5 Tips To Surviving (and Thriving) in a Silent 10 Day Meditation Retreat

person meditating at a lake

Vipassana meditation retreats involve sitting silently for 10 hours per day for 10 days.

There is no communication between participants and yet meditators report never having felt more connected to themselves and others.

Author of Sapiens Yuval Noah Harari has been practicing Vipassana for 20 years and Jack Dorsey CEO of twitter famously gave up alcohol, drugs and sex to practice the technique tweeting that it “continues to be the toughest and best thing I do for myself.”

Harari and Dorsey are among millions of people who undertake this annual retreat and practice daily, but what is it all about?

The Vipassana technique

Vipassana, roughly translated to “insight”, is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation and it is accessible through a 10-day silent retreat. Modern-day Vipassana courses are secular in nature, however the technique derives from Buddhism.

According to dhamma.org, it is an observation-based, self-exploratory journey that focuses on deep interconnection between the mind and body. Such interconnection is realised through disciplined attention to the physical sensations.

The practice allows participants to ‘see things as they really are’ by training one’s mind. The objective being to see the truth of impermanence.

The retreat is supported by donations which provides basic dorm room accommodation and two vegan meals per day. Meditatiors rise at 4 am and retire at 9 pm.

Signing up to do a 10-day retreat is a big commitment. Consider the following tips to survive and thrive through this life changing experience.

An aerial shot of male meditators in an meditation retreat dressed in white sitting on the floor and holding a green leaf.
Men and women sit on opposite sides of the meditation hall.

Clear Your Schedule

10 days is a long time.

It’s important to keep in mind the course doesn’t start until the morning after you arrive, meaning the day you arrive is like day 0 and the day you leave is like day 11.

It is the 10 days bookended by these two dates that encompass the Vipassana retreat. 

A gong bell hanging in a field. Early misty morning.
Each hour is punctuated by the sound of a gong.

Pack Comfortable (and Practical) Clothes

You will be sitting for 1 hour at a time, 10 hours of the day so you will want comfortable clothes to sit in.

Cotton is great because it doesn’t smell (you may have limited access to clothes washing facilities, or the weather may not be suitable to dry your clothes).

Modest or conservative clothing must be worn at Vipassana retreats. This means your shoulders, neck and knees should be covered.

Scarfs and shawls are good for these purposes, and are especially useful in cooler temperatures.

S.N. Goenka a Vipassana Meditation teacher.
S.N. Goenka was an influential Vipassana meditation teacher and played an important role in establishing non-commercial Vipassana meditation centres globally.

Prepare Yourself Mentally

Many people leave retreats prematurely.

Remember your reasons for coming. Remind yourself what you hope to get out of the 10 days when you are going through difficult times during the course.


By fully surrendering and sinking into the meditative practice facilitated in the retreat, practitioners are said to reap more benefits.

This may include feelings of deep relaxation, clarity, increased self-awareness and greater control over your emotions. 

Meditation buddha icon.
We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts… Be the witness of your thoughts.’ – Gautama Buddha

Be Kind to Yourself

Vipassana.org describes the 10 days course as requiring “hard, serious work.” Vipassana is undeniably a long and intensive retreat.

Boredom, anger and frustration are common emotions that may crop up from time to time and it is important to recognise that these feelings and challenges are part of the experience and part of life. 

Know that everyone else is struggling too and choose self-compassion over self-criticism and forgiveness over guilt.

Whilst it’s not recommended, remember that you can always leave early.

Napping is good. Taking naps between blocks of meditation can help you to recharge.

Detox from screens, social media and the pressures of every-day life by completing a Vipassana retreat this year.

Sarah Oughtred

Sarah is a practicing artist with an interest in health and fitness. When she is not talking about why everyone should start meditating, she is Salsa dancing, traveling or drawing. Sarah's passions include dark chocolate and running and she has recently started taking cold showers (almost) exclusively. Sarah started her own pet portraiture business in 2020 and hasn’t stopped patting stranger's dogs since.

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