For the longest time I’ve been wanting to attend a 10-day vipassana course and in May 2018, I finally got around to do it. In this post, I will share with you everything about my 10-day vipassana course experience in Khon Kaen, Thailand. Khon Kaen is a relatively short (8-9 hours) bus ride from Bangkok and is one of four major cities in the Isan region. Thailand has a very special place in my heart and so I decided to do my 10-day vipassana course in Khon Kaen, Thailand. I took all the photos in this post on the very last day and have, therefore, only a handful.
Vipassana meditation has been around for more than 2500 years and is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. The ten-day residential courses are for anyone who wants to learn the basics of this method of meditation. There are courses literally all-over the world and they are always located near bigger cities and although located remotely, most compounds are easy to get to.
How much does it cost?
The course is entirely free – the food, the accommodation – everything is free of charge. The course is being financed by donations from people who have completed a course and experienced the benefits of Vipassana meditation. It’s a truly beautiful thing! If you find a course for which you’ll need to pay, then it’s not a course as taught by S.N. Goenka. For more information about Vipassana meditation, I highly recommend checking out this website. For a list of Vipassana centers, click here.
How to apply
Applying for a vipassana course is super easy. You simply go to their website and pick a course in your desired country. They have courses all over the world and it should, therefore, be relatively easy to find a center near you. Depending on the center it takes 2-5 weeks for your application to be processed. You only really need to fill out basic information (name, address, etc.) as well as a health questionnaire. I got a response within 5 weeks. Once you are accepted you will get a helpful guide and instructions via email.
My 10-day vipassana course
I took a 10-day vipassana course in Khon Kaen, Thailand. As a “new student” (someone who has never attended a vipassana course) you can only choose 10-day courses. As an “old student” (someone who has attended a vipassana course) you can choose 3-day and 5-day courses among heaps more options. My 10-day vipassana course started on 9/5 and ended on 20/5. On the first day, we got a little introduction, handed over our valuables, enjoyed a meal and had our first meditation. The last full day (19/5) was spent meditating, chatting and packing. On 20/5 we had our morning meditation and left shortly after breakfast.
Those who attend a vipassana course need to adhere to a couple of rules that are being explained in detail at the beginning of the course. This is a rough break-down of the most important ones.
- Follow the five precepts for the duration of the course (no killing, no stealing, no sexual activity, no lies, no intoxicants)
- Old students need to follow three additional precepts (no eating after midday, no sensual entertainment and bodily decorations, no high luxurious beds)
- Meditate exactly as instructed, without adding to or ignoring any part of the instructions
- Other techniques, forms of worship and rites must be discontinued
- Noble silence must be observed from the beginning of the course until the morning of the last full day. Any form of communication with other students is prohibited
- Men and women are completely separated at all times
- No physical contact between persons of the same or opposite sex
- No physical exercise
- No religious objects
- No drugs, alcohol, or other intoxicants
- No tobacco
- Clothing should be loose and simple. No tight, transparent or revealing clothing.
- No outside communication
- No reading, writing or playing/listening to music
- No phones/tablets/cameras
I was expecting it to be difficult, however, I certainly wasn’t expecting for it to be as difficult as it ended up being for me. Every single day was spent meditating for more than 10 hours. For the duration of the course (9 full days), noble silence had to be observed at all times. That means that you are not allowed to talk to other students nor are you allowed to have lengthy conversations with any of the staff members. You are supposed to feel like you are working in isolation, and it totally felt like that. At the meditation center, you are also not allowed to exercise and I really ended up missing my daily yoga routine. I also drink a lot of water and have a small bladder which resulted in me getting up a lot.
Day 1 to 9
- Day 1 to 3: After the first day of meditating for more than 10 hours, I wanted to leave and I probably would have if it wasn’t for my flight from Khon Kaen to Siem Reap. I simply wasn’t used to sitting that much. The first few days I felt really isolated and lonely. There was even a day at which I cried. It was all a little too much for me and after the course was finished, others shared similar experiences.
- Day 4 to 6: Every day we needed to get up at 4 AM and had to two hours of meditation from 4:30 to 6:30. The morning meditation was followed by an amazing breakfast. Getting up so early wasn’t an issue at all for me, it was my favorite part of the day actually. A couple of days in I got used to the routine and started enjoying meditation. While meditating things from the past came up. Things that I’ve had completely forgotten about, or so I thought. I was able to work through experiences of my past that deeply affected me and I was finally able to let them go.
- Day 7 to 9: The last few days were a little rougher. I was sitting too much for comfort and simply longed to interact with others. You were able to talk to the teacher in private every day after lunch and after the evening discourse. I finally talked to the teacher on my last day of the course and found talking to him incredibly valuable. If you are attending a 10-day vipassana course, make sure to talk to the teacher. I shared with him my struggles and he had some really great tips on how to overcome those.
The food was incredible. At all vipassana courses you are being served vegetarian food and ss far as I could tell, most of the food was vegan, definitely, all the warm food was. The only non-vegan items I spotted were cows milk, bread which contained milk powder, coffee mix, and cookies. New students are served breakfast, lunch, and dinner. While there is plenty of food for breakfast and lunch, for dinner it was usually only tea, snacks and bananas. Old students are served breakfast, lunch and only a very light dinner (herbal tea, no food). The tamarind served was grown on-site and the bananas served were grown nearby by a dhamma server. All the food was prepared fresh every day and I got to eat heaps of different, local, Thai sweets and dishes. I made mental notes of everything that I had while staying at the meditation center and the following foods were usually being served:
- Breakfast: rice porridge, pasta, bananas, pineapple, soymilk, snacks
- Lunch: purple rice, white rice, vegetables, mango, bananas, local sweets (rice crackers, sweet bananas, etc.)
- Dinner: Herbal teas/juice, banana, pineapple, snacks – Old students were only allowed to have herbal tea/juice
Khon Kaen meditation center
Dhamma Suvanna, the meditation center in Khon Kaen, is located just outside the city and absolutely stunning. It’s surrounded by lush trees and the compound is huge. The meditation hall is of medium size, the facilities are nice and there are heaps of trees on the compound. When you arrive you are being assigned a single room, a meditation cushion at the main meditation hall and a seat in the dining hall. Later on, you are being assigned your own meditation cell which I didn’t end up using due to the heat.
How to get to the meditation center
The meditation center is located just outside of Khon Kaen and surrounded by lush nature. After you sign up and get accepted you’ll get a helpful guide with detailed instructions on how to get there. The center offers a van pick-up from the Terminal 3 bus station and that’s how I got to the center. You can sign up via email and pay 100 baht for one way in person to get there and back. On the last day, I luckily managed to get a rideshare straight to the airport. If it wasn’t for my rideshare I would’ve simply taken the van back to the bus station.
Would I do it again?
Yes, absolutely. The technique of vipassana meditation is incredibly powerful and I am forever grateful that I got to learn it. While I was skeptical at the beginning I must say that after completing a 10-day vipassana course I wholeheartedly believe in this technique of meditation. If you are thinking of doing a vipassana course, do not hesitate and sign up. It’s an incredible gift to learn this technique. After having done a course in Thailand I am really interested in doing a course at a center in Malaysia. I’ve heard great things about the center there and can’t wait to check it out.