Vipassana Meditation : A Candid Review Of What To Expect, By Ankita S

What does the 10-days Vipassana Meditation feel like? Here’s a candid experience of what to expect from this profound spiritual retreat.

The secrets of the universe and its working has amazed me since childhood! And somehow, my gut instinct always asked me to get into meditation, though I ignored its whisper. However, I was forced to listen to it once I had some severe health complications. This finally led me to explore the hidden world of Vipassana meditation. And here’s my experience.

I don’t know why I expected some magic to see once I started meditating. Though there were moments of peace, and calm, I was looking for something else, something more maybe! And that led me to explore Vipassana through a retreat.

What is Vipassana Meditation?

Vipassana is a Pali word which means ‘to see’. And that forms the basis of this meditation technique.

While there are many theories about the several meditation techniques started by Buddha, there is strong evidence that Buddha mainly taught Vipassana. Which later got spread to Burma by king Ashoka.

buddha taught vipassana meditation to his monks, monks sitting in deep meditation

Though this technique got lost in India, SN Goenka brought it back to India in 1976.

Now that we have a little background of how it originated, here is more to what makes it so special. The intense 100-hour continuous meditation practice!

You are not connected to the world, not speaking to anyone for those 10 days, live on minimum food, and just meditate. That’s what makes it special. Is it easy? No, it’s not, but it’s worth the efforts.

Why do you have to stay for 10-days long?

Vipassana is taught in a step-by-step process. Every day it’s a little more than the previous day. The course is designed in such a way that you have to spend a minimum of 10 days to learn it gradually and see the benefits afterward.

pack your bags for a 10 day course in vipassana meditation experience

During the first 3 days, they teach how to concentrate on the mind. Those three days of practice sharpen the mind and prepare it for what’s coming next.

From the 4th day, they start teaching the actual technique of Vipassana which is ‘to see’ into your body.

Well, it may sound easy. ‘Just seeing the body? Uh! Not that tough! I can do it at home!’ But it’s not!

One wishing to practice seriously must be under a proper guide. There are several layers you uncover and it might be scary sometimes. The group is divided into men and women, and each group has separate teachers.

You also need an environment where there is the least disturbance. Vipassana centers provide you such an environment. 

My Experience!

Now that I have talked enough about all that can be theory, let’s listen to ‘my story’ of Vipassana! Ready?? Fasten your seat belts! You are going to enter into a world of magic, and mystics. Yay!

It took a lot of courage to decide that I would go to Vipassana. The thought of not talking to family scared me the most. However, the good thing was that I had my husband with me. So, in a way, I had a familiar face at the center though we didn’t talk to each other for the next 10 days.

vipassana meditation, quietude, solitude, healing, balance

The morning bell rang at 4 am, and we had to be in the main meditation hall to start the practice at 4:30 am. It took me 2 days to adjust to this timing. We were given instructions to follow on a daily basis.

For the first day, we were asked just to concentrate on the breath. And just the opposite of what I had thought, it was super tough!

My mind wandered in all directions. I visited earth, mars, space, met all the aliens, danced to Bollywood numbers in those little two hours! 

When we were out for breakfast at 6:30 am, my head was aching. The next marathon of meditation started at 8:00 am and ended at 11:00 am for lunch. I was super irritated by my mind. What can’t you be a little quieter?

At 1:30 pm we started again and ended at 5:30 pm for snacks. Now, I wanted to speak to someone, but everyone ignored my smile! Ouch!! At 6:30 pm we started again and were given instructions for the next day at 8:30 pm. I was back to the hostel, and in bed by 10:00 pm. Well, the routine was going to be the same for the next 10 days!

Did I have any magical experiences during my Vipassana retreat?

Before I decided to book my Vipassana, I had read many blogs on it, and people talked about how they healed from backache, migraine in just 10 days.

While I did not expect my health issue to get resolved in just 10 days, I did expect ‘something’, a little magic maybe. And that happened on the third day!

In the afternoon when I was concentrating on my breath, I felt my right hand shaking. It’s easy to distinguish between a shaking due to weakness, and shaking due to something more powerful.

