Vipassana

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” Gautama Buddha

 

After completing my first 10 day silent Vipassana meditation course recently, a series of three dominating thoughts came to mind. First and foremost, ‘Why don’t more people talk about this?’ followed by, ‘This is here and available to everyone, yet so few have heard of it… I must write about this!’, finally deciding, ‘I will write about it, but I need to make sure I write in such a way, I do it justice and leave it open to the individual to make their own inner journey and interpretation as they see fit.’

You will not be hearing about my own personal journey with Vipassana beyond the absolute appreciation and gratitude I have for being open enough to receive this wonderful technique and consequently, employing the practice into my everyday life. Vipassana is not a well-kept secret designed only for an exclusive few, but every person’s experience, as already mentioned, is truly unique and individual.

True to Buddhist beliefs, the technique and the meditation practice as a whole, is available to everyone, remaining entirely universal and non-sectarian. In fact, so much so, it runs entirely on a donation basis, without expectation for return. Below you will find a brief introduction on the course, taken from New Zealand’s own Vipassana Meditation Centre, The Dhamma Medina www.medini.dhamma.org

“Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. It was taught in India more than 2500 years ago as a universal remedy for universal ills, i.e., an Art of Living.

The technique of Vipassana Meditation is taught at ten-day residential courses during which participants learn the basics of the method, and practice sufficiently to experience its beneficial results. There are no charges for the courses – not even to cover the cost of food and accommodation. All expenses are met by donations from people who, having completed a course and experienced the benefits of Vipassana, wish to give others the opportunity to also benefit.”

The Vipassana technique for meditation means to gain insight into the true nature of reality. Also used as a path towards self-realization, which is the fulfilment of one’s own potential.

You will need to take your own 10 day course with a Buddhist Vipassana centre in order to understand, learn and adopt the technique for your own practice at home. It is a very serious undertaking that should not be taken lightly, nor attempted on your own. In saying this, I hope not to discourage anyone from sitting for Vipassana and experiencing this truly unique and blessed gift.

It is something anyone can do, given a little self-will and discipline, and, just like anything you take on in your lifetime, you will get out of it just as much as you put in. Do not expect miracles. Most of it is exceptionally tough work. You are, after all, dealing with the many layers of accumulative ‘stuff’ of your psyche from the many years and experiences gone by.

You may find it easier if you already have a regular meditation practice, as you should already be comfortable sitting for longer periods at a time, this could also mean that you have already started the process of ‘weeding’ out all those deep roots (negative thought patterns, ideas, self-doubt, etc.) planted so long ago. I use ‘may’ and ‘could’ cautiously as there are a number of meditation techniques out there using different processes to achieve different results. No one technique should ever be deemed ‘better’ than another and Vipassana certainly doesn’t claim to be the only path, merely, one of the options for you to try when you are ready.

Keep in mind, however, that even if you already have an existing meditation practice, this does not necessarily mean you have the upper hand on the technique or the experience and anyone, with or without an existing practice, should always enter into the technique with an open mind free of expectations.

Now you may find yourself asking, “Okay Annie, if there are so many techniques available, why should I sit in silence for a 10 day Vipassana you’ve just described as ‘exceptionally tough work’?

Vipassana does not focus on anything external to get you to the place most meditators seek, instead relying on your own unique experience through will power and self-discipline, to go deeper, to get to the core, the essence, of your very being. It will implore you to tap into your own potential, using your own strength, your own capacity to empower yourself. Vipassana focuses on within.

“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” – Gautama Buddha

Anyone who’s ever spoken with me, taken one of my classes, read one of my posts, followed me on Instagram or liked my Facebook page knows just how strongly I feel about empowering oneself to make change and transformation for the betterment of your own, individual life. After all, the only way we can expect to see any change in our external world; is to cultivate it organically from within.

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Vipassana will challenge you to go to the deepest roots of your own self-placed limitations and obstacles. It will take you to places you never even knew existed, perhaps even to places long forgotten, thought insignificant or placed in the ‘too difficult to handle’ pile. It will call you to account for your own journey and subsequent paths, and, if not already, life now becomes monumentally vital and important.

