Sunday, January 31, 2010

Retreat Countdown: 24 Days

24 more days!  Amazing!  Exciting!  I am looking forward to the retreat and getting completely, totally, and unreachably, away from work.  I feel I am ready to take on this huge challenge.

Almost 2 weeks ago now, my knee began bothering me and has gradually gotten worse.  I am unable to sit with my left leg bent, although it is habit to do so and I keep finding myself with it tucked underneath me or in front of me.  I have a knee brace I've been wearing to help keep my knee straight and it seems to help.  I went ahead and made a doctor appointment to look at it though. I am hopeful I will not have to sit in a chair for the retreat, but the goal of the retreat is my mind, not my seat.

Due to my knee (and, honestly, poor time management on my part) I have not been sitting every morning and that's okay.  Sometimes we do good, sometimes we do okay.  As long as we do the best we can.

Last night was an amazing meditation experience in both sessions; each unique in experience.  During the 6 PM meditation Troy had some of his "trippy" cathedral-sounding music which went perfect with the crystal bowls he plays.  The music was more "floaty" than is his preference, but the bowls were able to offset most of the higher points in the music.  Most everyone in the group commented that it was a quick 45 minutes and they couldn't believe it was over.  We started at 6:18 and I rang the bowl at 7:04.  That is always the sign of a great group meditation when the time passes so quickly for people.  It means they were able to reach that nice, calm, peaceful spot that they needed to relax, without falling asleep.

It was a surprisingly large group as well.  There were 23 of us, counting Troy and I.  I hope it doesn't climb out of control and we have to start controlling the group through RSVP again.  I hate having to manage through RSVP because people will RSVP and not come without updating their RSVP.  Then people who can and would come, cannot because the RSVP list shows full. One of the reasons we choose to move to Saturday nights was so we could do two sessions in one day and serve more people.  I am extremely grateful that we can serve the needs of so many, but am even more excited to see people incorporating meditation into their daily lives.  I cannot describe the joy I feel when someone embraces meditation and practices.  As they describe to me their accomplishments and the improvements in their lives due to their practice, I KNOW their is hope for our people.  This is something I can only encourage, but each person must find it within themselves to practice.  Those who choose to do so and see improvements in their lives, can bring that to others who observe the changes in the individual.  Slowly, we can build a world with more peace, understanding, compassion, and love through meditation.

Back to the 6 PM meditation and my experience.  As Troy played the bowls, he would have the vibration of the bowls rise and fall with the music.  I found myself in a place without thought, just awareness of the sounds around me, the rise and fall of the music and the comforting drone of the bowls.  A couple of times I would suddenly became aware of my palms and forearms lying on top of my thighs and could feel a single-pointed, mindful awareness of the sensation of my forearms and palms resting on top of my thighs.  No thought - no judgement describing the sensation.  Just an overall, complete awareness of nothing but sensation.  I've never experienced anything like it that I remember.

The 8 PM meditation was our chanting meditation.  A much smaller group of 10, it's a nice, intimate setting for chanting.  When we first began there were only a few of us, so it is nice to watch the group grow with people who enjoy chanting together.  As we grow in number, our chanting syncs together and is more powerful each time. 

After our chanting session, we go around the room giving everyone the opportunity to discuss, or give feedback about, their experience. We are still sitting in the dark as we go around the room to maintain the atmosphere of peace and intimacy.  It is not unusual that I will sometimes see a glow around people after meditation as we sit in the dark.  I've wondered if it could be an aura, but am not really sure and lean on the side of science that it's just my eyes adjusting to shapes in the dark after having them closed for a period of time.

Last night, however, I had an experience that still baffles me.  As we go around the room, I look at each person as they speak.  That is when I usually see the "glow" around them.  Sometimes it will fade as they speak, some are higher away from the physical body than others.  But when I look from one person to the next, they always stay with that person, never moving with my eyes.  When I look at the next person, I may or may not see the glow around them.  (I was amazed to find the picture on the right because it is exactly what I see.  Although it is a manipulated image, if you click here or on the title of this blog you can go to the website giving one explanation of what might be happening to me.   

As we went around the room last night, I looked at one woman who had a very strong glow around her.  I looked at her as she spoke and moved my eyes to the person on her left.  As my eyes moved to the next person, I saw two distinct outlines of a body that were glowing in the same way that I would see someone if they were sitting there.  I kept moving my eyes back and forth and realized that I could see all four outlines, the two on the outside with the physical bodies and the two in the center without physical bodies.  I still don't know what to make of it.

