Archive for the ‘Understanding’ Category

Call me Buddha.

This is the gong that rings more times than I can count each day during a 10 Day Vipassana Meditation course.  Note that it is called a “course” as opposed to a “retreat”.  Those 10 days of my life were no holiday.  I cried, I sweat, I suffered, I smiled, and I walked.   I did not speak, sun bathe, play or communicate with any other human being, and I only laughed on the 10th day when the vow of silence is broken.  It was tough.

It is now 7 days since I have returned from my 10 Day course and while I’d love to say I am more peaceful, more loving and more happy…..I can not tell.  I can only assume that some benefit was had and it is showing very subtly in my day to day actions and reactions.   As how real change truly happens, on a deeper level than at the surface, at the root and source of the problem.  As much as I wish that it had been a 10 Day Magic Fix for all of my problems and misery, it was not.  It was simply an introduction to a technique that, if applied to the rest of my life, can help to eradicate the miseries that we all hold so deep within the mind and body.   So I am doing my best to meditate each morning.  We are instructed to meditate one hour each morning AND each night for the full benefit and true practice of the technique.  But shhheeeesshhh…..really??  Maybe when I’m retired, ok. But when my yoga teacher also says to do your asanas (postures) and pranayama (breath work) once a day and I must also contribute to the world, cook and clean, and of course blog…. 2 hours of meditation is a lot.  Yet, for 10 days I managed to meditate for 12 hours each day….and now 2 hours is too much?  hah.  The problem is not that 2 hours is too much, it is that our silly society thinks that we should spend 8 hours out of the house each day doing some sort of monkey task for someone else so that we may own a house and cars and pretty looking things.  Silly society.  Luckily, I lead a rather non-conventional life and should be able to fit in 2 meditations a day.  However, my goal for now is one each morning from 5:30am-6:30am.  Not terrible considering we were up at 4am while on the course.   Yet, some mornings, it is terrible.

The 10 days themselves were certainly the longest 10 days I’ve ever lived…..however they are gone.  Which is one of the primary teachings from the course: That everything will pass.  The teachings are the Buddha’s teachings from 25 centuries ago, that have been slightly lost and mis-interpreted so that while the faith and devotional teachings of Buddha have been emphasized, the actual practice of true knowledge and pure happiness has been muffled.  Luckily, those good Burmese monks were the ones to preserve the pure teachings of Buddha and they’ve helped to spread them all over the world again, all the way to right here in Angus, Ontario.  hah.  It really was cool being able to experience Buddha’s teachings in a very non-sectoral/non-religious place in rural Ontario.

The days themselves were simple – meditate, meditate, stretch, eat, walk, meditate, meditate, meditate, eat, walk, meditate…..etc.  There were 7 hours of sleep in there that I relished, and an evening discourse that I think everyone looked forward to. Not only were we able to watch someone else, we could sit however we fancied and change positions as many times as we wanted. That in itself was a treat!  The discourses a video recording of lectures from Goenke G, a regular Burmese business man who came into Vipassana in his search for a migraine cure and is now spreading the practice due to it’s importance and it’s power.  He is an enlightened man and thus his lectures are full of stories, jokes- even if you are having the ugliest, more painful day of your life, he will make you smile – and repeated reminders:  “Practice diligently, diligently.  Practice patiently, patiently.  Patiently and persistently, patiently and persistently.  You are bound to be successful, bound to be successful.”

On day 1, I survived just fine.  But already in the evening discourse when Goenke G begins by saying, “The first day is over, you have 9 more days to work”…..I was like….oh man, that’s a long time.

By day 2 I was like, ok…..8 days, not too bad.

Day 3 I thought, ok, 7 more days, a week, what’s a week in your every day life Kim?  A week flies by!

Day 4 – “I can’t do it.  I can’t do 6 more days of this.  It’s going to take forever!”