As I saw it, I was scared from the meditation experience. I guess fear was not needed at that moment. Because the moment I was afraid, the experience stopped! I kept feeling magical for the next many minutes.

And I can assure you that it was the latter. I experienced that ‘something more powerful’ in my right hand. When I l opened my eyes to look at what’s happening, it was still shaking, and nothing was not in my control.

powerful meditation experiences, vipassana healing techniques, review of vipassana retreat

When I told my teacher about that experience, she said, ‘Observe it!’

Well, her reply did not make me happy at that time, but now that I see it, that’s what Vipassana is all about. Observing.

Was it easy?? No, it was not!

Along with the few magical moments I had, there were a few painful moments too. Like on the seventh day, I could feel the heat inside my body. My stomach and lung area had some fire as if it would burn me from inside.

Well, it was always there, had been there for years but Vipassana had made me aware of that negativity, and I could feel the pain. By evening, it felt like I would vomit due to the heat. But I did not want to give up and by the next day, it got better!

painful experiences during vipassana meditation
Along with the physical pain I experienced, my mind became more chaotic by day 5 and 6. I had read people saying that their experience got better as the days passed. However, for me, it was full of ups and downs.

There were days I was at complete peace with what I was going through. And then for many days, I just wanted to scream and run. I remember, on day 7th, in the night I just wanted to bang the door of the course manager, and ask her to let me go! Thankfully, I survived those intense emotions. Phew!

Vipassanawould I go again?

Of course yes! Don’t get demotivated by the weird experiences.

They will just pass, and the benefits you get out of those 10 days would outgrow your bad memories. Funnily enough, just after I returned, I started looking forward to booking another 10 days course.

While the experience might be addictive, it’s important to remember that one should continue practicing it at home. Those 10 days can only provide an essential introduction and foundation to the technique. To develop in the practice is a lifetime job.

How can you survive those bad days?

I was talking to my Yoga teacher just after I had booked the session. And she told me, ‘Ankita, the day you feel agitated the most, is the day you get healed the most! Remember that!

And I reminded myself of these golden worlds on those bad days. She also said that whenever I felt like quitting, I should just try to wait for ‘one more day’. And this theory worked too!

On the 7th day when I was experiencing too much heat in my body, I just wanted to see  ‘one more’ day, and by the next day, I already felt better.

My advice if you are going to Vipassana for the first time!

There are many things I could have done to make my experience better.  And they are:

#1 – Follow the routine.

There are leisure times in which they expect you to take some break from meditation. Utilize that time. Which means take the break! You deserve it. I did the opposite. I ignored the routine and practiced even during those break hours. Result? I was super exhausted and bored in the last few days.

#2 – Walk-in nature.

Vipassana centers are built in between the woods, far away from the city so that you can experience maximum healing.

But healing does not only happen by meditating. It also happens when you walk in nature. When you soak in the fresh air and walk around in the woods mindful of everything around.

early morning vipassana meditation in the nature

I skipped that part, only to realize on the 8th that I had missed something major! Sigh.

#3 – Do not talk.

Well, I didn’t do it, but I saw many people who broke the rule of not talking. They made groups and by the 8th day, I could see them walking and talking. And it’s not recommended.

There is a reason the course asks you not to talk. It’s because when you stop one of your senses, the awareness of other senses is heightened.

And you experience the technique more deeply. After all, that’s why we are here, right?

#4 – Do not compare.

We were asked to talk in groups with the teacher about the day-wise experience. When I listened to someone else’s experience I would question my practice.

‘She said that she experienced itchiness. Why didn’t I?’

And it made me question my efforts. Don’t do that! We all are unique, and so is our experience. A comparison will only hamper your progress. 

#5 – Start meditating at home before you go for the retreat.

If you are new to meditation, and you want to start by going to this retreat, you are doomed. It will be very tough, and most probably you will leave the course in between.

Until and unless you haven’t practiced any kind of meditation at home previously, I won’t advise you to go for this intense practice.

Maybe you can start practicing at home 3-6 months prior to registration. This way sitting one hour continuously for a session won’t be tough. Here are some tips to get you started with your home practice.

person sitting and meditating outside

Parting thoughts

Once I returned from Vipassana, I got to hear many more stories of miraculous healing. No doubt every meditation is helpful but the effects are tough to notice because of slow progress. However, the effects of Vipassana are instantaneous.

