A lovely hug

Even before Joely or JJ, my daughter, was born nearly two years ago, I struggled with  prioritising making two hours available for meditation every day. But most days, first thing before the day had begun, I would make sure I got onto my mat for an hour. In addition, blessed to be living in a neighborhood with an active Vipassana community, I was able to regularly sit with others; and for five important years, annually I sat or served on a ten day course. In short it was a big part of my life.

My experience of becoming a parent has been that everything that I once held sacred and essential to being me just fell away, and in its place became the need and desire to use every spare shred of energy and second of time on being there for my family.

Recently, I was able to meditate properly for the first time since JJ was born. Thanks to the Dhamma Shed which has begun to host monthly one day Vipassana courses, I was able to meditate from 9am-5:30pm, with a lovely lunch in-between. Although my time on the mat was challenging, the time flew by.

When I got home we had a Skype call with a dear friend who lives far away. As to be expected, speaking was difficult. All I wanted to do was to close my eyes and go to that place deep inside I re-discovered during my day of mediation. But something happened that has never happened before: JJ climbed onto me and held me tight, as if in an embrace for the duration of the Skype call that lasted an hour. As you can imagine all of my sensations exploded.

Since this experience, I have been trying to understand ‘it’ in the context of my difficulties in being able to prioritise my time and energy to get back to my mat and meditate regularly again.

On one level it gives validation – I could easily use this ‘story’ to justify why I should meditate rather than enjoy a beautiful sunny day with my wife and daughter.

On another level, with my understanding of equanimity, a way of being I only know of because of Vipassana, I understand that this thinking can lead to disappointment and ‘misery’ if it does not happen again. I loved JJ hugging me for a whole hour, I was able to be fully aware how wonderful it was, not only for me and my ego, but for us as a family growing together. I also understand that for me one of the big reasons I must find a way to keep up a daily practice is to help me keep a balanced mind. My goal as a parent is to love her as much when she decides to throw a pot of yogurt over me as I did when she hugged me for an hour.

Not easy, neither is Vipassana.

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On Regret & Resolution

(This will be my third and last consecutive post on the subject of my nani’s passing. Previous two are available here and here.)

I guess I may have a tiny regret — over the last two or three years, I barely called nani on the phone; I wish I had come up with a solution to the root of avoidance sooner than two days before her passing.

It is accurate to say that I was in love with my nani, yet I avoided calling her the past few years because of a fork in the road of desires and goals. I was choosing a path unfamiliar to her and me alike. And although I felt a deep-knowing that everything would work out fine, I could never find the words to describe this deep-knowing to comfort her. In my naivity, I chose the path of avoidance / talking infrequently. Seeing her in-person triggered me to come up with a solution.

Although I did not get an opportunity to discuss this solution with my dear nani, I am implementing it in other relationships. There are other individuals who I love but avoid because of certain topics that I find uncomfortable. I have resolved to lesser the gap between my feelings and actions. Positive feelings. Not taking action on any negative feelings now 😉

I cannot rate on my experience of this yet. It’s still new. The habit is still in the making. I can, however, comment on the degree of alignment between my heart and mind, which I also call the level of committment — high, certain, determined; in a very balanced and grounded way. My mind understands it is a process that will require time and effort. My heart is now aware of how this will enhance my happiness and enrich my life. And so, I’m neither in a rush nor attracted to flakiness. Just warmly embracing this new resolution.

If I may positively comment on my own growth, I think I may be becoming a better human being in the process. Facing vicissitudes versus avoiding discomfort is a good skill to have. I am learning and practicing to speak my current truth with dignity for myself and respect for the other person. Always choosing dialogue and communication, even in discomfort, versus avoidance and long periods of no communication. I am facing the world, not looking away from it.

My oh my, it’s such a relief! I also feel a reduction in stress levels. 

Needless to say, I wouldn’t be here without Vipassana.

Observe. Reflect. Breathe. Live.

Life is like waves, things go and things come….sounds like as if I am writing this from middle of a beach holiday, no? I would have loved that….what a thought! Probably, deep within, I am longing for one such holiday, just to listen to the gurgle as waves after waves keep crashing on the shore, soaking in all the air laden with smell of the sea, soaking all the warmth of the sun from under those shades of palm groves, while leisurely hanging from my hammock.