Dav 5 – “It is taking forever, not 5 more days”

Day 6 – “Longest 6 days of my life, I can’t wait for Sunday”

Day 7 –  “Not 3 more days, I can’t wait until Sunday”

Day 8 – “Just make it through today Kim, one day at a time”

Day 9 – “Ok, last day of work, work hard, work diligently”

Day 10 – I experienced such euphoria when we could speak.  Even before I said a word, I felt so light, so happy, the sun came out….it was pure bliss!  I forgot entirely about wanting to go home and just soaked up every second of this day!

Day 11 – I made a b-line for my vehicle the moment they handed me my keys.  7:30am, I was outta there!  hah.

10 Days of Silence and Nothing

 

 

Yet another move is ahead of me, and this one I’m doing solo.  This move is free of trucks, boxes, tape, food, work, books and music.  Thank goodness.  It’s free of all of the stuff that clutters my life and distracts me from living life itself.  It’s free of complex thought and free of the senses.   That’s probably a dramatic enough introduction so I’ll now tell you that I am beginning a 10 day Vipassana Meditation course tomorrow at the Ontario Vipassana Centre.  Me and 49 others will spend 10 days in complete (noble) silence with the following schedule:

4:00 a.m Morning wake-up bell
4:30 a.m. – 6:30 a.m. Meditate in the hall or your own room
6:30 a.m. – 8:00 a.m. Breakfast break
8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. GROUP MEDITATION IN THE HALL
9:00 a.m – 11:00 a.m. Meditate in the hall or your own room
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon Lunch break
12:00 noon – 1:00 p.m. Rest and interviews with the teacher
1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. Meditate in the hall or your own room
2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. GROUP MEDITATION IN THE HALL
3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Meditate in the hall or your own room
5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Tea break
6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. GROUP MEDITATION IN THE HALL
7:00 p.m – 8:15 p.m. Teacher’s Discourse in the hall
8:15 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. GROUP MEDITATION IN THE HALL
9:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Question time in the hall
9:30 p.m. Retire to your own room. Lights out

 

I have chosen to complete this course because I have some internal work that needs to be done.  It involves healing, letting go, feeling safe, becoming more mindful and focussed, detachment from things that I attach my identity to, and I’m sure more that I’ll discover over the next 10 days.  However, I am also aware that I may just spend the next 10 days sitting, waiting for the next meal and secretly singing in the shower. hah.  Who knows.

Here’s some more information if you’re curious:

http://www.torana.dhamma.org/index.html

 

My Sustainable Future…

In my sustainable future, No Frills will be a farmer’s market.

Wal Mart will host trade-ins, where you pay with credits that you’ve earned for bringing “stuff” back.  No one will work more than 30 hours away from home a week, and that work will be meaningful, inspiring, fulfilling and will always contribute to the greater good (why on earth most jobs do not seems terribly self-destructive for a species).

Sunday’s will return to a day of rest and family.  The plastics loop on the planet will be a closed system, only using and re-using what we’ve already made, no more new plastics.  Population growth will be an oxymoron.

The standard forms of transportation will be bike, horse (this is “my sustainable future” after all), wind powered boats, sun powered planes (they’re mighty close to the bright light) and food powered feet.  My love will be my life will be my work will be my pastimes will be my partner will be my children will be me.  We will live in a community of small, natural homes, surrounding a massive food forest.  Our compost heap and the sun will heat our greenhouse where we will grow an avacado tree. We will have a shared outdoor kitchen, even with a bbq. We will also have our own, private kitchen with a solar dehydrator, some new eco-kind of refrigerator, root cellars, and renew-ably powered appliances.  I will teach yoga, including handstands and cartwheels, and sustainable living and writing to youth and adults.  Children will be afraid of “strawberry candy” because they learned what a juicy, ripe, organic strawberry was long before the candy imposter.  Thus, “food” that in fact is not food, will not be sold as such.

Our community will have a huge library, with windows, plants and big spaces where we can lay on cushions, read and discuss.  Somehow, computers will have a role, maybe they will take the shape of a calendar on the wall listing everything that needs to be done that day, including baking cookies in the solar oven, meetings and having the youth learn to build a home.  My sister will be my neighbour, well maybe down the street, and my brother will be dreaming up designs for whole systems of communities that include not only building designs, but land-use, retrofits, and cradle to cradle principles.  We will know our neighboring communities, and while we may not always like them, we will compete with them in sport wholeheartedly.

