Daraius’ Diary – The Toughest 10 Days of My Life at a Vipassana Center

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Daraius:  We’ve got a great team at Million Mile Secrets.  But I miss writing as much as I did in the old days!  So here I am writing about stuff that I really care about (and which isn’t all miles-and-points related).

“If you’re thirsty, I can’t drink the water for you” – S.N. Goenka

For 10 days, I did not talk, gave up my cell phone and laptop, did not read or write, ate vegetarian food, and had tea and 2 pieces of fruit for dinner.

Link:  Vipassana Website

Daraius' Diary The Toughest 10 Days Of My Life At A Vipassana Center

My Home for the Next Week and a Half

My day involved getting up at 4:00 am and meditating until 9:00 pm at night.  This was broken up by the occasional walk around my dorm where I stared at the stars and the sunset with newfound appreciation and subtlety!

I don’t have the ability to express in words how incredibly profound and insightful this experience was.  Not only was it the toughest thing I’ve done, but also the best experience of my life!

The 10-day stay and food was completely free thanks to the kind folks at Vipassana.

I can talk for hours and hours about my experience, but in the interest of brevity, I’ll just share a few thoughts in this post.  Grab me at a conference and I’ll (for once) talk your ears off.  🙂

Why Did I Do This?

I’ve been dabbling with yoga and meditation as a way to calm down.

Ever since I can remember, folks have usually told me to “calm down” or to “just relax.”  I’ve always been the kind of guy who used to find it hard to just “chill out.

Everything had to be done to my high exacting standards.  I used to either react or overthink situations.  Often this was more negatively than I should have and what was good for me and those close to me.

Yeah, your quintessential “Type A” personality approaching burnout. 🙂

What Is Vipassana?

Quite literally, Vipassana means seeing things as they really are.  It is a meditation technique which originated in India, and was used by Gautama, The Buddha.

Well, what’s different about it?

I’ve known for decades that I should “treat those two impostors (triumph & disaster) just the same.”  But merely thinking or wishing for these is unlikely to work.  I learned that I have to actually experience these within myself to see how both are impermanent sensations.

Creating impurities such as anger, hatred, and fear is a path to misery.

Vipassana taught me a way (outside of mere intellectual understanding) to live peacefully & happily.  How to purify the mind and free myself of the suffering caused by craving, aversion, and ignorance.  And how to live with equanimity, compassion, and joy towards others.

The cause for my misery and happiness lies within me.  And I have to walk the path (Dhamma) myself.  Vipassana showed me how to actually do this in daily life.

I loved the key message that everyone has to work out their own path to freedom and their own salvation.  There isn’t a magic book, or set of phrases, or promises to be made which will get you there.

This was completely free of rituals, religion, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, grandiose pictures of so-called “gurus” and incense wafting through the rooms, etc.  Introspection is serious business and I loved how one of the key messages was that we had to work diligently and persistently to find the answers.

I had to do the work yourself.  And it was bloody hard work!  Physically hard.  Mentally hard.  And emotionally hard.

But it was undertaking the hard work of meditating for 10 days in silence, which enabled me to actually experience these insights.  Instead of merely having an intellectual understanding of it.

My Experience in Texas

Day 1 to 3

On Day 1, I walked into the registration hall in Kauffman, Texas (there are 162 centers word-wide).  We were all excited about our journey, and many had flown in from around the US and the world!

Daraius' Diary The Toughest 10 Days Of My Life At A Vipassana Center

No Gold Status, No Wi-Fi, No Worries.

After a few hours, the noble silence started and we weren’t going to speak to each other for another 10 days.

On the 1st few days, we learned to observe our breath as it came into our nostril and flowed out of it.  My initial thoughts were very much sensory – about sex, sleep, and food.  About  memories of my childhood.  My future goals and aspirations.  The different types of businesses I want to start.  And food!  Lots and lots of food…

I woke up in the night many times with deep, deep cravings for a juicy hamburger or a steak!  And the more I reflected on this, the more I realized that I numb myself by eating.  Drugs, tobacco, parties, and alcohol aren’t my thing, but I do did love meat!

