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Many people sign up to a vipassana meditation course and do not know what is involved. That is exactly what I did! I knew you sit quietly, crossed legged, and listen to your breathing. I thought that was all. But no, there is so much more to it than that.
Before I began my course, my mind was working over time, it had no off button. It was like there were millions of balls bouncing around in my head 24/7.
I needed to do something about it, as It was getting me frustrated and angry easily. It wasn’t fair on my boyfriend, family, friends and strangers. So a 6 day meditation course is what I signed up for.
All the temples that offer Vipassana meditation courses have certain guidelines that you must adhere to. The most common ones are:
- No talking – except to your teacher, and staff if it is an emergency
- No eating after midday.
- No smoking or drinking alcohol while you are in the retreat.
- No reading, writing, listening to music, dancing, singing, using your phone or emails.
- Be respectful to all in the temple, living there and visiting. I read this off several websites online
- You cannot kill any living being – This includes mosquitos and cockroaches
At first I thought, “No way, I can not do this”. No talking, no food after noon and no reading or writing. Thank goodness I’m not a smoker because I think that would be a hard one if you are one. Jazza suggested we go visit some temples to have a chat to the monks about meditation.
So we went around to a few wats (temples) to check out their retreats and get a feel for the place. We did go to some of the more famous ones that had been recommended by friends, but I didn’t feel these particular ones were for me.
Some centres have over 100 students and some are smaller with about 20 students. I like the small ones and the centre I eventually chose only had 21 students at the time when I was there. Most payments are by donation, but one that I did go too was 220 baht ($7) a day. In the centres you have your own room with shared bathroom, in either the male or female buildings.
You are fed 2 vegetarian meals a day, breakfast and lunch. When I finally visited Wat Phradhat Doi Suthep, home of the International Buddhism Centre in Chiang Mai I knew this was the place for me.
To reach the office at the top the temple, you must climb 306 steps. It is busy up there with tourists but where the monastery is located is away from all the hustle and bustle. I was surprised how quiet it is down the hill in the jungle, just 5 minutes away from the temple. All you hear is birds, crickets, and occasionally some dogs barking.
There are many monks, novices, nuns and other people staying at the monastery. So when you go for a walk you may pass some; be polite and respectful. It is a beautiful place and so peaceful to walk around. The view at night from the temple is just magical.
When I first entered they sat me down and gave me a run through of the programme. After this I understood why it is important you do not talk, read, write, listen because these all distract your mind and that is not what you need during the retreat.
What you need to bring to a Vipassana Course in Chiang Mai
- Photocopy of your passport
- Two sets of loose, modest, non-transparent white clothing
- Alarm clock and countdown timer
- Personal items (soap, shampoo, towel, laundry powder, toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper, etc)
I know with some centres you need to bring passport photos as well. There is a temple store at most places which usually sells chips (crisps), ice cream, chocolate, soft drink, juice, milk, toiletry accessories, and white clothes if you don’t have any.
Most will close at 12pm as you aren’t allowed to eat after then.
Recommendation for Things I Wish I Had When I Was There
Tea bags – Afternoon you can not eat but you can still drink as much as you like. There was filtered hot water in machines around the place. Would have been great but I just didn’t have tea bags.
Laundry powder – You can only wear white and white gets dirty quickly. You are able to hand wash your clothes as you need. There are buckets and hangers provided.
Water bottle – If you are like me and hate reusing plastic bottles get yourself a stainless steel water bottle. The do give you a cup if you forget and there is a mini store to buy a bottle. There is water supplied everywhere.
Flip flops – I had sandals and they got annoying after a while. Flip flops you can easily put on and take off; you are going to be doing a lot of that.
Coffee – If you love your coffee in the morning maybe bring some of those coffee packet mixes (coffee and milk powder, even sugar too if you want). No coffee is served here. I do love my caffeine and I did miss it, but it has also been great having a break from it.
About The Vipassana Meditation Course in Chiang Mai
Teacher and Staff
The teachers and staff are very understanding and know that it is hard for everyone at the beginning of their time. They guide you in your practice with the positioning and ways to help clear the mind. Every morning there were Dhamma talks. It changes everyday and a new topic is discussed. It was very interesting and helpful listening to the Monk (our teacher) talk about his experiences, advice and Buddhist teachings and stories. It really made you walk away and think about what had just been said.
Once you understand meditation you can meditate where ever and whenever you like. It is not a chore, it is a way to clear your mind. It helps control frustration, anger, sadness, guilt and doubt.
05:00 – Wake up
05:30 – Dhamma Talk
07:00 – Breakfast
08:00 – Meditation (individual)
11:00 – Lunch
12:00 – Meditation (individual)
14:00 – Report to teacher for discussion on your mediation
15:00 – Meditation (individual)
18:00 – Evening Chanting
19:00 – Meditation (individual)
21:00 – Bedtime
I am not going to write about what I felt inside, as everyone walks away with different experiences. I will say for me, it wasn’t easy those first 4 days and on day 5 that was the turning point for me and it all came together.
