Vipassana in real-life and work? Insight from a book “Charisma Myth”

Although many Vipassana mediators feel significant benefits from Vipassana practice, many Vipassana mediators, particularly newbie Vipassana meditators like me, often ask:  how do I integrate this Vipassana techniques into real life?

Believe it or not, an interesting book introduced me to applying Vipassana techniques in work and life a few years ago, before I knew Vipassana. This book is The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism, written by Olivia Fox Cabane.

The author broke down charisma into three kinds of charisma: presence, warmth, power. These three types of charisma are composed of a set of concrete and specific behaviors. For building charisma, she advised that everyone might train themselves with these behaviors. When I look back now, many techniques she suggested are highly related to Vipassana meditation. In other words, Olivia Fox Cabane did an extraordinary job to integrate Vipassana meditation details into charismatic behaviors.

To train presence charisma, she advised us to meditate. In life, a quick practical tip is to sense your toe. Sensations from the toes can quickly reset yourself to the present moment. A Vipassana mediator can immediately recognize this is a Vipassana technique related to sensations.

To train warmth charisma, she advised us to practice metta and compassion to other people and to ourselves. For example, imagine the person you are interacting with as an angel with wings. Further to apply self-compassion to calibrate ourselves to the charismatic mode.

To train power charisma, although she did not directly used Vipassana, she mentioned people with power charisma don’t fidget. One part of Vipassana taught us “Anicca: everything is changing”; i.e. observation of sensation will make sensations go away. After practicing of observation of sensations, it is very helpful for us to keep an equanimous stance. For instance, if you feel an itch on your nose, because you know it will go away soon, you do not have to scratch it. Furthermore, the author advised us to handle uncomfortable things by focusing on observing sensations.

The whole book is a practical guide or a unique introduction to a Vipassana course. When I retrospect both the book and my experience with vipassana, I feel more promisie with Vipassana. Maybe charisma is a vision or path to connect Vipassana with our real life and work. Maybe for people who do not easily understand Vipassana meditation, charism is an overlook for Vipassana meditation.

p.s. When you see those people who practiced Vipassana for a long time, you can sense them from their behaviors: they project warmth through their eyes and bodies; they are present and engage when they are with you; they are composed and calm. Beyond those charisma components, they are also humble.

Geriatrics and Right Livelihood

This week, Ryan and I brainstormed about our family “mission statement.” I find that it’s helpful to be very clear on what my values and goals are and to re-visit them frequently, to help me stay focused on what’s truly important. This helps me avoid getting sidetracked by things that seem valuable on the surface, but don’t actually help me stay aligned with my core values and goals.

Sharing love and light with the world is at the core of how we want to live our lives, and career, or livelihood, is one key area in which we want to manifest this mission. What does this mean for me as a geriatrician? In an obvious sense, it’s very important to me to interact lovingly and compassionately not only with my patients and their families, but also with the myriad members of the geriatrics care team–it takes a village: nurses, nurse-practitioners, doctors, certified nursing assistants, family caregivers, clerical and support staff, social workers, pharmacists, physical and occupational therapists, dieticians, chaplains, recreational therapists, podiatrists, janitors, medical subspecialists, administrators and more.

But in a bigger picture sense, I think about the meaning of the Dhamma concept of “right livelihood.” Right livelihood is the fifth fold of the eight-fold path taught by the Buddha. I struggle sometimes to reconcile the numerous problems in American healthcare with right livelihood. Is contributing as a clinician to a dysfunctional system with misguided paradigms right livelihood? Or should I be throwing all of my energies into changing the system and its underlying assumptions? Trying to take on both is challenging.

A Google search turned up the following:

Vipassana teacher S.N. Goenka said, “If the intention is to play a useful role in society in order to support oneself and to help others, then the work one does is right livelihood.”  [O’Brien, Barbara. “Right Livelihood: The Ethics of Earning a Living.” ThoughtCo, Sep. 1, 2017, thoughtco.com/right-livelihood-the-ethics-of-earning-a-living-450071.]

Considered from the perspective of intention, both paths are in line with right livelihood, and staying focused on clinical practice is an absolutely acceptable option–clinicians are needed, even in the broken system. However, as a clinician, it is not acceptable for me to be a complicit cog in this economically driven medical system.  I have a duty to find ways to be the kind of clinician I want to be, to practice medicine I believe in. There are formidable barriers and constraints to doing this, but that is the useful role I can play in society.