Every evening there was a video which was remarkable for its uncanny ability to know exactly what we went through that day.  Goenka noted how our minds kept wandering from the past to the future and how that contributed to agitation.

Everyone needs to remember the past and plan for the future, but it can also be very unhealthy if all we do is cling to good times and hate the bad times.

Daraius' Diary The Toughest 10 Days Of My Life At A Vipassana Center

Fairly Nondescript Field or Amazing Life in All Its Beauty?  I Learned the Freeing Power of Focus by Dropping Distracting Technologies, Thoughts, Emotions, and Anxieties.

Observing this firsthand was very important because I got to see how to live in the present moment instead of being agitated about the past and future.

I was also in excruciating pain from having to sit on the floor.  I tried every position I could – cross legged, thunderbolt, legs up and my arms wrapped around them.  At one point, I made a castle out of the cushions provided, but it still hurt a lot.  On the last day of the course, when we could talk, the guy behind me remarked that there were times when he thought that I was going to fall on him and bury him in a barrage of cushions!

I eventually asked for a chair to sit on.  I wasn’t going to quit and go home.

Day 4 to 6

Over the next few days, we learned how to observe sensations in our body and to sit still and not react to them.  This was the hardest part of the course for me – I was in pain, hungry & horny.

Sweat poured down my sides.  I felt like I was crying, but when I wiped my eyes there were no tears!  I thought my spine was going to snap.  My legs became numb.

I fantasized about escaping and devouring a 100 ounce steak!

I fantasized about a harem of women.

I fantasized about being a baby and being held tightly by my mother.  And playing with my family.

Day 7 to 10

And then something suddenly snapped…

In the last few days, I felt a deep sense of peace and happiness.  The pain in my body suddenly disappeared.  If my mind fast-forwarded to the worst-case scenario, I was able to accept that thought with equanimity, realize that I was projecting into the future, and then come back to the present moment.

My mind was sharp.  Whip-sharp and clear.  I watched the moon very closely at night.  It was beautiful, and round, and was glowing with a golden white light which bathed the dark sky.

Daraius' Diary The Toughest 10 Days Of My Life At A Vipassana Center

After the Initial Involuntary Twitching From Being Completely Offline Subsided, I Felt Happy and Unencumbered

I watched the bees flit from flower to flower with new-found fascination.  I watched the streaks of sunshine in the sky with amazement and gratitude.

As another wise man said:

 “Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller

I could sit still for an hour (I didn’t need to sit on the chair) without moving much and I felt a calmness and peace which I’ve never experienced before when I finally opened my eyes.

There were sensations inside me (which I could feel) and that my mind wasn’t wandering to the past or present.  If I thought about something which made me angry, I could hear my heart pound faster and the blood quickening its step through my arteries.

I felt love and happiness towards everyone, including those to whom I had previously felt anger and resentment.

No “problem” seemed insurmountable.  It was all impermanent and remaining equanimous is the best I can do.  Clinging onto the good experiences is just a route to misery.

A few times, I felt that I was flying even though I was just sitting on the cushions.

Another key learning was that I have to do the work myself – no one else can do it for me.  I have to walk the path myself.

Day 10 & 11

The noble silence was lifted in the middle of the 10th day.  And even though we hadn’t talked to everyone in the class, we felt connected to everyone.  Over lunch, I learned that all of us had given each other nicknames – and concocted – entire life histories based on a person’s t-shirts or demeanor!

The guy wearing t-shirts adorned with images of Malibu and Venice Beach became, “California Guy.”  The person in the t-shirts with medical devices and drugs was quite obviously a doctor!  And so on…

I found it quite amusing that someone had nicknamed me “Oasis” claiming that I resembled one of the Gallagher brothers!

Bottom Line

At the end of 10 days, I had much better awareness of the sensations in my body.

