I have just spent the last 5 days on a silent retreat exploring the practice of Vipassana, a meditation practice in Buddhism. Vi means ‘through’, passana means ‘seeing’. Which ever way you translate the word, “through seeing” or “seeing through”, both translations are profound and I would think, acceptable.
“Through seeing” suggests to me that the practice enables self-awareness and self-transformation by seeing what it is I need to learn, know and change in myself. “Seeing through” suggests to me that the practice enables me to see through anything that is not true – the illusions, misunderstandings, false beliefs, etc that I have and get to what is real and therefore true.
My own meditation practice is Raja Yoga. I therefore believe I am a soul, that is, a spiritual being. My form is a tiny pin prick of light energy, situated behind my eyes in the middle of the forehead. Within me (the soul) is my mind, my intellect and memory of all things I have ever experienced in my eternal life. Then there is my body, the ‘human’ or material part of the “human being”. My body is of the 5 elements – earth, water, fire, air and ether.
The foundation of Raja Yoga meditation is awareness of self. We call it ‘soul consciousness’. It is practiced by focusing on my ‘light’, that is my qualities, my beauty, my truth, and also focusing on the ‘light’ of the Supreme, or Divine, or God. It is a universal meditation and can be practiced anywhere, anytime as it requires no particular postures and is taught as an open eyed meditation.
The practice we followed over the weekend was to alternately sit alert either cross legged or seated with feet flat on the floor, back straight, chest open and hands arranged loosely in the lap or resting on the legs, eyes either open or closed and then walking in meditation. Each exercise was for 45 minutes, all the while practising Vipassana. The basis of the practice is to remain in the present and follow the breath with the mind, watching the breath move in and out of the body. If thoughts of anything else came including pain or irritation in the body, we were to ‘breath through’ those thoughts and feelings as much as possible until they faded away, recognising things like “that’s what irritation feels like”, and then coming back to being in the present and watching the breath.
For me, this practice heightened my concentration, opened me up more to my surroundings, and the breath became the connection, or the bridge, between me the Soul and my body. It was the balancer and the space where I could be no matter what was going on in my mind, my heart or my body. The soul and body could remain connected.
Often whenever discomfort or difficulty is felt either in the soul or in the body, the impulse is to detach from it or move away from it by distracting ourselves by doing something different or injecting a different type of thought – a positive one or an affirmation – into our mind’s processes.
But what happens to the energy of that discomfort or difficulty?
I wrote about a few weeks ago about learning the technique of facing and loving what is painful or uncomfortable (click here to read). For some reason there is something I really like about facing what I would generally rather not. Its like a challenge, for my purpose in studying and practising spirituality is to change what is not good about myself. Not just by inputting positivity and goodness, but also actually standing up to the ‘demons’ and honouring my self-sovereignty and the attributes of the Spiritual Warrior such as inner strength, courage, wisdom, faith and success.
Sometimes we can get a bit ‘stuck’ in aspects of our lives, including our spiritual practice. I support safely and intelligently broadening our horizons, being open to newness and moving out our comfort zones. As is said “change can be as good as a holiday”, and as my friend shared with me a dream she had had, as we travelled to the retreat over the weekend, in which she was told “don’t define your Church by these walls”.
I thought about these words a number of times on the retreat. Its easy to get set in our ways and fall into mediocrity and complacency. It was refreshing to learn something new and I was thankful that this newness was aligned to where I am moving in my practice. I now feel energised and an expansiveness and excitement that I’m moving towards something wonderful – though I have no idea what that is!
If you are feeling a bit stuck or flat in your spiritual journey, or in your life in general, try listening to your heart as to where it needs you to take it. If things need to change for you, your heart will let you know. All you have to do is have faith and follow.
A few tips that could help you along the way are:
1. Get Creative
Creativity, whether its drawing or painting, changing a room around, weeding or planting a garden, or baking a cake, opens your heart and relaxes you. Creativity is a great way to get out of a rut and shift some energy.
2. Create some Stillness in your Life
Creating some special times just to be Still is very healing. Stillness allows us to be more in touch with Ourselves. It allows us to be able to Listen and Hear what our hearts need to tell us.
3. Do Something Different
Change gives us new perspectives on our lives. We meet new and different people, see new and different places. We begin to see with new eyes, hear with new ears and understand with new hearts. Again, energy shifts. Change brings newness not just physically but emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
Wishing you success,