<aside> ℹ️ This is Part #2 of a two-part newsletter!
Part 1: 1/2 - What it's like: 10-day Goenka Vipassana Meditation Retreat Learn about the retreat itself: how it's run, what they teach, who runs it, etc.
🙋♂️ 🚩 You are here, in Part #2. Part 2/2 - My experience: 10-day Goenka Vipassana Meditation Retreat Once you have the context from Part 1, I can better explain to you my own experience, how it went, and what benefits I took away from it.
<aside> ⏰ *It's just shy of 4am, on day 6 of 10.
The alarm on my little pocket digital clock goes off. I reach over to my bedside table and quieten it, before throwing back the blanket I've got over my sleeping bag, and step out into the cool air of the room. The lodging is heated, but it's still cool enough for me to prefer sleeping with my thin beanie on.
I quickly slide into my track pants and put on two layers of jackets I had set out the night before. I grab a canvas bag with my toiletries, towel, and change of clothes.*
<aside> 🔇 By the time I'm stepping out my room and into the cold of the early morning, it's probably about 4:03am, and someone is passing by outside the dorms ringing a small, inoffensive but loud-enough gong to signal wake-up time for everyone. I walk past them with eyes downcast; it's not just talking that's discouraged on this silent retreat, but also eye contact, and non-verbal communication of any kind.
<aside> 🌙 Most mornings have been misty, and just chill enough to pierce my layers and induce a light shiver. My breath leaves clouds illuminated by the small street-lamp-like lighting along the path. The bathroom block is neither close nor especially far, maybe a minute or two's walk from the main men's sleeping quarters, which are on the ground floor of the main building, beneath the main meditation hall above. The compound is a large lot of land with a dozen or so buildings for accommodating, dining, bathing, and upkeep.
<aside> 🚿 In the shower block I set down my bag, and place my clock on the bench corner so I can keep an eye on the time: it's 4:07am. I take off my layers, slip into my shower thongs, and step into the shower. I brush my teeth and use the bar of soap I brought, and finish with 60s of full-blast cold water.
<aside> 🤔 I silently wonder at how absurd this might all seem to someone, or to me from the past. Cold showers in the countryside at 4am, ahead of 10 hours of seated meditation, for 10 days, and all done willingly. Madness. Have I gone crazy?
<aside> 🧘♂️ For the past 6 days this and everything else in my day has been clockwork for me, as I've found having routines of my own affords me the feeling of control in the very demanding and draining timetable (which is only gently enforced, I should say).
Out of the shower; dry body and hair; into new, clean clothes; and quickly back to my room to deposit my bag and hang up my towel. A few moments later I'm upstairs settling into my designated place in the meditation hall at 4:27am for the day's first 2-hour sit.
If the above makes me seem like a masochist - hi! You must be new here.
I don't take cold showers to make life harder for myself, in fact they're worth the effort and then some. Believe me when I tell you that they in fact paradoxically made the cold mornings less cold (I shivered on the way to the showers, but not on the way back), and made a marked difference from a wakefulness perspective, making the 4:30am meditation sits much easier.
Don't believe me? A case for cold showers The cold shower masterclass. ✌️
👋 Hello again! Good on you for bearing with me.