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Published: April 16th 2019
Tuesday April 16 – Saturday April 27
Today I’m leaving Minsk to attend a 10-day Vipassana meditation course. It is an hour or so outside of Minsk, in a rented children’s camp, and I am getting a ride there with another course participant. They had a board that allowed people to offer and request rides, so I put my name on the list as needing a ride. At first no one was offering, but then I saw someone was, so I contacted him through the Vipassana website. He emailed me his cell phone number and didn’t respond back when I emailed him to let him know I didn’t have a mobile. But my friend Kat sent him a message for me on Friday and found him on facebook, so we were able to correspond and he’s going to pick me up on the way to the course. I have to check out at noon, and then I will go back to Vasilki for lunch and wait in the Crowne Plaza lounge for him to come get me (if they don’t kick me out) around 2pm.
I have been interested in mindfulness meditation, and both the physical and mental health benefits it’s been shown to have. (See this for more https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aw71zanwMnY
). I heard about Vipassana a few years ago. Since then, I’ve been trying to find a time that was right for me to try it, and I decided now was the time. Often, the courses open months in advance and are filled quite quickly, but I noticed that two courses in Europe for the right dates were opening on February 15, a couple days after I started looking. One was in Kiev and the other in Minsk. Belarus is the only country in Europe I had never been to, so I planned to apply to Minsk, but Kiev is a great city and that would have been good too. The class opened at 5am, and when I got online at 6:30, Kiev was already full, so I applied to the course in Minsk and was accepted.
The course is 10 days, plus the evening before and leaving the morning after. This is apparently how long it takes to get some good practice with the meditation technique and to see some benefits. The idea is about self-transformation through self-observation. The course is offered for free, and donations are accepted if you feel you’d like to contribute so that someone else can take the course later. There is no payment to the people who run the course at any time, it is on a volunteer basis. It is a silent meditation practice, where there is no communicating with other students taking the course. At midday there is an hour in which students have the opportunity to ask questions, and in the evening there is an hour lecture on the method to focus on in the coming day. For those who have never tried it, meditation is basically clearing the mind of thoughts, worries, planning and emotion to focus on what is happening right now. It typically involves focusing on the breath moving in and out of your body as a center point to ground you. I’ve never done more than 10 minutes at a time, with a guided meditation, so this will be very different.
The schedule is rather intense. The day will start at 4am, with two hours of meditation before a vegetarian breakfast, followed by more meditation until a vegetarian lunch at 11am. This is followed by the hour in which to ask questions or rest or walk around, and then more meditation until 5pm. This is the tea break, is which we can have tea and fruit if needed, then a lecture followed by meditation until lights out at 9:30pm. On top of no talking, there is also no electronics, no reading and no writing. It’s really all about focusing on yourself. It’s going to be quite the detox, whether intentional or not. Might even get me to break the sugar addiction I’ve fallen slave to.
I’ll update when I’ve finished the course and am back home later that day. I won’t be taking notes on the process, so it might be sparse, and remembering one day from the next might not be possible, but I’ll try to sum up the experience. I recently learned that friends of mine did the course a short time ago, and they both said they were glad they did it. They each experienced a low point along the way, and perhaps some unexpected emotions, but it was a good experience. Someone else I know through a friend has done it several times, and highly recommends it. I don’t know much more, but I’m excited to give this a try, and really happy I have a job that allows me to do this without sacrificing all of my vacation time in the year. The “on” time at work is intense, but the “off” times balance it out nicely.
Before the course starts, I'm going to check-out of my apartment at noon, go downstairs to Vasilki for another delicious meal, and then walk over to the Crowne Hotel to wait for my ride share with a local named Andrey who will take me to the course. He should show up around 2pm.It's another sunny day and I'm looking forward to the upcoming challenge.
Here’s to a good 12 days, for all of us.
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