Once you return from the retreat, most probably you will see some change in your personal or professional life.

While it might sound absurd to many, the fact is that when you get rid of so many unwanted beliefs and toxins from your body, you attract more of what you desire. It’s like a return gift from the universe for all the efforts you have put in those 10 days of intense meditation!

Ankita Srivastava
Ankita Srivastava

Ankita is an IT Professional who has taken a break from work to explore the world of spirituality and meditation. She loves reading books, and is a big fan of Mary Oliver’s poetry. Writing soothes her soul, and you can find her writing regularly on Quora (link) and her blog (link).

Divine Intervention Stories (#3): Spirit Animals & Their Spiritual Guidance

What are spirit animals? How do they guide our day to day life? Here are some heartwarming stories to help you tap into their wisdom!

Spirit Animals have long been revered by cultures around the world as our divine messengers from the ‘beyond’. Many groups and cultures around the world, like Shamanism and the Aboriginals, work closely with nature and seek God in every aspect of it.

In the Tibetan society, people will walk lengths to pull a fly out of their tea, for it could mean their dead ancestor is drowning! Such is the respect and belief in spirit animals and their powers.

Recently, I was floored to see how even a Disney movie like Mulan talks about the phoenix and its spiritual guidance along her endeavors to save the kingdom!

What is the importance of spirit animals in our daily life?

As you and I evolve and deepen our awareness in the spiritual journey, our ability to observe synchronicities is also improving. And in that, one type of divine guidance from the universe is coming to us through the animal kingdom.

It’s been a few years since I first learned about the term animal totem.

And now, just like I don’t take 11:11 on the clock casually, I take felines, canines and other animals very seriously.

So seriously, I wrote a book about it!

But what’s so special about animals? A LOT.

To begin with, spirit animals represent many qualities and strengths that we need to overcome our current challenges. And when our spirit animals walk by our side, they not only provide us that strength, they remind us that we have all that it takes to get through this.

In their own unique ways, based on when we saw them, what they were doing, and what we were going through, spirit animals can reveal a lot to us about this mystical universe and its divine plan for us!

So today, I want you to experience this magic not just from my angle, but that of three other amazing souls.

Receiving Divine Guidance From Spirit Animals

Here are 3 times spirit animals came forth and made a lasting impression on these spiritual seekers.

#1 – Divine Messages From The Cat & The Butterfly

It’s an honor to be able share this story from one of my client’s recent experiences. Though it was a tragic time for her, it materialized into one of the greatest signs of divine intervention – directly bringing her in contact with the spiritual realm! Here’s her story.

“Earlier in July, our beautiful cat Lilly (Tiger Lilly) passed. She had an illness that slowly took our sweet girl away from us day by day, and eventually we had to let her go on a rainy Monday afternoon. It was heart-breaking and I cried holding her for an hour afterwards.

On that Monday and in the following days and weeks, we received signs of her being around. But I want to share something quite amazing that happened after we spoke a few words over her grave.

We had decided to bury Lilly in our garden. And after a week or so, we planted a butterfly plant on the top, because she used to love jumping and chasing them when she was a little younger. I thought it would be a lovely reminder of her healthier, active days.

Mark, my husband had wanted to read William Blake’s Tyger, Tyger.

I can’t put into words what it felt like, but the two of us talking to Lilly felt so real. Like she was there, and I felt that the universe was listening.

It was my turn next, I wanted to be as honest as I could. I told her all the things that were in my heart, that we loved her, that we were sorry we could not save her. And I finished by saying could she come and see us often.

We stood up. And in three or four strides Mark was already back entering the house, when I saw the most beautiful butterfly come flying over the fence into the garden and land on the Buddleia plant. We had had only white cabbage and the odd tortoiseshell butterflies landing on it previously.

Mark came out and we took photos.

Butterfly as a spirit animal, meaning of seeing a butterfly, spirit animals
Actual image of the butterfly sitting in their garden, post the cat’s funeral

I asked him to look up its name, because I had had a previous hope to see a particular Moth, named after my Tiger Lilly. I had a feeling this was it, but I waited for Mark to say it. It was a Tiger Moth.