Consumption will have been recognized as a black hole of human potential and a perpetuator of unhappiness. Clothes will be simple, natural, functional, beautiful and biodegradable.  We will have slowed the production of all forms of toxins enough so that nature will have removed those that she could, and enough to be able to exist forever with the ones that nature will never know what to do with.

The idea of going shopping as an activity, without a true need, will not be an idea.  Instead, that time will be spent thinking, creating, repairing, discussing, reflecting, and being still.  The only packaging that food will come in, will be the packaging that nature gave it.  You will carry your own basket or storage container to the store, fill it up from their storage container, weigh it, exchange some form of currency for it, and be on your merry way.  There will be one rainbow a day.  Two on holidays. And sometimes, just sometimes, you’ll actually see a flower open one of it’s buds, witnessing one of the most beautiful events this life brings.

I will feel joy with every breath I take, I will use intellectual intelligence every day and I will listen deeply with compassion and love for even the people I do not understand.  I will still feel pain, loss, sadness and despair.  And because these feelings seem innate to our species – a natural balance to my butterfly and unicorn fantasy – maybe the world will go on as it does.  We are in the Kali Yuga, the age where human civilization degenerates according to Indian scriptures.  There are systems that I can not paint in pretty pinks and sky blues, such as the legal system, the finance markets and the human ego brought to you by the letters “I”, “Me” and “Mine”. I don’t doubt that a sustainable future will indeed occur, but that does not mean it will be in our favour.  We are not the centre of the universe.  We are a mere manifest of it, and the Universe will sustain itself, not us.  But that does not rob me of my imagination and my heart.  So I will go on seeing the world through my rose-coloured glasses, picking flowers and singing on my bicycle.  I’m pretty sure in any future, I will still get to ride a horse and grow an avacado tree.


Eat, Pray, Love, Love, Love

Last night I saw the movie Eat, Pray, Love, based on the Elizabeth Gilbert book.  At first, this had been a film that was a definite ‘yes’ on my list of films “to see”, and then I read some pretty relevant criticisms of the film and thought, maybe not.

When I was living in Sweden and going through a deep personal crisis full of isolation, depression, over-eating and the start of a yoga practice, my best friend mailed me this book.  It was one of the best gifts I’ve ever received because it was so timely and, being rather unaware of the depths of my state, it was a very intuitive gift from her.  I read it, bead-by-bead, mostly in the bathroom (where much of my breakdown took place), and it soothed my stress knowing that I was not the only woman with many of these feelings. It also brought laughter and a sense of lightness to a very dark time.

The criticisms of the movie were that it depicted a flimsy American woman, overly-dramatic about her divorce, gallivanting freely around Italy, India, and Indonesia as though that is what these countries are set-up for – to accommodate needy, empty Americans searching for something outside of themselves.  When I read the critiques I imagined how that was so, and even after seeing the movie, the criticisms are still relevant.  Nonetheless, it is a movie, entertainment, and for that purpose, I loved it.

The Italy scenes made my heart thump so loud in my chest, giving my whole body goosebumps for longer than any movie has.  It brought back an adoration of the culture, and a sense of awe at the ancient infrastructure that I first felt on my own European escape.  Her desire to know herself and her confession of an incapacity to listen put me right back in my Swedish apartment.  I laughed and cried, and thought “Crazy, this is so me!”.  How many other woman were thinking this too?  It doesn’t matter, the more the merrier.  (Although I am very curious so please let me know if you also share a deep similarity with this character).  Even with my small taste of Ashram life I could see a few cultural errors, but her experience with meditating would ring true to anyone who attempts a regular meditation practice.

