Dimas

At my mother’s memorial Dimas was wearing a fancy blue shirt that reminded me of a mariachi band uniform. As my mother’s friends and relatives were gathering, in what used to be my parents’ lake picnic area, for the service, Dimas seemed to be following me trying to get my attention. I walked the other way trying to ignore him.

There had been a lot of prayer and meditation on my part in which I had surrounded Dimas with holy witnesses to observe what he had done. I had prayed and meditated in this way in order to heal people close to me who had been hurt by him, and in order to dissipate my own anger.

It was no use, in the small crowd there was no way I could avoid him. My anger melted away when our eyes met. I had the feeling that he had confessed his sins directly to God and been cleansed. We were like two friends who had known each other for a long time, like two actors, one the villain, who shake hands once the play is over.

Mindfulness

I’m 40% through the book, “Confessions of a Prayer Slacker,” by Diane Moody. Last night I enjoyed reading about the excuses we sometimes give for not spending time in meditation and prayer.

Although the book is Christian orientated, I translate it to my more inclusive outlook. The writer gave an example of a Christian teenager having a meeting with Jesus, then telling Him, “You stay here, I’m going to a party by myself.” I thought, “How sad, I want to have mindfulness of Spirit with me all the time.” Sometime before, during or after my meditation session this morning, I realized that I have a lot of grief and pain within myself that I am not being mindful of, or sharing with my spirit guide. After what I call “reporting to headquarters” for half an hour or so (assuming my meditation position), I continued to meditate lying down for an hour or so more.

I have had valuable things taken from me with no attempt to compensate me in any way. This has been extremely painful. I had thought that I was working through the pain honestly. But somehow I was keeping God out of it, thinking this is just my wound. I have to work through this myself!

I put melody and chords to Baha’u’llah’s healing prayer. The melody I chose was mostly based on an Iranian scale that uses a lot of semi-tones. It is very challenging to me, both to sing, and to find and play chords on the guitar for it. This kept me chanting the prayer over and over. (I still don’t have it well enough to share with anyone, so I’ll do it more.) The poster above is an except from the prayer, “Remembrance of Thee is my remedy,” mindfulness again.

Generosity

A while back I started a series on the chakras. Courage was about the first chakra, Dignity about the second chakra, Contentment about the third chakra, Power about the fourth chakra, and then Knowledge about the fifth chakra. After a time, I now to feel ready to write about the sixth chakra with this piece.

The 2nd chakra awareness is of self and other but the focus is still primarily on the self. Chakras one through five are tuned by focusing mostly on the energies to and from ourselves. To tune chakra six we forget about ourselves and start tuning the chakras on other people.

You notice a lot of people are stuck at a chakra one awareness. These people might be termed narcissists. Then others seem to have good marriages and family lives, although, other than that, they don’t seem to be particularly intuitive or aware. They have come to a chakra two awareness.

I would say, Donald Trump is at chakra one, and George W Bush seems to be at chakra two. Bill and Hillary put on a good act, but everyone knows that they have serious issues at chakra two. In each case, one might contemplate a person and attempt to raise his or her vibrations just a little higher than they are. We should probably also work with family members and people we know personally, but I’ll use Donald Trump as an example here since I just had a dream about him.

If you are a Reiki practitioner you have studied how to focus energy to help heal another person. Tuning the chakras of other people can be a healing thing for them, but mostly we heals ourselves as we change our focus from pain and resentment, to looking at them as energetic beings with a stuck energy pattern that can be cleared up.

I dreamt that I was sitting at a table that included other people. I was sitting next to the wife of Donald Trump, and she wasn’t the wife he has now. She was closer to him in age and more similar to Him in body mass. I’m guessing she may have been one of his former wives with whom he has more of an eternal bond. I saw and heard her and him speak to each other like people who have a deep love for each other.

Upon awakening, I thought that maybe I was wrong about Donald Trump being stuck at a chakra one awareness. Then I realized this was a dream, this was the dream fulfillment of my attempt to raise his vibrations.

The world is ready for an energetic shift. Instead of the awful mess we have in the government now, we need diplomacy, sensitivity, compassion, justice, social progress! How we going to get there from here? By dreaming and praying? By crying, like I’m doing right now, blurring the words and the keyboard? I don’t know.

There is a Baha’i prophecy that a terrible calamity has to happen before a great world peace will develop. The government is a calamity right now, social progress going rapidly backwards, wars being escalated. It’s horrible! Can we do anything, or has all the power been torn out of our hands? If cry, pray and dream is all we can do, than at least we need to do that!

I feel the energy around my head like the shade of a sun hat. As you build up yours and I build up mine, we join together with all the mindful souls in the world, building the real reality, precipitating truth out of thin air. Wealth, guns, bombs and bars cannot stop us. We will prevail!

Power

I stand right where She planted me;
She made me I’ve a right to be.
Let the Rainbow of Life flow through me,
Let the Rainbow of Life flow through me.

As innocent as love’s first kiss,
I blossom forth expecting bliss.
Let the Rainbow of Life flow through me,
Let the Rainbow of Life flow through me.

Nourished in the bounty She bestows,
I am amply supplied in Her meadows.
Let the Rainbow of Life flow through me,
Let the Rainbow of Life flow through me.

Serene as a lake on a quiet day,
I accept my breath and then send it away.
Let the Rainbow of Life flow through me,
Let the Rainbow of Life flow through me.

The consciousness is all around;
I hear it and join in the sound.
Let the Rainbow of Life flow through me,
Let the Rainbow of Life flow through me.

I see with perfect clarity,
And radiate my own beauty.
Let the Rainbow of Life flow through me,
Let the Rainbow of Life flow through me.

Where Spirit leads me I will go;
When Ocean answers I will flow.
Let the Rainbow of Life flow through me,
Let the Rainbow of Life flow through me.
Jersema Jones

Okay, let’s say I have mastered contentment in any situation. The next quality I need is freedom, or power, which are closely related. (If you are powerless, you have no freedom and vice versa.)
Find Rest

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30, quoting Jesus Christ.

Freedom (which implies the ability to rest) really amounts to having the wisdom to know what or whom to be in bondage to. On our own, without any restraints at all, we would wind up becoming addicted to something, our freedom gone, we would be slaves to a disgusting habit. It is much better to be subservient to the One Whom God sent to earth many times for our guidance.

Under Baha’u’llah’s mystical tutelage, I learned to stop putting myself down. Then I picked up a copy of, The Art of Dreaming, by Carlos Castaneda, from the local public library. I read the book twice, taking notes the second time, then went back and read everything else that Castaneda had written. I joined a Tensigrity (a kind of movement similar to Tai Chi introduced by Castaneda) group, and read several books by other writers associated with Castaneda. Not sure when it started, but my Castaneda phase was over at the beginning of the year 2000. By then I had learned how to get my personal energy back when it had been stolen.
Regaining lost or stolen personal energy is done in meditation. There is both dumping and draining that goes on when dealing with unpleasant people. Being drained is referred to in Castaneda’s writings as “energy loss,” getting dumped on is referred to as “picking up foreign energy.”

