off to a hilltop

My friend, C, used to tell me that in her bedside nightstand, she keeps a little kit. Inside there’s a good book she’s dying to read, suntan lotion, a bathing suit, flip flops and a towel.

She keeps the kit for that one moment when there’s no choice; when there’s no hesitation. That moment is when she’ll grab her kit and head out to the beach. For a day or two. If she has her charge card in her wallet, the required stay is open-ended.

That little bedside ‘get out of jail free’ option has been my vicarious secret for many years. When I would exercise that option was an inside joke, within the firm belief that I was still doing some good where I was and that the sun and the beach could live without me for a while.

Something’s shifted. I’m looking at my own escape plan.  A retreat. A permanent retreat in Ein Dor with Tovana, in Plum Village with the Tibetan Buddhists. In my room with my meditation application. In my puppet workshop shed with my contact cement, paint and foam rubber.

Making a dignified run for it. Away from work. Away from teaching. Away from the bureaucracy that surrounds everything I do. The receipts, the accounts, the checking in and out. The computer programs, the bells that tell me when I can rest, walk, eat, pee.

An elegant tip of the hat as I blow a silent kiss to a machine that cranks out papers to sign while I am trying to connect my inner chi to the chi of countless pupils or teachers who are unaware of the changes of chi, or the empathy that is there for the taking.

The photo of the monastery on a hilltop. The snapshot of a pristine cell with bed and window. A place to meditate. Silent small meals. Early rising, early retiring. Others who also search for something inside that longs to grow in a separate daily routine.

A shift from a clock. A shift into a real flow of time.

This world that begins with a bedside kit – to grab and to go. My kit: a collection of books. My skin cream, my water bottle, some fruit and vegetables for the way.

Then it gets tricky. My phone. My charger. I need to be in touch. My partner. I love him. My children? My grand-child? This kit isn’t large enough.

Do I take the train or a bus? Do I need a ride to the station?

Maybe just my bike. I’ll get as far as I get and then breathe.

On the hilltop in my mind.

mountaintrip1

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Are there less desirable side effects to Meditation?

As the mindfulness movement becomes more and more trendy, there are studies focusing on possible concerns.

What happens when a person sits in silence for hours at a time, when that person sticks to it no matter what emotional state s/he might be experiencing? What happens when an ‘unstable’ personality is faced with the idea of noticing mental activity or unwanted emotions. What happens when that person is unsupervised or offers no hint that there might be some kind of danger when participating in a retreat that continues for days on end?

There are studies being conducted and studies show that not everyone is equipped to deal with vypassana retreats.

Reminds me of the studies that showed that not everyone can deal with intense walkathons, fasts, or the intensity of high achievement in academics. Not everyone can slide through a new experience and come out shining.

Should there be a disclaimer when a meditator registers for a Silent Retreat? Eventually, there will be. A registrant will have to know that just like in yoga when the instructor reminds us to pay attention to our body, not to over-extend, so will the facilitators at a retreat. One will need to be aware that the mental and emotional stretch of hours upon hours of meditation might bring about side effects. One will need to be ready and able to judge if it’s cool to continue or if a short break is needed.

You might be interested in listening to this podcast given by Dr. Willoughby Britton on The Dark Side of Dharma about research being conducted.

Dr. Willoughby Britton

Thanks, Dr. Britton. The more we engage in an activity, the more facets we will encounter.

 

 

Passover Thoughts

A break from classes. No class relax last Monday, this coming Monday and perhaps only half a session the Monday after that.

I’ve had time to step back, pick up some books for my own practice, and note down a few observations.

Here’s my list of Spring Cleaning of the Mind Post-its

  1. Wish students well and then step back. Contact should be positive and easy.This is no time to keep a tight leash.

  2. Wish myself well and repeat often – Lovingkindness meditation. More than ever, self-kindness is a well-needed nutrient

  3. Clean my space and throw out what I don’t need and check the inventory of what I’ve so diligently collected

  4. Allow new connections to form. Get a step away from old traditional routines emphasizing others, allow for the chance to vibrate to a new beat. Top suggestion – open the book Search Inside Yourself and let Meng provide some inspiration.

  5. Do something I love. Do it. Sing, make puppets, practice.

  6. Eat loquats.

    loquat2 (1)

  7. Investigate location of sense of humour and encourage it to reappear. This is a challenging one. Where has my humour gone? On-going search

  8. Do not take everything personally. Not everything is an assassin hit. Not everything is intentionally pointed at my sore spot. Probably not anything. Listen and detach.

