Friday, April 26, 2019

10 things You Must Pack For Vipassana Meditation: A Checklist!

I prefer travelling light – give me a small cloth bag and I’ll happily set all my stuff in... my stuff, which is already very basic to start with.

So when it came to packing things for the 10 day course in Vipassana, matters were no different. All I had with me was a small bag with only the basic required necessities inside - most of which came mentioned in their confirmatory email.

By the time the course ended and now when I write this article, I realized, the basic necessities is all that one would really need, ever, especially in a course like Vipassana. Our wants and wishes and desires, if any, don’t merit a space here.

Even if you’re used to travelling luxuriously, it’s best not to indulge in them for these 10 days.

After all, Vipassana is something that is meant to take us away from the wants of this materialistic world and put us in touch of that basic core that resides within.

Here’s a list of the things I had in my bag when I stepped out of my house towards the Gorai Pagoda, Vipassana center and as far as I know, this checklist is all you’d need to have you covered for

''What to Bring for your stay at Vipassana'':

What to pack for Vipassana: The only checklist you'll ever need!


1. ALARM CLOCK:

No forgetting this little piece of technology, alarm clock. It’s really a life saver because you won’t be having your mobile phones along with you, remember!?

Particularly because you've to get up as early as 4 in the morning everyday and after quick nap times during the day.

So when you are packing your bag, let the alarm clock be the first thing that goes into your bag. 

Though there’s a gong that is rung at the stroke of 4 in the morning everyday and the sevaks-sevikas ring a bell right outside your door in a bid to wake you up from your beauty sleep but still if one is not used to getting up that early in the morning by themselves, the alarm clock is a real friend in need.

2. PHOTO IDENTITY DOCUMENT AND A PRINT OUT OF THE CONFIRMATION FORM:

Carry a photo identity document like Pan card, Passport, Adhar card, etc.and latest passport size photo at the time of registration. Also pack in the print out copy of the confirmation form so that you don’t need to fill it again on arrival at the center.

Foreigners need to bring their passport, Visa documents and 2 passport size photographs.

3. SCARF /SHAWL:

The meditation room has a pretty good A.C. and if you are not a cold weather person, like me, having a scarf and a shawl handy helps to keep you warm and comfortable.

In any case, do carry a scarf to wrap yourself in.

I carried my scarf to the meditation room at all the times. Snuggling myself in it, helped me focus better on the meditation.

A coverlet / shawl comes in quite handy too. On the 4th and 5th day, I developed a sore throat and a mild temperature due to which I experienced discomfort owing to the chill of the AC in the meditation hall. Since I didn’t have a shawl with me, I took the coverlet provided in my accommodation room into the meditation hall and laid it around my body for the much needed warmth.

4. WATER BOTTLE / THERMOS:

You’ll need a water bottle to fill up during the break hours and carry you through the day and night. Hot water is available only during the meal times in the dining hall, so a thermos comes in handy in case you need to stack some hot water with you.

5. BODY CARE AND TOILETRIES:

Soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, face wash, shampoo – take them all along with you in the required quantities.

But if you do forget, like I did, you need not worry at all. The kind folks at the center are always there to provide you the things you need. You just have to to write it down on a paper (‘write it’ because of the noble silence observed and there is no talking amongst each other) and the things will be delivered to you right at your doorstep!

To all the women out there – carry your sanitary napkins as required. 

6. MEDICINES:

Take along an adequate supply of all medicines you are taking to last you for all the 10 days of the course.

7. MASSAGE TOOLS FOR BODY PAIN:

Your back and various other unknown parts in your body are going to hurt, really bad.

While the center does take full care of your comfort during meditation by providing cushions, pillows, a seating mat, and an added backrest if you may so need, but you can still take some additional massage tools like pain relieving massage balms / sprays along to soothe and relax your tired muscles.

I didn’t have any of these massaging tools with me – could’ve done with an Iodex rub on the back on the second and third day!

8. 4 PAIRS OF COMFORTABLE CLOTHING:

Carry very comfortable, loose clothing like pyjamas, kurtas, salwars and  palazzos… leggings will also do but tight clothing of any kind is still better avoided. At all times, remember the clothing should be modest to keep away from physical distraction between the genders.