I was thinking about leaving on day 4 but I pushed through it and I am so happy I stayed and finished my time off. You do walk out as a completely different person compared to how you entered.
I take my hat to those who have done a 21 or 26 day course. I did meet a lady in the centre who was doing a 80 day program.
I did chat to her at the end a little (when I was finished and she had time out so we both were allowed to talk) and she said for her there was some positive times and negative times meditating for such a long period.
Sometimes she would feel tired, could not concentrate but she said that it’s ok, just have some time-out and take it easy. Start fresh tomorrow and it will be different. She said meditating is very powerful but magical at the same time. And she is right.
More Information About What Meditation Is
Meditation is the concept of Mental Development.
There are two types of meditation;
Tranquil or Samātha Meditation Which develops concentration on one object to help calm the mind.
Insight or Vipassana Meditation Which develops self- understanding through Mindfulness Training.
A Bit About Vipassana Meditation
The type of mediation I did was Vispassana Meditation. Vipassana means to see clearly. “Vi” means clearly and “Passana” means to see.
There are three things to see clearly;
That, inside ourselves and in the whole world around us, things are uncertain (anicca).
That, inside ourselves and in the world around us, things are unsatisfying (dukkha)
That, inside ourselves and in the whole world around us, things are uncontrollable (anatta)
The goals of meditation are;
Purification of the mind
Passing beyond sorrow and lamentation
Release from bodily and mental pain
Seeing the truth of life and ending all suffering.
The methods of practice leading to all of these goals is Vipassana meditation in line with the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. Mindfulness means to “remember” or “remind” oneself about the present moment. The Four Foundation of Mindfulness are a device that stops evil, stops bad deeds, stops defilement.
The Four Foundation of Mindfulness are;
Body; Prostrating mindfully, walking mindfully, sitting mindfully.
Feelings; Noting aches, pains or soreness, as well as happy and neutral feelings.
Mind; Noting thoughts about past and future, both good and bad thoughts.
Dhammas; Noting the five hindrances- liking, disliking, drowsiness, distraction and doubt.
If you are interested in doing this mediation course, check out their website for more information. I visited this place on my own and was not sponsored. I really enjoyed my time here and all my opinions are sincere.
Need accommodation in Chiang Mai when you are finished? Check out Agoda.com
26 thoughts on “Vipassana Meditation Course in Chiang Mai (What It’s Like)”
Thank you for the report. May I know whether the toilets are seat or squat toilets and are there many to share? I have visited Doi Suthep many times but never noticed the meditation accommodation block shown in your picture, is it away from the main touristy area? Could you get distracted by the tourists or you can’t see them at all? Regarding the evening chanting, do you just recite what you heard from memory or are you given the words to read from? I ask this because I will have difficulty them if I have to put my hands in a “wai” position and can’t hold the notes. Thanks and looking forward to your reply.
Hi Stanley, thank you for your comment. Yes they were sitting toilets. The meditation accommodation is located just below Doi Suthep. When you are looking out over the area and Chiang Mai, the accommodation is just below among the trees. The monks live here also but in another building. There is a dedicated meditation building for guests with a toilet blocks for males and females.
No tourist go down here so you will not be distracted. the only distraction is the other meditators. Some break the silent code and talk to one another. Just keep to yourself so you are fully committed.
With the chanting, I think we were give a paper at the beginning to learn and it was the same chant every evening. The head monk is very understanding and patient with mediators and will understand if you have to read your notes. 🙂
The morning talks with the monk were amazing. Have a great time. It was life changing experience and I highly recommend it. You will come out more calm and much more less stressed. Take care.
Wow thank you for such a comprehensive sharing. I would like to ask about cleanliness and hygiene issue of the place too.
I’m abit worried of sharing toilets.
Hi Caroline, Personally, I thought it was fine. The room was very basic with just a bed but the sheets were clean. This mediation place was by donation and run by the monks of the monastery. The monks cooked the food (which was donated) so you can not be fussy as you get what you are given. There are other mediations places catered as a retreat that have high standards and are a lot more expensive. As you are not allowed to kill anything, there were a lot of bugs and ants in the toilet area. You just get use to it as eventually they will move on. If you are a little worried about the sharing toilet situation maybe check out the other mediation retreat place. I think some offer a room with your own bathroom. This mediation did not have this, just male and female toilets. All the best and have a great time.
Aloha . I’ve done it 6 years ago and would highly recommend it – especially for first time meditators . Also due to altitude it’s cooler than Cmai. I was there in June. Rain ☔️ gear will be useful.
With METTA ☸️. Erica
I like information. I am from India and experienced Vipassana meditator. Two 10 days courses I done India. My visit to thailand, stayed pattaya, during My next visit I want to attend Vipassana meditation courses. Many many regards
Thank you for your comment. We have you have a great time in Thailand. 🙂
Thank you very much for your informative report.
