In order to learn Vipassana meditation it is necessary to take a ten-day residential course under the guidance of a qualified teacher. Ten days of sustained practice have been found to be the minimum amount of time in which the technique can be learned. During the retreat students remain within the course site, free from outside distractions. They refrain from reading and writing, and suspend religious practices or other disciplines. They follow a full schedule of meditation, with daily instructions and an evening discourse elaborating on the technique. They also observe silence, not communication with fellow students; however, they may speak with the teachers whenever necessary and may contact the staff for needs related to food, accommodation, health, etc.
For the duration of the course students try to avoid actions which cause harm or agitate the mind. They undertake to abstain from killing and living beings, stealing, speaking falsely, all sexual activity and the use of intoxicants.
During the first three days they learn how to calm and focus the mind with the help of the breath, on the fourth day they learn Vipassana itself: the observation of sensations throughout the body, the experiential understanding of their changing nature and the development of a balanced mind.
On the tenth day students resume speaking, making the transition back to more extroverted way of life. They learn how to share the benefits received during the retreat with others. The course concludes in the early morning of the eleventh day.