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8 Experiences and Insights From a 10 Day Vipassana Meditation Retreat

dhamma malaya vipassana hall
The Dhamma Hall where we practiced 10 hours of meditation every day.
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]magine being in a prison compound with a 10 hour working days, for 10 days, 2 meals a day, no speaking, no contact, no women and still it was one of the best experiences of your life and you would return again voluntarily. Well that’s exactly what I did for my Christmas and new years break.

I just returned from a 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat from Dec 21st, 2012, to Jan 2nd, 2013, ending one era and beginning another. Yes, this was the end of a world within me as I took a 10 day vow of silence and submitted my will to a full 10-hour per day meditation regime.

Here are 8 experiences and insights that I gained from this transformative experience.

1. Stay curious

There’s no reading or writing allowed, so I had to be more content with the mundane. Therefore, my newest fascination was ant watching. I would find a super highway of ants, squat down, and watch it for 10 minutes straight. So much so, that when I went to sleep at night, sometimes I would see ants walking infront of my vision! Yes, I danced with insanity.

Other amazing wildlife in the Malaysian jungle surroundings included a one-foot long black scorpion, a lizard the size of a cat, and tropical toucan birds (like on fruit loops, yum!). The insight is that if you develop a genuine curiosity for life around you in any given moment, you will never be bored again. Try it yourself.

2. Your words are powerful

I came to understand how many of things I say are completely unnecessary. Light conversation is fine and all, but speaking for the sake of speaking is a negative symptom of a person who has been so trapped by their monkey mind that they can not even imagine silence. A calm and quiet mind chooses exactly the right words at the right time, no more, no less. I believe this is the right form of speech.

I love the power of words and this experience has sharpened my habit of speech so that I may use it positively and powerfully.

3. Surprising past desires will surface

When I was 14, I was very attached to an online video game called Final Fantasy XI (same type of game as World of Warcraft, so you know it was addicting). My best friend Josh and I would play this game every day for hours. They were wonderful memories of adventure, laughter, accomplishment, and it was all super fun. Definitely a golden era of my adolescence.

I realized I still have a very deep desire to immerse myself in this type of fantasy game. Many meditations did I find myself re-living the past good memories of these adventures. At first the thoughts were so random, but then became a leading theme throughout the retreat. Many days did I ponder this game here, yearning to play again, and also examining WHY this tremendous urge was still there.

Honestly, I still have to work it out. I love video games, but haven’t had much time to play these days. Priorities change, but it seems that desires remain hidden.

(Other strong and random desires included riding a motorcycle across India, becoming a monk, moving to Japan to learn Japanese, going back to America, learning to paint & draw, and lastly, that urge which no one can escape, the strongest instinctual desire: steaming hot sex.)

4. I kept a hidden hatred for God

By the fourth day my back began aching with severe throbbing pain. I developed such an aversion to the pain that it caused a deep fiery rage to burn within me. My goal here was to meditate, be peaceful, go within, and ultimately grow closer to God, but instead here I am in such pain that I can not even focus for 5 seconds. Such hatred surfaced. I blamed God himself, asking why there was so much pain when I try so hard to do good? This lead inevitably to the great question: Why suffering?

As I sat in this pool of rage, I wondered why would this infinite being of love and compassion put anyone through any experience of pain or suffering. I screamed out with hatred for this loving being I sought so much. I hated God for doing this to anyone. For suffering anyone. Such rage was there, that I had not felt in years. A pure fire that I was completely consumed in. “Why must I suffer?!”, I screamed within.

Luckily I have grown in wisdom and clarity enough to watch all of this happen with a degree of clarity. A part of me always sees these things in an objective 3rd person. When these negative emotions build up unconsciously, they can become terrible burdens. I had developed such a burden over years of craving God.

Once I returned from madness I began to understand more clearly that it was my own choice to harbor such ill-will towards something beyond my comprehension. To understand the mind of God is beyond my current level of wisdom, yet I still lashed out with such rage. So it became apparent, at an experiential level, that:

To wish to know something that which you can not possibly
understand right now, only causes deeper suffering.

I still have a love hate relationship with God, but he’s cool with it. We’ve come to a closer level of trust and understanding. Once I accepted the fact that right now, in this moment, I do not comprehend everything, then everything became easier. A lifetime of built up suffering is a powerful burden, which we must all carry, but at least I can now carry it with a deeper level of acceptance, which means less hatred for the suffering I have incurred, which leads to less suffering.

