Vipassana

Post Vipassana,…

Having done a small number of ten day vipassana sits before I was looking forward to it with some nervousness.  The 4am starts, the commitment to refrain from speaking (apart from in my head), to not  do any form of exercise apart from walking and lastly but not least sitting on my meditation cushion for hours upon hours,…

This was my first Satipatthana sit at the constantly evolving and expanding European Long Course Centre of Dhamma Padana in Hereford.  To my surprise I had a self contained unit, room with attached bathroom.  The meals were to be provided breakfast at 6.30am and lunch 11am and that would be it for the rest of the day.  One of the rules being as an ‘old student’ (some one who has sat at last one ten day course) one abstains from eating after 12 noon.  However, its worth noting that whilst there were 50 students on this past retreat.  There are plans to increase the capacity of the center to 100 with a purpose build pagoda complete with individual cells for each person to meditate in private.  Big plans but for sure they are getting there with the help of volunteers and all through public donations.

Anyhow, back to my sit, the Satipatthana course was only eight days long rather than ten, with the evening discourse focusing on the Maha Satipatthana Sutta.  I guess the reason its shorter is that there are no new students and the assumption being old students would work harder.  Obviously it is questionable whether this is true for me.

So what came up as I sat on that meditation cushion, my instructions from Goenkaji were to observe rather react to the sensations in the body beginning with Anapana, awareness of the breath and its sensations below the nostrils above the upper lip.  Then after day three move on to Vipassana complete bodily awareness and observation.

The intention of this practice is to address the route cause of suffering through what Goenkaji (left) calls our cravings and aversions and this is perpetuated through our old habit patterns of the mind of wanting and not wanting.  By sitting and observing the body, one is in theory able to dismantle these patterns.

So what happened?  At the start of every sit focus breath, sensations,.. within seconds my mind is off wondering through the draws of uncompleted tasks and projects I have left behind in London.  Its either that or my body decides to completely shut down as it assumes as there is nothing to be thinking about apart from observing the body then it might as well fall asleep.  Nodding off is incredibly easy for me to do in meditation, a bit like doing savasana (corpse pose) in hatha yoga, but unlike yoga you are supposed to be sitting upright and I was constantly jolting myself awake from the fear of head butting the floor.

You would assume that sitting and doing nothing but sitting, upright with the straight back would be relatively straight forward.  Well the number of physical discomforts in my body during previous courses are numerous and this most recent was no different.  It was this that most nerved me ‘OK so what pain am I doing to go through this time?’  As predicted it happened.  First it was my shoulders, then ankles and then hips and of course the rounded slumped back and the crocked neck.  Having to observe and not react to these physical discomforts was really challenging.  Goenkaji guided me with his vibrational tones of being equanimous and that all things are changing and it will all pass.  There are several time that I don’t quiet believe him.

By day five or six the physical discomforts of sitting and the perpetual nodding off are subsiding however, the my mind is having a fantastic time roaming from one thought to the next.  I was surprised at the number of mundane things that can come up like cleaning the inside of my car to sorting out my sock drawer to recycling my old clothes,.. the power of the frittering mind is phenomenal.  All in the avoidance of observing the sensations of the body.

Whilst sitting, I realise that what is happening on my meditation cushion is a reflection of what is going on in my outside world.  The inability to focus and the persistent ability to procrastinate.  I have made a decision this has to change.  How I plan to do this is, I guess for another blog entry but mediation is definitely in the picture.  I am grateful to have sat on this course and am now wondering when can I do another?  Oh the wanting continues,…

Satipatthana Sutta Vipassana

Posted 8th December 2010

Am both looking forward and dreading my forthcoming vipassana sit, the aim is to quieten my busy mind and allow me to focus on the more important things in life!  So will update you on my developments post 18th December,…

2 comments

  • Hi Jaqui

    You are most brave to do a totally silent retreat for 8 days! I managed a 5 day retreat in January – 4 x 1.5 hour sessions a day starting much later than you at 7:30am – and silence was only until 1pm. In each session there was chanted meditation, talk, sitting meditation – on the 21 Lamrim objects (http://kadampa.org/en/buddhism/stages-of-the-path). My mind went all over the place; like you I nodded off in every session one day, but by the end of the retreat my concentration had improved and I felt quite blissful.

    All in all I’m really glad I sat it out (pun intended!) and what a great reminder of how unwieldy the mind can be!

    Kate x

  • Stephan Meiners

    Vipassana is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind. It is this observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body that dissolves mental impurity, resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion. ;:..:

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