When preparing for a Vipassana retreat, you will definitely want to check out the list each center provides. For example, here is the list for the center in Joshua Tree (29 Palms), where I sat. After completing my sitting, I realized there are some items not listed, that I either wish I brought or am glad I thought of bringing ahead of time. Keep in mind, if you forget to bring essentials, such as sheets, shampoo, etc., the center will provide you with those necessities. The center I sat in even had a clothing closet.
In addition, if you have any dietary restrictions or allergies, let the center know ahead of time, as you cannot bring food in. They accommodated me being gluten and dairy free, and most items were labeled as ‘gluten-free’ ‘vegan’ or ‘soy free.’ If you have any questions or concerns, simply call the center. They will do everything in their power to make your retreat as comfortable as possible for you.
I contacted some of the amazing dhamma sisters I sat with, and friends who sat in the past, and together, we came up with this comprehensive list of items to consider bringing with you on your retreat.
1. One or two big canteens
I only brought one canteen with me, and wish I had an extra canteen for hot tea during the retreat. This meant that I often had to rush through drinking my tea in the dining hall, rather than having it to slowly sip on.
“I also wish I had my tea thermos — it was actually in my car but I didn’t realize I wanted it before handing over my freedom, err, I mean my keys.” Kim H., California
“I was so happy I brought a hot water canteen. Because of the cold, it was really nice to have hot water/tea throughout the day.” Allison S., San Diego
2. Very comfortable clothing
Even though they mention this on the list, it should be in bold. You don’t realize how important comfy clothing is until you are required to sit and meditate in what you’re wearing for close to 11 hours per day.
“One thing I did bring that I was grateful for was really comfortable clothes. I had also brought a pair of flow-y, soft jeans, but ended up not wearing them after one sit because even though they were super comfortable, they weren’t comfortable enough. Hooray for soft, long, cotton skirts and cotton tops in various weights for layering.” Kim H., California
“I wish I had brought more cozy clothes, I needed to hand-wash my clothes a few times, and actually there is not enough time in between the sittings.”-Verena Z., Germany
3. Shoes AND sandals
I personally brought one pair of sandals and no other shoe options. Although they were easy to slip on and off for meditations, they were not ideal for getting out my energy on the sandy nature path. I felt like a turtle, with the sand burying my every step. But maybe I was meant to walk slowly?
“Non-sandals for cold mornings; I just had my Rainbows.” Anon
“I’m glad I brought indoor slippers… I wish I had brought walking shoes that are easier to slip on and off (e.g. Toms) vs sneakers. It was a pain to have to lace them up each time I left the dorm to go for a walk.” Patty L., San Francisco
4. Yoga Mat/Bolster
“I brought my yoga mat which was great for my room.”-Anon
“I also brought a yoga bolster, which was helpful to do some restorative stretches when my back was achy from meditating all day!” Allison S, San Diego
5. Supplements/ Medications
This was an issue for me. I didn’t realize I had run out of my Oxy-Powder, which meant little to no BMs, which in turn meant very uncomfortable sittings (pun?). The center offered to go to the store and buy me my supplements, however, you can only purchase these online. So they provided me with laxatives until my mom drove all of the ways to the center to bring me my supplements (she knew I had run out/ugly crying).
“Also, did not bring my magic herbs and had an unfortunate lack of BMs per my usual.”-Juliana K., Los Angeles
“Extra pills”- Anon
I wonder if I regret the fact I didn’t bring a watch. I would often try to peek at my neighbor’s watch (now a friend of mine) to see what time it was. I was at moments convinced it had been over an hour, only to find out we weren’t even half-way through the meditation. Womp. I do think it would be helpful when I was lost in thought on the nature trail, as we had to adhere to a semi-strict schedule.
“I wish I had brought a watch to have a better sense of time, how much longer we had a break, etc. I had a Fitbit but the battery died halfway.” Patty L., San Francisco
The desert is a dry place, and even with my heavy application of chapstick, my lips continuously cracked. Don’t know what would have happened without it.
8. Sun hat/Beanie
We had some cold morning, and some very warm/sunny afternoons. I was glad I bought a sun hat last minute at a store and regretted not bringing a beanie for my morning nature walks.
“I borrowed a Hat for sun-protection from the center.”- Anon
9. Extra towel
I am glad I had an extra towel to use while my other towel was too wet, or drying from being hand washed.
“I borrowed an extra towel from the center.”- Anon
10. Shawl/scarf for meditation/sun protection
I brought a scarf with me, that I used to not only keep warm in the mornings, but as sun protection during my nature walks and as an extra cozy measure during our meditation sits. I borrowed a meditation blanket and kept it at my seat, however, I noticed there weren’t enough for everyone, and I felt bad about that. Next time, I will know to invest and bring a proper meditation shawl.
“I borrowed a scarf/shawl for sun protection and meditation from the center.”- Anon
“I wish I had brought a more heavyweight scarf for the hall meditations.” – Patty L, San Francisco
Some other items I am personally glad I brought with me…
11. Sunglasses – For our nature walks, as it got very sunny.
12. Meditation chair – I don’t think I could have survived the 10+ days of meditation without my meditation chair. The center did accommodate with extra cushions and seats for those who became uncomfortable. I ended up donating mine to the center at the end to make future sits more comfortable for others.
13. Eye drops – On top of the desert being a very dry place, my eyes tend to be on the dry side. I am thankful I brought eye drops.
14. Pillow – I have some back issues, and am very thankful that I brought my own pillow from home. Rest is extremely important during the retreat.
15. Essential oils – Although we aren’t supposed to wear anything with strong scents, I am happy I had lavender to aid me in resting at night, and peppermint to wake me up for the sittings. I didn’t need, or use much.
16. Moisturizers – Like I mentioned, the desert is a dry place, and my skin, like my eyes, runs dry. Having coconut oil on hand was helpful to prevent cracks.
17. Nail cutter – Because of the dryness, I kept getting hangnails. Glad I had nail cutters with me to take care of this nuisance.
18. Gloves – Wish I had a pair for the cold mornings.
19. Laundry bag – This was great to have, since there wasn’t much space in our dorm room, and because I was hand washing my clothing.
20. Robe – Totally not a necessity, but since we were all sharing a bathroom, it was nice to be able to slip into a light weight robe right after a shower.
21. Toaster Bags – The toasters are shared, and there is a risk for cross-contamination. These would’ve been nice to have, since some locations offer gluten-free bread.
Be happy, and as always,
21 Things I am Glad I Brought or Wish I Brought With Me On My Vipassana 10-day Silent Meditation Retreat