We had never seen one before. Not in my 10 years of living here, nor have we since.

To me this was my confirmation. This was what I had been waiting for, I had hoped for something against the odds, and received it.

We cried with happiness as it flew around Marks head, and came into our house. It stayed on the inside of our door post, which was a wise decision because we have other cats! It stayed in our garden for the whole of the afternoon and then vanished. I kind of knew it was not going to come back.

I hope this gives you hope as it does me.”

#2 – Divine Messages From The Dog

This happened with my friend, and I hope his story gives you goosebumps! Here it is.

“Tuza came into my life when I was 5 years old. I loved ever so much throughout my childhood, and felt a close connection to her. Almost as if she was a person not a dog. I would talk to her, sit with her, sleep with her on my bed…she was my best friend.

I had to leave her at 17 years old when I went to college. During my second year she died of illness (at 14 years old) without me by her side.

In my grief I had a dream that she was reborn in a litter of 3 puppies and came back to us. Next day, I narrated the story to my grandmother, while she was getting a massage therapy done.

The therapist heard my story and told me that in her neighbor’s house a litter of 3 puppies had just been born. And that they were exactly the same color and breed I had described from my dream.

They were still too young to be adopted so I went back to university without seeing them. While I was away they were adopted by someone else, but the puppies refused to adjust to their new owners house, so they were returned to the original owner.

My uncle went to take a look at the puppies and one of them seemed to recognize him. The puppy brought his shoes (which he had taken off outside the house) to him.

Interestingly, Tuza was very fond of this uncle in her previous life and seemed to recognize him. So he bought him home, and when I came back and took him home to my house, the new puppy seemed to immediately recognize everything in the house. He even found Tuza’s old toys, which we didn’t know were hidden from before.

Actual image of Tuza II
Because of these amazing characteristics, we were sure it was our old Tuza reborn, so we named him Tuza as well.

Fast forward 8 years, Tuza II was viciously attacked by 4 big dogs.

I jumped in to fight them off but couldn’t save him on time. A few days after he died I felt his presence at night on my bed. I could feel the weight of his footsteps on my body lying down, the same way Tuza would walk over me when he was a alive.

I could see the the blanket sink under the weight and could feel the heaviness but there was nothing there. Then, I had a dream that he would come back as a border collie, black and white in color.

Mind you, there were no border collies in Thailand to adopt.

A couple months later we saw an advertisement on the internet, from a couple from Australia that had just moved to Bangkok with their border collies. Their dogs had just given birth to a litter of eight puppies.

We looked at the photos and saw that one of the puppies had a pink patch on its nose just as the 2 previous Tuzas did.

Actual image of Tuza III

We asked the them to bring that puppy home. The moment she arrived, she completely ignored the owners and crawled straight into my lap and fell asleep. I knew it was Tuza back again.”

In this way, spirit animals not only support us in one lifetime, but walk with us through multiple lifetimes. Also, don’t be surprised if you dream of animals. For all you can know. your Tuza may be speaking to you from the dream world!

#3 – Divine Messages From The Yellow Bird

This is another heartwarming narrative from one of my clients.

“He finally moved out. I told him in July that I wanted a divorce and now it is October. Usually I just do my best to ignore his presence but this day I just could not be silent anymore.

I asked him while trying to control my anger, “Why are you still here? Is this enjoyable for you?” I said a few other choice words and after a promise to pay him back the most recent mortgage payment he agreed to move the next day.

After he left, I looked in the closet to see his side completely bare and I broke. The level of despair scared me, but I could not control it. I emailed my therapist, hoping it would help me to tell someone or just writing out how I was feeling. It did not.

I later took a shower and decided to try something new I’d just seen on a YouTube video. I attempted to clean my aura and as I did it, I pictured that my soul was yellow.

woman in white dress in bath tub
Image used for picturing purpose only

I sobbed and sobbed as I went through the process, but it did not help, or so I thought. I did not sleep at all that night. The only thing I could compare it to is a few months ago, when I begged God and the Universe to help me which led to my spiritual awakening.