5. Universal impermanence

this too shall pass

One of the primary concepts that Vipassana is built on is that of impermanence. Throughout the course we are reminded to understand, to watch and see, that everything is temporary. All situations, people, pleasures, pains, and sensations rise and fall from our experience of them. Nothing is forever. We are meant to witness this universal truth within meditation in every moment, so that we may realize experientially the wisdom of the concept.

Goenka, the teacher of the technique, introduces us to the ancient sanskrit word anicca (pronounced “an-itch-ah”), which means impermanence.  We often fall back on this word during practice to remember that everything within our meditation arises and passes. This understanding liberates the mind from conditioned suffering so that we may make a new choice, from a new state of mind, a balanced state of mind.

6. Equanimity

During the meditations, with the understanding of anicca, the understanding of impermanence, I calmed the mind into an extremely peaceful and content state of awareness. From this perspective, all aversion and craving stops. The pain of the body is nullified by the pure understanding of the way things are in this moment. Additionally, all cravings for pleasurable sensations, like peace, bliss, or ecstasy (which occur naturally in this state of meditation) do not arise to cause misery producing attachment.

During the few times that I reached a deep equanimus state of mind, I lost most of the feeling of my body, and became very light. It was an unshakable peace of mind where true freedom is felt. No words can describe the feeling of peaceful contentedness that occurred.

The goal of daily Vipassana practice is to bring forth this equanimity of mind into daily life, where it can be extremely valuable in any situation.  We all face tough problems, difficult conversations, and unexpected crises, but from this state of mind, anyone can triumph.

7. Universal truth will set us all free

There is a truth to this world that can be experienced by any individual. To be in alignment with that truth is to automatically live in perfect happiness, balanced harmony, and true success. No suffering. Zero. It is possible within each of us.

Vipassana is the second technique of meditation that I have discovered which offers a practical and scientific path towards a personal experience of our Higher Consciousness. This state of being has many names such as enlightenment, awakening, nirvana, self-realization, oneness with God, etc. It is the highest state, the highest experience, and the highest purpose of every human being alive. It is also my highest purpose and the main subject of this blog.

My path has been that of Kriya Yoga, which is a meditation technique of controlling the breath in a certain way in order to manipulate subtle energy within the body. The result is a high degree of concentration which is used to move into higher states of awareness leading towards realization of the Infinite Self.

Siddhārtha Gautama the Buddha, of 2500 years ago, also learned how to do this. He went into the deepest levels of the mind to realize the same Universal Truth. Entering permanent realization, or nirvana, this ended all of his suffering and filled him with such loving compassion for those left in ignorance of their true nature. He spent the rest of his long life spreading this technique of meditation, known as Vipassana.

All religions are good to the degree that they invoke genuine moral behavior within their followers. On the other hand, all religions are dangerous to the degree that they spread misguided truth and maintain ignorance.

Tomorrow’s universal religion will not be of empty rites, rituals, ceremonies, and fluff. It won’t be a religion at all. It will be simply known as the right way to do things in accordance with the laws of nature. Buddha called it Dhamma, which is an outline of the natural law applied to the problem of human suffering. It is universal. It is one.

As our society evolves mentally and spiritually, we will all come to this most logical conclusion. We will live in harmony with one another by following natural moral precepts. Self Realization will be common place and world peace will be an inevitable outcome. How exciting!

The Truth will set us free.
The Truth will set us free.

8. I am not ready to become a monk

I seriously thought about it a lot and how much faster this life would take me to the end goal. However, I have many responsibilities and also too many desires to experience the wonderful pleasures of the world. I am surprised to say that I missed my video games a little bit, but within a few days the feeling had passed. This does not mean that meditation practice for liberation is not something a house-holder can do. On the contrary, both of these paths (Kriya and Vipassana) are popular because of their wide-spread practicality for house-holders and people who have to traverse the world.

My path and technique of practice was established years ago already and I will continue with Kriya Yoga. Vipassana is not my path, but it helped me understand first hand the core truth of the Buddha. All of the wisdom I have gained from both teachings only compliment each other. I will continue to walk forth with a mind of equanimity, developing my compassion, and sharing this beautiful truth of life with everyone with ears to hear.

SURPRISE!!! My video tour of the retreat grounds

Learn More Links:


Kriya Yoga:

For best results, read Paramahansa Yogananda’s book FIRST and then you can also view more information online with the links below.

