Hi again! Welcome to Meditacion Yoga Barcelona!
To fellow yogis and yoginis, I want to talk about a spiritual system that I came across as part of my meditation and yoga journey during my backpacking days. This system will have a tremendous impact on your mental clarity and physical wellbeing: Vipassana (insight) meditation.
This post explains why yoga practitioners should consider doing a Vipassana meditation retreat. It outlines:

Because as you know, when you go on holidays (or do a retreat), you feel great on the last day of the retreat. But the moment you come back to hustle and hecticness of your life, the retreat can seem like a distant memory after just 2 days back at home.
So, how can you maintain the highs of the retreat when you go back home?
The answer is briefly discussed here but will be part of a standalone future post. But know that Meditacion Yoga Barcelona is here to support you along your journey.

What is Vipassana (Insight) Meditation?

What gives Vipassana meditation its modern-day currency is that this practice came from the Buddha himself around 500 BCE. It was said after his Enlightenment, the Buddha held discourses and carried out vipassana retreats for people who wanted to learn the practice. Of course, it was not called Vipassana meditation back then. It was known as the ‘Dhamma or the way, the path. The dhamma constitutes the ‘Four Noble Truths’, the ‘Eight-fold Path’ and then the meditation practices of Anapana (concentration) meditation, Vipassana (insight) meditation and Metta (loving-kindness) meditation. This was the body of teachings and practices of the dhamma system that is unique to the Buddha. If suffering is universal, then the remedy must be universal. Even tough this style of meditation is derived from Theravada Buddhism; the course is free of religious teachings. You are not and will not be converted to Buddhism after the retreat.

Why do I see Vipassana meditation being referred to as insight meditation?

The word ‘insight’ is the closest translation we have in English of the word vipassana. These teachings aim to give a true account of our inner nature (body and mind).
Taken directly from SN Goenka’s Vipassana meditation website:
“Vipassana is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body.
Through direct experience, the nature of how one grows or regresses, how one produces suffering or frees oneself from suffering is understood. Life becomes characterized by increased awareness, non-delusion, self-control and peace.”

As you can sense, this is a deep and powerful method that cannot be learnt in a simple meditation class. Therefore, the only way to properly experience this method is through a dedicated and disciplined timetable that is structured in a way for you to be totally focused on the practice.
There is a timetable for each day to provide rhythm and stability to support your practice. The evenings consist of a discourse for each day which is synchronised with what you have been doing for that day.

What will I learn?

You will learn three meditation practices in total. Vipassana is the second practice and is introduced during Day 4 and will be main practice until Day 10. However, the first 3.5 days are spent on a concentration meditation practice (Anapana meditation). This focuses on the natural movement of your breath. Over the first 3.5 days, the physical area of focus on the breath becomes progressively smaller as your mind quietens down and you settle into the retreat.
On Day 10, you will be introduced to the final meditation practice of loving-kindness meditation (Metta meditation). This is a heart practice and is introduced after the deep meditation process you went through. Since the channel gratitude has opened up within you, you will learn how to give yourself loving kindness and for all around you.

What are the benefits of doing a meditation retreat?

There is a theoretical and a practical component to this method. This method of meditation reorientates how you view your world. This is not easy for many people. To get to that state, will require a lot of persistent practice, hard work, challenges and getting your mind to ‘get with the programme’.
This retreat lasts for 10-days. There is a daily timetable to help navigate through the day. In essence, each day starts at 4.30 am and finishes by 9.00pm. Each day is a solid 10 hours of meditation. There is breakfast and lunch. For new students (first timers) there is a light dinner.
By the end of 10 days, you will be walking, eating, washing, and showering mindfully. You will be a skilled meditator that will be able to meditate for 60 minutes without the need to move your posture. You will reach a place deep in your heart and that have loving-kindness for all beings. You will be a million miles away from where you were at on Day 0. You will feel a deep sense of achievement, dedication and resilience.
Vipassana meditation is a practice about “seeing things as they are truly are”. This means there is no hiding, no deception, no false ego and no excuses in how and where you are in life right now. If your life sucks at moment. This practice is not about giving you more excuses to blame people and circumstances that got you there. If that is your current mindset, it will be smashed by this practice. This practice is to truly understand that there is suffering all around us and within us. However, this practice shows you the path to see the way out.
So, rather than detailing the health benefits from this meditation (you can read this directly from any vipassana meditation center websites), I want to detail the benefits of doing a retreat.