9. CURIOSITY TO LEARN:

Not everything you’ll be packing in can be seen with your eyes. In fact, most of the things will be intangible. Like curiosity.

You’ll need a healthy dose of curiosity, playfulness, and open mindedness to take in whatever is being taught at the center.

Let the 10 days happen to you. So that, at the end of the course, you can decide for yourself if this is something that really resonates with you.

10. SINCERITY AND DETERMINATION:

Last but not the least, in the list of intangibles that need to be checked, are sincerity and determination.

Without these two, the ten days will seem like a freaking mountain put in your way; with these two, every mountain will be conquerable!

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Additional tips for students who wish to pursue the course:

1. Laundry service: is available at a nominal charge.

2. Medical issues: Applicants with any serious illness and pregnant women with any complications should take their Doctors advice to join the course. 

3. Lock: You can take a lock along but I didn’t use it after the first day since I wasn’t carrying any valuables as it is!

4. In the case, you forget anything: You need not worry! Inform the management at the center in writing and they will have you covered.

5. Things you CANNOT take along with you:

You will need to deposit following items with management during the course which are returned on the tenth day of the course – 

          - Cell phones & other personal electronic devices which will be returned to you on the 10th day of the course, one day before you leave for home.
          - Reading/writing material, musical instruments
          - Personal food items, tobacco in any form, non-prescribed drugs 
          - Scented toiletries or perfumes, religious or spiritual objects 
          - Jewelry or other unnecessary valuables.

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Have you attended a course in Vipassana meditation?
Is there anything you carried along with you besides the ones already mentioned above?
Write them down in the comments section!


Monday, April 22, 2019

6 Stunning And 'Can’t-Miss' European Destinations to Visit This Summer

“Europe is always a good idea!”

Isn’t it?

With so many diverse cities, all offering something distinct, Europe is a kaleidoscopic spectacle! With the best of arts, architecture, culture and cuisines, there is at least one city that resonates with every person who visits Europe.

From magnificent museums, splendid castles to vibrant nightlife and fascinating food scene, a travel plan to Europe can get anyone excited.  Especially, in summers when people plan to visit the exotic destinations that Europe has in store for them.

However, Europe is large, and you may not be able to cover all destinations. But, there are some destinations here that are remarkable,and thus a can’t miss.

1. Malaga, Spain.


Malaga

Malaga, a port city in Southern Spain,is known for its transformation over the years. Earlier, a small transit place, it now brims with youthful vigour. With spectacular art galleries, museums and vibrant yellow sand beaches, this place is both artsy and exuberant. A visit here will thus, be both enriching and entertaining for you!

2. Dubrovnik, Croatia.


Lovrijenac fortress, a filming site for Game of Thrones

A city in Southern Croatia, Dubrovnik is known for its medieval architecture. Known as ‘pearl of the Adriatic,’it stands at the front of the sea, offering mesmerizing coasts to its visitors to revel. There are plenty of things here that can make you fall in love with it in a short period.

From walking Dubrovnik walls to catch spectacular views of the city, to wandering the pretty streets of its old town, you will be spellbound by Dubrovnik’s charm. When in the city, you can check out Stradun, a filming location for Star Wars Episode IX, Lovrijenac fortress, a filming site for Game of Thrones. A cable car ride can also give you an aerial view of the city. 

3. Interlaken, Switzerland.


Interlaken, Switzerland

Interlaken is breathtakingly beautiful with its stunning landscapes. Flanked by glacier-fed lakes Thun and Brienz, it is home to the majestic peaks of Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau.

Not just picturesque, Interlaken is also an adventurer’s paradise. A host of activities like hiking, skiing,canyoning can be done here. There is a small, charming village with alpine gardens and historical castles here for you to explore. 

4. Santorini, Greece.


Santorini Greece

Santorini with gorgeous sunsets and mesmerizing white houses overlooking the sea is a perfect romantic getaway. Set in the Greek Islands, visiting this destination in summer means you can enjoy hiking and swimming here to the fullest. Cave hotels, pretty cliffs also make exploring this city an experience that will stay with you even longer.

When in Santorini, a jaunt on a boat to get a tour of the island is a must, you can also explore the Akrotiri Lighthouse, which is an enchanting point in the city.  