I experienced first-hand that:

  • Everything is ephemeral – arising and passing away.  That “this, too, will pass” or annica (impermanence) of both the pleasant and unpleasant sensations
  • Much of my physical discomfort is actually mental pain, and it didn’t need to be that way
  • God is truth, and love, and purity.  And that there is a seed of God in each of us
  • My thoughts and emotions have no pattern to them and they come and go
  •  Extreme physical discomfort fades away after a while
  • I can be a vegetarian if I want to be one
  • Joy and compassion and love is a happier path than anger and resentment
  • Life goes on without cell phones and the internet and I don’t have to be addicted to the web

I can’t wait to go back for another 10-day Vipassana course next year!!

And I encourage everyone to take part in a Vipassana course.  May all beings find real peace, real happiness, and real harmony in life.

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29 responses to “Daraius’ Diary – The Toughest 10 Days of My Life at a Vipassana Center

  1. Thank you for posting this! I enjoyed reading about your experience and hope to be able to do it someday! Love the points and miles info in your blog, and glad you had the courage to reveal this side of yourself as well!

  2. Thank you very much for the information. It is very important to observe the things and be closer to Yourself. I would like to do this practice too.


  3. Wonderful to hear about your meditation experience. Thank you for sharing some pretty personal things and can’t wait to hear more about future retreats!

  4. This is how our ancestors got absolutely nothing accomplished for hundreds of years.
    Think DARK AGES.
    Both literally and figuratively.

    Seriously, I have a very rich friend who goes to Thailand and does something similar for 10 days, paying a fortune for it, and it also involves several self-performed enemas per day.


    Notice I wrote this on Yom Kippur.

  5. Thank you for sharing this! Awesome post!

  6. I might try if they had a shortened version. Sounds like a wonderful experience.

  7. It sounds great Daraius! I’m already a vegetarian and practice yoga, but I can never seem to calm my mind during meditation. I think I may have to do this type of retreat one day.

  8. @Daraius: It’s fantastic seeing someone find the courage to express the deep, human side of himself. Don’t get me wrong: MMS is great, or else I wouldn’t be a reader. But life it so much more than 1st class flights and 5 star hotels, or even travel itself. One of my own favorite experiences, oddly, was when the remnants of Hurrican Ike took out the power grid all the way up here in Ohio back in Sept. 2008. I felt just blissful about it, and had no problem living without electricity and all the attendant digital distractions, and ever since then a part of my mind has been working on how to live that way more permanently. Okay, sure, life without electricity would have been a different story here in, say, December or January but I’m clever and there are work-arounds to that challenge too. But my basic point remains. And I think it’s great that the progress with MMS being a real team/staff effort now has freed you up to explore and feel as though you’re growing in ways that don’t have to do with a financial bottom line. Just my two cents.

  9. Thanks for sharing this, Darius. I wish I had the courage to tackle 10 days of personal reflection.

    The haters are gonna hate, although why would anyone knock down a personal reflection that makes one feel more peaceful and happier? I’m sure you have a better perspective on it than I do… Namaste!

  10. Everything arises and passes, including haters.

    There is no cost. Only people who have attended and feel they have benefitted can donate, whatever they can. At some of the centers, there is no mention of an actual suggested amount. If you simply can’t donate, then you don’t.

    “Each student who attends a Vipassana course is given this gift by a previous student. There is no charge for either the teaching, or for room and board.” I have attended as well as volunteered for the 10 day. I have seen how much building maintenance, utilities, and food purchases is required for 100+ people.

    If you like traveling and having different experiences, it’s like an immersion course in culture and (body) language.

    I gladly donate my time and money for future attendees. Thanks for the post!!!

  11. That is really amazing! Did you ever have a big fat juicy steak sometime afterwards?

  12. Beautifully written, Daraius. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Hi Daraius,

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Great to learn that you are also seriously interested in meditation. You may want to look into the following website to find out more about meditation : http://kadampa.org/

    New Kadampa Tradition (NKT ) do have centers also around the world, and it offers fantastic study programs.

