This morning whilst having my breakfast I watched a great Ted talk on Vipassana
Vipasanna – it’s a Pali word meaning “seeing things the way that they are”.
This talk by Buddy Wakefield was entertaining, inspiring and informative. With this post I hope to send out a message of gratitude to Buddy for the talk and to the nice person whom I met in a cafe recently that recommended I watching it!
Watching the breath and staying present
I relate to many things in the talk, but perhaps the theme that strikes me the most right now, when reflecting on the bigger picture of life, is that perhaps most of us are surrounded by gold, and all of us have inner gold. The dirt is usually on the surface, created by our minds.
Every moment has Beauty even if we don’t see it, even pain, and death. They say that pain is inevitable, but suffering is a choice. This is not to trivialize our external experience, it can be very tricky to navigate suffering in many instances but usually it is related to the “resistance” to “what is”, rather than the letting go and acceptance of what is. Also, I don’t mean to trivialize death, but there are many cultures that are much more at peace with death, and than the cultures that I have grown up with – I learned this in Sri Lanka when we would remember death of loved ones with relatives and the community with a regular annual ceremony where their life was celebrate for years after the death, a custom know as Banna. After returning to Sri Lanka, I learned and lived more eastern philosophy and experienced much more peaceful ways of relating to death, both professionally, as a doctor, but also personally.
Death and pain aside, the purpose of this discussion and this blog post was to share a little about my reflections about how I have found meditation a helpful tool for staying present, something I find incredibly difficult!
I guess for me, meditation is the practice of being open to what is. Taking a breath in and observing the body sensations is a simple concept, but to be deeply aware during that breath is challenging. The beautiful thing is that we have plenty of opportunity to try, again and again. With each new breath and new opportunity to learn more about the present moment.
Is it interesting? Definitely! No two breaths are the same right? Right at this instant I am writing this blog post on my iphone, on the train to work, listening to some nice music by the “Subway Bhaktis” (a group recently recommended to me), I am practicing observing breaths as i pause in my writing. Whilst this is not a typical ‘sitting’ meditation session, I believe being present even from one moment in a day is better than not being present at all. It’s all in the practice, and I’m trying to find ways to practice whilst doing the things that I need to do in a somewhat busy life [Nb – whilst I wrote that blog post from beginning to end on the train – I did go back and correct it later on – there were spelling mistakes and grammatical errors everywhere! And there probably still are!]
Every time I fully observe the breath I learn something new. An interesting thing that I noticed today is that with each breath there is a different set of observations to the last time I practiced (in this case last night before going to sleep when my mind was all over the place!).
Surfing the waves
This morning I missed my morning meditation because I wanted to get out to the ocean for a sunrise surf. Surfing is another form of meditation or me. Each wave is like a breath. Again the goal can be to achieve something, to stand up on the board, and elegantly navigate the ocean shore, but this isn’t really the true nature of things, sometimes you have a good session, and other times you don’t. However if you are prepared to go with the flow, then you will usually enjoy and be at peace.
I find the best surfs I have ever had were when I have just gone out there and enjoyed the moment with no expectations without trying to achieve anything – I was blessed to have one if those such mornings today. By having no expectations it is easier to stay focused on the present, whilst still loosely holding a goal somewhere in my being (in this case the goals was simply to try and stand up, turn the board and ride along the wave).
(Photography: courtesy of Eugene Tan, Aquabumps (c) http://www.aquabumps.com )
Planting the seed and tending the garden
To me it’s almost like the goal is planting the seed, and the “process” is the applying the fertilizer and watering the garden. This is where we need constant attention, after all there is no point continually replanting the seed.
I see the same challenge with the writing up of my thesis. It is the constant attention to the manuscript (something that is quite challenging as there is a lot of resistance to looking at something you have seen before many times) that will allow the plant to grow. Sometimes when you expect to see a tree pop up straight away after planting a seed it is easy to get disillusioned and feel like you are no good at what you are doing, but this is only the fallacy of perspective, all well nurtured plants will grow into bigger ones with patience and dedication.
Meditation and writing
Perhaps the other challenge with a research thesis is that you actually don’t know what the plant is meant to look like until you get close to the end. It’s easy to feel as if you’ve made a mistake with your seed as the plant grows, and nobody else is growing the same plant, so comparing your plant with others is of limited benefit.
The vision and the dream
Perhaps the key message to me is that if we enjoy the process of gardening, and have a vision of what general kind of plant we want to grow – then it can mostly be an enjoyable adventure- this is my dream for education in general.
So in an attempt to practice this, my new philosophy for life is to plant the seed, go with the flow, and stay interested!
I don’t know if it is the answer but I think it’s worth a crack!
Enjoy your day 🙂
“dare to be the person you’ve dreamed of because in one breath you are already there”