Castaneda’s teacher, Yaqui Mexican Native Don Juan, instructed Carlos to make a list of everyone he had ever met, configure the list in reverse order of date, then, starting with the top of the list (his most recent acquaintance), go into meditation in a seated position, and relive every transaction with that person, beginning with the most recent, then work backward in time with that person before going on to the next person on the list. The goal is to eventually cover every encounter with every person in his life, in meditation, ending with his parents. The meditation involves slowly turning the head from side to side while breathing into the memory of a transaction with someone. With each exhale, consciously expel foreign energy. With each inhale, consciously pull back lost energy.

I began practicing this technique daily with the people and events of the day, and with the memories that came up naturally. I found that, with this technique, I could return energy that I had mistakenly appropriated from someone else. I found also, that I could get my own energy back with the technique, even if it had been lost decades ago. When possessions are stolen, the technique will work, understanding that you may not get back the exact thing that was stolen, but something equivalent, and it may seem to come from another source.
The Breath

At the Vipassana retreat I went to a few months ago, we spent almost the first half of our meditating time focusing exclusively on our breath. Inhale exhale What is the sensation at the upper lip? On and on Eventually, we got to the place where we were instructed to slowly scan our bodies with our awareness, looking for sensations, similar to what is generally known as Mindfulness Meditation. At the retreat, we were instructed not to use any mantras (mentally repeating a word or phrase while meditating) or visualizations, but now I am free to use them again.


Energy

Power is related to energy. Energy is one of the things necessary in order to have power. A machine or vehicle for the utilization of energy to the purpose desired is another thing that is necessary. Our spirit bodies are such a machine. Of course we have to use them correctly and they may occasionally require maintenance.

Energy flows up along the spine, on the inhale, then flows out and down like a fountain, on the exhale, forming an energetic cocoon around us. As it ascends and descends, it illuminates seven spiritual lamps. I visualize the energy going up through my spine and down around me, energizing each of 7 interfaces between body soul and spirit that exist along the spine. These interfaces are called Chakras, and they are numbered 1 through 7 starting at the base of the spine with number one, and number seven being at the crown of the head.
The Fourth Chakra is on the spine between the shoulder blades and oversees the heart, lungs and arms. The breath is an important part of meditation. The strength at the 4th chakra is power, freedom, liberty, ease of rest and relaxation. The weaknesses are addiction, being exploited by others or being the one exploiting another. Meditation is the key to living a life free of either kind of exploitation.
Right Vocation

Buddha taught the Eightfold Path: Right Contemplation, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration, et cetera. At Chakra Four, the strength is power and the weaknesses are being exploited and exploiting others. Right Vocation, part of Buddhas Eightfold Path, is very important to avoid exploiting others. Are we treating suppliers and co-workers fairly, even those in other countries? Is the product something that benefits people (not just corporations)?
Eliminating the Extremes of Wealth and Poverty

Although over 100 years ago, Bahaullah called for the elimination of the extremes of wealth and poverty, it appears that even now, the 1 percent are exploiting the 99 percent. Those who are slow to understand are propagandised to believe it is the other poor who are exploiting them. They think the problem is that other oppressed people are not carrying their weight, when actually the problem is that much of the billionaire class is just looting everyone else and doing nothing for humanity. Those slow to understand are using alcohol, caffeine, nicotine etc. to keep themselves in a self-righteous haze, but they are waking up.
My Vision

We could come together in caring communities, together meeting all of our needs locally, but we are oppressed with war machinery that serves only the interests of a wealthy few. We are making weapons that are being deployed on the poor in other parts of the earth. War is a technique used by a few powerful business tycoons to impoverish and destabilize a region. Then the exploiters can come in and offer jobs paying a pittance, and appear to be improving the lives of those devastated by the war. The real threat comes from those powerful ones who are caught up in addiction to an extreme monetary gain, not the fictional enemy created to justify an invasion.

Our food, fuel, fabric, flowers, building materials and manufactured goods could be grown or produced locally. Instead, food and other goods travel long distances with all stages in the process being exploited by a powerful few.

We could live in dense walkable communities with dwellings, gardens, orchards, stores, schools, libraries, office space, industry, healthcare, meadow and forest close by. We could be living and working in worker-resident owned cooperatives. Elders could help with child care. Instead we have an apartment with no access to garden, or a tract house with scarsly room for a small garden, surrounded by strangers, everyone with a long commute to work, elders and children being kept apart. We work for employers who exploit us, and we rent or buy our dwellings from developers who exploit us. Exploiters want to make a big killing off real estate deals and they do.

We could stay healthy eating fresh, local produce, sustainably grown, without the use of toxic substances, electro and herbal medicine and nontoxic dentistry when necessary. Treatment protocols could be based on evidence of efficacy for the patient. Instead we eat nutritionally deficient and toxic food, grown far away, and are given toxic drugs and invasive surgeries, when sick, that benefit no one but the pharmaceutical-medical-insurance industry. For instance, cancer sufferers who have their sufferings augmented with chemotherapy have less than a 20% survival rate after five years (but the medical establishment makes a lot of money off the misery of cancer patients and their families). Vaccinations and dental restorations are laden with heavy metals and other toxins. Pioneers in electro medicine died under mysterious circumstances. Pioneers in Natural Hygiene and Naturopathy were worn down by frequent jailings and other harassment. Treatment protocols are primarily based on what is profitable for medical institutions.

It will not require a majority of aware people to turn the tide, I don’t believe, just a significant minority, because the majority of people don’t think for themselves anyway.

We who are aware can all meditate and breathe into the entities that should serve us, exhaling the oppression and expectantly inhaling the blessings to come. There will be those who will respond with love. Eventually love will win.
Empowerment by the Manifestation of God

In recognizing the Manifestation of God for today, a believer also acknowledges that His laws and exhortations express truths about the nature of the human being and the purpose of existence; they raise human consciousness, increase understanding, lift the standard of personal conduct, and provide the means for society to progress. His teachings serve, then, to empower humanity; they are the harbinger of human happiness, whose call, far from compelling obedience to an arbitrary and dictatorial regimen of behavior, leads to true freedom. “Were men to observe that which We have sent down unto them from the Heaven of Revelation,” Bahá’u’lláh states, “they would, of a certainty, attain unto perfect liberty. Happy is the man that hath apprehended the Purpose of God in whatever He hath revealed from the Heaven of His Will, that pervadeth all created things.” “Think not that We have revealed unto you a mere code of laws,” He declares further, “Nay, rather, We have unsealed the choice Wine with the fingers of might and power.”

Challenges for Bahá’í Youth in a Western Way of Life, by or on behalf of Universal House of Justice 2013-04-19

Courage

meditator4

Our language has a lot of words for fear: terror, anxiety, fright, trepidation, paranoia, unease, scared, afraid intimidated, coward, scaredy cat, startled, panic, etc. Sometimes the word fear indicates a desirable quality, like respect, as in, Fear God. The fight or flight response is triggered low in the spine and energizes the legs to run, kick or stand firm. There are probably plenty of situations where, running, or at least walking away, may be the wisest course of action. However, much of the time the words fear, and it’s many synonyms, indicate an undesirable state. Anxiety can be crippling. The startle reflex can be a nuisance. Sometimes fear indicates a lack of courage.

So how do you get courage? It doesn’t come from a pill, in spite of the pharmaceutical advertisements with their long list of side effects. It doesn’t come from a bottle, in spite of popular song lyrics. It comes from a daily meditation practice, possibly motivated by the fear of God, but more often motivated by love for God, or at least a desire for courage, dignity, equanimity, or any of the other attributes that such a practice instills.

