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A Guide to Prepare for Your First 10-Day Vipassana Course in Ontario

Embarking on my first 10-day Vipassana meditation course in Ontario was a profound experience that had been two decades in the making. Overcoming a plethora of excuses and finally committing to the course from Dec 27th to Jan 7th, I discovered a transformative journey that I feel compelled to share. This blog aims to guide those considering this program, offering insights on preparation, daily schedules, accommodations, and more.

Unveiling Vipassana: Not Just a Retreat

My journey began with a common misconception—I kept calling it a silent retreat. However, Vipassana is more than a retreat; it's a well-structured, immersive 10-day course. Rooted in the meditation technique taught by Gautama (the Buddha), Vipassana focuses on observing breath and bodily sensations to overcome attachments to cravings and aversions.

A Day in the Life: Structured Silence

The daily schedule is a rhythmic dance of meditation, meals, and rest. From the early morning wake-up bell to the final lights-out at 9:30 pm, each moment is dedicated to self-reflection and mindfulness.

Daily Schedule:

4:00 am - Morning Wake-Up Bell:

  • Rise and shine to the sound of the morning wake-up bell, signalling the start of a new day of self-discovery.

4:30-6:30 am - Meditate in the Hall or in Your Room:

  • Engage in focused meditation either in the meditation hall or the comfort of your own room, setting the tone for the day.

6:30-8:00 am - Breakfast Break:

  • Enjoy a nourishing breakfast, breaking the silence briefly with fellow meditators in the dining area.

8:00-9:00 am - Group Meditation in the Hall:

  • Join a group meditation session in the hall, fostering a sense of collective mindfulness.

9:00-11:00 am - Meditate in the Hall or in Your Room:

  • Continue your meditation practice, either in the hall or your private space, following the teacher's instructions.

11:00 am-12:00 pm - Lunch Break:

  • Relish a mindful lunch break, enjoying a nutritious meal in silence.

12:00 pm-1:00 pm - Rest and Interviews with the Teacher:

  • Take a moment to rest and, if needed, schedule personal interviews with the teacher for guidance and support.

1:00-2:30 pm - Meditate in the Hall or in Your Room:

  • Engage in another session of focused meditation, deepening your practice.

2:30-3:30 pm - Group Meditation in the Hall:

  • Join the group for a collective meditation session, enhancing the sense of unity and shared purpose.

3:30-5:00 pm - Meditate in the Hall or in Your Room:

  • Continue your meditation practice, aligning with the teacher's guidance.

5:00-6:00 pm - Tea Break:

  • Enjoy a refreshing tea break, providing a brief pause for relaxation.

6:00-7:00 pm - Group Meditation in the Hall:

  • Reconnect with the group for another session of collective meditation.

7:00-8:15 pm - Teacher's Discourse in the Hall:

  • Listen to the teacher's discourse, gaining insights and wisdom to further enrich your meditation journey.

8:15-9:00 pm - Group Meditation in the Hall:

  • Conclude the day with a final group meditation session, fostering a sense of shared mindfulness.

9:00-9:30 pm - Question Time in the Hall:

  • Engage in a brief period for questions and reflections in the hall.

9:30 pm - Retire to Your Own Room—Lights Out:

  • Conclude your day by retiring to your private space, allowing for restful sleep and rejuvenation.

Accommodations: Where Silence Resides

The accommodations at the Ontario Vipassana Center are structured to ensure complete segregation of men and women. With clean, simple, and functional rooms, some private and some shared, the environment fosters a conducive atmosphere for self-discovery.

Nourishing the Mind and Body: Culinary Delights at the Ontario Vipassana Center

While the primary focus of a Vipassana meditation course is on inner reflection and mindfulness, the culinary offerings play a vital role in sustaining participants throughout the transformative journey. Here's a glimpse into the diverse and wholesome meals served during my 10-day Vipassana retreat in Ontario.


The day begins with a simple yet nourishing breakfast. Options include heartwarming oatmeal adorned with an array of toppings, providing a comforting start to the day. Alternatively, participants can opt for the timeless classic of toast, accompanied by a variety of spreads such as jam, butter, and peanut butter. Fresh fruits add a burst of natural sweetness to the meal, complemented by the warmth of tea or coffee.