  9. Do not take, but notice and appreciate. It is not necessary to own a moment or a comment. Appreciate it as it appears.

  10. Drink water, walk and listen to body. The physical form needs attention. My own schedule, no need to postpone food or rest because of an externally imposed agenda. Listen to what I need.

  11. Old habits? Are they still around? Notice. Who said that the thing I once worked on to conquer forever is truly gone. When I least expect it, that thing might just be leading me into past paths.

11. Meditate. A lot. Whenever and however. Investigate new guided meditations from new voices. Find the sounds that inspire me to focus.

Read. Eat. Walk. Hug. Drink. Laugh! Smell the blossome. Listen to the birds. Move on. Offer what can be given. Do not hold back.

Spring is the time for affirming what it is I’m doing on this planet. My time.

So, what about my Grape Fast?

Background

School breaks for the Sukkot holiday in the fall, sometimes in September, sometimes October. The Hebrew Calendar works on a movable system. And that makes it seem new each year. The weather can be horribly hot or pleasantly cool. You never know what you’ll get.

Also, it’s a delicious respite from the heavy load of schedules and testing pupils. There’s no fear of authority figures in Government ministry jobs suddenly demanding something of me. They’re working half-days, no time for a small civilian like me.

It’s a true time for replenishing all sides and dimensions of the self.

So I had a choice to make.

There was a vipassana retreat during the break. Should I go and leave my mate and children in order to meditate with a sangha of others?  A noble option.  But, I wanted to be home. I wanted to wake up when I wished. I wanted to enjoy being in my own environment. Perhaps, I’d actually do work to prepare my puppetry workshop, get a literary piece ready to be taught. I wanted to study Tibetan Buddhist Meditation  on Coursera and participate in the online Mindfulness Summit.

I wanted to flow. Choice made. I would stay home.I could study and prepare and meditate and take walks!  

Decision to do our annual Grape Fast!

Mmm grapes
Mmm grapes

Gadi went to the kibbutz store, bought grapes and then he went on a further trek to buy more grapes. We would be eating only grapes and drinking water for how long? Five days or so.

It works like this: every 3 hours, we’d eat a portion of grapes, chewing the seeds well.  If hungry, we’d snack on grapes. No problem. We drink water.

It’s a de-tox diet. Because of the nature of grape sugar, it doesn’t require effort by the liver to break it down. Hence, this respite allows the liver to detoxify.

Day 1

Usually the first day, I’m ravenous. I was! I had a huge appetite in the morning and hunger levelled off in the evening.

That night, lying down, I noticed some weakness in my calves. It was strange to feel. I hadn’t done any unusual forms of exercise, just my usual routine and a usual walk of 6 kms or so. Nothing unusually strenuous. Was it the first sign of flu? To be seen…

Day 2

My calves were so uncomfortable that I couldn’t find a sitting position to ease the feeling. And worse…the ache was slowly working its way up to my thighs. This was worrisome.

I felt tired. I didn’t feel like making puppets, though I tried. I didn’t feel like talking to people. I wondered if I had a fever. I tried to rest, but couldn’t seem to get comfortable.

Only walking really felt good.

I was a lot less hungry, but ate grapes, choosing between concord (super sweet), red (slightly less) and green (more watery). I also found that when I got up from sitting or lying down, I’d get dizzy.  Hmmm, low blood pressure.  Could this be cause I was un-caffeinated? In fact, what was going on?

How many toxins did I have in my body that were starting to make themselves heard?

That Night

Calves hurt. Thighs hurt. Pelvic bones hurt!  What? Me? You must be kidding. And a slight fever!  Was it just a little flu, unrelated to the grapes?  In my heart, I didn’t think so.

Day 3

Not having slept, I woke up confused. I did my usual routines, meditation and exercise and then went searching on the net for possible confirmation that I was simply feeling the side effects of the grape diet. Sure enough,  there was mention of muscle pain and mild fever. Okay. That seemed to be in the right direction. But, on the other hand, what if all the calcium in my hips was breaking down and turning to powder? The non-caffeinated mind has no limits.

We continued to eat grapes. No real appetite but still we continued. We took our long walk. I felt fine walking. I guess my bones were still in place and functional. But I couldn’t sit, or lie down without discomfort.  Gadi was fine. A short headache that passed quite quickly. A momentary twinge in his lower back, which soon was gone.