Courage is not blind to danger, however a courageous individual is not manipulated or pushed around by his or her fear buttons.


A Perilous Situation

Many years ago around the age of 22, I was level-headed in a perilous situation, and did not react out of fear, although I was certainly afraid. I was waiting at a bus stop in an isolated area of a big city early in the morning. It was a mixed neighborhood, probably mostly black. I was on my way to work and had about a 40 minute bus ride ahead of me. A young black man appeared before me, pointing a gun at me, and demanded my purse, which I handed over. Then he demanded me as well. Looking at him over the barrel of the pistol, I spat out the words, “I have a black husband who will kill your ass!” Whether my prediction would have been the outcome had he molested me, I am no longer so certain,, but it was the right thing to say at the time. He left with my purse, and I walked back home to call the police.

Lacking in courage, I might have been abducted, tortured and killed, as I groveled in fear before my abuser begging for mercy. Courage did not mean foolishly hanging onto the purse and the partial roll of dimes it contained. Courage meant standing up to a bully and refusing to be intimidated.


Meditation Practice

I had started a meditation practice about 3 years prior to the theft of my purse at that bus stop in Cleveland. While a student at Palomar College in San Marcos, California in 1968, I read, Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda and Fundamentals of Yoga, by Ramurti S. Mishra, both from the college library. Yogananda’s book inspired me to learn more, and Mishra’s book provided details of a meditation technique. Although I was somewhat sporadic about it, I could sit in the full lotus (which I can no longer do, since having been active in Christian Churches that disparaged “Eastern Religion”). From the Mishra book, I learned to put myself in a light trance by autosuggestion. I arranged pillows on the floor and against a wall in my bedroom and, wrapped in a sleeping bag, suggested to each body part in turn that I was withdrawing sensation from it. The resulting trance state was something like sleep, but with more awareness.

A few months ago (2016), I was privileged to meditate for 10 days at the Vipassana Retreat in Twentynine Palms, California. There, I was taught to sit on a mat in a cross-legged position, and be aware of bodily sensations. Sometimes I used a back rest, sometimes not. At the Vipassana retreat we were encouraged not to fall into a trance state, and I think that maintaining the waking state while meditating is more beneficial, still any kind of meditation is better than none.

There wasn’t much discussion of posture in the video presentations I watched at the Vipassana retreat, which were of talks given by S. N. Goenka, recorded at Vipassana workshops he had conducted prior to his passing in 2013. You were free to see how the experienced mediators in the front row were sitting and emulate them if desired. I did not see anyone with their feet placed on their thighs, so apparently it is not a problem that I have lost the ability to sit in the lotus pose. Most sat with their knees out and ankles crossed. I found that if I sat with one ankle over the other for any length of time the one on the bottom would go numb and then tingle in pain, so I would place one heel directly in front of my crotch and the other heal in front of the first ankle. I didn’t see anyone with their palms turned up on the knees. Hands were either relaxed in the lap or placed on the thighs or knees, palms down. Those who preferred sat in chairs. Some people’s knees were off the mat a little, but I found that I stayed more comfortable during the one to two hour meditation sessions resting my knees against the mat. A buckwheat hull meditation pillow (or any firm pillow) under the pelvis helps accommodate this.


The Chakras

There are interfaces between the body, soul, and spirit along the spine, called chakras. Each of the Chakras has a different flavor of spiritual energy, kind of like the seven colors of the rainbow are all light. Each chakra has a strength and two weaknesses an aggressive weakness and a passive weakness. The first chakra is at the tailbone, governs the legs, and is responsible for territory and security. With the first chakra, the root chakra, the strength is courage. The passive weakness is fear. When fear becomes aggressive, it becomes anger and hate.

Hero Mythology

In his book, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell describes the journey a typical hero goes through in many legends, myths, stories, novels and movies.

The hero or heroine, often an ordinary person in ordinary circumstances, receives a call to adventure. A task is presented that involves danger, but there may be even more danger if the problem is not solved. The hero agrees to the quest and steps into a new world which contains both treasure and danger. The hero is given spiritual abilities or magical powers, and usually a helper or two. The hero and team-mates progress through a series of obstacles, then there is a supreme test, the obstacle they have journeyed to overcome. When this is overcome, there is typically a reward, then the journey home which may contain smaller obstacles.

“Enough of this mundane world! I’m going after the Holy Grail!” The real quest is on the inside. Like the poet, Rumi wrote:

 

i want to leave this town
but you’ve chained me down
stolen away my heart
leaving yourself behind

now i’ve lost my way
my soul restless and head twisted
all because of those secrets
you once whispered

i only must keep
fasting my heart
to set me free from sleepless nights

since your only advice
when you saw me in flame
was to keep burning
with you or with your thoughts

words of wisdom
came to me at last
“the beloved you’ve lost
the one you’ve been seeking outside
can only be found inside”
— Ghazal 2582, from the Diwan-e Shams
Translation by Nader Khalili


Rama and Cita


Humans have been on this earth for a long time. One of the oldest myths still in circulation today is that of Rama and Cita, which is believed to have predated a great flood, which appears to have happened around 12000 years ago, wiping out an advanced world-wide human culture some say. A book which I checked out of a public library a little over a decade ago, The Ramayama, tells the stories of the adventures of Rama and Cita, king and queen of a province in an ancient time. Cita is abducted and helped by a speaking monkey, while Rama searches for and eventually finds her. Rama is one of the names of God in the Hindu religion.


The Avatar


The concept of the Avatar is that every once in awhile, through out the ages, the One God, the All-Highest God, will send an emissary to earth, generally in the form of a man, to guide humanity. The teachings of this Person inspire people to worship and serve the True God at first, but gradually the sayings snd scriptures are altered, false dogma takes over, and the people are no longer serving the True God. Then another Avatar arises.



Whenever righteousness falters
and chaos threatens to prevail,
I take on a human body
and manifest myself on earth.
In order to protect the good
to destroy the doers of evil
to ensure the triumph of righteousness,
in every age I am born.

The Lord Krishna, from the Bhagavad Gita, Stephen Mitchell’s translation, page 73.

Love the One You Hate

I sat in my meditation posture this morning for almost an hour. I put the corner of a firm pillow underneath my coccyx, pull my heels toward that corner, one behind the other, and push my knees to the mat (or in this case my side of a futon mattress). I wrap my bedding around me and I sit.

First I did the Baha’i mantra 95 times. “Allah-u-Abha”, means, “God the Greatest”, in Arabic, pronounced, “Allow Abha”. I count on my fingers making four gentle taps with my left pinkie against my left knee, followed by four taps with each of the next three fingers on my left hand, then three traps with my left thumb, while the thumb on my right hand is slightly depressed against my right knee. That is 19, then 4 more series of 19, while gently pressing my right knee, for the duration of the left hand sequence, with each of the four fingers of my right hand in turn. With each tap, I mentally repeat, “Allah-u-Abha.” It goes by very quickly and brings a tremendous blessing.

Then I continue with a meditation that acknowledges my feelings and sensations. I felt very grateful, this morning, for all the wonderful people in my life. My husband, my children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, friends (in person and on line), nieces, nephews, grand nephews, grand nieces, my cousins, in-laws, and both my brothers. I enjoyed the love of all of these people for quite awhile, being grateful for all of them. I even felt close to both my deceased parents.

