A decade ago, I saw The Dhamma Brothers documentary about how a group of ultra violent prisoners in Alabama came to terms with what they had done (most had committed murder) by doing Vipassana. It is an extreme meditation practice where you sit in silence for 10 days straight. It acts like a spiritual car wash and it dissolved the prisoners anger, depression and pain, and made room for their gentler and more compassionate selves to emerge. I’ve longed to try Vipassana ever since seeing the documentary, but to go from meditating for just 10 minutes a day to sitting for 10 days straight is like thinking you can open a a restaurant after having only ever tossed a salad. All the same, I feel this is the right thing for me to do now. It seems such a profound experience. To sit quietly and come face to face with your inner self, your own patterns of thinking and being. To see clearly for once your very essence, what you need and what no longer serves you.
I would’ve guessed signing up for this kind of bare bones course would be a breeze. How many people want to do a retreat where you are asked to sleep in a spartan dorm room, rise at 4am each morning, eat a scant two vegetarian meals a day (dinner is just fruit and tea) and sit cross legged in silence for hours? But it is unbelievably hard to find a place at a SN Goenka Vipassana retreat. The places at the 14 American centers are booked up months in advance. You would think we were all fighting for a place at a luxury spa. Recently I bagged a coveted spot on the wait list for a course over Xmas and the New Year (the period when Laura was dying in hospital last year). I doubt I will feel much like celebrating the holidays, so sitting quietly reflecting on life, the universe and everything will be perfect.