What to Pack (& Not Pack) for A 10 Day Silent Vipassana Meditation Retreat

If you’re preparing to head off to a 10 day silent meditation retreat, here is my ultimate packing list! The retreats are no frills, and less is definitely more— but there are a few key things that will make your time there a bit easier (which will help you spend your time and energy on doing the work!

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What to Pack (& Not Pack) for A 10 Day silent Vipassana Meditation Retreat

What to Pack

  • Torch light (just incase): sometimes your sleeping quarters can be a few minutes walk from the mediation hall. If your attending a course during the new moon, it can get very dark. I had the moon’s glow to light my path both times, but it could be useful to have a small torch light to navigate your way to the first meditation in the AM or the last PM meditation.

  • Meditation cushion (optional): the center will have many many cushions, and other contraptions you can use to sit on. But if you have a preferred meditation cushion at home, you can bring it.

  • Meditation shawl/ blanket/ hoodie: the center will have blankets, but if you have a shall or a hoodie or something you can use to create a little world for yourself… bring it.

  • Battery powered alarm clock: You won’t have your phone, so having a small alarm clock with batteries is useful to make sure you wake up from any nap you take during your breaks. The male/ female managers do ring a bell or gong 5-15 minutes before every meditation session but TBH it’s nice to have your own awaker.

  • Hair ties

  • Eye mask

  • Ear plugs 

  • Unscented soap: Dr. Bronner’s is an essential for me, you can use it on your body but also to wash your clothes. Although they do provide washing soap, it’s the toxic stuff you don’t want to be putting on your clothes (ie. your body).

  • Toiletries: enough for all 10 days *ideally everything should be unscented*

    • Shampoo/ conditioner

    • Toothpaste

    • Toothbrush

    • Deodorant (unscented!)

    • Menstrual cup (just in case)

    • Shaving supplies

  • Comfy, loose, neutral coloured clothes: that go past the knee and cover your shoulders. There’s no washing machine but you can hand wash your clothes during break periods, and there are drying racks.

    • Sweats, hoodie, warm socks

  • Raincoat or umbrella: meditations happen, rain or shine. You won’t be in the rain long but if it’s really downpouring, better stay dry so you don’t have to sit in your meditation soaked.

  • Slippers or slides: these are key. You will be slipping in and out of your shoes basically every hour all day long (there are 5 minute breaks between most hour meditations), so having to lace up shoes each time is an unnecessary task.

  • Sneakers: can be useful to go for walks on your break, being outside of the city, the terrain of Vipassana centers are usually dirt/ rocks.

  • Bedding: Is usually provided but depending on the centre you may be asked to bring something, especially if you’re participating at a ‘non-centre’ (which basically just means they are not a Vipassana center year round— they rent the location to hold retreats).

  • Water bottle/ travelers mug: you can also use the cup provided to you from the kitchen for meal times, but I suggest bringing a water bottle and even a large coffee/ tea tumbler to take water with you to the meditation hall (you’ll have to leave it outside the actual room), as well as to drink your tea.

  • Water filter: my first Vipassana in the Blue Mountains of Australia used tap water (not ideal), the second time in Greece we had well water (amazing!). Having “quit” tap water years ago, the taste of the Aussie tap water was so foul that I only drank tea (to mask the chemical/ chlorine), and I would fill up my water bottle with tea to drink cold later in the day. You won’t die, and I was totally fine. I think surrendering to tap water for 10 days is more in line with my plan than bringing a filter, but just a heads up that some centers operate on drinking tap water.

  • Some cash: the courses are free, but if you complete the course you are allowed to donate so that others may benefit from the Dhamma. Look— only you have to live with the amount you do (or don’t) donate. After completing the course you should have gotten some serious teachings about the noble path, and a pretty deep understanding of the importance of service to others. I believe you can also donate with a card, but cash is always easier. Bring more than you think you’ll need, and decide upon completion. Be conscious that you are being housed, fed, and taught for 12 days total. Donations are based on ones means, but be honest with yourself about what that may be.

What Not To Bring

  • Food: everything is provided for you during the retreat food/ beverage wise.

  • Sleeping pills or sedatives: even if you take them regularly or they are ‘natural’— sleeping pills aren’t allowed. You will learn a technique to get fully restored without sleep (practicing Vipassana), and it won’t interfere with the reality of what is

  • Books: no distractions! If you bring any books you will be asked to leave them with administration (they keep everything safe and locked away). Trust me, it’s worth it to totally surrender. If you’re reading new material, it will only come flooding in as a distraction during your meditation.

  • Electronics: same reason as above. No phones, iPods, music players, phones, games, etc. You can bring any of them but leave them locked up from day 1, and they return them on day 11.

  • Your spiritual/ ritualistic stuff: like crystals, jewelry, incense, palo santo… you are asked to halt any rites or rituals that you normally participate in during Vipassana. The purpose is to learn to observe the world as it is, not as you would like it to be!

  • Makeup: let your skin breath, no one is going to be looking at you anyways!

  • Jewellery: you will be asked to remove it, better just leave it at home.

  • Perfume/ scents: retreats are non-scent safe zones. Natural or not, avoid any scents (essential oils, sprays, etc)

  • Special requests: unless you’re genuinely allergic (i.e. not just a chosen dietary restriction like gluten, for most people)— avoid making any special requests for food. If you don’t feel like you can commit to the charity of others, I suggest waiting until you are in a place of humility and grace to participate. These programs are run entirely by volunteers, on the charity of those before you, and so making food requests based on preference is not cool. I don’t normally eat grains, etc— but embracing the process and upping my dietary consumption of things like oats, rice, etc, I never felt better. The food is made with love, with real, whole foods. You’ll be fine.

  • Expectations: it’s essentially impossible to have absolutely zero expectations (although, I went my first time knowing so little about the entire thing that I basically had none). But try to embrace what comes moment by moment and when you catch yourself wanting something specific to “happen” just observe this clinging and consciously let it go.

Camille JuliaComment