Then, it was time to work on a difficult relationship, the one with my sister. I found that acknowledging her as an enemy made it a whole lot easier. I was no longer trying to pretend the relationship was something it wasn’t. She has double-crossed me, she has attacked me, she is an enemy. That doesn’t change anything. Christ says, “Love your enemies.”  But the significant thing I learned in this morning’s meditation was that, in order to obey Christ’s command,  one must first take that fearless inventory of who is friend and who is enemy. Let’s not sugarcoat the truth and make excuse after excuse for someone whose behavior is plainly deplorable.  She has attacked me repeatedly, she is an enemy, and I must learn to love this enemy: not the sister that I wish she was, not the sister that I would like to believe she is, but the enemy that she is. 

So I sat there and felt the pain of being on the receiving end of her unsisterly behavior. I witnessed her hateful deeds, and how she twisted the facts to keep up her image with the rest of the family. I watched her numb her conscience with alcohol. I watched her pretense of affection, and felt my gut wrench. I stayed with it until I felt that I would enjoy seeing her because I would no longer be fooled. 

Later on today, I laughed at a joke she told me a long time ago when we used to be close. “A girl says to her boyfriend, ‘Don’t!’ ‘Stop!’ … ‘Don’t stop!'”

The Discourse Summaries of S.N. Goenka, Book Review

On day one of the ten-day meditation workshop taught by S.N. Goenka via prerecorded audios and videos (as he passed away in 2013), one learns to pay attention to the breath, not a mantra, not a name of God, not an external object as these things might be sectarian, and misery is universal. The steps to liberation from misery are available to all. One sits in one’s assigned place on a meditation cushion and mat on the floor of the meditation hall, or in a chair (if one prefers), and meditates, three or more hours during that first day, and puts one’’s full attention on the ingress and egress of one’’s breath through the nostrils. The Discourse Summaries; is a book of summaries of transcripts of the eleven talks given by Goenka for ten evenings and one (the last) morning, during two of the 10-day Vipassana meditation retreats that he personally led in 1983 and 1984.

Vipassana means, “as it is,” and the student is constantly exhorted throughout the ten-day course to become aware of sensations as they are in the body, starting, the first few days, with the area of the nose and upper lip. Little instruction is given on how to sit. I didn’’t see in the book, nor do I remember during my recent Vipassana, experience, at the Southern California Vipassana Center in Twenty-nine Palms, any exhortations to maintain a straight back. One learns quickly enough what kind of posture results in discomfort when held for an hour, and learns to sit correctly on his or her own.

The second day’’s discourse was given, like the others, on two large video screens at the front of the meditation hall, one on the right and the other on the left, and through the speakers at the front of each side wall, at 7 pm, and this one after the second full day of meditation. The Pali word, Dhamma, is used a lot in the Discourses of S.N. Goenka. Its meaning is roughly similar to the Sandskrit word, Dharma, and the English word, piety. Quoting Goenka, ““Any action that harms others, that disturbs their peace and harmony, is a sinful, unwholesome action. Any action that helps others, that contributes to their peace and harmony, is a pious, wholesome action.””

The meditation hall has a left and right half, divided by an isle from the front to the rear. On the right sit the women enrolled in the program, on the left sit the men. The residences, for the student’s use during their 11-day stay at the campus, are strictly segregated on the basis of sex, as are the two dining rooms. During the program, the participants each give their written pledge to observe celibacy during the program, along with non-killing, non-drinking alcoholic beverages, non-use of drugs, non-smoking, and being content with the (delicious) vegetarian meals provided. The segregation of the sexes tends to remove one large distraction, and meals being prepared by others removes another. Having nothing much to do other than meditate in the hall or your private room tends to insure that a lot of time gets spent in meditation. Observing silence for the first nine days, except when talking to the teacher or teaching assistant, does add to the meditative atmosphere.
S.N. Goenka makes the claim that Vipassana meditation is completely non-sectarian, anyone from any religious background, or no religious background, is made welcome. However, the points of Buddhist doctrine are pretty thoroughly covered. I remember Christ being mentioned once, by Goenka, during one of the discourses that I watched on the video monitor while a student in the course. He said, ““Jesus, while being tortured and killed, prayed, ‘‘Forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.’’ That is real compassion!”” Buddha, of course, was mentioned many, many times during the course, with many entertaining anecdotes from the life of Buddha being told, and the various doctrines of Buddhism being well explained. Personally, I was thankful for that, because I felt I needed to learn more about the life and teachings of this Great Man. It is no conflict whatsoever with my own religion, the Baha’’i Faith, which believes in the Harmony of Religion, and the Exalted Station of All Its Founders. The lovely anecdotes of the life and sayings of the Buddha, that were given in the videos played during the course, do not all appear in the book under review. There is another book that focuses more on these stories. Perhaps I will review that one in a future post.

The Path of Dhamma is called the Noble Eightfold Path. Sila is morality, Samadhi is developing mastery over one’s mind, Panna is the development of wisdom which purifies the mind. Right Speech, right action, and right livelihood, the first three of the eightfold path, constitute Sila, or morality. Right effort, right awareness, and right concentration, the second three of the eightfold path, constitute Samadhi, developing mastery over one’s mind. Awareness of what is, right now, bringing the mind back to the present moment, if it strays to the past or the future, is largely what the second discourse is about. Still, through the end of the third full day of meditation, the student focuses on the breath at the nostrils.

The last two of the eightfold path, right thoughts and right understanding, constituting Panna, the development of wisdom, are discussed in the third discourse. Quoting Goenka, ““Rationally one examines what one has heard or read, to see whether it is logical, practical, beneficial; if so, then one accepts it.”” I am reminded of one of the principles of the Baha’’i Faith: the independent investigation of truth. Each one has the right and the responsibility to examine what one reads and hears to determine if it is true, or at least possible. Dogma should not be taken on “blind faith.” This principle, of which much has been written in Baha’’i literature, is also enunciated by S.N. Goenka in his discourses about Vipasanna meditation. Goenka goes on to say that merely accepting or rejecting what one reads or hears, on the basis of one’s intellect, is only the first step. One must then develop wisdom by experiencing truth for one’’s self.

The third discourse prepares the student for day four. During the first sessions of day four, the student practices what is called Anapana, awareness of the breath. Then, during the afternoon session, the student begins, Vipassana. During an audio of D.N. Goenka speaking at the beginning of the afternoon meditation, the student is instructed to practice awareness of bodily sensations, some pleasant, some unpleasant, that arise or are present in the various parts of the body. This instruction bids the student to start having awareness of any sensations at the top of the head, then to work down to the face, and in increments to become aware of each part of the body, in turn, from the head to the toes, spending from one to ten minutes on each. Sometimes the bodily sensation is pain. In that case, one stays with the pain in awareness, and maintains equanimity. This too shall pass, all sensations are temporary, all conditions are temporary. Quoting Goenka’’s Day Four Discourse, ““In the past, because of ignorance, these sensations were causes for the multiplication of your misery, but they can also be tools to eradicate misery. You have taken a first step on the path to liberation by learning to observe bodily sensations and to remain equanimous.”

Craving and Aversion are the two antagonists to equanimity. Once we decide we like something or we don’’t like something, we want something or we don’’t want something, equanimity becomes more difficult to attain or maintain. It is a fact of life that things happen that I don’’t want. The things I do want don’’t always take place. Maintaining equanimity throughout the ups and downs of life is the art of hanging very loosely to one’’s expectations. Still, we must have expectations, but we must not be overly attached to them.

