Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Road to Enlightenment: Are We There Yet?

When I signed up for my 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat, I don’t know what I was expecting. Ideally, I just wanted to learn a way to relax and slow down my mind when it starts running away from me and getting a little too overwhelming. I would have been happy to walk away from the retreat with that knowledge and nothing else.

My heart just about stopped on the first night when Guru-ji started talking about taking our first steps toward enlightenment and liberation. Enlightenment? Liberation? WHOA! I’m completely in over my head! I just came to learn how to sit still for an hour and relax but I’m going to be taught how to be enlightened? Okay, COOL! Very quickly I started having images of me leaving the ashram in a state of pure bliss, with rays of light literally beaming out of my pores as I showered every person and every thing in my path with happiness, love and compassion.

Clearly, the road to enlightenment is not an easy one and certainly not one that can be reached at the end of 10 days. But it’s hard to not think that maybe, just maybe, you’d be the exception.

I will be honest in saying that the 10 days were not easy and there were a few moments where I thought that either I couldn’t go on or that I didn’t belong in such an intense course. Sitting still in one position with my eyes closed for an hour at a time proved to be very difficult for me, but by the end, I managed to maintain aditthana, strong determination, during my meditation sessions and I lasted through the hour-long sessions without moving.

One thing that caused me frequent frustration was that I would quite literally spend half of my meditation sessions thinking about the most random things and not focus on my actual meditation. I grew to learn to accept my mind was where it was but in the beginning, it really bothered me that I very obviously wasn’t going to be on the “fast track” to enlightenment.

Observing “noble silence” for 10 days was surprisingly easy, which was a bit of a surprise. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to NOT communicate with anyone (both verbally and bodily) but after the initial day, it was FANTASTIC be able to really focus on myself and my meditation. In fact, when we were able to talk again at the end of the course, it was nerve-racking just thinking about what I would say to people and how I was going to interact with them!

As soon as we were talking, my “Dhamma Sisters” and I immediately felt a close bond and connection to one another. We had survived such an intense experience together and although we hadn’t spoken to one another, much less acknowledged each other’s presence for the last 10 days, it was as if we had known each other for years. It was an incredible bonus in an already rewarding experience to share, bond and connect with these women over our experiences together at the retreat.

I don’t know how much of the actual theory and technique I believe in but I know that I gained a lot from the experience and I’m really glad that I did it. I’m interested in continuing my meditation practices and have been doing my best to meditate for at least one hour a day. I see some benefits and think that as I progress on the “road to enlightenment,” I will slowly get closer and closer to a better understanding of myself at the very least.

That’s not too bad for someone who went in just wanting to sit still for an hour.

Bhavatu sabba mangalam!

© Connie Hum 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Good, The Bad & The Yellow Sari

THE GOOD: I've left Mumbai with my traveling head back in its proper place and I couldn't be happier! Another good piece of news: I've been invited to an Indian wedding! While visiting the Ellora caves, I met Nazir, who is getting married on March 23. I told him how I had always wanted to go to an Indian wedding so he invited me! HOORAY!

THE BAD: Logistically speaking, attending the wedding is going to be difficult for me as I should be in Rajastan at that time, preparing to leave for Nepal. Attending the wedding is going to require back-tracking to a place I've already been to and shorten my time in Rajastan, a place I've yet to discover. What to do?

THE YELLOW SARI: While I was still trying to make up my mind about attending the wedding, I met a lovely family in Nasik who sort of just took me into their home, feeding and piling me with inquisitive questions. I asked about Indian wedding etiquette and I expressed how much I loved saris and how I'd love to wear one to the wedding, provided I did in fact end up going. The next morning, when I went over to say goodbye to the women, they brought out a stack of new saris and told me to pick one. They were giving me a sari as a gift! I was so completely touched and asked them to choose the color for me. They chose a gorgeous, yellow sequined sari for me to wear to the wedding and showed me how to wear it. The women also had me try on one of their wedding sari's, which was a beautifully beaded dress. It was quite spectacular and the ladies were thrilled to see me in it.

How incredibly generous and nice of these people! I wish I had had more time to spend with them but I had to leave for my meditation retreat. They have invited me back to their home so I really hope I get to see them again.

And I guess this means I'M GOING TO THE WEDDING! How can I not go now that they've given me a sari to wear? Pictures to come of course!

© Connie Hum 2010

Have You Seen These?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...