What to bring to a vipassana course

Just got back home yesterday after taking my second 10-day vipassana course at Dhamma Siri, Kaufman, Texas. I reached new abilities to sense subtle sensations and found deeper stillness and inner silence. Reentry into the real world has been easier this time as well.

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Plus, I made eye contact with a bobcat. More about that later.

While it’s fresh, I want to put into writing what to bring next time. I am into avoiding unnecessary suffering for myself, and others. It doesn’t mean that I can’t sit with some discomfort and be equanimous — and discomfort is inevitable unless you already are sitting still for 12 hours a day, day after day. Your low back, mid-back, upper back, shoulders, hips, knees, feet — at least one area of your body is going to feel the strain — and this is an unavoidable part of the process.

The pain and discomfort are necessary to get the full vipassana experience. Meditation isn’t all about transcendence. It’s about learning to witness and accept the truth of what you are experiencing with equanimity. You become more familiar with your mind, craving what isn’t there and feeling aversion to what is there. Continue reading

Beautiful movements: murmuration, Northern lights, primary respiration

When birds do this, it’s called a murmuration, and it’s a wonder of nature.

 

Love this beautiful video below of the Northern lights.

In biodynamic craniosacral therapy sessions, we get in touch with movements like these within and around the human body. Called primary respiration, the long tide, or the breath of life, these are the movements of the fluid body (emotional body) healing itself according to its own agenda, called the inherent treatment plan.

It arises from stillness and silence.

Experiencing this in your body is a mysterious, beautiful miracle of nature.

Gurdjieff: environmentalist

The true purpose of human existence is to ensure the conscious and creative evolution of the earth and all that it contains, living and non-living. The task is a prodigious one and its fulfilment should be the chief glory of mankind. There are many who have seen that, if evolution is to continue, it must be with the conscious co-operation of mankind, but few have seen the task as a whole and what it implies….

Gurdjieff’s scheme shows us what this implies. The points of responsibility, the earth’s crust and its minerals, the soil, the vegetable kingdom on land and in the seas, the invertebrates and animals and man himself, are just those very situations that are now causing great anxiety on the score of depletion of resources, of soil impoverishment, disease, over-population, famine and war. When Gurdjieff propounded his scheme sixty years ago, these anxieties seemed remote. Now they are urgent….

This is the task to which Gurdjieff called us and for which he prepared people in the last period of his life….

Most of all it calls for a fundamental change in values which will consist in putting Nature first and man second. This is a bitter medicine to swallow, but unless we take it we shall perish. There is a little time left, but not very  much. By the end of this century the New Epoch must have been established in the sight of all.

~J.G. Bennett, Gurdjieff: Making a New World, copyright 1973.

Writing in 2013, I have grave doubts about whether this New Epoch, based on the doctrine of reciprocal maintenance, has been established in the sight of all. But in a way, it doesn’t matter. The survival of humankind and our planet and all it contains will very likely continue beyond my lifetime. But in what kind of shape?

Meanwhile, I choose to live my life with as much intelligence and compassion and wisdom as I can muster, continually awakening as to how I can live more in harmony with the planet. This weekend it meant air-drying freshly washed clothes instead of using the dryer.

I see few institutions to guide us, but it doesn’t mean giving up on institutions entirely. Prod them in the right direction at every chance! It’s better than denial or apathy and way more fun.

We all owe our very existence to the planet, which entirely sustains us, and I’m not sure we can ever fully reciprocate: give back to Nature what Nature has given us. We can be as kind as possible, though. Kinder, even.

Letting the light in

Christmas morning, 2012. I’m house- and pet-sitting Mango. It’s going to be a quiet day of solitude — I accidentally left my phone at my trailer last night. So be it. Today it can wait.

My family is gathering on the 27th, when more of us are able to gather. Hospitals are open every day of the year and someone has to care for those sick people, and children of divorced parents usually split their holidays, and sometimes people move over the holidays. I am grateful to have a family to connect with at all.

Last night I attended a warm, lovely Christmas Eve potluck and jam session in a friend’s magical backyard. Sitting outside watching the waxing, near-full moon behind a big, ever-changing, cloud-studded sky, a few stars playing peekaboo, was quite enjoyable.