Am I truly seeing auras?  There aren't any colors and most are only inches away from the people.  They are more of a whitish/silverish glow that fades to a black that is thicker in some than in others.  I can only see them when sitting in a dark or semi-dark room and when I am very relaxed.

One of the things meditation is teaching me is acceptance and allowing.  Allowing means, we don't have to know the reason or understand why.  We just allow it to be what it is without judgement or definition.

Please comment and let me know what you think about what I'm seeing.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

meditation grows your brain

Click below to read about research proving yet another benefit from meditation.

Meditation May Increase Gray Matter

Monday, January 25, 2010

Odd Meditation Music...

Okay, this is funny.  I sat down this morning, gingerly setting my legs for minimum stress on my swollen knee.  I set the timer on my iPhone for 25 minutes.  Closed my eyes, checked my posture, then began counting breaths.  As he usually does every morning, Troy came into the bedroom a few minutes into my meditation to finish getting ready for work.  This is our routine and he's never distracting.  Although I can still hear him, he's very gentle and quiet to minimize distraction.  I like to play a game sometimes where I try to "sense" his position in the room and what he's doing when I can't hear him moving around.

Anyway, so I'm sitting there, easing into my meditation.  Finding a really nice groove, good posture.  Troy comes into the room and about 3 minutes later lets rip with this really long, really loud fart.  It was awesome.  I tried my hardest to not laugh, but it was impossible.  I had such a case of giggles it took me another five minutes to calm down enough to return to my meditation.

You know what they say.  That's when you know you're with the perfect person.  When you can let rip with a fart in front of them and you both comment on how good it was and laught about it.

So, I guess you could say I had a good meditation, right?  Good way to start off the day anyway!!!  LOL

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Retreat Countdown: Day 30

Last night was meditation so I did not sit in the morning, only in our evening sessions which total about 1-1/2 hours in meditation for the day. Today, I have not meditated at all, which is okay. Sometimes you have to give yourself a break. Especially since my knee is swollen again. It's so swollen I can't bend it without some discomfort and sometimes there is a sharp jabbing pain underneath the knee cap. I'm trying to give my knee a little break and see if it will get better. I hope I don't have to spend the entire retreat sitting in a chair!!!

I sent an email on Friday to confirm my reservation to attend the retreat next month. The course requires that you confirm your intention to attend between 2-4 weeks before start of course. Haven't received a confirmation of receipt from them yet.

Before you know it, the day will have arrived!!

Mindful Cat

Master Zen Kitteh Cat demonstrates the technique of mindfulness.  Full Awareness of one's surroundings without reacting to it.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Retreat Countdown: Day 33

This morning I increased by morning practice from 20 minutes to 25 minutes.  Going forward I will continue adding 5 minutes every few days to increase my sitting period on a daily basis.  I have also started doing 20-minute sits in the evening, when I can.  :)

Note to self:  when you have a swollen knee and the other one slips out of joint, it's not a good idea to sit in a half-lotus!!!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Retreat Countdown: Day 37

Saturday night was our group meditation in which I sit for two 45-minute sessions.  The first session I feel like I did very well, although there was a little discomfort in my legs and feet.  My back didn't seem to bother me much.  The second session I felt was going well at the beginning but halfway through something suddenly changed and I couldn't get comfortable or stay focused on my personal meditation.

I did not sit at all on Sunday; however, I do feel I reached meditative states during different activites (laundry, sun gazing, washing dishes, cooking) throughout the day. 

I cherish the routine of the work week because I almost always meditate for a minimum of 15 minutes every morning.

This week end we made the final decision about Troy attending the retreat with me next month.  Due to one of our cats advanced age and recent medical emergency, we feel it would be best if one of us remains home to provide the specialized care she now requires.  Troy has graciously offered to stay so I can attend as planned.  I married a very good man.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Retreat Countdown: Day 39

Note:  I will be posting future blogs with the heading, "Retreat Countdown".  These will be status updates as I prepare for the retreat next month.  Follow along as I continue building upon my current practice and what I learn along the way.

This morning's meditation went really well.  I was a little ahead of schedule, so I extended from my daily 15-minutes to 20.  I've been reaching a state during the past few days, where I know if I could sit for longer I could go deeper.  This is exciting when you consider the possibilities of 10-days of meditation!  The things I may learn! 