  14. Wow, Daraius! I wasn’t expecting that to pop up on your RSS. Nice work! Glad to hear it was a good experience for you, and I think it’s cool you are sharing this with on your blog! It’s such an under-the-radar organization… I’ve been doing Vipassana retreats for 21 years. Super beneficial. Well, life changing really. BTW: My girlfriend and I used Southwest points to go to a Vipassana retreat at the Washington State center in February. Continued thanks for the tips…

  15. thank you Daraius for sharing your experience. I too feel like you and this might be what I need to calm down. Do you have a link? How much is this place? Are women allowed? Is it safe? Why didn’t Emily go with you? I don’t know if I should go without my husband. One last question can I bring vegan snacks I have low blood sugar and per diabetic I’m afraid I’ll go into shock if I don’t eat at regular intervals. Thank you for this insightful and personal post. I love these types of personal posts from you

    • @Bill @Kunal @Gil @jp @SSW @Bill – I’m touched by your warm words and hope you get a chance to go on a Vipassana course soon!

      @losingtrader – LOL! I miss your emails in my inbox about your exploits. 🙂 G’mar Chatimah Tovah. 🙂

      @Vic – They do have shorter 1 day and 3 day courses, but only for folks who have attended at least one 10 day session.

      @Scott – Thanks for reading and for your thoughtful & kind two cents. I find it surprising how dependent I get on things I think I “need,” but don’t really miss after being away from them for a while.

      @Soosie – Thumbs up for “I gladly donate my time and money for future attendees.”

      @Benny – Ha ha! I haven’t eaten meat for ~ 1 month now.

      @Travelwhimsy – Thanks! I’m thrilled to see you here again. 🙂 Say hi to Mr. Travel By Points!

      @Raymond L – Thanks! I’ll check it out.

      @John S. – Thanks! I’m very inspired by your 21 years of Vipassana experience. Would love to chat with you about it sometime. Was this your girlfriend’s first course? I’m curious what she made of it.

      @Anita B – The courses and food/accommodation is free. It is extremely safe at the centers. Men and women sit separately and there is no talking or interaction among them for 10 days, so it doesn’t matter if you go with or without your husband. Better to go by yourself if this isn’t on your husband’s radar. I can’t say if you will be allowed to bring Vegan snacks, but there are Vegan options for the meals. Hope you take a course soon! Here’s a link to their website —> http://www.dhamma.org/en-US/indexhttp://www.dhamma.org/en-US/index

  16. Where’s the disclaimer at the top that this experience was provided free of charge? They are essentially “paying” for a good review here.

  17. Insightful, refreshing read. Thank you for inspiration.

  18. So you don’t think about this game ALL the time anymore?

  19. Very happy that you had such an amazing experience. Thank you so much for sharing.

  20. I too, have done this amazing retreat, twice sitting and then I served a course. I would recommend serving even for a few days – it gives you a completely different perspective when you are taking care of the people sitting!! Congratulations Daraius! It takes courage to sign up, and even more to stay the full 10 days.

  21. Congratulations and good luck. Change is good, but sometimes sad too. It can be painful to give up what seemed so important for so long. A million thanks (use of word “million” not intentionally riffing off your blog name) for your blog — you’ve given me so much help here.

  22. Thank you for sharing your experience, Daraius. Interesting. I can imagine the challenge, as I know for myself, meditating for even one hour can be hard!

  23. Great post, I’ve been reading MMS for a couple years and like this new direction. Thank you for documenting your inner travels and thereby providing encouragement to others.

  24. Can I go on points?
    Can I smoke two joints?
    Will they upgrade me to a suite?
    Dare I bare my hairy feet?

  25. where was Emily? Ten days sounds like a long time….

  26. it sounds mazing but i could not do it without air conditioning esp in texas

  27. Even though you look as if you grew a beard and mustache from the stress of not having your electronics (lol), it’s good to know that at your generational level; you survived it and more importantly learned more about yourself along the way.

  28. Pingback: Next Week: Heading to Vipassana to Meditate for Ten Days - OUT AND OUT