Life becomes significant.

When you think about it, 10 days really is a small fraction of a life time. 10 days to bring you a few steps closer to liberation. 10 days to ‘gift’ you this amazing technique for self-transformation, for self-realization. 10 days to experience life without all the excessive buzz of our modern day society. 10 days to work on and discipline the self, to gain more confidence, more clarity, more awareness, compassion and love; not just for self, but for others too.

Within this small time frame of your life, you will also experience wonderful gifts of generous food and service from previous Vipassana students, peace and solitude from others, teachers on hand for more direct guidance, and a beautiful, quiet and serene environment. Free from distractions and completely focused on calming, and restoring the modern monkey-mind of today’s must-have-now, must-do-now society.

By day 5 I had already decided to go back within the next 6 months to sit another 10 days, as well as returning again in 2017 to serve on one of the courses. I have stayed strong with my decision, through the hard times during and after the course. No matter what has been brought to the surface upstairs in that that monkey mind of mine, I have no doubt that the technique works and will only be as effective as the time I give in ‘service’ to myself; to make sure there is no time lost, no time wasted on thoughts, things and behaviours which no longer serve me, or those around me, well.

For others, they may never sit another one again. However, there are some like myself, who will repeatedly return for the course, and continue the practice at home. By sitting the 10 days, you are not bound by the technique, nor by the 10 day length, but I encourage you to stay, even through the hardest of times. After which, if it did not resonate with you at all, you are free to leave it in the past and move on to try something else.

I can only say from my own personal experience, that I now know how logical and practical the teaching is and feel it can be something for everybody, if only you might just give it a fair trial? 10 days of a lifetime is not too much to ask for liberation of the soul!

Just as I say about my yoga practice, it doesn’t take time, it gives time. It lives and breathes new, fresh and focused energy. It allows more time for sharpness, single pointed clarity and decisiveness, and enables the meditator to use these gifts wisely in order to cut through all the B.S. so we can concentrate on the things that really matter. Giving them our full attention and devotion, with absolute love and compassion for the experience of that one moment.

For the experience of living life.

I could write so much more, but the experience can only ever be yours for the taking…

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

 Live. Love. Give. Yoga.

Annie x

www.dhamma.org

Vipassana is an ancient Buddhist technique taught by Gautama Buddha in India at around 580 B.C for self-realization. After some time, the technique suffered under the weight of religious sects (Buddhism is non-sectarian) and other influences, diminishing in education and finding refuge in a minority of teachers and students in Burma (Myanmar) for centuries before its re-emergence to India through the late Mr. Goenka in 1969.

Over a period of almost 45 years, Mr. Goenka and the teachers appointed by him taught hundreds of thousands of people in courses in India and other countries, East and West. Today, meditation centres established under his guidance are operating in Asia, Europe, the Americas, Africa and Australasia.

 

 

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I am Now.

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.” ~ William Blake

Today, not unlike any other, I took my asana practice to a deck overlooking the sea. I was flowing with my breath, making shapes with my body, and transitioning effortlessly from one pose to the next when I found myself coming to an abrupt stop and balancing on the palms of my hands to focus on one tiny little grain of sand that lay beneath the point of my two eyes.

In that moment, nothing else mattered. Not the pose, not my body, and most certainly not my mind. It was surrounded by many other grains of sand, but my eyes remained still, my focus sharp, time quite literally, just stopped and my world became this one, little grain of sand.

I have no recollection of why I stopped, nor what pose I was balancing in (Bakasana, Adho Mukha Vrksasana, Pincha Mayurasana?), I couldn’t tell you what I may have been thinking prior to that moment, or even how far I was into my practice. All I knew, was that, there, in that grain of sand, my world lay waiting. Still, in absolute peace, untainted, whole and perfect.

Rewind 6 years ago and I am walking up a mountain in Kodaikanal, Southern India. Tureya ashram, my home for almost 4 months, was off in the distance and I was walking slowly, deliberately, mala beads in hand, rolling one bead after the other and repeating my mantra. I look up briefly and see the lamppost. This particular post had become familiar to me and I would use it as a gauge on time and distance for my daily walks.