While meditating on day four of my Vipassana course at Twenty Nine Palms, I was encouraged to maintain the same sitting position for a little over an hour without repositioning. I held it for about a half an hour before giving into the body’’s demand for a repositioning. My right knee started hurting, hurt more and more, until all I could think about was the pain in my right knee. Then I thought, “I don’’t want to hurt my leg!” That is when I repositioned myself. Later, when the session was over, and I rose to my feet, I found that I had not hurt my leg at all! It was as good as ever, maybe even better. It was soon after that that I did manage to hold the same position for an entire hour.

Quoting Goenka: “To begin, while you sit for meditation, most of the time you will react to the sensations, but a few moments will come when you remain equanimous, despite severe pain. Such moments are very powerful in changing the habit pattern of the mind. Gradually you will reach the stage in which you can smile at any sensation knowing it is… bound to pass away.”

From Goenka’’s Day Five Discourse: “Wherever there is attachment, there is bound to be misery, and the greater the attachment, the greater the misery.” The way to end suffering is by eradicating its cause. One begins by learning to observe without reacting.

There are four kind of attachments, according to S N Goenka. The first is craving, the second is, I and mine, the third is, my views and beliefs, and the fourth is, rites, rituals and religious practices.

“This is what Siddhattha Gotama did to become a Buddha: he started observing reality within the framework of his body like a research scientist, moving from gross, apparent truth to subtler truth, to the subtlest truth. He found that whenever one develops craving, whether to keep a pleasant sensation or to get rid of an unpleasant one, and that craving is not fulfilled, then one starts suffering…. It was clear to him that the cause is the attachment that one develops. Out of attachment one generates strong reactions, sankhara, which make a deep impression on the mind…. Previously, every sensation gave rise to a reaction of liking or disliking, which developed into great craving or aversion, great misery! But now, instead of reacting to sensation, you are learning just to observe equanimously, understanding, ‘This will also change.’ In this way sensation gives rise only to wisdom, to … understanding.”

Life is an amazing laboratory for learning this! How many times an hour do things come up that either I don’t like or I like a little too much? These are my opportunities to practice nonattachment and equanimity.

I will discuss the rest of the book in a future post.

Vipassana

For most of the year 2015, and the first h half of 2016, Jimi and I were in an Edgar Cayce discussion group that met weekly at Drude’s retreat. One of the participants had taken the 10-day Vipassana meditation course at 29 Palms and had spoken glowingly about it.

Jimi and I took the course in August of 2016. I, and about 59 other people, meditated daily for up to 12 hours. I spent about two thirds of that time in my room lying or sitting on the bed and the other third in the meditation hall on cushions on the floor. Sometimes I used a back support.
We spent almost the first half of our meditating time focusing exclusively on our breath. Inhale exhale What is the sensation at the upper lip? On and on… Eventually, we got to the place where we were instructed to slowly scan our bodies with our awareness, looking for sensations, similar to what is generally known as Mindfulness Meditation. At the retreat, we were instructed not to use any mantras (mentally repeating a word or phrase while meditating) or visualizations, for the duration of the 10-days.
I sat on a mat in a cross-legged position, and meditated on bodily sensations. We were encouraged not to fall into a trance state, and I think that maintaining the waking state while meditating is more beneficial, still any kind of meditation is better than none.

There wasn’t much discussion of posture in the video presentations I watched at the Vipassana retreat, which were of talks given by S. N. Goenka, recorded at Vipassana workshops he had conducted prior to his passing in 2013. Goenka delivered his discourses seated in a chair with his wife also seated in a chair to his left. I never heard her speak. A row of experienced mediators were seated on meditation cushions inn the front row. You were free to see how they were sitting and emulate them if desired. I did not see anyone with their feet placed on their thighs. Most sat with their knees out to the sides and their ankles crossed in the center. I found that if I sat with one ankle over the other for any length of time the one on the bottom would go numb and then tingle in pain, so I placed one heel directly in front of my crotch and the other heal in front of the first ankle. I didn’t see anyone with their palms turned up on the knees. Hands were either relaxed in the lap or placed on the thighs or knees, palms down. Those who preferred sat in chairs. Some people’s knees were up off the mat a little, but I found that I stayed more comfortable during the one to two hour meditation sessions while resting my knees against the mat. A buckwheat hull meditation pillow under the pelvis helped accommodate this.

Early in the course, during one of the hours of meditation in the hall, my hurt, angry heart melted in a flow of tears that lasted the entire hour.
I enjoyed wholesome meals daily. I ate fruit for breakfast, usually oranges, apples and bananas. Once there was peaches. Other participants enjoyed oatmeal, bread, or granola with the fruit. I generally had a small serving of sunflower seeds with mine. I also had a cup of herbal tea with honey which I drank before starting to eat. There was also caffeine tea and instant coffee available, sugar, milk, yogurt and rice milk. Lunch was a variety of vegetable starches: beans, potatoes, both brown and white rice, salad and dressings. Cheese was available for the non-vegans. The bread and pasta served appeared to be mostly whole grain. There was also some kind of steamed vegetable. There was a gourmet main dish. Usually it was marked whether vegan or dairy. None of the menu choices contained meat or fish. Glutin-free or not was not always labeled, but after a brief and mild flare-up of my celiac condition, I limited myself to a small portion of the main dish, unless I could see wheat noodles or pasta in it, in which case I was content with just the salad, vegetable and brown rice, which, along with the white, was available every day. A raw fooder would find lettuce, raw shredded carrot and beet, chopped cucumber, celery, sunflower seeds and sunflower seed dressing. There were chop sticks available which, in my group, hardly anyone used. The lettuce was cut in long strips. Not sure how one would eat it without using chop sticks, but I was too busy eating to watch what others were doing. They did make a lot of clattering with their spoons and forks against their plates, except on the last day when we were at last allowed to talk, then all you could hear was the roar of many conversations going on at once. We did not communicate with one another for the first nine days of the course. We were like loners in the lunchroom and outside queuing up and serving ourselves, then sitting down and eating without communicating. The third meal was just tea, fruit and milk. There were cakes and cookies but I deserted most of the dessert except when there were slices of watermelon which I, of coarse, enjoyed.

The meditation instruction consisted of audios and videos of S. N. Goenka (1924-2013). His talks were shown on two video displays, one on each side of the meditation hall, every evening. There was a different talk for every day of the course, recorded from a course he had directed in the English language. (There are courses conducted in other languages such as Spanish, Persian and Burmese.) On the women’s side of the hall, a woman teacher called us up once every few days to find out if we were successfully applying the teaching. It was the same on the men’s side, only the teacher was a man.

The indoor spaces are all air conditioned. The meditation hall is kept quite cool. I enjoyed having a bathroom and shower in my single occupant room, a short walk from both the meditation hall and the dining hall. Some of the rooms do share plumbing though. I arrived at registration early (and I’m an elder). Even though it was quite hot outside in the California desert during August, I rarely used the air conditioner in the room. It seemed to remain comfortable with just the ceiling fan. (The room also contains a heater which I had no reason to use).
“Last night I had the strangest dream,” by Woody Guthrie was the last song I sang before leaving for the Vipassana retreat. It was going through my head while I was there and still is. The words, “…I dreamed the world had all agreed to put an end to war… And when the paper was all signed and a million copies made…,” came to mind when I signed the agreement not to kill, not to steal, not to lie, not to commit sexual misconduct, and not to use intoxicants. I wondered if the first million people have signed that agreement yet. With Vipassana Centers all over the world that have been training 60 people every two weeks for decades, it does seem likely.
Participants are not allowed to have any form of tobacco, drugs other than prescription, or alcohol during the 11 days we are at the center. Our cell phones were kept for us by an assistant teacher, and returned as we were leaving. What a nice break it was to be completely away from drinking and smoking!

