Vipassana Meditation Course: Part 1

I recently decided to take a 10 day meditation course. The courses are donation based and offered throughout the world. Patrick decided not to join me. This is a record of my experience.

Day 0: Arrival

I encounter my first fellow meditator at 10:00 in the morning. I’ve spent the overnight journey from Prague wondering whether this passenger or that passenger is headed to the same meditation camp as I am, but this time I am certain.

There are a few clues. She is waiting for the same bus as I am, and, unlike everyone else at the bus stop, she has a backpack with her. Wherever she’s headed, she’s planning to stay for a while. All of that aside, though, she just looks like the type of person who attends a 10 day silent meditation seminar in the mountains. She’s young, stylishly outdoorsy, and looks like a ray of sunshine is emanating from her face. If I needed a model to sell my new line of yoga gear to granola-types, she would be hired.

I, in contrast, look like death warmed over. My dark hair is somehow managing to be frizzy and oily at the same time, a perfect contrast to my starkly pale skin. I haven’t slept all night, and I have a cold. When I arrived that morning in Celadna it was rainy and cold so I am wearing every piece of winter clothing I have, an unseemly mish mash of layers.

While she has chosen a charming sunlit bench in this mountain village, I have somehow ended up in the smoky corner where the town’s vagrants share their morning vodka.

She peacefully tilts her head towards the sun, holding a bouquet of flowers in her lap. I press my headphones firmly into my ears, desperate to soak up every last bit of entertainment possible before ten days of silence, as I contemplate ways to convince my bus stop compatriots to spare a shot of vodka.

I hope she doesn’t notice me.


I arrive too early for registration and take a seat on the grass next to three young women. When they find out my husband will not be joining me for this meditation course they assure me with dreamy voices that the universe will surely lead him here eventually. Perhaps, they say, after he sees how enlightened I am he will come around.

What have I gotten myself into?

I graciously thank them for their well-intended assurances, and excuse myself to see if registration is open yet.

It is. Thank God.


That evening we have our first hour-long group meditation. I wasn’t expecting to meditate tonight. I haven’t slept in over 30 hours, and I still have that cold. About ten minutes in I suddenly need to cough. Not just cough. No, I need to hack and wheeze for at least a minute. I can feel it.

I let loose a few coughs then try to hold the rest in. Soon, I sound like a cat loosening a hairball. Tears are running down my cheeks. Snot is beginning to drip from my nose.

I give in. I need a tissue.

As silently as possible, I rise and tiptoe out the door. Once I’ve escaped, I let it rip. Coughing and sneezing and honking into a tissue.

Almost immediately, the course manager is at my side. She asks if I am okay.

“I just have a bit of a cold,” I assure her.

She sternly says, “You need to go back inside.”

I will be terrified of this woman for the remainder of my stay.

I am not off to a great start.


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