I am back from Meditation Retreat…..Mindfulness retreat….It was an unique amazing experience. I have participated in several Vipassana Retreats but this one stands out. Mindfulness is not an easy thing to practice and yet it can be. I spent 8 days, 7 nights in silence, naming all and each of the actions that went on either in my body or in my brain. We moved slowly the whole week. It was eye opening to see how many things we do unconsciously, from walking to eating to thinking to believing our own thoughts.
What is mindfulness you might ask? It is the art of paying attention to ‘this moment’ ~ awareness. The Buddha recommended to practice awareness of all body functions, sensations, perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and awareness itself in everyday life to attain Wisdom. This type of meditation is called ‘sati’ meditation which means ‘to remember’… not geared towards remembering the past but focused on presence of mind and attentiveness to the present moment. Everything is fleeting, everything changes….being aware of all of this opens your mind. Concentration practice is deeply needed to calm one’s mind. One consciously comes back to a set focus activity over and over and over again. Say, for instance the raising and falling of the abdomen while sitting meditation, when one realizes that he/she has taken flight with thought, one re-members, naming: ‘thinking’…..and comes back to the raising and falling. This might sound easy but is isn’t, it requires practice, our mind is amazingly busy….and most of the time we are caught entangled in that ‘thinking activity’ and the coming back to the focus point is of main importance.
Two of the most remarkable recommendations I was given and stuck with me were:
“Do not waist time asking questions, name, name, name….use this precious time to find the answers within yourself, mind already knows all the answers to your questions”.
“If you name as much as possible, every little action, feeling, sensation, state of mind…as possible, you might be lucky enough to meet the present moment as it is happening”
We did walking meditation, sitting meditation, exercising meditation, eating meditation, sleeping meditation….
To give you and idea, I will explain a little bit about the eating meditation~~we started from naming: eating, drinking…….and finished the last day with: seeing, wanting, moving, grabbing, lifting, moving, opening, putting in, placing back, flavor, smell, like, not like, chewing, swallow….etc… The last few days I saw that I was serving myself less and less food….I did not think I would have enough time to finish before the next activity…;)
We began by walking super slow for 10 minutes and gradually increased to 30 min. This particular task was a very difficult one for me given the length of time my legs are able to stand/walk, and my brain is able to withstand the pain….after the 3rd day the pain was excruciating and I almost gave up. But I yearn to wake up, so I decided to keep going. If I wanted to ‘wake up’ I had to do the ‘work’. So, I found ways to give my brain some peace by resting on a mat during the ‘standing’ period and just walking on the floor while the walking time. Walking like this all week, helped me improved my walking ability, that is for sure.
One time, while standing by the food table ‘seeing’ the plate I was about to grab, I felt an immense silence and presence, it was all stillness, a second and then ‘puff’ it was gone. Once, my teacher in Mexico told me, that we can experience the present moment in instants, and eventually those ‘moments’ will all make sense….just as when we draw a picture following the dots and at the end all the dots make a beautiful image. I have a bunch of ‘dots’…..one day I shall see the whole picture!
The whole retreat was in Thai Language. When I said to Phra Me that I wanted to participate in a meditation course, he replied: “But they are all in Thai!”….I remember saying that it was OK. Meditation need not language to practice, I thought. Hahahahaha…it was a bit tougher than I expected…….but I was very lucky because there were 4 meditation instructors who spoke English and were my translators during the whole week. Yet, I wanted to know what they were saying all the time: wondering, wondering, wondering….most named action of the week. We chanted in Pali and in Thai everyday. I had no idea what some of those meant but I joined in with the intentions.
One of the most important things in Buddhism is the practice of ‘Metta’.
May I be free from enmity and danger.
May I be free from mental suffering.
May I be free from physical suffering.
May I take care of myself happily.
May my parents, teachers, relatives and friends, fellow Dhammafarers be free from enmity and danger.
May they be free from mental suffering.
May they be free from physical suffering.
May they take care of themselves happily.
The practice of ‘Metta’ is not sentimental, nor is it affection. It is more a feeling of friendliness and a wish for the welfare and well-being of all living things. As we wish things to go well for us personally, so we wish that things may go well for all beings. We wished everyone to be happy….whether that happens or not is beyond our control but wishing good things for others makes one spirit light and joyful.
Buddhists believe in reincarnation and in having had previous lives. I do not know about this, I have no way of knowing this. They also believe in Karma (Kamma), the law of cause and effect. I will leave these for anther entry…so much to talk and share about these two topics.
When practicing a meditation method the recommendation is to leave all your previous ‘knowledge’ by the door and follow the teacher. So, I left all my ‘questioning’ and ‘doubting’ outside and abided by the meditator’s teachings the whole week…..it pushed the already slightly opened door to a wider angle. Try without try….hope without hoping…one day I shall wake up!
May you all be free from enmity or danger….may us wake up.