to research, a 10-day vow of silence allows a person to reduce their general stress level, relax and calm down. After completing the application, participants can cope with stress better and become less anxious about situations they cannot change.

Brain function improves. Scientists have already proven that meditative practices make the brain neuroplastic, which means the ability to change, heal and concentrate. It also affects the development of memory functions.

No anxiety. According to a 2019 study, Vipassana may reduce anxiety. Measurement of anxiety levels in 14 subjects confirmed that anxiety levels decreased after meditation.


Personal experience of Vipassana

The story of Olga Smirnova

I became actively interested in yoga and meditation in 2012. It all started when we went to a place near a house in the Mitino area. Later, I found like-minded friends there, with whom we began to go on retreat tours around Russia – first the Moscow region, then Sochi, Altai, Dagestan.

Of course, I knew about Vipassana for a long time, most of the girls we met on tours told about their experiences and it was very interesting to try what it is. In 2016, a turning point occurred in my life – a miscarriage, which was followed by a rather rapid divorce without my initiative. As you understand, this was the case. Therefore, the decision was made to help ourselves in any way possible. So, on the advice of a friend, I went to Sri Lanka, where the Vipassana Meditation Center is located, one of the most famous Vipassana centers.

Passing Vipassana is free. But according to tradition, you need to donate based on the fact that you will be fed free for 10 days and will be given a roof over your head during this time. By the way, the conditions there are, of course, far from five-star. We lived in rooms for 5-6 people with thin mattresses and only metal beds. Facilities include a shared bathroom and shower. Only women lived in our building, but generally men also come to the center and live separately.

Upon arrival they took away anything that could distract me from meditation – phone, books, laptop. For 10 days, you will be alone with yourself and your thoughts. A sample daily routine looked like this:

4:30 – waking up and first meditation.

6:30 – breakfast. Usually they would give me something like watery porridge, it was edible.

8:00-12:00 – general meditation.

12:00 – lunch break. Last Supper.

14:00-19:00 – general meditation.

20:00 – teacher’s lesson.

21:00 – don’t go to bed.

And this happened almost every day. In general, silence is far from the most difficult thing. Meditating for about 10 hours or more a day is a real test for which it is difficult to prepare. Of course, the first days were very difficult – it was difficult to force myself to relax and stop cursing everything in my head. But eventually he lets you go. By the way, if you imagine complete silence in the center, this is not the case. Still, no one canceled out the outside noise. Yes, the teachers talk to you too and you respond to them.

Lessons were held in English, but despite this, there were still many Russians among the students (even those who did not understand anything). Honestly, this experience will remain in my memory forever, but I am definitely not ready to repeat it again. At that time, Vipassana helped me find inner support after personal losses, and conversations with teachers replaced therapy for me.

It is sad that Vipassana has now become just another job. In some centers, people now have the opportunity to choose their rooms and meals, while participation in some meditations has suddenly become optional. And as you understand, everyone has phones in their hands. It’s weird because in the beginning all of this had a different purpose.

Source: People Talk

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