Tharyn Dhamma Vipassana Retreat Experience Review
You can see my room behind me & the peace in my eyes. :)
  • Arch

    Beautiful insightful thoughts Tharyn. I have been an old student in Vipassana by S N Goenka for some time now and can so well connect to your experiences and observations. Thanks for sharing…

    • Hello Arch. It’s a beautiful path of pure meditation and good deeds. I really enjoyed everything about my experience and I still think about it every week. A thought or insight will pop into my head, drawing wisdom again from those 10 days at the retreat. Simply profound. I’m glad to have you around the blog. Please enjoy reading and expanding. :)

      • Dev

        Hi Tharyn. You seem to possess what I really long for..Peace. I’ve been struggling with many issues surrounding my life for a long time now..the suicide of my mother, my father’s illness, my breakup after a 16 year relationship (we’re contemplating marriage again though but its not a very healthy relationship). It seems as if I’m stuck in a cycle of events that keep repeating themselves. I once read that certain things keep happening in your life until you learn from them. I also hope to go for the 10 day Vipassana course. I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks for sharing your touched me on a deep level.

        • Dev. My heart goes to you. You have chosen difficult lessons in this life, but nothing you can not handle. Isn’t that re-assuring? Because you are going through it, you can handle it, and you will learn of it.

          I highly recommend a 10 retreat. No matter what else may get in the way, save your vacation time, save your money, put this first. These 10 days can change everything. It’s like a refresher. Go for it.

          Lastly, I’ve put together a playlist of videos on youtube that I listen to daily, that I think will help you through hard times, as it has me so often.

          All the videos are good. Pick ones that resonate with what you feel now. Let me know how your retreat goes. :)

          Love and Light,

          • Dev

            Hi Tharyn. I’m sorry for replying late…i just didnt realise that you had replied. I’m going for my retreat on the 16th of October in Delhi, India. I’ve been watching lots of videos about people’s experiences and can say that I’m just really excited about the course. I’ll surely let you know how it was. Thanks for your kind words. Dev

  • Guillaume


    I came across your blog at a time when I was looking for feedback on Dhamma Malaya and especially on its legitimacy, given the number of doubtful organizations you can find in the domain of life improvement. Afterwards, it took me a while to gather the will and time to attend a session myself but I finally did, and discovered a very powerful technique that will certainly have a strong effect in my life as well. The training was honestly harder than I expected, both physically and mentally, but there was this one thing that kept coming back to my mind during all the difficult times: your last photo of “the peace in my eyes” that gave me the strength to keep moving towards this goal.

    I personally did not get to master the entirety of the technique during these 10 days but I realized I came very close to that goal. As far as other students were concerned, some were still half-way and some did it in one shot: during our silent times, I had not realized how many different experiences there could be for different people!

    However, one evening, I had a glimpse of what enlightenment could look like, feeling very light, full of love and seeing how beautiful the world looked at that time. It didn’t last and taught me the hard way the law of universal impermanence, but this vision made my objective clearer and gave me more strength to go on along the path of Vipassana!

    This training definitely gives a new insight on life. Learning a technique that allows us to get liberated from mental and physical pain is really worth spending 10 days in outer world. It still needs regular practice to get consolidated in the real world but the base has been set to build a happier, more peaceful life on top of it.

    Thanks again for providing the spark I needed to join this amazing adventure!

    • I am so happy to hear that you enjoyed your experience, and touched the Divine. Meditation provides a balanced way to coupe with the stresses of life. Thank you for allowing me to be a spark, but it was really you the entire time. And maybe now, you can to go on and spark someone else to try such an inner adventure. :)
      -Love and Light

  • ultrafeel

    Aloha Tharyn,

    you said:

    “I realized I still have a very deep desire to immerse myself in this
    type of fantasy game. Many meditations did I find myself re-living the
    past good memories of these adventures. At first the thoughts were so
    random, but then became a leading theme throughout the retreat. Many
    days did I ponder this game, yearning to play again, and also examining
    WHY this tremendous urge was still there”

    I had similar experiences during my 10-days vipassana retreat.
    I suspect this is the mind, which is so so bored by the many hours of meditation, that it goes wherever it can to disctract itself from the dreaded emptiness. So it goes into the past and dives into old memories – all just to distract itself from the great big unknown…

    Enjoy and pura vida from Switzerland!

