Ever as I in the heart you dance. Hence are you called the heart. Ramana Maharshi
The alarm rings, its 05:30. I am determined to make my herbal tea, shower and leave our bungalow calm, prepared and centered. I do so walking the few meters to the yoga and meditation centre where we will spend the next 10 days in silence. I have previously prepared my space. Yoga mat, cushions, blocks set up not too close to the fan as it drys out my contact lenses. I enter the hall feeling excited and nervous. I’ve been planning to join a vipassana for about 10 years but its somehow took me until now to actually be doing it. The morning starts with a technique for capturing the mind. I am asked to have an awareness of the awareness. I’m not sure I’m aware what I am supposed to be aware of.
As I imagine a mirror where my thoughts appear I start to grasp the concept. My perceptions are reflected, gently I start to notice that what’s reflected is not real and become aware instead of the mirror itself.
We meditate on this concept until the gong sounds for breakfast. I notice we have finished slightly late. Men are on one side of the hall women on the other. As everyone moves slowly and mindfully I am know that if we want to reach our bungalow and have breakfast …..(our overnight oats are already soaking) then we need to move pretty hasty. It feels unmindful to be moving fast. We reach the bungalow. Gobble up the oats and leave with the motorbike so that we are not late. Stones crunching underfoot, I literally run from the parking lot, glancing quickly up at shakti as I pass. She seems to wink at me. I think we will make it on time.
The daily routine is roughly
9:30 – 11:00 lecture
11:00 – 12:30 asana
12:30 – 13:00 meditation
13:00 16:00 lunch and rest
16:00 – 18:00 meditation
18:00 – 19:00 dinner and self practice
19:00 – 20:30 burning questions
20:30 – 21:30 meditation
I am grateful for the techniques we are given, for the focus on the spiritual heart, for the mantra that becomes as familiar as my breath and for the opportunity to enquire within. These various tools make it easier then simply feeling my breath on my top lip.
We are asked to recall our day in reverse, my mind enjoys being focused, I am practicing single minded attention. I am grateful not to be denied of a technique.
We nip to the beach at lunchtime. The most enormous monitor lizard I have ever seen is on the road. Pete almost hits it with the bike. I wonder how he did not see it, guessing he is looking at the bigger picture as he drives. Both of us kinda eck with joy and rapture. The bushes seem greener, the sky, heavy with pregnant clouds wanting to birth their load. I notice ants making a nest in leaves of a tree that they have crafted into something that looks like a tennis ball. The world seems brighter, more vibrant and alive. Is it my imagination….we are only a few hours in.
Pete puts sun tan lotion on my back. I’m not sure if touch is allowed but I suddenly have an intense feeling of how divine his touch felt. How long has it been since I gave my husband a shiatsu? How long since I asked for help even if I didn’t really need it because it was girlie or I wanted to be touched. I have had a sun burnt back recently because I did not want to ask for help. When did I become so tough? When did I stop worshipping the goddess in me? Yes I like glitter and skirts but when did I stop the attention to detail? When did I stop birthday cards? Gifts in the mail? Being thoughtful? Africa takes no prisoners. You toughen up or you don’t survive. I want to be girlie again. Not pretending I am not capable and being feeble but aware of the beauty of touch, the intimacy and to have a softness about me. Have I gone mad.
The girl on my right is very feminine. She has a beautiful piece of fabric that she lays on her sarong on her yoga mat. On it she places her Shiva Lingam, her rose quartz bracelets and a small pot that holds a mysterious liquid that she sprinkles on her forehead, third eye and heart. I am curious and fascinated. The girl in front of me takes up too much space. She moves her cushions and chairs behind her when she is not using them. They are on my mat. I’m slightly irritated by her lack of consideration.
There are thoughts – so what
There’s another one – so what
Just return to the heart, just return to the heart.
Watch the thoughts, become aware that they have a beginning, middle and end. I see them arise and I let them dissolve.
Non reactivity is not denial.
Denial causes reaction. I try not to deny my thoughts, just to observe them without judgment. To let them run their course
My realizations for the first day are
this is not so bad
I am glad for the long lunch so I can get to the beach
Sometimes I spontaneously retain the breath without effort or planning
My nostrils breathe differently at different times.
I seem to have got bitten at the beach and my skin feels like it is on fire.
My mind is not too much problem. I don’t have many random, ridiculous or unrelated thoughts.
When Ramana was asked how do you know he would reply “It is my experience – no authority is required by me.” I like this attitude. All too often we need to justify our ideas or beliefs. Did Buddah, did Jesus?