“Work diligently. Diligently. Work patiently and persistently. Patiently and persistently. And you are bound to be successful. Bound to be successful.” –Goenkaji

3+4 = 4+3? Meditation Timer Experiment Report

In ancient China, a person raised a monkey. He fed the monkey 4 nuts in the morning and 3 nuts in the evening. The monkey was sad and cried. So the person gave 3 nuts in the morning and 4 nuts in the evening, the monkey was happy. The person easily outsmarted the monkey with “3+4” and “4+3”.

At the first glance, this story showed the monkey was silly and did not know how to count. Going deeper, there is a possibility that the monkey had specific preference. Interestingly, I found I am like the monkey.

After the 10-day vipassana meditation course, I decided to practice two 1-hour meditation each day. For me, to mediate everyday is not very hard. As long as I schedule it on my calendar, I follow it pretty well. My challenge is to sit through the full hour.

At beginning, I arbitrarily thought too many “ding”-intervals over 1-hour mediation are distracting. Therefore, I set the timer to ding once at 15’; when it finished at 1 hour, a finishing bell rang; i.e. a 15’+45’ model. Pretty quickly I heard 15’, but when I was in the 45’ session, it was a little bit too long. I felt like it was endless and boring during the last 10 minutes in some day.

After 10 days of this model, I reset the timer to ding once at 45’; when it finished at 1 hour, a finishing bell rang; i.e. a 45’+15’ model. Amazingly, I felt much better. It did not take too long for me to hear the “Ding”; it was not too long to hear the finishing bell. It seems my monkey mind, like the monkey, loves this new 45’+15’ model.

This is my beginner’s experience on daily practice. How about you? Can you share your experience? What model does your mind follow?

Dhamma Friends Ski Trip

This past weekend, we went on a ski trip with some friends in the Pocono Mountains, and it was so much fun!! Well, we didn’t end up skiing due to balmy temperatures and ongoing rain, but I’m still calling it a ski trip :).

There were 4 couples on the trip, including 5 serious meditators amongst 3 of the couples. It wasn’t conceived of as a “Dhamma” trip, per se, although the original basis of our friendship with two of the couples was through Dhamma, and we do still try to incorporate group sittings into our social plans when we can. Over the course of two days, we cooked, ate, talked, laughed, played board games, listened to music, played pool, cozied up around the fireplace, spent time in the hot tub, and even went for a 3 mile hike to a waterfall one morning before the rain came. Great bonding, for sure. A few of us had a conversation that eventually turned to Dhamma topics in the hot tub one night, and then decided to meditate together in the common area of our cabin before going to bed–joined by one non-meditator who expressed interest in quiet time, which was awesome–but other than that, Dhamma didn’t really get talked about much. Well, okay, there was one instance when we were discussing how early to get up the next morning for skiing/hiking, and someone made a quip about being the gong ringer, har har har….ahh, Dhamma humor :).

Even though we didn’t meditate together day and night, or spend a great deal of time talking explicitly about Dhamma in our lives, these kinds of experiences and friendships are so meaningful and valuable. There is a shared understanding that Dhamma is the foundation and compass in all of our lives, along with our lives being about so many other things beyond just Dhamma, and a shared goal of simply striving to live fulfilling and loving lives in a complex world.

“Continuity is the secret to success.” — Goenkaji

From Christian Mysticism to Vipassana

buddha-and-jesus1

I grew up in a family oriented to Christian Mysticism. My grandparents from both sides were very focused in that way, though they followed different teachers.  My mom’s mom was very influenced by Joel Goldsmith who became well known in the 50s60s and formed a group called the Infinite Way, this teaching rubbed off on me the most. Its focused on experiencing the teachings of Jesus through silence and contemplation.  Joel and the teachers that succeeded him would give talks, hold seminars and record them.  These recordings would be listened to and contemplated in silence.  My mom was also really influenced and I often heard the tapes and went with her to some seminars.

There was a lot of depth conveyed in the tone and words of the teachers, their experience of the kingdom of heaven within sounded a lot like what the Buddha might call the first Jhana where the 5 hindrances fall away giving way to luminosity and rapture.  Their experience of the New Testament would be related to metaphorically conveying a language describing spiritual depth and experience, not understood from literal interpretation. The goal was to realize the Christ mind within yourself and see yourself and the world through the Christ mind.

Though I was comforted listening to the talks, I didnt know how to experience what the teachers were talking about.  Theyd just say just stop thinking, go into the silence and see you on the other side.  The outer physical world was seen as an illusion including the body, sickness, lack, poverty, war, death and so forth.  They were products of the deluded mortal minds creation, split off from God. The thing to do was to train your mind to see past these illusions of the world and see as they truly are as Christ would see them.  It was a very different orientation to suffering than Buddhas teaching. Suffering was more to be looked past rather than to be entered into and be used as a catalyst for liberation. Also some people seemed mental about it, theyd try to talk the talk but it seemed like they were trying to talk themselves into it rather than talk from experience. It seemed disjointed from experience. I was fascinated yet I didnt know how to get inside and experience what the teachers were talking about.