Many moments later, still stepping one foot after the other, still rolling the beads, still chanting, I look up again. The lamppost is still there.

I stop dead in my tracks. I have already passed this lamppost, checked off my gauge, taken my token gaze over the ashram and moved on, up the mountain. Or had I?

These two mind blowing experiences are rare and divine and can only occur when you are absolutely, living in the moment. Completely present, empty in thought, devoid of attachment, of emotions and wherever you find yourself at the time, totally devoted to your practice, still or moving.

We talk about it often, and seldom experience it. But it need not be this way. The world with which we now live is extremely fast paced. The term ‘living life to the full’ has been blown completely out of proportion and appears to be more focused on experiences of quantity over quality.

It’s time we took back control of our lives. Constantly swinging from one thing to another, never really giving it the focus it deserves, will have you swept off your feet and back into drama before you know it. The more focus you give something, the greater it becomes.

This is how my grain of sand became a world.

If you, like many others, find yourself constantly hearing the words ‘too busy’ exiting your mouth; a) stop telling your friends this, the last thing they want to hear is that you don’t have time for them and b) you are really only inviting more busy in; more stress, more chaos, more drama, less time.

Ever heard the term, ‘Yoga doesn’t take time, it gives time’? Nothing could be more true. By taking the time in yoga, be it 10 minutes or an hour, you create more space to move into. Your world expands and everything becomes less, but more. Less busy, more mindful. Less anger, more love. Less rushed, more peace.

You can even apply it to your asana practice, ‘I inhale to expand and create space, I exhale to move into that space using effortless effort and releasing that which no longer serves me.’

I have been using this a lot recently in my classes.

‘That’ could be a tight muscle, or a problematic friend. ‘That’ might be an old injury, or a limiting pattern of thought. ‘That’ might be a blocked digestive tract, or writers block. ‘That’ could be a rigid spine, or a restrictive relationship.

I have made a conscious decision to change my life, physically and mentally so that I may live more and more in the present moment. And for those of you who think it has come without sacrifice, take another look, go deeper and you will see or maybe, one day, experience it yourself.

To be in the present moment also requires courage, but not the kind that sees you throwing yourself out of an air plane and plummeting at high speeds towards the ground. I’m sorry, no offense to those readers who have subjected themselves to the fantasy that this is the biggest leap they will ever take, but essentially, all you’ve done is thrown yourself out of a fast moving object, 14,000 miles above the earths surface with nothing but a flimsy bit of material to shield you from the firm hard surface below!

I’m talking about something that takes more then a few moments of spontaneous, action and mindlessness; I’m talking about something that requires strength of character, determined will and action with awareness.

I’m talking about courage to live your life without fear of judgement. Courage to step out of mainstream consumerism and materialism. Courage to live a life you believe in wholeheartedly. Courage to say, this is me, take it or leave it. Courage to dream and live that dream.

You will be met with opposition, and it will persist, even years later. It is not for you to fight against the opposition as much as it is for you to fight for you, every day building strength of will so that you may live your life intuitively, freely and without judgement from self. So that you may find yourself, completely without thought, without burdens or attachment to objects, ideas or people and entirely, in the moment, in your practice, living your yoga.

Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe

Does this mean that I have no thought of others, am self absorbed and removed from society as a whole? On the contrary, my world has expanded and is now filled with blissful moments and beautiful people. The connection I have with others goes deeper, and the appreciation I have for the smallest of things encourages me to embrace my inner child. Choosing to avoid status quo has actually found me within a society, a community, built with compassion, truth, love and acceptance. Non attachment has given me the freedom to see anger but not become the anger.

Of course, it is a constant state of practice and awareness. It hasn’t been an easy road, there have been many obstacles and there could very well be many more.

Yoga is not just a physical practice of poses, it clearly goes deeper and penetrates those layers of illusion we have built around us, shielding us from the very thing we need in order to understand and live our truth. Through asana practice, we start to gently, subtly, peel away those layers. Those layers which are preventing you from living in the present, from truly experiencing your right to live your life here, on this earth, being present, and truly in the moment.