Surprise Visitor

We suddenly got a visit from our son, just back from Canada. He was coming home for a visit. Gadi warned him that we didn’t have any food. We were grape-ing.  The wheels of my mind began to turn. Hmmmmm.

Dare I stop the fast?  That little thought attracted some inner smiles.

Ahl showed up. Gadi made him coffee. I got to smell it.

And a decision was made. I announced that I was seriously considering stopping the fast. Gadi was amazed. But we said we’d do it for 5 days at least!  I told him he could continue but I wanted to stop. He told me that as a team, he’d stop too. We would go shopping. Pick up some vegetables and eat a real meal that night.

We did. Huge salad with Gadi’s incredible vinaigrette and his amazing vegetables.

That night.

I felt good. Pelvis felt fine. Legs felt much better. I slept.

What if?

The Day after,  Gadi read to me: The results of a grape fast can only be felt after 3 days.

He went on: “Next time, we will continue. You’ll see that things will get better. This was a sign that you have toxins to expel.”

Ah, grapes. I guess it’s true. I’m toxinated! I drink coffee. I sometimes use a fake powder to lighten the coffee. I eat rice crackers.

Other than that, I’m pure as pure can be. I breathe the air – no choice there. I eat the vegetables that grow in our soil. There’s no real way to conquer that until our own vegetables sprout from our own soil, shielded from the spraying of the kibbutz gardener.

Lessons learned

It’s amazing what physical pain does to the mind. It depresses. It makes life seem harsh.

When pain disappears, optimism returns. Everything is effortless or at least can be after a little meditation or reading a heart-warming story.

With pain, nothing seems to help. The will to be creative might be there, but it hurts to dredge it up.

Without pain, oops, it’s back! Or if it isn’t, it doesn’t matter. Look at that face. How wonderful. Or listen to that child’s voice! How miraculous.

Pain. How many people carry themselves painfully. How many people deal with a  chronic suppression of all that’s joyful because of physical suffering?

Note to self: be kind to all. Perhaps they’re suffering and don’t realize how it’s affecting their outlook on life.

Grape Fast. I thank you.

Till the next time.

Ramble on Brambles – this week’s mindfulness reflection

Brambles! Those intertwined dry snappy branches that challenged Prince Charming in his quest to get to Sleeping Beauty. You know the type, not only ever-present but also there to slap you in the face, sometimes with green leaves, sometimes with thorns.

They all need my attention! Breathe!

It all needs my attention! Breathe!

Brambles are also how I’ve decided to represent those ubiquitous happenings  that invade my daily dealings and/or also occupy space in the brain as I replay past events, past feelings or future worries.  Brambles, those ever-present distractions that I must overcome. (I could list a hundred and I know you can, too!)

Of course, they are there, constantly. And so the struggle to deal with them and get back to what I intended to do is also constant. But it’s not hopeless. A path can be created, if my intention is clear and if my will is able to withstand distraction. (Just remember the Prince! He managed to slice his way to his prize.)

How can I manage to clear away the brambling distractions from my path?

The first step in any good path creation is wanting to do something: wanting to begin, follow through and get it done. Then comes recognizing the brambles. Noticing that they exist. Noticing that they pop up. Noticing that they keep popping up.  Noticing when.  Then, noticing that they prevent me from getting to where I want to be.

Take a typical morning. I wake up and set off on a course of a number of deeds and tasks to be done before I can open my front door and be on my way. Every morning I do the same things – sometimes in a different order just to keep me alert to what works best. So, here I go again. A new morning. I wake up early and begin my string of activities when, suddenly, an urgent phone message. My help is needed! I must photocopy a document and immediately send it to my son. He’s overseas and needs it right now! His 7 hour time-zone difference can’t wait for me to complete my 5 a.m. rituals.

No choice. I’ve been called to act.

Fight or flight: There’s no immediate danger to my being. Go ahead! My brain wants to break out of the gate and run full-speed ahead. Quick! Where is this document? It could be in any number of locations.

Emotions join the mix: a conversation.

One small voice:  Hmm, what about my own schedule?

Another voice: How selfish! He needs you!

A third voice: Just get on with it – all this discussion is wasting time!

Overall voice: I love him, I want to help. I will manage this!

  • So, first step: A path.

  • Next: noticing the intrusion.

  • Then: assessing if I can meet the request.

  • Follow-through: I step up to the plate.

