The Vipassana Blog:Preparation

June 6, 2014

This is a live blog about my inner journey towards Vipassana, written primarily to help others who are drawn towards this path. I will try to be as accurate as possible, to offer maximum guidance to others.

My wife Anila and I took the plunge last week, by sending in our application for attending the ten-day retreat at theVipassana Center in Montebello, about  an hour;s drive from Ottawa where we live.

It was a momentous decision, at least twenty years in the making; no one can do this until the time is ripe.

We first heard about Vipassana when we drove past a centre in Jaipur, India. We didnt know anything about Vipassana at that time, but the idea of a ten-day silent retreat was very appealing. We both put it on our “to do” list and waited for the right time. While living in India, there never was a right time. There was a family to bring up, and I hd to support my family. I ran a small business and it was very difficult to take ten full days off from work. Also, there were other   priorities and other spiritual paths to follow.

Then we immigrated to Canada and life always got in the way. Our kids finally became adults and settled down in their professions. Our son got married then our daughter got married. By the strangest co-incidence, our daughter’s in-laws were deep into yoga and Vipassana. They lived in India, but came over for the wedding. We found they were great people, always very calm and relaxed. Their secret, of course, was Vipassana. It helped them deal with living alone in India, away from their children.

Inspired by them, we decided to sign up for a retreat. The beauty of this path is that there is no money involved; the teachers volunteer their time and there are no charges of any kind. You can always make a donation if you like, but only after completing a course.

In short there was no good reason to avoid going for the retreat, now that we had the time. After we holidayed all over the world, so why not take this inner journey.

It is however, a major commitment. Both Anila and I are no longer young, we are both in our sixties and we have accumulated a variety of health issues. Anila has stomach problems  and blood pressure, kept under control through regular medication. I have cardio-vascular problems and blood pressure, again kept in check by regular medication. We both do yoga, which helps a great deal but we cannot reverse the aging process.

However, we are both excited about the Vipassana retreat and have decided to prepare  for it, as much as we can. Luckily, we still have over two months for preparation, as the course only starts in late August.

The  first order of business is to prepare ourselves for the Vipassana schedule. Like in any other ashram, the day begins early at the Montebello center; the web-site tells us that the first meditation is at 4:00 a.m., breakfast at 6:30 a.m., lunch at 11:30 a.m. and not much else to eat until the next day. This is a far cry from our normal routine, getting up at 6:30 or later, with three meals a day. The biggest challenge is the morning toilet- I like to spend almost an hour there every morning, catching up on the news of the world. Anila gets up at the same time as me, and with her cholitis, she has to spend quite a bit of time in bathroom. Then we have our erratic meal timings; all this will have to change if we want to be ready for the retreat.

Also, the schedule seems formidable, right now. It seems that we will have to do hours of meditation every day. Anila had very serious elbow fracture last year, followed by two surgeries. Only time will tell how all this will play into our resolve to do the retreat in August.

There are a lot of changes to be made in our lifestyle, and at our age, we can only make gradual changes. The next few weeks will indicate how all this plays out.


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