Challenges and Risks

Why is it 10 days?

The retreat is 10 days. Non-negotiable. You cannot do retreat part-time.
There is so much theoretical content and instructions that will be progressively released over the period of 10 days. It is impossible to listen, implement and learn from your meditation mistakes in just one day!

Can I find the time?

Without a doubt, finding 10 days in your year will require some effort. The 10-day courses all start on a Wednesday afternoon and finish the following Sunday morning. So, this will require 7.5 days away from a typical working week (although you might need some time to get to the venue).
Remember, finding 10 days may be an effort the first time. However, to pursue this method for life, you will need to consider finding 10 days annually to freshen your practice, quieten the mind and building on your inner work.

Why is it a silent meditation?

The retreat is a silent meditation retreat. You will need to refrain from speaking to fellow students for the duration of the retreat. Also, you are not allowed to read or write (even keeping a journal) during your time. You need to minimise distraction for you to strengthen your concentration. A strong concentration will help your movement through the vipassana meditation component of the retreat. The silence will feel strange at first. But as you move from day to day you will quickly lose the need to speak. You will encounter certain experiences or might hit a vein of creativity with amazing ideas and the temptation to write will increase. However, if you can let that go and let the practice flow rather than holding it back or writing it down, you feel you are starting to walk on the path.
From my experience, this can be a major issue for some people who have this fear of not being able to talk, or a fear of being stuck with themselves and their crazy thoughts.
Note, you will be able to talk on the day of arrival (Day 0) and on your final full day onwards (i.e. Day 10 & Day 11). Also, you will be able to ask specific questions to the teacher on your meditation practice (e.g. how to work with pain when you meditate, how to work with a busy mind, what to do if you have a difficult night sleep?). So, you can speak but it must be with purpose and specifically to the practice.

What is the food like?

How you relate to food will be totally exposed at a retreat. What do I mean by this?

In terms of quantity of food, there is enough food. Do not worry. You will not starve! However, you will soon realise the more food you consume, the harder it is to meditate, you start to feel drowsy and might start to have headaches. So, subconsciously you will begin to regulate the input of food into your mouth. The more mindful you are of eating, you will soon start to eat less and less.

Are these retreats busy?

Doing a vipassana meditation retreat is now becoming very popular. Most centres hold approximately 100-120 students. Due to its popularity, spaces are filled within 15 minutes when they become available on-line. It should be noted that a certain % is reserved for first timers and for local people. Back in the day, when I was living in Australia, I could register a spot anywhere in the world. Now, I need to live in Spain to register for a retreat in Spain.
If you get accepted into the retreat, you just need to know that it will be full. There are enough showers, toilets and tables in the dining room to ensure you stay within the timetable.
Unless you want to bring your own tent (which is possible) you will be sleeping in dormitories in double bunks with approximately 8-10 per room. For those who have completed many retreats over the years will be given preference for single room dormitories (if they have them), otherwise dormitories for them too!

What if I am feeling depressed, or I am stuck in my life? Will doing a retreat be good for me?

This requires a nuanced response.
Many reasons why people consider doing some form of yoga and meditation is because they are going through a tough time in their life. This could be dealing with grief due to a death in family, troubles at work, break-up with a partner, financial issues or a combination of a few of these at once. This can lead to stress, anxiety, increasing your limiting self-belief and increasing self-doubt.
Going to a meditation retreat is a completely different level to doing a Sunday yoga class. A vipassana retreat is intense with prolonged meditation sessions, rigorous timetable and the need to observe silence. The retreat demands a high level of mental discipline and focus. So, doing a retreat can be very challenging for individuals without mental health issues. But this could also be the best opportunity to smash the veil of confusion and fog clouding your mind and desire to make meaningful change.
However, if you are suffering from clinical depression, I would first consult with your doctor, health specialist or therapist. Let them know what the retreat will involve, share how you feel about doing the retreat and then decide for yourself.
Full disclosure of your mental, emotional and physical health will be requested as part of the application form. It is best to be honest during this process and allow the retreat organisers to make an informed decision.