When I found vipassana it was like a golden key to unlocking the inner world. The talks from the Christian tradition started to make more sense experientially.  When I started to develop samadhi, it came to mind, oh this must be what was meant by Christ mind, a Christ mind is a pure mind free from the defilements and this is what that feels like.  And when starting vipassana and feeling energy in the bodythe flow of energy was what was meant by Holy Spirit.  The presence of God could be translated as subtle pleasant sensations or the feeling of peace. But there had been little room for the experience of unpleasant sensations or unpleasant experiences in the Christian tradition, theyd say you need to change your way of thinking and align your mind with Christ mind.  There wasnt the concept of the deep-seated habit pattern of the mind to react to pleasant and unpleasant sensations with craving and aversion and the need to observe them with equanimity. It seemed like it was easy to get stuck in the head and removed from the body. There wasnt the concept of impermanence, you were either operating from the mortal mind or the Christ mind.

Coming from vipassana I can now look back and appreciate what was being taught and recognize some parallels. I feel so grateful now to have a tool with vipassana to develop experiential wisdom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ryan’s Classroom

After only 54 minutes of meditation divided over 6 months of school, my high school student completed a survey, and the results are impressive. I’ve added a page to the toolbar of this blog sharing the progression of events that lead to meditation in my classroom called “Ryan’s Classroom.” If you have thoughts, ideas, or questions, let me know!

One-degree Warmer

“Did you sense the air you breathed out was one degree warmer than the air you breathed in?”

On the 3rd day of a Vipassana mediation course, we focused on sensations of the tiny area between nostrils and upper lip. Theoretically, the air we breathe out is a little warmer, maybe only 1°F warmer, than the air we breathe in because our body temperature is always warmer. It should be easier to sense it in colder weather, but it is more difficult to sense it indoors or in normal or warmer weather.

It took me pretty much no time to physically sense a 1° warmer air. Interestingly, I realized that it is very easy to mentally notice if people add 1° of warmth to their voice, words or gestures in their interactions with other people.

1. Warmth in words in daily life

Lets me give an example:

Imagine you want to say yes when a colleague invites you to have lunch together tomorrow…

Your Colleague: Do you want to have lunch together?

You (can agree with slightly different answers)

  • Okay;
  • Yeah;
  • Yes.
  • Awesome! I will absolutely come.

Do you sense different warmth with the different answers? I have a colleague who often says, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” You certainly can sense the warmth.

2. Warmth in voices in daily life

This is also easy to understand in daily life. A company trained their employees to be 1° warmer in their voices for business. For instance, when you call them, they pick up the phone with a neutral or calm “Hello,” and after you tell them your name, the employees immediately add warmth in their voice with either smiles or use more excited voices. In this way, they make you feel that you are very welcomed.

3. Warmth in body languages in daily life/work

Warmth in body languages in daily life is very common. It is easy to sense temperature in comparing these two scenarios:

  • a person talks with you and reads his phone simultaneously;
  • the same person talks with you with a warm gaze into your eyes and his body slightly leans forward to you.

Warmth of body languages is even more important at work. Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, brought up the idea “Lean In” to encourage women to lead more. In fact, “lean in” is a body language to show your participation, warmth and even passion.

Note, warmth is the vehicle of love and positivity

We all want to be positive people; however, this thought is like a New Year Resolutions, easier to say than to do. When I say I want to be healthier, it barely means anything most time. However, if I say I will run a 2K every morning in gym, it becomes easier. It’s easier to manage an idea if it’s connected to a concrete practice.

Similarly, it is very hard to “be positive” or “be with Metta” without any concrete practices. The easiest practice might be to add 1° of warmth in our words, voice and body languages. Or, just add 1° of frequency of the warmer words, voices and body languages. In other words, words or voice or body language are vehicles that we mindfully deliver the warmth and positivity.

My daily practice on “1° warmer”

After I understood this, I started my mindful daily practice on 1° of warmer.

  • When it is time to say “OK”, now I mindfully say “Yes”; when it is time to say “Yes”, now I say “Yes, yes” or “yes, absolutely”.
  • I started to add smiles into my voice more often, even when I’m on the phone.
  • When I listen to other people, I lean forward 1° to show my attention.

P.S. The first time I met people who practiced vipassana meditation at Dhamma Center, the most impressive thing to me is their eyes. Their eyes projected stable warmth, which radiated deeply to the soft spot in my heart. “I want those warm eyes.” My practice with meditation is always warmer by this simple goal.