5. Gothenburg, Sweden.


Gothenburg, Sweden

An important seaport, Gothenburg is a major city in Sweden. With Dutch style canals and leafy boulevards, this destination can be a nature lover’s delight. Gothenburg also has a garden society that offers more than 16,000  species of plants to appreciate the beauty of nature. 

Here in this city, you can enjoy a safari through the rainforests of Universeum; enjoy adventurous rides at Liseberg, a famous amusement park here; and eat mouth-watering pastries and cinnamon buns at Haga, a beautiful neighbourhood in Gothenburg. 

You can get lazy absorbing the beauty of the Magical islands here, along with enjoying some seafood, for which Gothenburg is particularly lauded. 

6. Budapest, Hungary.


Budapest Hungary Night Photo

Budapest, the Paris of the East is the capital city of Hungary. Cosmopolitan and youthful, this destination is one of the most beautiful towns in Europe. From royal palace and castle district, Budapest abounds with architectural marvels. Adding to this, the natural thermal springs here are a perfect way for you to rejuvenate yourself for your trip ahead.  

With a world-class musical scene and vibrant nightlife, this place is also an alive and fun place.With an excellent reputation for its wonderful food and wines, it ensures you an impressive culinary experience.    


Have A Tension-Free Travel Experience:


Travelling to new destinations such as these European cities is sure exciting, but several travel-related challenges can often be a spoiler. Unexpected problems like losing your luggage or passport, cancelled flights etc. can cause you much loss and worry.

Moreover, any kind of medical emergency in a destination like Europe will not just be worrisome but can also cause a huge dent in your pocket. However, international travel insurance can cover you against all such unpredictable predicaments. 

You can easily buy international travel insurance online. Through such a policy, you can avail various coverages like reimbursement for cancelled flights, baggage lost or delayed cover among many other benefits.

Insurers like Tata AIG General Insurance offer many coverages like medical benefits up to $5 lac in case of medical emergencies, duplicate or new passport in case it gets lost, reimbursement for bounced hotel and airline bookings among many others. All these will save you from many worries ensuring that you can enjoy your trip until the end.

So, pick your favourite European destination, explore it and make memories of a lifetime!

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About the Author:

Meera Dewaan is an aspiring writer, literature geek and author. She has several journals, articles and papers to her name. Writing is her passion. She writes about mostly all genres.



Friday, April 19, 2019

Stepping Into Vipassana: The Admission Process (An Introduction)

Sometimes you need to take a break from everyone and spend time alone,
to experience, appreciate and love yourself.

― Robert Tew.

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It’s been close to a month since the completion of my 10 day course in Vipassana and looking back now, I feel amazed (actually, somewhat amused) at the sequence of events that led me to mustering up the courage of taking it up – and from taking it up I mean not just doing the course for those 10 days but also, more so, about the period where I, in fact, felt the urge to fill up the form, then contemplating on whether this was something I could really do, and then taking that final step – of actually doing it!

How / Where Did It All Start?


So, it all started with one random email that I received exactly during this time, one year back. The email was from Vipassana’s PR executive inviting me to visit the Global Vipassana Pagoda in Gorai, one of the seven wonders of Maharashtra, and a symbol of peace and harmony.

Having visited the Pagoda already once, thanks to no one else but my father, I was intrigued by the invitation and though I put it in the backburner for sometime later, the invite never did go out of my mind.

As they say, life is a journey.

And, the things we feel (having completed the course now, I will just call them as Guruji called it… sensations) as a result of the ‘unknown, unseen, outside forces’ operating in our life --- these sensations are nothing but roadmaps in our journey towards a better, healthier, happy life and when acknowledged, recognized and seen, as they are, for what they are, we are propelled to taking the necessary action to expand our boundaries and step out of our comfort zones for our own higher good.

And so sometime in September last year, when I’d feel the intense heat of one such sensation, this invite came to the fore of my mind and planted a tiny seed called Vipassanā (or Vipaśyanā).

Stepping In An Unknown Territory.


Nourished by curiosity, the seed germinated a little in the month of December 2018, when I filled their online form answering questions ranging from my personal to work profile to the condition of my medical status in a bid to secure admission in one of their 10 day long ‘Executive Course’ to be held in the month of March 2019.

