The Complete Guide to Preparing for Your 10-day Vipassana Meditation Retreat


So you’ve applied and been accepted to your first 10-day Vipassana retreat. Proper preparation will help you focus deeply on your practice to make the most of each of the ten days.

Before continuing, understand that the importance of preparation is secondary to the practice itself. The details listed below are only helpful insofar as they allow you to engage more deeply with Vipassana meditation. Your goal in preparation is to build a foundation that allows you to dedicate yourself fully to your practice.

The purpose of the recommendations in this guide boil down to one or more of the following:

  1. Eliminating the need to communicate with others.
  2. Reducing worry and mind wandering.
  3. Reducing inconveniences and other distractions.

As you’re reading through each of the following recommendations, consider how they apply to each of these reasons in order to better understand their purpose and benefit.

Before the Retreat

Preparing Your Body

Adjust your circadian rhythm

The morning bell on day 1 through 10 is at 4am. This could be a rude awakening if you’re accustomed to waking up later. At least a few weeks out from the start of your retreat, begin waking up 15 to 30 minutes earlier than you typically would. Get accustomed to that wake-up time for a few days and then cut back another 15 to 30 minutes. Continue this process until you’re near a 4am wake up, or feel that you can comfortably handle the adjustment on day 1 of the retreat.

Familiarize yourself with meditation postures.

There are many ways to sit on a meditation cushion. Check out our Complete Guide to Sitting on a Floor Cushion for a solid introduction on posture, how to manage pain, and grow into your seating. For a more complete guide, you can also check out Movement Rev’s comprehensive article on rest postures. If you’re experiencing significant pain when seated, or find that you can’t hold a posture for longer than a few minutes...

Stretch!

Check out Well and Good’s 5 best stretches for sitting cross-legged. These stretches will help you become more flexible and will make the pain more manageable when it inevitably arises on the retreat. The goal is not to eliminate pain, but to be able to manage it and maintain continuity of your meditation practice. If you’re expecting to take part in the retreat pain-free, you should reconsider your decision to attend.


Preparing Your Mind

Read and Understand the Code of Discipline

This is the single best resource for understanding the rules and guidelines to conduct yourself by during your Vipassana retreat.

Don’t read about the technique.

You will learn everything you need to know about the technique when you arrive at the centre. When you enter the retreat, you will agree to suspend any other practices, and meditate exactly as the teacher asks. Reading about the technique will invariably set expectations about what the practice is, and what it is not. During the course, these expectations may challenge your ability to follow the instructions as they are given.

Don’t read too much about others’ experiences. 

Vipassana meditation is fundamentally your own experience. One of the reasons you’re required to observe Noble Silence during the retreat is to avoid comparison with others, to focus solely on your own isolated experience. In a similar vein to reading about the technique, reading about others' experiences can set up false expectations about what your experience on the retreat "should" be. It is yours and yours alone to discover, and entering with expectations may detract from your own practice.

Let friends and family know you’ll be away.

Let close friends and family know that you’ll be away, and that you won’t be accessible during that time. This way, nobody will worry about you, and you’ll also integrate your choice to attend the retreat into your personal life.

 

Things not to worry about

Worries will understandably come up before and during the retreat. Here are a few common concerns along with reasons to ignore them:

Not being able to speak.

Most people find this is one of the easiest parts of the retreat, so don’t sweat it. More on preparing for this in the During the Retreat section below.

Not being able to eat dinner.

Your body will adjust.

Experiencing pain during meditation. 

Again, physical and mental pain are all part of the process. It’s inevitable that you’ll experience pain as a result of sitting 10+ hours per day. Worrying about it beforehand is no help. As part of the meditation practice, you’ll begin to learn how to remain equanimous in the presence of pain. 

The safety of your valuables. 

They are typically kept in a secure space, and others who are attending a meditation retreat have more important things on their mind than theft.

Friends and family not understanding your choice to attend. 

That’s okay, remember that you’re doing it for you and nobody else.

Preparing Your Personal Items

Items to bring

  • Slip-on or easy to tie shoes for walking outdoors. 
  • Slip-on sandals for walking indoors.
  • Layers of clothes.
  • 2-3 pairs of comfortable, loose fitting pants (on my first retreat, I only brought one pair thinking I could also wear shorts - yikes!)
  • Good socks (no holes).
    • Ear plugs.
    • Alarm clock or watch.
    • Meditation cushion (we sell premium, ethically made meditation cushions. You can shop them here).
    • Reusable water bottle.

      Switch off your mobile data.

      You don’t want to be inundated with a bunch of push notifications upon completing your retreat. By turning your cell phone’s data off, you can go back to the digital world on your own time.

      Turn on auto-responses where necessary.

      Auto-responders can let other friends, family members, coworkers and colleagues know why you’re away. This way, nobody will worry if they haven’t heard from you, and you don’t have to worry about them worrying about you.

      During the retreat.

      Before Noble Silence

      Introduce yourself to others.

      On day 0, you’ll have time to chat with others and get to know them a bit. Establishing rapport with others can help you both feel more comfortable in one another’s silent company for the next 10 days. So introduce yourself and get to know some folks.

      Talk to your roommates prior to the Noble Silence.

      If you’re sharing a room with others, kindly open up a conversation with your roommates about ground rules and each of your expectations for being good roommates. This way, you won’t be left worrying about bothering your neighbour during Noble Silence, and they’ll avoid doing things that are potentially bothersome to you. Here are some things you might like to discuss:

      • What time one another’s alarm clock will go off.
      • Is it okay to open a window if it gets warm at night?
      • Do you have any common pet peeves? (leaving the door open, leaving the lights on, etc.)
      • Is there anything your neighbour should know about your habits / sleep routine?

      Days 1 - 10

      Exercise portion control.

      Don’t eat too much. You’ll likely be relentlessly gassy in the meditation hall, and it could also make your practice more challenging.

      Avoid comparison

      Again, attending a 10-day Vipassana Retreat is one of the best choices you can make for yourself. You’re not there to worry about what others think of you, whether they’re experiencing the same amount of pain as you, or whether they’re doing a “better” job meditating than you. You’re there for yourself only, so focus your attention inward.

      Be kind to yourself.

      You’ve signed up to do a very hard thing. Don’t beat yourself up when things get challenging, or when your mind wanders. Doing so will only take away from the progress you make on the retreat.

      After the Retreat

      Keep it up!

      As instructed, continue meditating daily following the retreat. As your teacher will tell you, continuity of practice is the key to strengthening your practice. To make it a habit that sticks, check out our 5 Tips for Making Meditation a Daily Habit.

      3 comments


      • K MANICKKAVASAGAM

        I am almost 73 years. I have BP, mild sugar, chronic Asthma and heart ailment. Can I undertake Vipassana 10 days in coming summer at Chennai.
        I am unable to sit on floor.
        Please guide me.
        Thanks
        K Manickkavasagam
        23 Dec 2023


      • Neelamdiwan

        Yes it looksichlaanging ,will do.


      • Bharat

        Nice


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