Hi, I’m Brenda Ryan, and I have the good luck and privilege of working with Marilyn. Having just returned from a 10-day “vipassana” meditation course, Marilyn invited me to write a guest blogpost sharing my experience. I duly agreed!
“Vipassana” means “insight” and is a form of Buddhist meditation practiced for millennia. There are, what they call, “Dhamma” centers all over the world, offering 10-day vipassana meditation courses / retreats. These courses, my friends, are not for the faint hearted! It’s a strict program of 10 hours sitting meditation a day, with your 10 days in total “noble silence”! I attended my first course in Kathmandu, Nepal in 2009. As I didn’t achieve enlightenment the first time (!), I decided to return for another 10-day course! This time, in a Dhamma center in Kaufman Texas (just south of Dallas).
Vipassana meditation is all about experiencing reality “as it is”. To be present to what is actually happening – not the thoughts and concepts of what is happening! The aim is to have a direct experience of the nature of reality, and let that inform how you live.
For the first few days, we are taught how to concentrate the so-called “monkey mind”. Instead of being lost in thoughts, concepts and abstractions, and wandering amid the past or future, we practice maintaining awareness solely on our breath. Solely on "what is". Yes, that chatterbox monkey mind wants to carry us off on one thought adventure or another, but constantly we bring our attention back to what is actually happening right now. The breath. Being Here Now.
As the mind gets more concentrated and focused, we then move our attention beyond our breath, and start to observe the sensations in our body. Maintaining full concentration on our body and the various sensations throughout. Anchoring ourselves in the full attention of the present moment and how that is showing up in our physical selves, as direct experience.
It’s Day 3. I am beginning to notice the physical sensations throughout my body. As I maintain the stillness of my mind, and hold clear open observation on my body, I sense the ever-changing sensations all over. I experience the cells of my body changing at a fast rate - biochemical reactions arising and passing away. I am directly experiencing the law of impermanence: that everything is constantly changing, constantly changing, constantly changing.
And right there on my red meditation cushion, I realize something remarkable. I AM ALWAYS NEW! I am a different person each and every second. Constantly changing. I remember what my precious Nepalese yoga teacher used to say: that when we are born, we start with a breath in, and when we die we end with a breath out. So in that way, every breath cycle (an in and out breath) is like the beginning and end of life in that moment. We are a constant cycle of life beginning and ending. WE ARE THE VERY FLOW OF LIFE ITSELF!
It’s one of those “light-bulb” moments, as Oprah calls it! I get it! I feel it! I know it! The power in the present moment … When we are fully here, NOW, we are truly alive and wonderfully vibrant in the Life that we are.
At that moment, Eckhart Tolle and Garth from Wayne’s World came to mind! Agreed, an unlikely pairing ... But both, right then, perfect cheerleaders on the sidelines of my meditation, cheering “Live in the Now!”
Since returning from my meditation marathon, I have developed a few simple practices to bring me back to the present moment. You may find some of these are also helpful to you too.
I do these in the morning and randomly throughout the day:
Paying attention solely to my breathing. To every in and out breath. Experiencing the newness in every now moment.
Bringing my awareness to my body. To the sensations, as they are now. Feeling the aliveness in my being.
I will stop myself throughout the day and check in, with these questions:
“Am I in the flow with Life right now?”
“What is my relationship with the present moment?"
Thank you for joining me this week!
May all beings be happy,
For anyone wishing to bring more presence and awareness into their lives, I highly recommend "The Power of Now", by Eckhart Tolle. https://www.eckharttolle.com/books/now/
Also, if you are interested in finding out more information about vipassana meditation centers and courses throughout the world here: https://www.dhamma.org
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