In the end, it was a light-hearted romantic comedy just like 50 First Dates, My Best Friend’s Wedding etc.  A distinction that it deserves is that it is particularly relevant to many woman at this moment of social evolution where a greater consciousness is emerging.  That is evident in the literary field (ie. The Secret being a top seller), the growing yoga/meditation/alternative healing industry, and a society expressing a need for more meaning in their lives.  I’d be so happy if everyone were able to adopt this mantra and just eat, pray and love.  What do you think about the book, the movie or my review?

Week #4 in the Ashram: Escapes and Exams

Shortly after writing the week 3 post of my Ashram experiences, Dylan arrived at the Ashram and we escaped early Saturday morning to attend a dear friend’s wedding in Haliburton, Ontario.  Lots of driving, little sleep, a sip of wine, black tea and sugar (all things I had not been exposed to for 3 weeks) made for an interesting 24 hours out of the ashram.

Upon returning to the Ashram, everyone wanted to know “what it was like” (returning to what some call ‘reality’).  To be honest, it felt normal.  I didn’t feel like 3 weeks was long enough to get so used to Ashram life that outside life would feel strange.  It was the sugar, poor quality sleep, tea and driving that made me feel terribly hungover on Sunday….and every day since I have left the Ashram.

Our final week of our Yoga Teacher Training Course was pretty much our standard schedule of meditations, chanting, yoga and lectures, with some practice teaching and a few ceremonies.  I was initiated into a mantra so that I now have a designated mantra that I can repeat while meditating and also while walking, driving, cleaning etc.  On Saturday morning we wrote a 3 hour exam and then a bunch of us went to help prepare the evening Indian feast in the kitchen for 200 people.  Dylan and I were given the task of preparing the Sambar.  Well, we chopped the vegetables and stirred the pot as the chef tossed in the ingredients. 

Finally, on Saturday evening we all graduated.  There are now 26,000 Sivananda certified Yoga teachers in the world, I am number 25, 998.

Are you ever alone and Should you be?

Today, as I suited up to go for a bike ride, Tequila (the dog on the farm we are looking after) got very excited to see me put on my jacket, and I knew I wouldn’t have the heart to leave her behind.  Thus, instead of biking, I opted for a hike.  Off we went down what’s called “The Rail Trail”, Tequila leading the way.  As we walked, I became very aware of how much of my attention was with the dog, like it would be if I were walking with a friend.  My mind would begin to drift to whatever thoughts earned priority in my sub-conscience, and then be interrupted by the rabbit that Tequila had scared out of the bush, or by wondering where she had gone, or by watching her play in the river, or by concerns that she may be thirsty etc.  Walking with a dog changed my walk experience.  It distracted me from my own thoughts and brought me out of my own head very often.  I was not alone.

I wondered how often dog owners are alone. Or have their consciousnesses adapted to include the dog

I wonder if it is better or worse to have a constant companion always in your presence. This could be a dog, a partner or a child.

And I wonder how often mothers are alone.

Like, really alone.  Where no one knows where you are, no one is expecting you, you’re not responsible for anything, you’re not concerned about the time and you’re able to think very deeply, naturally and without interruptions, forever if you felt like it.  Sounds like you’d be in a vacuum doesn’t it.

I wonder how often humans are supposed to experience time like this.  I experienced a lot of solo time before I shared my life with my current partner.  I was almost always alone, in my own head-space.  And now, there are days when I’m alone, but I always know he’s coming home for dinner.  Even if we’re apart for a day or 2, he is present in my consciousness always.  And yet there was a time when I didn’t have that constant companion.  And I think at those times I would have deeper thoughts.  My mind would contemplate life intensely, scrutinizing each step I took.  With a partner, I think I tend to let little things slide.  For example, we drive pretty often, and when I was on my own, I would bike to China and back to avoid driving.  My mind doesn’t venture as deep into itself anymore.  It’s either that I have less to prove now that I’m happy and loving, or that I forfeit responsibility when there is 2 of us and our decisions have to accommodate 2 opinions, 2 sets of needs and 2 sets of priorities.  On the flip side, at times when I didn’t have a partner, I was lonely.  There were times when I was desperate for someone to do things with.  Just someone to buy groceries with, to live with and cook with.

