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Chp. 4, pgs 65-68
Day Three: Sit, Breathe, Feel
The early morning routine is beginning to strengthen my sense of awareness. No sooner does the gong clang at 4:00 A.M. than I arise, shower, and set off to the dhamma hall.
Last night, Goenkaji instructed us to focus our attention on the triangular indentation located between the end of the nostrils and the upper lip, or the philtrum, and to become aware of any kind of sensation there. The conjecture here is that if the mind is centered enough to feel sensations in a very small area of the body, then the individual is ready to receive the vipassana technique. A tide of excitement flutters my heart as I step into the dhamma hall. I’m dying to know what vipassana is and how to practice it.
I’m beginning to like the 4:30 meditation. The serenity of the outdoors fills the room, casting an enchanting spell on the meditator. Snifflers, sneezers, and coughers are greatly reduced in number as two-thirds of the crowd are not in attendance. The air conditioner activates only after 8:00 A.M. Interruptions being minimal, I fall silent nearly immediately.
Getting the mind to focus on a narrow area such as the philtrum is no small task, as it turns out. I attempt it, but my nose keeps getting in the way! Not that I have a large nose or anything, it’s just that it gets between the area of focus and my “sight.” I imagine detaching my mind from my body, setting it directly across from me, and observing the triangular upper-lip area from the outside. Needless to say, this is colossally confusing. Frustrated, I start over. I take off the philtrum from my face and visualize it in front of me. Then I try to observe it as if I’m staring into somebody else’s face. As it turns out, this isn’t a very good idea either. My frustration is up several notches. “How do I do this? Nothing seems to work.” The out-of-sight success frazzles me. I’m very close to giving up when I remember Goenkaji’s words.
With a deep breath, I calmly and patiently recalibrate the lens of my mind’s “eye,” aiming it directly at the indentation in my upper lip, ignoring the silhouette of my nose and disregarding my physical discomfort. I do this over and over. As the seconds turn into minutes, I get comfortable with the idea of watching my upper lip. I don’t feel any sensations yet, but I can smell success and I know it’s within reach.
As the early morning sitting comes to a close, the rumble of the audio rolls through the room. I quickly become absorbed in the chanting. The Hindi couplets Goenkaji sings are profound and poignant, and resonate the teachings of Eastern philosophies. It’s not nearly as torturous as the nights before. In fact, my body sways back and forth as if it were enjoying the melody. I’m surprised as earlier I disliked his singing. I still do. I mean, who wants to listen to a melodically bland song? That’s just my opinion, of course. Anyway, his singing is quite palatable now.
At breakfast, for the first time today, a sense of presence washes over me. I wait patiently in line, bereft of any ill feeling toward those ahead of me who need extra time to fill up their bowls. If they set their grimy plates or spoons on the counter, I pick them up, promptly, willingly, and stick them in the dishwashing rack. I take the time to mindfully eat my oatmeal, one spoon at a time, experiencing its texture on my palate and swallowing it with a sense of gratitude.
Following breakfast, as I strut back to the cottage, a scene in the meadow stops me in my tracks, captivating my senses. In the meadow, an expanse of bright, golden dandelions beams in the warm sunlight, a light breeze rippling the supple stalks, rendering a performance that is jubilant, soul-stirring. Butterflies, orange, brown, copper, fan their delicate wings and siphon the flowers’ nectar. They flutter about, flying up and dropping down, delighting in their heavenly dance. I watch with bated breath, knitting my eyebrows, deep in thought, wondering why I haven’t noticed this resplendence before.
Back in the quarter, I reach over to the tissue box and pull out a tissue. My stuffed-up nose has been irritating me since dawn. I blow into the tissue to relieve the obstruction. Blood comes squirting out and falls into the tissue, making a brilliant red spot on the crisp, white surface. My reaction at the sudden sight of blood is surprise, shock, confusion, and alarm. “Gosh! I’ve never had a nose-bleed before. Why is it bleeding? How long is it going to bleed? How do I stop it?” As I wipe my nose dry, I remember that the teacher had asked about sensations in the nose yesterday. “Oh, that’s what it’s about.” It’s an expected outcome of the focused breathing. I drop the used tissue in the garbage can and visit the bathroom before heading out. On the counter lie several white plastic tubes with the sign, “Saline water. For nasal rinsing.”
I step outside. “Think I should do some stretches.” I exhale and spread my legs three to four feet apart, then turn my legs, feet, and torso to the right so my hips face my right leg. On a second exhalation, as I bend my torso and bring my left hand down to the ground by my right foot, a big bug, perhaps a beetle, nearly two inches long, purplish black, fierce, vigilant, on all eights, like a warrior, crawls out from under the bushes and marches toward me. I stare, eyes wide open, legs frozen, and lungs tightened, as it approaches me. It crawls right under me, seemingly unaffected by my presence, and then inches forward as if preparing to attack an invisible enemy. Ordinarily, I would have screamed and scampered off at the sight of an insect that size. But today, I un-pretzel myself, arise, and watch the bug crawl away and disappear under a clump of dry leaves and twigs. My mind feels stable, alert, untouched by fear.
© Raji Lukkoor, 2011. All rights reserved.
Posted on November 21, 2011 at 10:23am
Posted on November 21, 2011 at 10:19am
People cringe when they hear the word "meditation." It sounds so spiritual, right? A picture of the Dalai Lama zooms into view and sweat begins to stream down towards the pounding heart.
What if people heard "silence" instead? Silence is used and practiced more popularly. Parents tell their children to hush; teachers instruct their students to quiet down; movie-goers respectfully turn off their conversations and cell phones. Clearly, silence has value.
Posted on October 3, 2011 at 4:30pm