    • Thanks for reading Fox. It was so strange lol. Yeah, and now, when I think about the game, it’s like back to normal. No interest in playing again. Although the sequel came out recently and I am tempted, but nothing like the urge that developed from the retreat.

      The mind really tries to escape itself at all costs. Silly mind. :)

  • Rose Seneviratne

    I really enjoyed this post, Tharyn! It is really great that spirituality and meditation is being experienced by people all around the world. There is so much beauty that arises in silence.

    I meditate with Nirodha Retreats. They conduct retreats all around the world, including in Thailand, which is one of the most beautiful experiences, ever. Definitely one for the bucket list!

    • Thank you for sharing. I would love to do a meditation retreat here in Thailand. I will check this one out. Thanks for sharing. Meditation is a beautiful path to inner wisdom. :)

  • Mike

    If you are not ready to be a monk I would suggest Vajrayana Buddhism. However in Vajrayana teaching you really need to find a qualified guru. Selecting this karmic guru you need to question it as if are buying diamond or gold. As for me….I am with the Sakya sect. H.H Sakya Trizin.

  • Satish

    It’s great to practice Vipassana Meditation which help improve our wisdom.
    You may listen this Free Vipassana Meditation MP3 teaching from a guru who have 30 years experience.


  • Camilo

    I went to several 10 day vipassana courses and have been practicing for
    many years. Anyway, I always have been curious about Kriya Yoga and
    would like to know more about how it differentiates from vipassana.

    As you said your main practice is kriya yoga, can you give me some
    differences you noticed about the two techniques and why you feel that it fits you best.

    • Hey Camilo. I was taught meditation through SRF and also Kriya. Since it was my first tradition, I stuck with it. Both practices are essentially running energy through the body. Both are perfect for whoever practices them. Kriya yoga is much more breath control vs vipassana. You can read the in depth description of Kriya Yoga here:

      It will give you all the important details and benefits of Kriya practice. Hope that helps! :)

      • Camilo

        Thanks Tharyn. I read the description from the book, that’s why I got curious. I will give it a try to the first part of the practice (before the initiation).

  • Sandra

    2 weeks ago I completed 10 days course and I’ve got completely ”infected” by it :) I started to meditate 2 years ago, but this course was my first retreat. Dharma (or Dhamma) became my lifestyle but during Vipassana I got huge kick in my a*ss to practice regularly and more seriously. I need to say, that it was one of the best experience in my life. In October I’m going to 4 days course for old students and can’t wait. Meditating for few days from morning to evening gives much more than 1 hour per day. Anyway, want to say that Vipassana really works, my worse problem dissolved after these 10 days, this is really therapeutic time, when we can leave our heads and just go into our body.

    • Thanks for sharing Sandra. Yes indeed, this practice is powerful. I am glad you had such a positive experience and were able to resume meditating more often. Sometimes all it takes is a quiet mind to release resistance in your life.

  • Pritishi

    Hi, the posts from everyone here are extremely valuable for me as I prepare myself to go on to my first Vipassana in next few days. I have one question to my seniors : how did you all survive on 2 meals? Food is what getting me scared. Okay, maybe I’ll get used to it in 4 days or so, but until then how do you manage to live on tea and fruit from 5pm to 8 am? Please suggest.

    • Hey, thanks for reading! Practice fasting beforehand. A day, or half a day. Try not eating from 5pm until next morning. Or just drink water or tea. It’s not that hard. It’s a mental thing. This is the purpose of the retreat. You are not your body anyways. You won’t die. And it’s not unhealthy for a short period of time like 10 days. You’ll be fine! :)
      PS. Sometimes I pocketed a banana and ate it around 8 or 9 pm in my room. It helped. But really, it’s all mental. Enjoy!

      • Pritishi

        This is helpful. Will start practicing. God bless u.

  • Sarah

    My vipassana experience at vipassana meditation center Nepal was totally amazing. Though, it was just 5 days session i got to experience hell lot of things. I am surely going for 15 days session next time.

    • I am so glad you enjoyed it there! Nepal is a very powerful location to do such a retreat. I wish you the best of luck for a 15 day! I am still recovering from my 10 day retreat haha. But I would like to do it again someday. :)

  • Do you ever spend some time in meditation? Yes, finding some free time amidst our chaotic life, and going to a secluded place is difficult. Nevertheless, mediation is a great way to think about God and the intention of the creator why he chooses to send us to the earth?
    By the way, when you are in mediation, no mundane object will distract you.