To assist Dhamma Projects’ focus in exploring how meditators integrate their practice of Vipassana out of the centre and into the world of the householder, we would like to share a recent conversation exploring this subject in the three parts. If you missed the first part of the conversation you can find it here.
Interviewer: So sticking roughly to the same question, is it possible to put the practice and principles of Vipassana we encounter during a course out of the centre and back into day-to-day life ?
Respondent: I think it is possible, and it depends on how willing we are to really have a deeper transformation than maybe we think we want.
Interviewer: What do you mean by that?
Respondent: I find some people, they practise, but they’re not willing to really look into those dark aspects of themselves. If we’re really willing to turn toward our pain, as some people might say. We can come to not only notice and observe those things in us that make us act in unwise ways, but we can accept them. Through that acceptance and self-love, they do soften, and the softer they get, the more easily recognisable they become when they arise. The more easily we recognise them, the less they can take the driver’s seat in our consciousness. Let’s say thoughts can still be there when we’re meditating, but they might not be bothering us anymore as they used to, instead of hoping them to disappear. Or having an aversion to thoughts. We’re just a lot more okay with the appearance of them.
Interviewer: Can you think of an example say in the last month, where you’ve been living your life out of a Vipassana centre and where something has happened to you and you have been able to navigate whatever came up in a way where you directly see the influence of Vipassana in your life?
Respondent: (Laughter) See, things really hit me nowadays, because there’s not much motivation to supress things anymore, because I’ve been training my mind in observing what’s happening. So things that arise are a lot more easily accepted into the consciousness. So I’m becoming very sensitive. When I get triggered by something, then I feel it a lot more strongly in my system, and I feel it all around my body as sensations.
Interviewer: Could you give me a specific example?
Respondent: Yeah, anger, let’s say anger. Let’s say my sister has done something again which I had very politely many times asked her not to, because that’s something that bothers me, maybe that’s something that makes the quality of our relationship a little less. So I’m trying to guard the relationship, I’m trying to set some clear, healthy boundaries, and she does it again after the fourth time of talking about it or something. And let’s say with this I get very angry, and anger is not aggression, anger is different, anger is trying to protect something. What I do with anger can be far from civilised, but anger itself is not a problem. So let’s say I feel a lot of anger and suddenly I’m shaking, and oh my God, I’m aware, here are the sensations, my body, I’m buzzing with this life energy, and there’s some hurt. And then I come to the sensations and I feel there’s not only anger, these fiery sensations all around and trembling or extreme life energy, and I bring my attention to my sensations, and I notice below the anger there’s hurt, there’s some sadness. And I stay with that. And if I hadn’t been witnessing my body sensations for such a long time – at least in my experience – I don’t think I would have…I would have just reacted blindly, and perhaps aggressively too. I would let my anger become aggression, and maybe swear, maybe hurt the relationship in many ways that I might regret later. Then here I am just watching the sensations and calming down – not fully perhaps, because there’s an action I’d like to take, for example I may well want to say, “Hey, we talked about this, why are you doing this again?” But I don’t do that before I’m aware of sensations, and before I’m aware of sensations until I find some clarity in what I want to address, and until I find some compassion for her too, and for the little child in me that’s actually hurt, and also for my sister so that I can bring an understanding into what’s happening instead of blindly reacting.
Interviewer: And what’s your understanding when Goenka talks about progressing on the path of dharma?
Respondent: You know, sometimes I find I have equanimity, let’s say I am peaceful, my mind is calm. But yet then I realise that’s like an ignorant equanimity. I wasn’t aware of so much. When I’m not aware of so much, it’s rather easier to be equanimous. But if I’m aware of a lot more things and then I’m equanimous with those, so let’s say I’m aware of what’s happening in my conversation with my girlfriend, I’m aware of my…I know about my past, I know about my conditionings, and I’m aware of the argument and what it’s bringing up in me. If I can then be equanimous with those sensations, if I’m aware of a lot of things and if I’m relatively equanimous with those, and especially when it comes to relationship, can we be compassionate towards the people we live with? It is extremely hard. Can I be compassionate consistently towards my girlfriend, especially when she triggers me, or when she acts as my mother had acted when I was growing up? Can I be compassionate to my male friends when they do remind me of my father, for example? It’s always I think…it comes down to how compassionate we are towards ourselves and others in our most intimate connections.
Interviewer: In living this way, is there a goal for you, enlightenment or liberation is that the goal? Or is it not to have a goal?
Respondent: This is how I feel. The more aware I am, the more alive I feel. And again, we can be aware of our conditioning and emotions and the roots of those things without having to think about the past, but by feeling. So it’s not too much of an intellectual going back to the past and thinking about the future. It’s a lot more, oh my God, this very moment is extremely deeper than I thought, and the deeper it gets, the more it becomes connected with my past. And in that moment I am feeling my past, all the little parts of me that have been living in my being. So it’s not –
Interviewer: So are you saying the goal is to be as present and alive as one can be in the present?
Respondent: Yes, exactly.
Interviewer:That’s it, yeah?
Respondent: And the more aware I am, the more alive I become.
The final part of this conversation will be published in two weeks
Please get in touch if you would like to have a conversation either as a respondent or interviewer through firstname.lastname@example.org