Leaving A Course Early

I want to give a bit of encouragement to anyone who has left a 10-day course early. These meditation courses are difficult, and sometimes on someones first or second course they get so overwhelmed that the leave. This was my experience, but I’ve moved on to complete a handful of courses and I’ve established a daily practice, so don’t be discouraged if this has happened to you.

My story is a bit unique. Almost immediately after my dad died I completed my first course. While I meditated as little as possible and slept a ton, I made it through the course without any major difficulty. I attended the course just to see what it was all about so I think it took me most of the course just to figure out how to properly work. I had a good experience but I didn’t continue my practice after the course.

In the 6 months after caring for my dying father, my Mom also got very sick trying to adjust to life without her partner. I tried to help my Mom as best I could, but I realized later that I had run myself pretty thin. I scheduled my second Vipassana course to help me process this difficult time without honestly evaluating my mental state. My life was in a major transition with a new job, a new city, and a new family dynamic on the horizon. I had spent most of a year caring for one ailing parent or the other and I still needed time to process through these events.

My second course was overwhelming. So many difficult events came to the surface that I couldn’t settle my mind. Instead of the course being a place to process, my mind was just rolling in negative thoughts. I left the course on the 4th day knowing that the timing wasn’t right.

Knowing that I needed to process through these events in more manageable chunks, I immediately started meditating two hours a day. Each of these sittings was full of misery and pain, but each was important as I reconstructed my life after these traumatic events. About 9 months later I completed my second ten-day course. That was also difficult, but since I had been practicing on my own for 9 months I had the strength to face the storms.

For the last two years I’ve been able to maintain my daily practice and I’ve completed additional courses. Meditation has allowed me to process rather than bury these past experiences. I could have given up after I left that second course, but I’m glad I didn’t. I hope this provides some motivation to anyone at there who has left a course early for one reason or another. When the time is right, if you try again with a strong determination, you will be successful. Time to meditate.

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About Ryan Shelton

In March of 2010 I discovered a path to peace and happiness through a 10-day Vipassana meditation course in the tradition of S.N. Goenka. After establishing my personal practice, and witnessing how it changed my way of life, I'm now curious to explore how the growing community of meditators can help to support each other and make the world a better place.
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2 Responses to Leaving A Course Early

  1. Pooja says:

    Hi,
    I’m commenting on this a year later so I do hope you get to read this. I left my Vipassana course today after 5 days; and I left with this strange mix of guilt yet assurance. I learned a lot over the past few days but at the same time I was not prepared for an intensive course like this. I mentally and emotionally went through a lot, also had a physical setback, pushed myself through but I was unhappy. I really do hope to complete it someday because I do want to and your post just gave me hope. So thank you. I hope to meditate in smaller periods and maintain consistency until I dare to join one again.

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