Where can I do it?

There are many vipassana centres around the world. Some are individual centres with their own Vipassana master living in the centre with monks and nuns and a proportion of visiting ley people. A list a few I have visited include:

While there are other Vipassana centres that have a global reach and have a coordinated network. The course structure is identical at all these centers, as the same instructional audio and video is used. There’s no variation in routine. The 10-day courses are generally conducted twice a month throughout the year. The most well-known of these is SN Goenka Vipassana retreats:

Vipassana centers are well located to provide an ideal environment for deep meditation and reflection. With that in mind, most centres will require some travel time to get to the centre.

In Spain there are two centres dedicated exclusively to Vipassana as thought by S.N. Goenka in the tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin: Dhamma Neru and Dhamma Sacca

At this time Spain is the first country in Europe to have two permanent centres.

Twelve years after purchasing Dhamma Neru is the first Vipassana centre in Spain. The land was acquired on 22 June 1999, near Santa Maria de Palautordera, 56 kilometres northeast of Barcelona.

The building stands on 1.5 hectares of land surrounded by tall trees, with fruit trees and ornamental plants inside.

To the north is the imposing Montseny mountain, 1700 metres high. It is about 400 metres above sea level and only 30 minutes from the Mediterranean, so it enjoys a mild and sometimes rainy climate.

The Centre can accommodate 62 students, although the meditation hall can accommodate up to 80.

How to get there?

There are train services from the following Barcelona train stations (Sants) to Palaudordera (in direction north to Sant Celoni ). There are trains every 30 mns. It takes approximately 50 mns. From there, the Centre often arranges pick up from the station if you give them enough warning in advance. Otherwise it’s a 2km walk uphill. The walk is nice but you will need a shower after you arrive!

Dhamma Sacca

On 18 May 2015, the Vipassana Foundation of Spain started the construction of a new meditation centre, which is scheduled to open in August 2016.

The property covers an area of 10 hectares and is part of the municipality of Candeleda, in the province of Avila, about 2 hours from Madrid. In its northern part is the Sierra de Gredos, with stunning views of the Pico Almanzor (2952 m). The land has been replanted with oaks, cork oaks, gall oaks and ashes, trees typical of the area.

Dhamma Sacca means ¨The Truth of Dhamma¨ and will have capacity for 120 students and 30 servers. Its proximity to Portugal makes it possible to share courses with the neighbouring country.

How can I maintain my practice & be supported with this practice?

I always say to students that the day after the retreat is the hardest! Returning home is a big transition. I know some participants are so excited to speak again that they do not stop talking. For some, they just need to have a beer or glass of wine and go out. Others, just go home and collapse from exhaustion.
Part of the mind and body that you have been taming over the last 10 days wants to break free and drag you back into some of your bad habits. So, you need support to help you transition back.
From all the above centres, SN Goenka vipassana offers to all participants a dedicated App to help you maintain a practice. Though one of the drawbacks after returning home is that there is not enough specific guidance to students after the retreat. Of course you can read books, re-watch videos and attend weekly meditation sessions. However, these sessions are just 60 minutes and there is no teacher attending. This means that you really need to work through your issues on your own.
If you feel you need support, contact me on [email protected] to help you work through the challenges you can be experiencing in your practice. Whether you are a beginner or a mature meditation practitioner, if you feel that you are lost or need guidance, let’s chat to see how you are progressing and take it from there.
Ok yogi and yoginis. I hope you found this informative. Check for more information on Vipassana and other style of meditation systems on my other blogs.
Namaste everyone!

Main Meditation Hall

This will close in 20 seconds

    This will close in 20 seconds

    Contact me to book

    Please share some details via the form and I’ll get back to you as fast as I can.

    Alternatively, feel free to ask me any questions you have and confirm a session via WhatsApp or email

    Vipassana Online Group Meditation

    Classes for Vipassana Online Group Meditation are currently available online on Tuesdays & Thursdays from 19h – 20h

    Duration: 60 minutes    Price: 5€

    Select a date to reserve your spot.

    [webba_booking service="5"]