I will like to know more on their accommodation condition and hope you can help:
1) Will each student be given a room or some on sharing basis ?
2) Is there any fan provided in the room ? I am a very “air-sensitive” person.
3) Are there many bathrooms and toilets to share ? Will they get crowded during peak hours ?
4) I see you wrote the word (individual) on all the meditation sessions, what does that means ?
5) Do you have their website or e-mail contact ?
Thank you again.
Hi Stanley, So sorry about the late reply. I didn’t see this message until now. Don’t know if you have done a mediation retreat yet but I will answer the questions anyway. 🙂
1. Each student is given their own room.
2. There is no fan in the room but there is 2 windows to open.
3. There was 3 -4 toilets and 2-3 showers per gender toilets. It was not busy at all.
4. This means you mediate on your own at your own pace. You can mediate the way you want, whether it is walking mediation or sitting mediation. You can mediate in your room, outside or in the common area.
5. this is their website. https://www.fivethousandyears.org/
Have a great time. 🙂
Looks an amazing retreat in a truly unique country.
Definitely is 🙂
I male and 74 still in quite good health been to Chiang Mia 4 times for 2 months each time over the last 4 years and I’m looking at trying meditation out. I have some medication, I take blood pressure tablets as a prevention to high blood pressure and Somac for reflux. Are these allowable or are you require to suspend the taking of these tablets during the course. These medications are not essential but do provide some comfort. Small vegetarian meals and a modest loss of weight and relaxation usually lessens the need for reflux medication. Like to try it.
Hello! I would need to buy some white clothes. You said you can purchase them in the store at Doi Suthep, is that correct? On their website they said to find some at the flower market so I will check there but I would just like to be sure that I can buy some at Doi Suthep if need be.
I am also booked for 4 days (minimum). Would you recommend staying longer?
Hello Lesh 🙂
Thank you for sharing your story with us. I am also intending on doing a meditation course in Chiangmai for the first time. I’ve been researching a few meditation retreats and came across two upon which I cannot decide. Once the Wat Ram Poeng and the Wat Doi Suthep. As I have never been to neither one of them I wondered what you took into consideration when deciding to choose your course at Wat Doi Suthep?
I know someone doing Wat Ram Poeng but she has done 10 day vipassana meditation retreats before and is a yoga teacher. The one in Wat Ram Poeng is minimum of 21 days while the one at Doi Suthep is a minimum of 3 nights. Hope this helps!
Thank you so much for your post!
I am in Chiang Mai now for about 5 months and had a look at the center yesterday. Its a beautiful place!
I will do a meditation course with them very soon. This will be my first ever meditation course. They offer beginners 4, 5, 7, 10, 14 and 21 day courses for complete beginners. What do you recommend? If you could turn the clock back how many days would you do?
Also, is the morning Dhamma talk in English?
Thanks agian for you brilliant post:)
Thank you so much for your posts and comments, which was very helpful. Also the tips on the teabags coffee etc. I have completed several 10 day vipassana courses and three day courses as an old student including serving on a 10 day course. I am interested in doing a longer course of approx 30 days give or take, which is ever available for me to register. Is it easy to get registered there, ?? would you recommend it for a longer course e.g 20-30 days. also be helpful if you had a easy travel tip to get there. thank you, Happy travels
Definitely send them an email if you are wishing to do a longer course so they can reserve you a spot. If you have already done a few 10 day courses, I think a 20-30 day course would be amazing! Easiest way to get there is to take a taxi from Chiang Mai, although you can also get a songthaew up the hill 🙂
I was curious about the effect of the meditation on your current feelings and thoughts spinning around 24/7. After so many months, can you truly say it was and is still worth it? Does it still help you to take control over yourself?
Hi Christiaan, so sorry for the late reply.
Coming up to almost a year since I did the meditation course and I still think it is one of the best things I have ever done. I do not meditate as much as I really should, but my state of mind is much calmer. I took a lot away from the course and will definitely do another one again one day. Thanks so much for reading, and I hope you get the chance to do one yourself.
Thank you for a very informative account. I have booked to do a 7 day course at the end of September. Very helpful comments about the tea bags and flip flops. Its been a while since Ive done a 10 day course and had forgotten those small details. Any idea how cool it is in the morning in Sept/Oct? Finally do they have a safety deposit facility? Great blog.
Hi Rahima, glad to hear you are booked in for the 7 day course. Seeing as you’ve already done meditation before it will be interesting to see how you find the second time. Sept/Oct is pretty hot in Chiang Mai, but the monastery is on top of a mountain so the mornings may be pretty cool. They don’t have a safety deposit facility as far as we are aware, but the place is very safe. I’m sure if you ask one of the monks before you begin they can lock anything you want up in their office. Although honestly I would just keep it with you in your room and put a padlock on your bag if you are worried. Enjoy the course!
That sounds awesome, I would love to do that to.
I hope you do one day, Wesley. It really is awesome!
Great story Lesh, very interesting 🙂
Thanks very much Laura. 🙂