The next day which was my 18th wedding anniversary day, I tried to continue my routine hoping it would snap me out of my sadness. I noticed something yellow on the deck, but I told myself it was just a huge leaf. Later that morning my son saw it and immediately asked if it was a bird.

This caused me to look closer and sure enough it was a dead yellow bird. It was startling and as tapped into the Universe as I currently consider myself, it really did not resonate with me what it could mean.

However, I knew that it was not coincidental that I had just read a book about Spirit Animals and my intuition told me the dead yellow bird was not a “bad” sign.

bird perching on outdoors, spirit animal as a yellow bird
Image used for picturing purpose only

With some guidance from a wonderful spiritual coach (who also wrote the previously mentioned book), I found a way to overcome the agony that the little yellow bird took on my pain and delivered the message that my turmoil was ending.

The next day I did not feel any turmoil just a called to action to tune into the depths of my soul with joy and gratitude the way I seem capable of doing when I’m in pain and despair.”

My Experiences With Spirit Animals

I have many stories, but I’ll share the squirrel one with you today.

You will still see my grin as I watch squirrels running about, wherever I go.

It’s not because they’re cute – of course they are. But it’s because they’ve been one of the guiding lights in my spiritual journey.

Back when I was experiencing an identity crisis and slowly making my way into the dark night of the soul, my spirit animal showed up as a squirrel. At the time, I didn’t know that’s what was happening, but I simply enjoyed the company of my cute, furry friend.

I called her Squilly, and I would often feed her peanuts. Throughout the winter of 2016, she came and sat with me as my inner turbulence came and went.

Eventually, it all made sense. She was the messenger of strength and perseverance. She may have announced that tough times, that winter, lie ahead. But she also brought hope and agility back in my life.

Here’s a cute video I made of another squirrel friend, as she munches away on the peanuts. 🙂

My spirit animal, Squilly the squirrel, accompanying me for lunch

And as she warmed my heart with her presence, it was only a matter of time when my journey turned around.

A few years later, here I am, dedicating my first publication to her, and to all the amazing spirit animals that have been the guiding light, not just in my life, but in that of countless others’!

Concluding Thoughts

This is just the tip of the iceberg, when I say that spirit animals guide us.

There are many, many ways in which they protect, support and bring messages from the spiritual realm to us.

If this topic touches your heart and you feel called to know about the divine intervention in your life, do check out my book on the subject.

It’s filled with numerous stories, tips & tricks to help you understand how Spirit Animals work in our life. It’s available across all Amazon Kindle Bookstores as an ebook, so you’ll be able to read it right away!

And… if you’re using Kindle Unlimited, you’ll be able to get your copy for free. 🙂

You can also watch (mostly listen) to me talk about more spiritual experiences and messages from spirit animals on my recent video.


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Oracle Cards: How to Use Them For A Life Transformation, by Anja Ferk

What are oracle cards? How can they help you in your spiritual journey? And what are the steps, tricks & tips to use them effectively? Read to learn more.

Oracle cards found me when I was looking for guidance. Life was not easy, it was full of struggle. And the pain I felt inside me – I did not know how much more I could take it. I was lost and I knew it. I had to change something, yet I had no idea where to begin.

After signing up for an online woman transformation program, life got better. But real transformation for me happened after the author of the program organized a card reading for attendees.

And the magic happened. There was so much truth in her words – even if she never personally interacted with me before. She was talking about my path, about how much I am struggling and judging myself. 

I could identify with every word she was saying. Up to the point where she told me I am on an adventure, and I can either take it and enjoy my transformation I am going through, or fight it and feel more and more pain.

I cried while she was talking to me through the screen, typing back to her to say thank you for her message and encouragement and my body was shaking. And after that call, I started noticing changes in my life – in moments of struggle I remembered her words and started to take action.

That short 5 minutes cards opening had a big impact on my life. And soon enough, I bought my first deck of cards and started using them myself.

Since then, I own many tarot and oracle card decks, and I am trying to find time to ask for guidance and take a moment for yourself as often as I can.

What are oracle cards?

There are many card decks out there. The first thing to know is that there is a difference between oracle and tarot cards.