Morning is always the best meditation time for me.  It is quiet and peaceful in the morning.  I am very routine driven, so each morning I am the first to rise (okay, most of the time) so the house is especially quiet.  Well, except for Groucho whining because he wants his breakfast and he wants it now!  I brush my teeth, take my shower, put on my make up, and then, I sit.  We leave our iPod connected to the stereo and it plays all day  (the cats seem to like it) and we sleep to it at night.  It's filled with meditative and relaxation music.  When I sit for my meditation, the music is always playing very softly in the background.

This morning, I lost all awareness of the music or my surroundings.  I was so deeply aware of my body that nothing else existed and yet I was everything.  I spent the entire meditation going from relaxing my body to the breath to thinking and back to the breath and then the body until the thinking starts again and the whole cycle repeats.  Over and over and over again.

Those who know me, know when I finally put my mind to something I can and WILL do it.  It was encouraging this morning when the timer went off and I was still going between breath, body, and thinking.  Of course, that's not my goal.  My goal is to eventually observe my thoughts only and not engage them.  I am getting glimpses of that throughout my meditations now, but I am still spending most of the meditation in disengaging from my thoughts.

What encouraged me this morning is seeing evidence of my persistence.  It is a HUGE meditation confidence builder and helps me feel a little less apprehensive about next month's challenge.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Movement is not always a sign of progress

As you can see on my blog page, I now have a countdown timer counting the days, hours, and minutes until I sign in for my first Vipassana meditation retreat. As the days approach, I am feeling less apprehension and more comfortable with sitting for extended periods. I am learning to listen to my body, first and foremost, during meditation. Each time I begin to engage my thoughts, I will return to my body to center me and help me re-focus. First, I return to my breath. I focus on the sensation of air moving in and out of my body: above my lip, into my nostrils, down my windpipe, into my lungs and diaphgram, and then back out again. Once my breathing has helped me release the thoughts, then I turn my attention to my body. Have I tensed up any muscles? I check my feet, legs, thighs, stomach, buttocks, chest, arms, hands, shoulders, and neck. Every time thoughts intrude, I return to my body.

Since my thoughts tend to intrude a lot, I've been spending a lot more time focusing on my body.  At first this was annoying.  The constant reminder that once again I have to return to my body because I have engaged my thoughts again.  Now my 15-minute morning meditations just don't seem long enough anymore!

I have been struggling with back pain.  Now I am working with it.  I'm experimenting as I sit to find the position that is most comfortable, yet attentive, for an extended meditation period.  My back pain has lessened.  I also noticed that the more I focused on finding the right position for my back, the less I noticed the numbness creeping up my legs.

I am also looking forward to 10-days of uninterrupted introspection.  No distractions.  No responsibilities other than meditation, honoring the rules of conduct, and maintaining Noble Silence.

The past few months I have been reviewing everything about who I think I am and who I want to be and who I really am.  The more I think about it, the more my head hurts and the more confused I get.  The less I seem to know.  The less confident I am.

I do not see this as a bad thing.  I see this as progress.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Something a little different....

A Vipassana Retreat video with S.N. Goenka clips and really hip music...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

30 minutes!

Accomplished a successful 30-minute sit this morning!  Yaaahhhh!!!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Meditation Practice Status

For the most part, I have been meditating for at least 15 minutes each day.  It gets a little hit and miss around the holidays because my practice has become part of my morning routine.  On the weekend and during a holiday there is no routine so I sometimes end up not doing my morning practice.  On at least one occasion I did still do my practice in the afternoon!  Might have even been two different days too!  :)

I've been going strong for a month or so now in meditating for 15 minutes every morning.  I can definitely see a difference in my ability to focus more on my breath and am finding larger gaps between thoughts.  That's not everytime though.  There are still days where I find myself bouncing from thought to thought with teeny-tiny gaps between thoughts.

I'm definitely beyond the guided meditation stage and am ready for silence.  Troy and I sleep to music at night and I leave it on in the morning as we get ready for work.  I usually leave the music playing softly while I meditate.  Sometimes I become completely unaware of it.  Others, I use it as a focus to keep my meditation on track.  On the rare opportunity to sit in silence, I do enjoy it greatly. 

Another thing I have discovered is that 15 minutes is not very long after all.