There is a schedule of rest periods during which we can walk a little walking path, one for woman and another for men. The women’s trail was pretty popular during the time I liked to go, early in the morning while it was still cool .

I was trying to sit in the semi-lotus for an hour. After about a half hour my right knee started hurting. I didn’t try to push the pain away, I just paid attention to it. I remembered an old injury I had sustained in that knee. I could not get up the steps to the apartment where I was living with my two teens in the summer of 2003 without both hands on the rail, dragging my right leg up one step at a time behind my left, for several days, within a few weeks of our move from the family home.

I want to forgive the people that committed atrocities against me. I have no power over their karma,. I can only stop the anger that surges up within me whenever I consider them or what I experienced at their hands. The body remembers even if the mind forgets.

You have an aversion to being humiliated, so you become angry when you realize how badly you have been humiliated. As you watch the breath in meditation you are affirming your intrinsic nobility, and humiliation loses its power over you. I have been trying to find the root of my neuroses remembering all the pain that happened. I felt a shift. I am remembering the good things. I am remembering the joy. I am remembering the love. I am expecting good things.

The hour goes by very slowly when there is pain. At first my back hurt, then that seemed to subside as I found my balanced position, then it was the hips and knees, especially the right knee. Now I can meditate longer without pain. Continuing for a little while against the pain lengthens the span of time that I can sit comfortably practicing mindfulness meditation.
The person sitting directly behind me laughed loudly at one of S N Goenka’s jokes during the discourse. Not the first time this had happened. I was trying very hard to decipher Goenka’s thick accent and derive meaning from his words. The sudden, loud ejaculations directly behind me at what seemed like random times were unnerving, and at one point had me completely unglued. Her laugh was pleasant. Our little meditation mats were close together. I was turned a little to the side to face the TV. Her peals of laughter went right in my ear. Goenkaji was talking about the importance of both awareness and equanimity. I wanted to talk to the assistant teacher, which I felt was a better option than yelling out loud, “Could you put a lid on it? My ear is right here!” I realized I needed to calm down first. Then I realized I had lost my equanimity and this was exactly what Goenkaji was talking about! I chuckled silently, realizing that this had come up to help illustrate the principle I was learning. My anger was gone. Seeing the humor in the situation, I approached the assistant teacher when the break was called. I said, “The person behind me is laughing loudly. I lost my equanimity. I am craving for her to be more considerate.”

Then the very next day it was another close neighbor, this time the person in front of me, who was bothering me. I thought, I am so glad this course is almost over because I wouldn’t be able to stand it if it were going on much longer! There it was, something to be grateful for, an affirmation to the impermanence of my current frustration. I felt my mood shift from tense and angry to happy and relaxed. But I wasn’t skilled enough to keep it. Soon the anger crept over me again.
The wretched smell of hand sanitizer had been plaguing my nostrils throughout the day. When the lady sat down in front of me reeking of cheap perfume I hoped it would waft away as the day progressed. But every time she sat down quietly in front of me, at the beginning of every session, I could smell her arrival between closed eyes. After one of the breaks she entered the foyer to the meditation hall right after me. She stopped at a dispenser of hand sanitizer which was there on the shelf and infused both her hands and my air with the alcohols in that bottle. By evening I was ready to shove the entire bottle up her nose!

Goenkaji had been discussing anger. He was explaining how to manage anger. He said you don’t just suppress it because that drives it down into the subconscious where it erupts later. The methods of anger management based on distraction don’t work. What you do is you somehow become totally aware of the anger but you don’t act on it.

“Siddhartha Gotama [Buddha] gained enlightenment by discovering the root cause of craving and aversion, and by eradicating them where they arise, at the level of sensation. What he himself had done, he taught to others. He was not unique in teaching that one should come out of craving and aversion; even before him, this was taught in India. Neither is morality unique to the teaching of the Buddha, nor the development of control of one’s mind. Similarly, wisdom at the intellectual, emotional, or devotional levels also existed before the Buddha. The unique element in his teaching lies elsewhere, in his identifying physical sensation as the crucial point at which craving and aversion begin, and at which they must be eliminated. Unless one deals with sensations, one will be working only at a superficial level of the mind, while in the depths the old habit of reaction will continue. By learning to be aware of all the sensations within oneself and to remain equanimous towards them, one stops reactions where they start: one comes out of misery.” Day Six, The Discourses of S.N. Goenka.

Stretched out on my bed during the break I could not figure out how to handle anger on the inside. Later, I learned from his book that the instant my nostrils pick up the smell of hand sanitizer is when I need to work on equanimity.

Goenkaji kept saying, “equanimity,” earlier in the week with the accent on the second syllable. It flew by me the first twenty or thirty times in a Sanskrit-sounding salad of syllables that to me was completely unintelligible. The next day the teacher asked me was I developing eQUAnimity, also placing the accent on the second syllable, and I said, “Am I developing what?” She repeated it a little slower and I finally got it. “Yes, my emotions are getting calmer.”
Goenkaji kept saying “Parami,” a foreign word that I had not heard defined. During the question and answer period at the end of the long day, I had asked the teacher, “Why does Goenka say these things are part of him?” She didn’t understand my question. “He said, ‘There’s ten parts of me. The first part of me is this..’”
She said,”Oh no, that’s ‘Parami,’” and she spelled it and explained it. I was not able to hang on to the meaning, but memorized the spelling so I could look it up later.