Tarot cards have a specific structure, termed as major & minor arcanas. And to read those, you will need deeper knowledge about tarot reading to really unlock the potential of the cards.

difference between tarot and oracle cards
Oracle cards are freer in their structure and allow for more intuitive work. Which means anyone – no matter how much experience – can get guidance by them.

Oracle cards can be used to recognize patterns, connect with your spiritual guides and ancestors, connect with your higher self. You can use them as affirmations, or for daily focus.

What exactly you get out of them depends on your interest and the purpose for which the oracle cards were created.

There are multiple decks you can buy, each coming with a specific intention behind them, and usually coming with a booklet that can help you familiarize yourself with the cards.

How to Use Oracle Cards

Here’s a 7-step process to find an oracle deck that works best for you.

1.     Find the right deck for you

As there are multiple card decks out there, you will need to find the deck that resonates with you.

Even if you are interested in getting into oracle readings for yourself (and others). The more aligned you are with the messages of the oracles, the better experience you will have with it.

For your first purchase, try going to a book store or any place where you can buy the cards so that you can look through the pictures and read the text on the cards, feel them and decide to take home the deck that you feel most drawn too.

bookstore, purchase oracle cards in person

2.     Get to know your deck

After you get the deck, make sure to take time before the first use. Read through the booklet that is added to most of the decks. And also take time to go through all the cards.

take time to read the guide for how to use oracle cards

Observe the pictures, read the messages and pay attention to everything you can see and feel while browsing through the cards. Familiarize yourself with the deck.

3.     Set the environment & select the time carefully

Do reading when you feel calm, and you have enough time at your hands.

Set the environment by lighting a candle, put on calm music and maybe burn some scent. Create a ritual about using the cards and taking that moment to really connect with yourself. Make it a treat for yourself.

woman meditating with candles and incense

4.     Set intention & question(s) and decide on a spread

When using cards, always think of an intention.

What information are you seeking for? Is it a daily inspiration? Maybe something that you need to focus on for the next few weeks. Prepare a question or inquiry that can help you move forward.

thoughtful woman writing in notebook at home

A little word of caution here: Oracle cards are not intended to tell you the future. Future is of your own making.

So, if your question is starting with: “ Will I get married/got a job etc…” the answer will probably be very confusing. The real answer to this is something that you are actively creating every day and it actually depends more on your decision.

For best reading experiences you should ask open-ended questions on what you can do to overcome something, or what you need to pay attention to.  

Depending on what kind of question you are dealing with, you will also pick a spread. Most common spreads are 1 card pick, or 3 card picks on past-present-future. For more information, check your oracle booklet.

5.     Shuffle and pick

Then it is time to shuffle and pick cards.

shuffle oracle cards before use
Shuffle in any way you want, while repeating the question in your mind. Sometimes some cards “jump” out of the deck. If those are 1 or 2 cards put them aside, and interpret them alongside the cards you will pick.

When you feel cards are shuffled, pick as many cards as you need for your spread by taking a deep breath and selecting the cards you are drawn to.

6.     Interpretation

And as you lay down the cards in front of you, observe them.

And observe your thoughts. If needed, write them down. Refresh your mind with interpretations from the book, or follow your intuition based on what the cards are telling you.

note down your thoughts when you interpret the meaning of your oracle cards
Take time to notice the similarities in the messages if you pick more than 1 card.

Quick note: Some of the card decks differentiate between upward & downward turned cards. Upward card (turned towards you) usually reinforces the message, and downward turned card (turned away from you) makes the meaning opposite.

Refer to your oracle deck booklet when in doubt.

7.     Say thanks

After you got the message and you are concluding the oracle reading, do not forget to say thanks!

thank you signage

Say thank you to yourself for taking that time, and say thank you for the guidance you have been given.

Concluding Thoughts

The biggest advice I can give you on working with oracle cards is to have fun and follow your feelings and intuition.

You just read about the 7 guidelines for the best experience, but if something of this does not resonate with you – change it and make it yours.  You can’t go wrong as long as you listen to yourself!

Anja Ferk
Anja Ferk

Anja is a spiritual blogger and psychologist, finding the answers to curious questions and inspiring you to live intentionally. Check out her blog Weaving Life’s Web!