Meditation, Surfing and Thesis writing

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 –  I wrote that blog post from beginning to end on the train – I did go back and correct it later on – so excuse me if there are spelling and grammatical errors everywhere!]  

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). 

 

Bondi-wildmen

(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. 

Rpa_office

 

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 🙂

Bish_koggala

 

 “dare to be the person you’ve dreamed of because in one breath you are already there”

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Academic Work

 

What is Academic work?

Is it just a series of responsibilities that one must shirk,

 

In favour of a goal that seems like a mirage?

Or perhaps a slow moving barge?

 

Changing directions all the time but still keeping to its destination,

That seems like an ever-moving target?

 

No it is not!

Don’t worry if you are cold and you are hot?

 

Because this is in keeping with the rhythm of the beast,

And once you are finished you will have a feast!?

 

On the accomplishment of your stamina,

For you will have stripped yourself down to every crevice, and every lamina,

 

Only to find yet another room full of “stuff”,

Making all of what you have done so far seem like “fluff”,

 

This is PhD~!

It is a sea of knowingness into the unknowingness,

 

Looking for what answers you can find,

Only to be lost in an ocean of questions that do not bind.

 

So pick up your paddle and steer your raft,

Even if you don’t know how this is how you develop your craft,

 

You will get there with work and the force of the occasional swell,

Even thought it sometimes seems like you are paddling in hell,

 

You will survive!

And if you “like” the unknown then you will thrive,

 

For this is your drive,

Choosing to be either dead or alive,

 

Every moment of your existence,

Learning that the key is in persistence,

 

So get back to the grind,

And never forget to be kind,

 

To yourself and others on the way,

For this is the most important part of each and every day!

 

 

10-5-12

 

Overcoming the obstacles of PhD writing…


.

 Ego is the Challenge

 

The ego will betray you,

“Let go of it” – I pray you!

For only then you will see your true soul,

 

It is what makes you whole,

Even beyond your imagined goal,

For the ego is but an imposter,

 

So don’t give it the food to foster,

And fret in you head,

Otherwise it will make your spirit dead!


 

Advice of a Sage…

 

“How then do we manage it?” dear sage,

If I don’t learn the secret soon I am sure to age,

And it will happen so swiftly that I will not be able to gauge,

 

It is true my ample student,

And to ask of this truth is prudent,

For you already know the answer,

 

What you should do is let go of “thought”,

Do it soon before you are caught!

To the eddy currents of the mind.

 

But Sage I feel it is already too late,

Is this really my fate??

It is as if I am blind to common sense,

Surely letting go is ‘too hard’ if you are “this” tense!?

 

Wrong again my worthy learner!

For ‘letting go’ is the way to put thought into the burner,

Releasing the veil to the consciousness that lies beyond,

Both the flower and even the lotus pond,

 

Thank you dear sage,

For even though you speak in riddle and rhyme,

I feel the wisdom of my inner bell chime,

And I will, for sure, let go next time!


 

The feelings of a new consciousness

 

It feels like a bird soaring in the sky,

Why did I for so long deny,

Myself of this great aptitude,

All for the false promise of what my friend ‘Ego’ brewed,

 

 

But at least now I am aware,

And with you I will share,

That the Ego is always there,

Weighing you down, like a ripened pear,

 

 

Nevertheless it’s okay – you don’t need to frown,

Or even run around,

Just accept it as a very necessary part,

For to live on this Earth, identity is where we all start,

 

 

But it is certainly not where we end!

The new journey is starting,

And today is where we mend,

So keep going and I’ll see you around the bend!