“There are ten good mental qualities—pāramī—that one must perfect to reach the final goal…
“The first pāramī is nekkhamma—renunciation…. In a course like this, one has the opportunity to do so, [to develop this quality] since here one lives on the charity of others. Accepting whatever is offered as food, accommodation, or other facilities, one gradually develops the quality of renunciation….
“The next pāramī is sīla—morality. One tries to develop this pāramī by following the five precepts at all times, both during a course and in daily life. [“The Five Precepts: I undertake the rule of training to abstain from killing living creatures. I undertake the rule of training to abstain from taking what is not given. I undertake the rule of training to abstain from sexual misconduct. I undertake the rule of training to abstain from wrong speech. I undertake the rule of training to abstain from intoxicants, which are causes of intemperate behavior.” From Day Two Discourse in The Discourse Summaries of S.N. Goenka]….
“Another pāramī is viriya—effort. In daily life one makes efforts, for example to earn one’s livelihood. Here, however, the effort is to purify the mind by remaining aware and equanimous. This is right effort, which leads to liberation.
“Another pāramī is paññā—wisdom…. The real pāramī of wisdom is the understanding that develops within oneself, by one’s own experience in meditation. One realizes directly by self-observation the facts of impermanence, suffering, and egolessness. By this direct experience of reality one comes out of suffering.
“Another pāramī is khanti—tolerance. At a course like this, working and living together in a group, one may find oneself becoming disturbed and irritated by the actions of another person. But soon one realizes that the person causing a disturbance is ignorant of what he is doing, or a sick person. The irritation goes away, and one feels only love and compassion for that person. One has started developing the quality of tolerance.
“Another pāramī is sacca—truth. By practicing sīla one undertakes to maintain truthfulness at the vocal level. However, sacca must also be practiced in a deeper sense. Every step on the path must be a step with truth, from gross, apparent truth, to subtler truths, to ultimate truth. There is no room for imagination. One must always remain with the reality that one actually experiences at the present moment.
“Another pāramī is adhiṭṭhāna—strong determination. When one starts a Vipassana course, one makes a determination to remain for the entire period of the course. One resolves to follow the precepts, the rule of silence, all the discipline of the course. After the introduction of the technique of Vipassana itself, one makes a strong determination to meditate for the entire hour during each group sitting without opening eyes, hands or legs. At a later stage on the path, this pāramī will be very important; when coming close to the final goal, one must be ready to sit without break until reaching liberation. For this purpose it is necessary to develop strong determination.
“Another pāramī is mettā—pure, selfless love. In the past one tried to feel love and goodwill for others, but this was only at the conscious level of the mind. At the unconscious level the old tensions continued. When the entire mind is purified, then from the depths one can wish for the happiness of others. This is real love, which helps others and helps oneself as well.
“Yet another pāramī is upekkhā—equanimity. One learns to keep the balance of the mind not only when experiencing gross, unpleasant sensations or blind areas in the body, but also in the face of subtle, pleasant, sensations. In every situation one understands that the experience of that moment is impermanent, bound to pass away. With this understanding one remains detached, equanimous.
“The last pāramī is dāna—charity, donation. For a lay person, this is the first essential step of Dhamma. A lay person has the responsibility of earning money by right livelihood, for the support of oneself and of any dependents. But if one generates attachment to the money that one earns, then one develops ego. For this reason, a portion of what one earns must be given for the good of others. ” From Day Nine Discourse in The Discourse Summaries of S.N. Goenka.

Another word Goenkaji kept repeating, which I didn’t understand, was, “Sankara.” For awhile I thought he was talking about his son named Kara. So I asked the teacher about it, but got the word wrong! I asked her about, “Samsara,” instead! “Samsara,” refers to the birth and death wheel, and is a word I don’t think Goenka had even used.

“Something unwanted happens, and one generates a sankhāra [impurity in the subconscious mind] of aversion. As the sankhāra arises in the mind, it is accompanied by an unpleasant physical sensation. Next moment, because of the old habit of reaction, one again generates aversion, which is actually directed towards the unpleasant bodily sensation. The external stimulus of the anger is secondary; the reaction is in fact to the sensation within oneself. The unpleasant sensation causes one to react with aversion, which generates another unpleasant sensation, which again causes one to react. In this way, the process of multiplication begins. If one does not react to the sensation but instead smiles. and understands its impermanent nature, then one does not generate a new sankhāra, and the sankhāra that has already arisen will pass away without multiplying. Next moment, another sankhāra of the same type will arise from the depths of the mind; one remains equanimous, and it will pass away. Next moment another arises; one remains equanimous, and it passes away.” The process of eradication has started. S. N. Goenka, The Discourse Summaries, The Eighth Day.

“…[T]he word saṅkhārā means not only mental reactions, but also the results of these reactions. Every mental reaction is a seed which gives a fruit, and everything that one experiences in life is a fruit, a result of one’s own actions, that is, one’s saṅkhārā, past or present. Hence the meaning is, ‘Everything that arises, that becomes composed, will pass away, will disintegrate.’ Merely accepting this reality emotionally, or out of devotion, or intellectually, will not purify the mind. It must be accepted at the actual level, by experiencing the process of arising and passing away within oneself. If one experiences impermanence directly by observing one’s own physical sensations, then the understanding that develops is real wisdom, one’s own wisdom. And with this wisdom one becomes freed from misery. Even if pain remains, one no longer suffers from it. Instead one can smile at it, because one can observe it.
“The old mental habit is to seek to push away painful sensations and to pull in pleasurable ones. So long as one is involved in the game of pain-and-pleasure, push-and-pull, the mind remains agitated, and one’s misery increases. But once one learns to observe objectively without identifying with the sensations, then the process of purification starts, and the old habit of blind reaction and of multiplying one’s misery is gradually weakened and broken. One must learn how to just observe.
“This does not mean that by practicing Vipassana one becomes a ‘vegetable,’ passively allowing others to do one harm. Rather, one learns how to act instead of to react. Previously one lived a life of reaction, and reaction is always negative. Now you are learning how to live properly, to live a healthy life of real action. Whenever a difficult situation arises in life, one who has learned to observe sensations will not fall into blind reaction. Instead he will wait a few moments, remaining aware of sensations and also equanimous, and then will make a decision and choose a course of action. Such an action is certain to be positive, because it proceeds from a balanced mind; it will be a creative action, helpful to oneself and others.
“Gradually, as one learns to observe the phenomenon of mind and matter within, one comes out of reactions, because one comes out of ignorance. The habit pattern of reaction is based on ignorance. Someone who has never observed reality within does not know what is happening deep inside, does not know how he reacts with craving or aversion, generating tensions which make him miserable.” From Day Six of The Discourse Summaries of S.N. Goenka.
“Very deep lying impurities—saṅkhārā—buried in the unconscious now start appearing at the surface level of the mind. This is not a regression; it is a progress, for unless they come to the surface, the impurities cannot be eradicated. They arise, one observes equanimously, and they pass away one after another.” From Day Ten in The Discourse Summaries of S.N. Goenka.

It was time to return to the hall. It was supposed to have been a five-minute break but I had taken ten. I got up, walked outside and up the gentle slope to the meditation hall. The assistant teacher was taking off her sandals while I entered the foyer. I hit the bottle of hand sanitizer violently with the karate blade of my left hand. It hit the wall behind the shelf then came to rest on its side. I walked into the hall and sat down in my place. I had performed an action that was only symbolic of what my anger had wanted to do. No real harm was caused. The plastic bottle did not break when I struck it. It did not damage the wall. The noise from striking the bottle was mainly heard by me as both foyer doors were closed.

After another meditation session the next day, I was behind the lady who appeared to be overusing the hand sanitizer as we left the hall. She took some hand sanitizer while in the foyer. Then as she was walking toward a residence, I saw her cup her hand over her nose like she was huffing. My God what a sad addiction! I had wanted to dump out the hand sanitizer bottle over the woman’s head in a rage because she had exposed me, to what was to me an unpleasant odor, and what I feared were toxic fumes, all day while I was meditating in my assigned place right behind her. When the anger is not controlling me it is easy to see that I didn’t actually want the consequences that would have resulted from striking her physically with the bottle. I didn’t really want to hurt her. When I observed her, apparently, huffing the fumes from her hand I was filled with grief and compassion. I was shocked and saddened to see someone caught in an addiction to a toxic substance. I had wanted to rub it into her hair and shove it up her nose yelling, “Is this enough hand sanitizer for you?” But when I saw her doing that to herself I found I could forgive her for exposing me to those unpleasant and toxic fumes, because I realized she was hurting herself even more. What a sad craving. I pray that she be enabled to overcome her substance abuse issues!
I hope I have learned something about equanimity during those 10 days. Does that mean I can now be more conveniently robbed? I don’t think so. There is something to observing the anger on the inside. I was not doing it correctly when I took my rage out on the hand sanitizer dispenser. But I will learn. A woman arrived at the center on my group’s last full day with a book display. I told her about the difficulty I was having understanding Goenka. She recommended I get a book called, The Discourse Summaries of S. N. Goenka, and that I can order it online at http://www.pariyatti.org.