The moment is there for everyone. It’s not selective or exclusive, nor does it come with a list of prerequisites to gain entry. It doesn’t judge you, and it will not hold you accountable. The moment is yours, and it’s there for you to experience whenever you are ready.

Yoga practice, Life practice, same, same. Breathe in the pose, to become the pose. Breathe in that moment of restlessness, to become the rest. Breathe now, to become now.

I am here, I am that. I am Now.

Live.Love.Give.Yoga.

Annie

Change

‘The only thing constant in this life, is change.’

Wise words indeed from the obscure, weeping Greek philosopher, Heraclitus. I remember the first time I read these words. It was during a 3 month stay in a remote ashram in the south of India called Tureya Ashram, 5 years ago.

Swami T had himself a library. I loved this library, it was so full, all his own personal collection. There were books from philosophers, yogis, gurus, health professionals, and religions to name a few. What I would call one of the most unbiased personal collections involving speculative information that I have ever seen to date.

I’m fairly certain, that my time spent in the library scouring his collection and flipping page after page of antique and modern books alike was supposed to be for *asana practice, learning my anatomy, reciting *Sanskrit or meditating. I’m fairly certain though, that my time in the library was indeed, not wasted.

This was a turning point. I was not bored, nor was I overwhelmed; I was immersed deep in the theory, the philosophy, the science of yoga, and the science of life.

And I loved it.

My favourite *karma yoga, was to take myself down the wet, winding path to the little room full of books. Here I would sort through, file, categorize, and place each book in an area it would now call home.

I loved that library, with all it’s smells and wisdom, it’s controversy, life knowledge and the way it courageously spoke , ‘We are all one and the same’, in our religions and views, our politics and science, our poetry and our movement.

Yoga is all about uniting after all. Unite yourself to unite the world.

Like many other places I’ve been, people I’ve met and choices I’ve made, Tureya Ashram has, and continues to have, a huge impact on the direction of my life. The impact of one decision can have implications that go above and beyond what we originally thought possible.

This just blows my mind and I love it.

Everything in this universe is just so intrinsically connected and every little action we take is so fundamental to where we are today, how can you not want to be here, now, present and aware?

I have been meaning to start a blog now for awhile and the timing of my first post comes at yet another pinnacle moment in my life. I am about to leave my home for the last 2 years in The Cayman Islands, for another adventure in another country. This journey will take me back south of the equator, to Mount Maunganui in New Zealand.

Here I will make the radical change I put in place all these years ago and finally hang up my veterinary scrubs, pull on the leggings, roll out the mat, get my *OM on, and share my teachings with others.

On a personal note, I would like to thank Swami T, Rudrama, Adam, Kristin and the late, beautiful Anna, for sharing my experiences with me at Tureya Ashram all that time ago, a time I will never forget and will forever grow.

I look forward to sharing my past, present and future journeys, experiences, learnings and musings with you. I have so many, all stored up in my own personal library, sorted, categorized and filed under ‘A’ for Adventures with Annie.

Live.Love.Give.Yoga.

*Om Shanti, Annie

Follow me on Instagram: @annie_yogini

*Asana is a posture adopted in performing hatha yoga

*Sanskrit is an ancient Indic language of India, in which the Hindu scriptures and classical Indian epic poems are written and from which many northern Indian languages are derived and is known among yogis as ‘the language of yoga’

*Karma yoga is the discipline of selfless action as a way to perfection

*Om (or Auṃ [ə̃ũ], Sanskrit: ॐ) is a sacred sound and a spiritual icon in Dharmic religions. It is also a mantra in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

*Om is believed to be a sound of the whole cosmic manifestation. And Shanti is the “Peace”. It means ‘Om Shanti’ means peace for the all human kind, peace for all living and non living beings, peace for the universe, peace for each and every things in this whole cosmic manifestation.

Links:
http://www.tureya.com

Tureya Ashram             Ashram Residents

Ganesh at night

Anna & I            Rudrama & Kristen