What to expect and what to bring to Vipassana meditation Blackheath
Are you wondering what to bring to Vipassana? If you feel “called” to go to a 10 day silent mediation retreat at Blackheath, Blue Mountains then I strongly urge you to go. Vipassana at Blackheath is guided by S.N. Goenka, who has now passed away. Vipassana is a Buddhist meditation practice, but can be undertaken by people of all religions, or by people who don’t consider themselves religious.
Your 10 day course will take you 12 days to complete, as the first day is registration and the final day is made up of cleaning the centre, and other administration tasks. For 10 days of practice, you will remain silent, sleep in modest accommodation, meditate for around 11 hours per day, and survive on just 2 vegetarian meals per day, fasting your last meal.
I love going to Vipassana in Blackheath. I have been an old student for years now. I have sat four full 10 day courses and have served on two. I have also done a one day course, which was very difficult, but worthwhile.
I have written this blog post to tell you what to expect. These are just my opinions as an old student, so please do your own independent research. If you are thinking about going but have not decided to – I can strongly recommend going. This has been one of the most valuable activities of my whole life. Vipassana is not easy – but it will give you a foundation for mental strength. Remember, what to bring to Vipassana is just one part of your journey.
What you will be doing at Vipassana:
- Meditating – lots of meditation. Vipassana at Blackheath has a program of about 11 or 12 hours of mediation per day. You do this seated, sitting on cushions, wrapped warmly in blankets, all of which are provided. People who are older, pregnant or with back pain may use chairs. Your meditation is broken up throughout the day, with breaks, which are for meals, washing etc.
- Sitting in Noble Silence. You do not talk for the whole time you are there, apart from to your teacher and on the last day. I love Noble Silence and I have noted that there are lots of students who seem to look for any excuse to talk. Keep quiet- it is more beneficial.
- When to speak. You will be silent for most of your day. You can talk to the male and female managers – to ask for things you need. Try not to ask for anything – make do with what you have brought with you.
- Your Teacher. The men have a teacher, and so do them women. You will have question time every day in the evening, where you have one-on-one time with your teacher to ask questions specifically about the practice.
- Video sessions. Each night there is an hour-long video featuring talks by Goenka. These are entertaining and are a welcome relief after so much mental work throughout the day. There is also time after each evening video session to have a group chat with your teacher, who will ask you a couple of questions about how you have been going.
What to bring to Vipassana:
- What not to bring. I have had friends ask me if they should bring a hair straightener etc. Believe me, after the first day, you will not know or care what you look like, however, you will benefit from being dry and warm, so it’s not wrong to bring a hairdryer if you have long hair. Don’t bring any food, any books, or any religious jewellery or iconography.
- Toiletries. Bring your toothbrush, soap and deodorant. Nice soaps might help to cheer you up after a long day of mental work. You will have no other luxuries while at Vipassana so making the most of personal time is a good idea.
- Bring lots of socks. You can handwash at Vipassana but often because of the weather, things do not dry. Bring shoes that you can kick off easily, plus some ugg boots or gum boots.
- Hot water bottle. This is my personal essential item, as it gets very cold in Blackheath. There are kettles in every bathroom but be prepared to share.
- A water bottle. I like to have water by my bed, and they do not allow you to take cups from the dining room.
- A clock. It’s great to have your own, as sticking to a timed schedule is imperative. Be aware of loud ticking clocks and alarms as you may be sharing a room with a fellow meditator, or dorm of meditators.
It’s important to consider what to bring to Vipassana because once you are there, you can’t leave the course to buy anything.
The Vipassana practice:
- Ana pana for 3 days and then Vipassana is given.
- You will sweep your body from head to feet, feet to head, back and forth, observing sensation.
- This will strengthen and quieten your mind. This will bring you back to reality. This will allow you to experience the truth of your real being.
- Is it hard? Yes, it is. It is difficult to sit for extended periods of time. At some points you will get very frustrated with the practice.
- Is silence hard? No. The difficult part of Vipassana is the practice itself, and the taxing of your body in sitting for extended period of time.
Do I meditate all day?
Yes, but there are breaks. There are also times when you can practice or do other things. However, there is nothing to do but mediate. It is best to meditate as much as you can. Think about what to bring to Vipassana to make the most of your break time, to allow you to be mentally comfortable,
How much does Vipassana cost?
The course is by donation. This is really good as it makes me have more faith that the course is being run for the right reasons. Vipassana will not make money from you. The centre is there to help and assist students. Make use of it – if you can. Also, I think it’s importnat for the whole family, and Vipassana also runs teens and kids courses that are age appropraite. Read How to teach the whole family to meditate for some ways to get started.
Should I do Vipassana?
Yes, you should. You should go as soon as you can. The biggest challenge is finding a block of 12 days where you can go. Most Aussies in full-time work only get 20 days of holidays per year – so 12 days is a long time. If you have 12 days up your sleeve – book a course. They run all year round but they book out fast at certain times of the year. Think about what to bring to Vipassana in advance, and you will be in good shape for your practice. Here is the link to the Vipassana Centre in Blackheath.
Good luck! Please tell me your experiences at Vipassana Blackheath below in the comments!