Then, I hadn’t the slightest of clue of what I was entering into, of what the technique of Vipassana was about or how (or if!) these 10 days were going to have any impact on my life. What I did know was that it had something to do with meditation / yoga and that I had to completely be cut off digitally and physically for those 10 days – from everyone I knew.

Almost everything else was unknown… unknown… and yet known, and somewhat familiar in some inexplicable way.

Perhaps, it was this very understanding of stepping into an unknown territory that had captivated my attention in the first place such that I’d filled the form the very first thing in the morning on the day registrations for the March course had opened.

This Journey Is Yours… And It is All Alone.


I asked people in my family if anyone wished to accompany but no one came forward citing one reason or the other, not even my father (who I was secretly hoping would) – this heightened my hesitation a bit but despite the hesitation, I settled on going forward with it, alone.

Around 20 days later after submitting the form, I received an email which came with an added CTA. The CTA required me to confirm my attendance for the course within the next 10 days since there were many people who were waiting in the queue.

The CTA popped open a few questions that loomed right in my face:

What if there's a sudden travel plan popping up at that time?
What if I fall ill or one of my family members?
What if there's an unforeseen unavoidable circumstance
due to which it is impossible to go for the course?

and, the biggest of them all -
Was I really prepared to face this kind of a challenge?

Armed with all my whats and hows, I got down to getting a better idea of what I was entering into, by doing what I have known best – Research and introspection.

Though I am not new to the concept of spirituality, consciousness, energy and awareness - partly due to the impact of the environment of my own upbringing, partly due to my short stint in Brahmakumaris and partly because of my own interest in the field - yet, enrolling for Vipassana meant bundling all the factors together and taking them to an entirely different, a whole new level.

I skimmed through a couple of articles on the internet only to be more intrigued by the experiences that I came across.

Eventually, after trying my best to find some reason to say no and not finding any, on the 8th day, I went ahead with my confirmation.

There was still plenty of time for the course to begin, and there was no way to certainly know if I would be able to attend it or not at this time. Moreover, I didn't want to back out after filling up the form in the first place.

The pile of all my what-if's crumbled down to just one important question - what is the worst that could happen? And for that - I was always free to cancel it at a later stage. 

Goodbye, World.


Just 5 days before the course was to begin, I received a phone call asking me if I was coming. It was decision time and it sent my mind into a frenzy once again: A part of me wanted to go, a part of me resisted.

Don't defer any longer, GO!

... beeped a message from a blogger friend on my phone when I aired my unsure-ty with her and her words gave to the part of me which resisted the much needed motivational boost.

God-sent, she was!

After battling some moments over my yes, no and maybe… I finally confirmed my attendance two days later.

** Looking back, I can't really point a finger as to what really made me go ahead with the confirmation, but there was certainly more than what met the eye - there was this strange pull, a gentle kind of pull, mild, never forceful, but still a pull, that needed to be acknowledged and honored with some healthy action.

This particular moment, the moment when I FINALLY committed to attending the course, that moment ... I was ecstatic! I felt free, the nervous undercurrents disappearing miraculously in thin air and a whiff of fresh air filling up my entire being.

While my brother mulled over his own concerns of my complete disconnectedness and lack of other significant amenities (no mobile, no reading, no writing, no TV and no internet connection), I was already glued to reading the instructions for the course, making a check list of all the items that needed to be packed and of my doubts that had to be cleared with the management. 

The countdown to an exciting adventure, had just... begun!

(... to be continued)


TIPS FOR PEOPLE WHO WISH TO REGISTER FOR THE COURSE:

If you like to register for one of these courses at Gorai Village, Pagoda, Mumbai, here's the link: https://www.dhamma.org/en/schedules/schpattana

Go through the schedule page, and mark the course which you're interested in and take note of when the registration window for it opens.

Register as early as possible to secure your seat without any hassle as queues to register for the course are long.

Be absolutely honest with your answers to avoid being rejected for the course.