So much of this season is about darkness and light. It must have been a mystery to our ancestors, especially in the far northern latitudes of Europe where mine lived for so long, to observe the days growing shorter and shorter, the life-giving light and heat of the sun retreating while the cold and dark established themselves firmly. Would the sun return? Was this the end? The warmth of family and community gathering in spite of the backdrop of long, cold nights must have been especially meaningful in the face of this big cold mystery. It was to me, last night.

This must have been mysterious enough that ancient investigators began to measure changes in day length and discovered a pattern that included the winter solstice, the turning point in which the days begin to grow long again, that happened year after year. The predictability must have lent considerable order to chaos and thus been worthy of great celebrations, once they figured it out.

No wonder this time of year is celebrated by so many cultures, that the birth of God’s son was moved to this powerful time of year.

I had an urge this Christmas morning to open all the blinds at the house where I’m staying, to let as much light in as possible.

Today the skies are partly cloudy, here in Austin, TX, where winter exists but only in spurts. Today the sunshine comes and goes. The bare branches of the deciduous trees appear silhouetted against that sky.

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I’ve always appreciated winter for the way it strips away the leaves, exposing the bone structure of trees. Perhaps that’s a reason I’m drawn to giving massage — to feel through the soft tissues to the solid bone within — or to investigating and appreciating the power of the season.

The wind is blowing. The branches are waving, the remaining leaves fluttering and quivering. Hello.

I’m having a breakfast of cooked quinoa with currants, a little ghee, and honey, along with a new favorite, a delicious three-ginger tea (ginger, galangal, and turmeric from Pukka, a British purveyor of organic and Ayurvedic herbal products), a clementine and grapefruit juice. I forgot to buy special food for Christmas morning, and I’m not missing it. Oh, I’ll indulge in tamales and eggnog and sweets for a few more days and then gladly clean up my diet again. January is good for that.

Mango has been offered a bit of sockeye salmon roasted in butter, which he turned down in favor of cat treats. Go figure. Maybe we’ll sit in the sun or snuggle in a Christmas nap together later. And later I will go out, to offer chair massage to the staff at the hospital where my daughter is working, then off to another potluck and jam session with friends.

I enjoy the connections and celebrations of the season, but the most special part of this holiday to me is waking up knowing it’s Christmas, knowing it’s a holy day, a special day unlike any other, and feeling the joy of that.

Even without a gift given or received, without the feasting, without the camaraderie of my beloved family and friends, without church, music, lights, and all the traditions of the season, it’s truly just a day to be awake and to marvel in this big mystery, to be filled with gratitude and wonder for this amazing life.

As is every day!

New blog milestones and best massage ever given

Sometime this weekend when I wasn’t looking, my blog passed 60,000 views! This is a labor of love, and I can’t measure my “success” in monetary terms. Blog views, likes, and comments are my currency.

Thank you for reading me.

And…yesterday I had my best single day ever with 426 views! That’s pretty astonishing, considering the average number of views per day in 2012 (so far) has been 182.

I took the whole weekend off, spending a good chunk of it out in the country at a friend’s remote ranch. Clean air, water, cattle, a river, lots of trees, big sky, silence (compared to the city), a sweet porch on which I did a couple of great yoga sequences, soaking in a metal tub filled with well water, and lots of laughter were just the ticket for rest and relaxation.

I didn’t do a stroke of bodywork all weekend (except a little self-massage on my shoulders and arms). This morning I gave what felt to me like the best massage I’ve ever given, a 90-minute full body massage combining Swedish, deep, pressure points, rocking, reflexology, and lots of attention to her neck, shoulders, and hips. My client really appreciated it. Her week started extremely well.

If you’re looking for a great massage, consider booking one in the morning when your massage therapist is feeling refreshed, especially after a couple of days off! If you’re in the Austin area, I’d love your business!

See you later, with the first turnaround of Byron Katie’s Work!

The 12 Symptoms of Spiritual Awakening

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The 12 Symptoms of Spiritual Awakening

Making the rounds on Facebook, worth sharing here.