  • Bonus: While searching for what he needs, I can mindfully focus and search. I can do the task. I can recognize what needs to be done, be mindful of expending only the amount of energy required – no need for panic or excess drama. No real need for all those inner voices – who are all those people, anyway? Do they always chime in? Another thing to notice!

The whole time, I have my own intention on hold, waiting for the all-clear signal. Once I’ve completed the task, found the document, photocopied it and sent it, I can resume.

One conquered bramble! And in taking self-inventory: no wounds, no slapped face. Only a sense that there’s been a gentle meeting of ‘Task’ and my effort.

Sometimes, the noticing is not so clear-cut. It can be very difficult. As I move through my day, it’s one distraction after another and all occur quite naturally. Someone needs to talk, urgently. Someone needs advice, at that very second. Someone needs help. Someone else needs to hug. Someone on the phone. Someone on the way home. Lots of  ‘someones needing something from me’. This is often called living in a society. Okay, I can deal. I know that people constitute a part of my day and I can learn to differentiate between the sweet green leaves and the thorns.

What about all the events that occur? Spontaneous situations? I need to arrange a room, a class list, an appointment. My filling falls out, my laundry needs folding. There are things in life that happen that require attention.

Often the needs of others or the events that crop up offer a chance for positive sharing and good feelings. This is why it’s all so confusing. If it feels good and positive, then how can I see it as a distraction? Life is flow, is it not?

Sometimes it takes distancing from the scene. When my immediate environment is devoid of others or immediate tasks, only then, can I breathe fully, hear myself breathe, and notice that I haven’t been doing that simple yet essential exercise for most of my day. When someone else wants my attention, how automatic it is to offer it on the spot, without that initial breath or being present in my own body, aware enough to take a meditative moment before I leap.

So, this is the time to notice the ‘brambles’, the surprise pop-ups that unfailingly appear. As pleasant as a hug or as threatening as a projectile headed my way, all oncomings are better met with mindfulness.

Meeting the unknown mindfully, aware of my breath, my feet on the ground or my body on a chair, I can better offer what is required of me, or deflect that which is best avoided.

Formal practice in the form of meditation sessions, whether sitting, walking or lying down, all slowly build up my ability to sustain a more awakened presence. And if there’s only enough time for 3 mindful breaths, those breaths have the power to take me to a more mindful place.

Make no mistake, chronological age does very little to make the work easy – it all requires effort. Practice is the key. And so very worth it.

May I learn how to clear away the brambles from outside and from within and carry on to meet my own intention.

ramble on brambles

Hatching a Sangha – continued!

Kibbutz Nir-Oz

Kibbutz Nir-Oz

Kibbutz Nir-Oz this past week: 

At the Col-bo (our little store): “When are you going to start doing meditation?”

At the Communa  (our communal laundry service): “Judih, when is the meditation going to start?”

Text message: “I want to come to meditate. Where is it?”

During the past week, various people approached me and asked when the meditation sessions were beginning. “We’ve begun. Come join us this time. Welcome!”, I said to one and all.

Some asked if they needed to pay. No, of course not, I said. We’re kibbutzniks. As an old-fashioned communal kibbutz, we pool our various incomes and receive a set budget, and so I wouldn’t dream of asking for payment.

* Note: these next few paragraphs are an aside.

As usual, my mind started in on the idea of how people pay for meditation sessions, especially in light of my participation in the Vipassana Retreat.  We were told that the usual method of support is called “dana“, Pali for “charity” or a freely given donation, indicating one’s appreciation and wish to support someone offering a valued service. In my case, I thought I had understood the philosophy and I arrived at the Retreat with a certain amount of cash in a sealed envelope. At the end of the session, however, we were directed to look at  a printed page outlining the costs involved per person for the retreat (to give us an indication of  a reasonable ‘dana’ amount). That sum was more than I had brought. In addition, we were told, the teachers would be receiving none of that. We, the students, were therefore invited to offer “dana” to the teachers, as well, and again the amount we gave would be based on our heart’s wishes and wallet.

This is a system that seems optimistic but also misleading. If my presence costs a certain amount, then I would like to be able to pay for my stay. If the teachers require payment, I would like to make sure they receive it. I, however, as a kibbutznik, have no private income and live on a modest monthly allowance. The principal of ‘dana’ seems like a good set-up for those who are in the position to give freely, but for those of us who aren’t, it’s an exercise in confrontation with capitalism. It’s a heart-shrinking act for those who are not economically fluid. Now, that I know the approximate score, I will be on the lookout for ways to save money so that I can come prepared to offer the expected ‘dana’.