S N Goenka was born in Burma to a family successful in business. He made his own successful career in the family tradition, was married for over 60 years, and raised a large family. He had been plagued by migraine headaches and sought relief from various physicians without success until he took a ten-day course in Vipassana meditation, which was still being taught in Burma from the time Buddhism first arrived to that area, even though the protocol had died out in other areas, including India. After retiring, Goenka began conducting the 10-day sessions himself, and the demand grew. Vipassana centers sprung up in India and other places with classes being conducted by Goenka and others who had studied with him. Centers were built and established in Europe and America and throughout the globe. Vipassana means as it is. The website to sign up for the free introductory ten-day course is http://www.dhamma.org.

My husband and I arrived at the Southern California Vipassana campus together the day before the first full day of the course, then we went our separate ways for the next 9 days. On the 10th day we were allowed to converse with each other, which we did briefly. Then on the 11th day we departed together.
The first evening and the first full day in the hall I guiltily took a few glances into the men’s area without seeing my husband. The women were on the right half of the meditation hall and the men were on the left. A few sat in chairs along the side wall. I did not think that I should allow myself just to gawk at the men until I had picked him out of the crowd. I was sitting near the front and, as I found out the second day, he was sitting near the back. That made it easier for him to see me as he did not have to twist around like I did in order to see him. It was a little bit unsettling emotionally not to see him in that crowd of men in the few furtive glances I allowed myself. During the second full day I caught sight of him as he was walking toward the door on the men’s side of the hall. Ah, how my heart was relieved!

The accommodations during the course were adequate and comfortable. The meals were satisfying and healthy. The instruction was enlightening and entertaining. We supplied our own sheets and towels and deep cleaned our rooms before we left, but a remarkable value in food, lodging and instruction had been received. My husband and I walked away from the center having paid nothing, nor even having made any promises to pay anything in the future. No one tried to guilt us into making a contribution to the expenses of the program, other than a brief and informative presentation given during the last course day, about the work there and the opportunities for various forms of contribution, with more emphasis, I thought, being placed on service opportunities than financial contribution opportunities.
Never was any suggestion made to me that I should change my religion. On the contrary, the literature and web sites about the program clearly indicate that Vipassana meditation is a technique that will benefit anyone regardless of religion or no religion. S N Goenka repeated this several times during his discourses. There is no prescribed ritual, no dogma. Each student is free to use the technique if it has been demonstrated to his or her satisfaction that it is beneficial to him or her.

Meditation

I draw the high vibration of heavenly energy down as I bring the earth essence up to meet it. As the earth essence rises it transmutes into seven elemental energy forms, a unique one in each of the seven spiritual centers, becoming earth essence at the root chakra, water essence at the sacral chakra, fire essence at the solar plexus chakra, air essence at the heart chakra, metal essence at the throat chakra, light essence at the brow chakra, and ether essence at the crown chakra, fueling the seven spiritual lamps as they are being energized by spiritual high energy as it descends from above.

I draw white light in through the spiritual opening at the top of my head. This spiritual energy then becomes refracted and energizes each of seven centers with a unique rainbow color. The crown center is bathed in violet light. I bow to my Spirit Guides, surrender to their will, and trust their wisdom and guidance. I bring the earth essence up through the lower 6 chakras to the crown chakra. I know that bringing the earth essence to the crown center requires a life dedicated to detachment, chastity, sobriety, nonviolence, gratitude and courage. I consider if I can improve in these areas. Ether is the mysterious background of Spirit that pervades all things. This is the element of the crown center. My earth essence transmutes from the light it became in the sixth chakra into ether and fuels the violet glow of the crown center lamp. If the crown center lamp were to go out I might feel like an agnostic or an atheist, having no personal confirmation of the existence of God. I might cling to and promote an idol of dogma that I have never personally verified and become intolerant of the beliefs of others. When the purple lamp at the crown center is lit, and the energies are flowing as they should, I am one with all the Great Teachers of humanity throughout the ages, I am one with God. I know all truth. I receive wisdom from on high, and I walk in it.

The spiritual energy descends to the brow chakra as blue light. I sense a greater insight into the motivation of myself and others. I bring the earth essence up to the brow center where it transmutes to light. The spiritual blue light of clarity combines with the enlightened earthly essence to fuel the lamp of courage. If the effulgent blue ball in the center of my head were to become extinguished I might not be able to discern truth from falsehood nor good from evil. I might feel morally superior to others. I might become passive and apathetic. When the brow center light is ablaze I am able to distinguish teammates from opponents. I have the courage to stay connected even to unpleasant people so that the light of God can reach them.

The spiritual energy descends to the throat chakra in turquoise light. My communication skills are strong. I draw the earth essence up from below to my throat center where it becomes elemental metal. The ascending and descending energies combine to fuel a turquoise lamp. If this lamp were to go out, I might complain, make excuses, or be completely tongue-tied. I might become disrespectful of others, scolding or slandering one, and inappropriately flattering another. When the throat center lamp is lit and the energies are flowing as they should, I am able to communicate effectively with thankfulness, tact and truthfulness.

The spiritual energy descends to the heart chakra in green light. I manifest power in gentleness. Every difficulty is a challenge to grow my skill level. Those who want to fight will find nothing in me. I pull the earth essence up to the heart center where it becomes air, combining with the ascending energy to fuel a green ball of light in the center of my being. If this lamp were to go out I might be afraid or feel like a victim. I might become angry or belligerent. When the heart center lamp is lit and the energies are flowing as they should, I feel empowered and gentle. I inhale and exhale spiritually as I inhale and exhale physically.

The spiritual energy descends to the solar plexus chakra in yellow light. Spirit nurtures my inner life and I am completely serene. As I pull the earth essence upward toward the solar plexus center (whose element is fire), it becomes flame, combining with the energy from above to fuel a yellow lamp like a yellow sun. If this lamp were ever to go out I might give in to drug addiction, alcoholiism or gluttony. When the solar plexus light is fired up and the energies are flowing as they should, it is the lamp of nourishment, patience and serenity. I nourish myself spiritually as I nourish myself physically.

The spiritual energy descends to the sacral chakra in amber light. In innocence I accept the Divine Friend’s abiding presence in my life. I draw the earthly essence upward to the sacral center. It becomes liquid and watery. The energy descending from above with the essence ascending from below fuel the amber lamp. The sacral center is about relationship: myself and another. If the sacral lamp were to go out, I might feel cut off, exploited or ashamed. I might become aloof and manipulative in my relationships with others, possibly even going so far as to exploit or shame another, or actively allow myself to be exploited in an unchaste relationship. When the amber sacral lamp is burning, and the energies are flowing as they should, I feel innocent and connected.

The spiritual energy descends to the root chakra in red light. I make my own way in this world, answering to no one but myself. When the heavenly energy descends to the root center, it combines with the earthly essence resident there, energizing the scarlet lamp. The earth essence at the root center is solid and earthy. If the root center lamp were to go out I might feel powerless and suicidal. I might become hostile and aggressive. When the root lamp is lit, and the energies are flowing as they should, I feel detached, free and content.

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