The midday meal at the Vipassana Center is a delightful exploration of flavours and textures, with a different menu unveiled each day. Traditional dishes like daal or hearty stews are commonly served, reflecting a commitment to providing wholesome, vegetarian options that align with the meditative journey. Accompanying these main courses are a variety of side dishes, ensuring a balanced and satisfying meal. Desserts, while simple, offer a sweet conclusion to the lunchtime experience.

Afternoon Tea:

For new students, the afternoon tea break is a refreshing interlude. Fresh fruits such as apples, oranges, and bananas are on offer, providing a burst of energy and natural sugars. However, for old students, the focus shifts to a more contemplative tea session, emphasizing the meditative experience over additional snacks. The afternoon tea break becomes a moment of quiet reflection and rejuvenation, aligning with the overall ethos of the retreat.

What to Pack: Essentials for Comfort and Focus

A detailed packing list ensures you are well-equipped for the journey. From comfortable clothing to essential toiletries, the list covers everything, emphasizing the need for simplicity and mindfulness.

Sample Packing List:


  • Comfortable clothing (loose-fitting, modest attire)

  • Enough underwear and socks to last 11 days

  • Indoor shoes

  • Sweater or jacket for varying temperatures

  • Hat/scarf/gloves (seasonal)

  • Comfortable walking shoes

  • Boots if attending in winter

  • Shawl or blanket for meditation sessions


  1. Tooth Care:

  • Toothbrush

  • Travel-sized toothpaste

  • Dental floss

  1. Body Care:

  • Soap or body wash

  • Shampoo (consider 2-in-1 for simplicity)

  • Conditioner (if needed)

  • Body lotion or moisturizer

  • Deodorant

  • Razor and shaving cream (if applicable)

  1. Face Care:

  • Face wash or cleanser

  • Moisturizer

  • Sunscreen (if outdoor activities are included)

  • Lip balm with SPF

  1. Hair Care:

  • Hairbrush or comb

  • Hair ties or bands

  • Hairdryer (if allowed)

  1. Personal Care:

  • Menstrual products (if applicable)

  • Nail clippers and file

  • Tweezers

  1. Towels and Washcloths:

  • Bath towel

  • Hand towel

  • Washcloth

  1. Hygiene and Health:

  • Hand sanitizer

  • Tissues or toilet paper

  • Wet wipes or baby wipes

  • Personal medications

  • Basic first aid kit (band-aids, pain relievers, etc.)

  • Ginger/herbal tea bags

  • Sore-throat candies

  • Vitamins and Supplements: Vitamin C, D, Zinc, immune boosters

  1. Miscellaneous:

  • Cotton swabs (Q-tips)

  • Cotton pads or makeup remover wipes (if applicable)

  • Disposable or reusable razor

  • Insect repellent (if needed)

  • Nail polish remover (if applicable)

  1. Laundry Supplies:

  • Laundry bag for dirty clothes

  • Stain remover pen or wipes

  1. Eco-Friendly Options:

  • Biodegradable soap and shampoo

  • Reusable and collapsible water bottle


  • Pillow for a good night's sleep

  • Sheets for a single bed: something to cover the mattress, a top sheet, a pillowcase

  • Warm blanket (season-dependent)


  • Flashlight or Headlamp for evening navigation

  • Alarm Clock to wake up for early morning meditation

  • Laundry Bag to keep dirty laundry separate

  • Regular wristwatch

  • Water Bottle

  • Thermostat

  • Earplugs

  • Eye Mask

This comprehensive packing list ensures you're fully equipped for your 10-day Vipassana journey. Remember to follow any specific guidelines provided by the Ontario Vipassana Center and embrace the transformative experience that awaits you.

Challenges of Long Meditation: Preparation Tips

Long meditation sessions can pose challenges, but preparation is key. Start meditating daily before attending, gradually cut out solid dinners after 12:00, and adopt a mindful lifestyle to ease into the practice.

Fun Tips for a Mindful Journey

  1. Bring Your Pillow: Enhance your sleep for a rejuvenating experience.

  2. Flashlight or Headlamp: Navigating in the dark with mindfulness.

  3. Ginger/Herbal Tea: A comforting addition to your routine.

  4. Regular Wrist Watch: Ditch the digital distractions.

Conclusion: Embracing Silence

As I reflect on my 10-day Vipassana journey, I encourage anyone on the fence to take the plunge. It's not just a course; it's a transformative odyssey into self-awareness and mindfulness. Embrace the silence, and let the journey unfold.

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