But that’s another story, and luckily, one that is irrelevant to opening the door to meditation sessions on a kibbutz.

Back to Sangha Hatching

Thursday evening, just before 7:30, I opened the doors to the Open Center, removed my shoes and readied our room. Air conditioner and fans were turned on, lighting was adjusted and I brought in a few extra mattresses for any latecomers.

I arranged my meditation cushion close to the breeze of the wall fan, and my Tibetan singing bowl at arm’s reach, and then greeted a few new meditators.

I explained that we were practicing Mindfulness meditation, paying attention to the breath and the body. There’d be no mantras and no religious ties. Our task was simply to notice what went on in our bodies and minds, any thoughts, emotions or sensations. Our job wasn’t to try to stop thought and  emotion, only to notice them, set them aside and then return to noticing our breathing.

We began in a prone position and as I watched people settle into their spaces, I used minimal guidance to help them scan their bodies – from their heels on the mattress to the tops of their heads, to noticing sensations such as a passing breeze, or change of temperature. I prompted them to check for tension or relaxation, if the sensations were pleasant or unpleasant. Not to change anything, but to merely notice.

We placed our hands on our bellies to notice the rising and falling of our stomachs, the mind on the ‘in’ and ‘out’ of our breathing.

We transitioned to sitting meditation. My guidance was minimal at the beginning and I set the timer for 15 minutes.

Here was my first experiment. How would these dear people deal with 16 minutes of sitting, 15 of them in near-silence.

After about 10 minutes, I could hear sighs and shifting, but still people were upright and conscious!

At the end of the time, we returned to ‘reality’ through some stretches. Then I asked if there were comments or questions. One woman said she barely made it to five minutes. Another said she’d lost patience after 10 minutes. These were very good efforts for first-timers. I was pleased!

S said that she had to shift positions. I suggested that next time, perhaps she could wait and notice the discomfort for a little while  before she allowed herself to move.

“What? Why suffer?” she asked. I agreed, that there’s no need to suffer, but that there was something else we were working on, something like a muscle within our brain, that if developed would allow us to override responses that are automatic.

This particular idea rings even truer to me now when I am fortunate enough to listen to others ask the question: Why suffer?

Why, indeed.

*Another aside.

Simi Levi-Yeshuvi, my wonderful teacher and creator of the curriculum called the ‘Language of Attentiveness’, told us of her experience as a nun in a monastery for 4 years. At the beginning, there was no instruction other than to sit. She had no idea of what was expected of her but, she said, long hours of sitting day after day. Eventually she dared to approach the Master and asked why she had to sit and suffer all day. The monk looked at her and said, “What, do you imagine that if you were not here, you would not be suffering?”

We suffer. In our daily life, we live and suffer. Someone looks at us and we imagine that they don’t like us, that we did something wrong, or that they knew something about us and that they disapproved. Just like that we create our own suffering.  We chide ourselves based on someone else’s chance glance in our direction. Chance, indeed. Who knows what was in their minds when their eyes happened to meet ours. It could have been that they had forgotten to do something, or that they were passing gas at that very moment! It could have been a breeze or a noise disturbing them from their own daydreams. A million circumstances could have lead to that second when those eyes met  mine, but I choose to interpret a glance in a way that causes me suffering!

Who suffers? Which part of my brain is causing me to suffer? The chance act of seeing someone’s look at me? Or hearing a chance word? Or the stories I make up, the elaborate hyper-linked fictions I create to explain the look, or word.

And would I suffer less if I were walking the streets and while choosing peaches, I would suddenly recall past injustices or possible future problems?

The fact is that when I sit, when I practice noticing my breathing, I deal with my own body, my own thoughts. I disturb myself. I invent reasons to suffer but if I’m lucky, I begin to notice that I’m writing fictions and then, through a moment of clarity, I allow myself to disengage, before I get caught up again in some other brain talk (often referred to as the Monkey Brain – that active little rascal that just waits to pounce and grab my attention).

I must say “Thank you, Simi, for offering your own tale to help me understand my own experience. Thus, I have a chance to answer S, when she asks, Why suffer?

Back to Sangha, Nir Oz

I like to end our kibbutz sessions with an opening of our hearts. This is the time for the Lovingkindness meditation or metta, a chance to offer ourselves safety, health, happiness and the wish that we may live in peace. Five minutes is not a long time for such an exercise but it serves to enrich our experience.

