Sunday, November 08, 2009

learning how to breathe

When I was first told of this 10 day meditation course in Vipassana Meditation I had visions of mellow long-hairs with Peter, Paul, and Mary accompaniment sitting calmly facing a gold-leafed statue of The Buddha. The children's tent featured Sharon, Lois, and Bram and an all-you-can-eat raw vegetable stand up bar. Everything was flowing. The clothing was loose, the speech was liquid and tempered, and everything in between was certified organic. Rod had a bit of convincing to do, but I decided to join him.

We arrived on a Sunday late afternoon to register. We were again asked if we were willing participants and that we would seriously commit to the precepts laid down by the course. I also had to agree that I would not leave FOR ANY REASON (barring family emergency). At this point I became very hesitant. Sure, I new they would be requiring this of said so right in the application form, but now it seemed very creepy. Next you'll be asking me if I'd like some Kool-Aid, and it's off to bed for a nice LONG nap. Longish mental hesitation (which really is only a few seconds in real time)...and I signed the agreement.

We were allowed to talk during the first meal...and sit on the female side of the dining room. I sat with a man whom I later found out was a real gem. Unselfish living to the extreme. Non-conforming, initiative-taking, earth and family-loving, spreader of real joy. This was his third course. I wondered at the time if he was a bit daft. I wondered if he was trying to escape like Dave whom I met at a summer tree planting job in 1986. We all thought he was hiding from the cops up there in Northern B.C...killed his wife, maybe. Slip out the back, Jack.

The meeting before entering the meditation hall for the first time was the last time that we were allowed to speak. We were given our final instructions and again had to agree to the precepts. When the bell rang, we moved to the outside of the hall. We were called in one by one and given our place on the floor where we would be returning every day for the meditation times. I was the last one to be let in...punctured to the core by Manitoba mosquitoes remembering precept # 1 - no killing. Since when is H at the end of the alphabet?

The hall was very quiet and inviting. We left our shoes by the door. The lighting was low and the colours were soft. There were three distinct areas. Men on the left and women on the right, teachers at the front facing the students. Made me think of the Old Colony Mennonite Church I attended my first 10 years of life. "Strike one", I thought.

Everyone had their place and all that they brought with them to sit. Mats, cushions, foam, chairs, benches, and braces. I was excited to see how things would turn out with my new cushion. There was an air of anticipation as we were ready to begin...we sat waiting for the start...legs crossed, back straight, arms at rest, and eyes closed. The Lotuses at the Green Spot would have taken a second glance...or at least half of them, anyways.

Focus on the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils. Concentrate on the area just inside the nostrils and the area just on the outer edge of the nostrils. Notice if there are any sensations in that area...but just observe. Do not react to them...just observe. Just Observe.

Three days later...

We will now be moving from the area immediately surrounding the nostrils and the area just above the upper lip, to the rest of the body. Start at the top of the head and slowly move throughout the body passing through each part. Start at the top of the head and move through each part of the body, piece by piece...part by part. Passing through each part of the body separately. When you come to a part of the body where you notice a certain sensation, just stop and observe...just observe. Do not react with any kind of aversion or craving towards that sensation...just observe. Observe the truth as it is. Do not try to change anything...just observe. Sensations rise and they pass, rise and they pass. Everything is impermanent. Just observe them as they rise, and observe them until they pass. Do not react to them...just observe.

For 6 days we observed.

Strike two was pitched on day 8. A slider. Too much of what I didn't anticipate. The quiet bullpen was a good place to work it through and shake it off. It's too late in the game to slip out the back.

Day 9.

Tomorrow after the morning group sitting we will be allowed to speak once again. It's been good not to speak...takes the pressure off of managing the social with the work. Leaves more time for the work. The work has been difficult, but tomorrow I get to talk to Rod. I'm going to ask him if he knew it was me who left the rock in his shoe at the end of day 3. I'm going to ask if the refried bean burritos on day 6 wasn't the best thing ever, or if the homemade chocolate chip cookies on day 5 made anyone else just about cry, or if I could please get the recipe for the sunflower-tamari dressing.

Rod said he knew it must have been me who put the rock in his shoe. I saw how he was looking around when he noticed it. I tried not to communicate a smile. It was all I could do to not bust out. One becomes a little giddy after not talking for so many days.

At lunch on day 10 we were all pretty chatty. It felt a little strange looking into the face of the person across from you at the table. We had become accustomed to averting our eyes. Lunch took much more time now that there wasn't just chewing and swallowing. We could also finally put a voice to the face, and find out that many of our assumptions about our observations of people were dead wrong. Like the guy I sat with on the first Sunday at lunch. He was a pleasure to know. And the guy who I thought looked like a pretty rough individual, turned out to be a film director with a sensitive heart. And the woman who seemed to look like she knew me, did in fact live across the street from me in Brandon 10 years ago...and this is her 7th course!

There were many other strong connections made that last day, but I think they were as strong as they were because of all the days before that last one. We had an immediate bond. Old with young, male with female, privileged with marginalized, alike with same. We had all arrived as individuals and we would be leaving as a community. A community that set 10 precious days aside to learn how to breathe.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

dad's latest thing

I can't help it.

I have an addictive personality.

It's something that not even my daily meditation can cure.

But now I can proudly say that I have managed to gather some disciples at my feet.

And my followers' extra sets of eyes are perfect for dad's latest thing.

9found...932 733 to go.