Wednesday, April 3, 2019

6 Incredible Destinations That Can Be Visited from Split, Croatia.

Split is a coastal town in Croatia and a popular destination for tourists to pick their accommodations in. If you’re visiting Croatia and you’re staying at a hotel in the city, here are six incredible destinations that you can visit via private tours Split, Croatia:

Split, Croatia

1. Plitvice Lakes National Park.

Plitvice Lakes National Park is a forest reserve in central Croatia that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. It is located 243 kilometers from the town of Split, and it will take about 2 hours and 40 minutes by car to get there. However, the trip is incredibly worth it. Plitvice Lakes National Park is known around the world for its sixteen lakes that are interconnected by a series of waterfalls. All of the lakes are filled with clear aquamarine water, and the entire reserve is home to luscious green forests and diverse flora and fauna. During the summer, it’s a beautiful place to visit to go swimming, boating, and hiking.

2. Krka National Park.

Krka National Park

Krka National Park can be found in southern Croatia, along the Krka River. It is known for several tourist spots, including Skradisnki Buk, a series of waterfalls that cascade one after the other. The tallest of these waterfalls is 39 feet. Aside from Skradisnki Buk, tourists are also intrigued by the Visovac Monastery in the national park, which is located in a tiny island in the middle of a huge lake. Today, this historical Franciscan building has a restaurant where you can dine and a museum where you can find religious relics and artifacts.

Other points of interest inside Krka National Park include the early Croatian fortresses of Trosenj and Necven, the Sibenik Bridge, and Cikola River. Krka National Park is about 85 kilometers from Split, Croatia, which is about a 90-minute car drive.

3. Dubrovnik.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Known as the pearl of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik is a small coastal city in southern Croatia. Its location gives it great access to the Adriatic Sea, but the view of the water isn’t its only selling point. Dubrovnik is brimming with history and architecture that dates back to the middle ages. As you stroll along Old Town, you’ll feel like you’ve traveled back in time. In fact, because of its historical architecture, the popular HBO show Game of Thrones has filmed in certain locations around the city. If you’re a fan of the series, you will have a blast recreating scenes in the places where the actors actually shot them. Dubrovnik is a three-hour drive from Split, Croatia. You need to travel about 235 kilometers to get to the city, but the history, architecture, and the chance to recreate Game of Thrones scenes will make it all worth it.

4. Hvar, Hvar Island.

Hvar, Hvar Island, Croatia.

Hvar is an old town in an Adriatic island with the same name. It is about 53 kilometers from Split, Croatia, and you will have to travel for an hour and a half, including a ferry ride, to get here. But if you do travel to this island town, you won’t regret it. It is stunning as an ecotourism destination, but it is also rich in historical significance. When in Hvar, visit St. Stephen’s square, home of the 16th-century cathedral from which it was named after. You should also visit Spanjola Fortress, a hilltop fortress that will give you panoramic views of the town, the island, and the sea. Hvar is also close to other islands in the Adriatic Sea, which makes it a great stop if you want to go island hopping.

5. Bol, Brac Island.

Sailing towards Bol, Brac Island.

Bol is a town in the island of Brac that is most popular for its windsurfing destination, Golden Horn beach. Aside from this white sand beach, you should also hike to Vidova Gora, the highest peak on the island and all of the Adriatic islands, to have the best view of the surrounding natural scenery and the aquamarine water that surrounds it. Or if you want to have a taste delicious local wine, stop by Stina Winery on the island to do so. Bol is a two-hour trip from Split, Croatia. It requires a ferry ride to travel 53.4 kilometers to this town.

6. Blue Cave, Bisevo Island.

Blue Cave is located in the small island of Bisevo in the Adriatic Sea. It got its name from the blue light that illuminates the interior of the cave when sunlight shines through the aquamarine water of the sea and then bounces off its white limestone floors and walls. Its an enchanting experience to explore the cave and something that you shouldn’t miss. Typically, island hopping tours in this area include a boat ride to the cave, but a private tour may give you more time to appreciate this natural wonder.

From interconnected lakes to magical caves, Game of Thrones sets, fortress-like towns, windsurfing, and hiking, Croatia is a tourist destination filled with adventures that are waiting for you to experience. In your next visit to Split, Croatia, partake in these exciting adventures!

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About the Author: Hannah is an avid traveler who is based in New York City and has visited more than 75+ countries. She fell head over heels in love with Croatia during her first visit to Split back in 2010 and has spent just about every summer in the city ever since.