As we say goodnight, and head out into the darkness of evening beyond the doors of the Open Center, each one may choose to hang on to an element of self-respect and self-compassion and, who knows, perhaps remember to use the anchor of noticing the breath in daily life.

Next week might be time to assign homework!

Planting the seeds of a Sangha

*Sangha – means ‘assembly’

I live in the Western Negev, on Kibbutz Nir-Oz. If you’re unfamiliar with it, this location is  remote, far from most cities,  public transportation infrequent and early final buses back to the kibbutz. Also, I don’t drive, I bike.

I also meditate, daily. And I have learned that the more meditation in my day, the better. How especially true this feels – this first week home, after doing a Vipassana retreat. 

The wish to maintain that inner silent place and keep it alive is very strong.

In general, it is suggested that the meditative way begins at home with daily practice. It’s important to augment this by going on retreats whenever possible. But the third branch of the work is equally important and that includes regular meditation practice with others.  The mutual support is empowering. One’s personal group is called a Sangha

So, because I don’t have ready access to a group of meditators, I took a walk to investigate our Open Centre, the building that houses alternative therapies and some sedentary exercise. I opened the doors to the wonderful experience of the smell of brand new parquet flooring and the quietness of the space. Here was a room where in the past I had done some meditation of various sorts with various people.

However, now it’s all brand new. The space has been carefully restored after having taken a direct hit during last summer’s Operation Protective Edge. A rocket had crashed through the roof and devastated the entire building. Fortunately, no one had been inside at the time! And that which had been gutted and destroyed, is  completely fixed. The room is  ready for new meditative activity.

On a whim, I walked into our communal laundry facility, and there I spotted C, the one responsible for who does what in the Open Center.

I shared my thoughts about wanting to meditate in the space and she helped me decide to open up a meditation practice and invite those who wanted to sit with me. We decided on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m and she agreed to publicize the practice, giving her own number and mine for those interested in making contact. 

A day later, she announced that one person had called her and was planning on coming. One was fine! My plan was to sit for 45 minutes and meditate and hopefully that one would sit with me!

Thursday came along and surprisingly enough, the Tel Aviv bus brought a visit from my beloved son and his girlfriend. She’s an avid Vipassana goer and was happy to see the Meditation invitation  posted on the Kibbutz Dining Room bulletin board. She was in. So we would be 3. My son wanted to come as well! 4.

At 7:20, I gathered a Tibetan singing bowl, a mallet and my meditation cushion. Off we went, me, my son and his girlfriend.

singingBowl-1433769513

When we arrived at the center, I saw the one who had indicated interest and then I saw S! S is someone who, in my wildest dreams, I’d have never imagined showing up! But there she was. My heart opened. I invited them in, to take mattresses and to get comfortable in the meditation room. I turned on the air conditioner. Someone else turned on the fan and we readied ourselves.

The One told me that 40 years previously, he and another kibbutznik had begun meditation sessions. But that had fizzled out and he, himself, hadn’t been practising. S had never practiced in her life . Okay, I thought, 45 minutes of silence would not really cut it.

I decided to work along the lines of how I teach children – dividing the session into 3 –  meditation lying down, sitting and then standing.

I set my timer and began with a few instructions guiding them through a body scan and then how to notice their breathing. Hoping to keep them relaxed but still aware, I eased them from lying down to sitting. Then someone else showed up at the door and came in to join us noticing the breath. After about 12 minutes of sitting, we transitioned to standing, first checking our balance, and then noticing the breath.

To wrap up, I included some metta towards ourselves, repeating the phrases “May I be safe, be healthy, be happy and live in peace.”

My own meditation had to be carefully included between checking to see if they were breathing, or sleeping, or with me. Instructing is not exactly meditating and that was not what I’d hoped for. But people were there. They wanted to know what meditation was. This was good!

We finished. It was pleasant.

The next day I was approached by 2 others who also have never meditatedbut who wanted to try.

This sangha will be slow in the making. It’s clear that first steps will be to learn about noticing the breath, and how to be aware of thoughts that  come how to allow them to do so and release them.

And how sensations will come and go. And emotions as well.

Letting go. Setting them aside, and coming back to noticing the breath. As Shuli from the Vipassana at Ein Dor had said- when these things fly into our awareness, I offer them a seat in my ‘house’. A good image – noticing them, recognizing them and setting them someplace else while going back to the business of noticing the breath.

I like that. May the house be filled with enough seating!

rumi house