Now, coming to talk about where I started this post….Well, to tell you the truth, I am growing patient with me, and watching me how me goes about doing things, how things around me keep happening….

Its amazing to realize that most of the time you don’t have to do anything, things just happen…just go with the flow….and there it feels so meaningless, so foolish to be so pumped up about things, so charged up about some work….yes, its just our way of looking at things. Its our way of making us think that we are important and that we are making things happen.

Coming to talk about waves, I am seeing an amazing pattern these days around me. Well, more precisely about people around me. And call me psychic, call me intuitive, call me whatever….but I feel as if I am living in a déjà-vu, I kinda am watching a movie which seemed to be so known!

Yes, I am seeing some kind of pattern around me, with people around me. People around me – they come and then they go. People around me are moving in and then moving out. People around me are getting pulled in by a huge magnetic force in my life and then they are disappearing somewhere as if another huge magnet pulled them in another pole. And with this goings and comings, I see a pattern- I am just mere a spectator, I have no role to play…or rather I cannot do anything. I have no control. I like it that way, I don’t want to control, its much less work if things happen on its own. Yeah, I am a lazy bum with a nice façade. I am a control freak who wants to be nice, and doesn’t know how to pretend. Honestly, I don’t want to control anything. I just see things and I know what all are happening, probably why things are happening but again I try just to watch the show and not be part of it.

Have you ever done this? If you ever, then you will see how cool it is to be a watcher, to be a by-stander, to be a mere passerby in this game of life as waves after waves keep crashing at your feet when you walk on those soft sands all soaked up, all warm yet so wet from the sun and from the water, on that beach. Suddenly everything looks so serene, so beautiful, just so very relaxing.

Yes, letting go of things is indeed very calming. I have done that, I have lived that. And I like living that way…..

P.S. The original post is from here

Conversation 2, part 2

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.

Part 2

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 dhammaprojects@gmail.com

 

Increasing Presence deliberatly, outside of Meditation

I came across Ivan Campuzano recently, a blogger who shares perceptions based on personal experience, and the integrated teachings of: J. Krishnamurti, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, Gurdjieff, P. D. Ouspensky, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Paramahansa Yogananda, Samael Aun Weor, and A. H. Almaas. He reminded me of how I used to attempt self-observation before I found Dhamma.

As a Gnostic student, I attempted to willfully divide my awareness between (b) external perceptions (a) internal perceptions, not only sensations, emotions and feelings, but also thoughts, and finally (c) to be aware of awareness itself.

Image borrowed from: http://ivancampuzano.com/how-to-really-pay-attention-learning-to-divide-your-attention/

My Gnostic teachers explained that this practice should be done constantly throughout the day. Obviously, this was far too difficult for me back then, it required a lot of conscious effort and it felt awkward to be witnessing myself while conversing with people or performing a difficult task. I would often stop practicing for fear that I couldn’t pay enough attention to something if I was simultaneously remembering myself. When I discovered Vipassana, I noticed that my self-awareness increased as a by-product, so I gave up the arduous and constant task of deliberate self-observation.

However, I’ve recently committed myself to a few intense weeks of solitary computer work, and found that though I meditate 1-2 hours per day, I’m still quite easily distracted. My mind wanders and I follow. So I decided to revisit self-observation. Watching myself sense, think, feel, and work I noticing that with such vigilant intent my mind didn’t have a chance to wander or even get bored. No Yawning, no need to make priority lists because I remembered everything and didn’t get confused. Time seemed to slow down, and I was much more likely to notice where I could put in the extra effort to streamline my work-flow.

Though this is still a challenge, Vipassana has clearly given me and edge; self-observation came much easier than it did before. Instead of feeling distracted by relentlessly resetting focus, I felt empowered by constantly nipping distractions. I can also see how in the cases of sensual pleasure, self-awareness could also serve to ground me, but I’m still a little unsure about using it in highly rational interpersonal situations. For example, in a class discussion, if a lot of abstract thinking is required to respond quickly, would self-witnessing benefit me or just slow me down? I guess I will just have to watch and see.