All of this to wonder.  What are we meant to do?  Live a conscious, independent life, or share life with each-other always, perhaps venturing into deep uninterrupted thought less often.  I realize there is a middle ground, however how often do we commit to being truly together and being truly separate?  When I hit a time in my life where I had lots of time to think alone, (which often accompanies facing some hard truths and rough patches), I had a few epiphanies in a row.  I posed all my life’s questions to my mother in one breath.  Asking her if she had thought about these things, how she felt about them, why she was living in the rat race of capitalist Toronto etc.  And my mother’s reply was that most people don’t have the time to stop and think like I did, that it was a luxury, and that she had to go because she was in the middle of filing a prospectus.

Any thoughts?  Any long, uninterrupted thoughts?

Life is like….winter driving

I turned the corner today onto a snowy road and decided that driving in the snow is like life.  Creative huh.  And of course, now, a few hours later, I would correct myself to say that driving in the snow is a part of life, a rather uninspiring part at that.  Nonetheless, humour me for a moment and join me on the philosophical side.

I was driving on a road that I have driven before between Collingwood and Thornbury (if you’re local, you’ll know speed-trap 26).  On a summer’s day, it has road markings that periodically divide the one-lane highway into 2, for passing and turning.  Currently however, it is winter.  And as most of Ontario is experiencing, we are having a real, snow-covered-roads, winter.  If I had been new to this road, the snow markings would lead me to believe that only one lane exists.  The tires of many cars before me had driven the same lane over and over, thus making one path seemingly simple to drive in, and everything bordering it: a snowy desert.  Traffic wasn’t bad, and if I hadn’t been in this state of awareness, I would’ve stayed in the existing tracks, content and likely thinking about something else.  Somewhat similar to how most of us go through the motions of life at some point in our day: compliant and disengaged.  I’m sure I had already made it through parts of my day in that state. 

So I knew that there was another lane of pavement closer to the curb underneath a foot or so of snow, and I became acutely aware of a decision that I had to make.  Do I drive comfortably in the well-plowed lane with tracks, or do I veer off into a foot of snow; the path less traveled, and make new tracks.  On the road, and in life, the question of why surfaces when faced with this decision.  My first thoughts were that if I moved over I would be slowing down – instinctively a bad concept in our fast paced society, but not a crisis for my easy-going day  –  and perhaps that I would learn more about driving my car in snow (hopefully this wouldn’t include lessons on getting out of the ditch).  In my idealistic/altruistic world, I thought perhaps others would follow, and we could open up a new lane, a new metaphorical path……until I realized that it would be going the same place that the other path is going.  And, on top of that, it would allow more people to go there and faster.  In the metaphorical sense, I’m not so sure that’s a great thing.  It’s like expanding the highway to our species’ demise.  On the other hand, if I have to take this road anyhow, and realistically, it’s just heading to Thornbury, should I drive sheep-style and follow the crowd, or should I try to clear the other lane to help make driving (which I hypocritically don’t like) easier, safer and more efficient (NB. The latter option has a 50% chance of failure and risk of swimming in Georgian Bay).

After all of this thinking, I can’t even remember driving home, never-mind which lane I did so in, which is a terrible shift out of the awareness that got me into that dilemna in the first place.  The good news is that I’ve come to a bit of peace surrounding the dilemma of which lane to take.  Brace yourself for a bit of a “Care-bear lesson in sharing” moment.

It doesn’t matter if you choose the beaten path or the path less traveled.  What is most important is that you are aware that it is your choice.  That in every step of your day, you see that you have a choice.  When I’m able to see that I’ve chosen to drive in the lane with the tracks, I become aware that I’ve also chosen to drive that day.  That I’ve chosen to live in the country and thus I have chosen to drive to get into town.  I chose what I ate that day, who I spoke to, what I said, how I reacted to what was said/done by others, etc.  I do believe that by seeing things as my choice, rather than as being “just the way things are” and out of my control, I will bring an awareness with questions to my life.  I’ll ask ‘why?’ more often and as a result, I’ll begin to make better choices, for myself and for the world.  And that is how life is like driving in snow.