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Vipassana Experience Day 2: Living in the Moment

Reality sets in on Day 2 of my 10-day Vipassana retreat; “I am really here.” Breathe, breathe! We were told to continue observing our breathing, which is connected to our mind (that we were trying to tame). This would ultimately lead us to better know ourselves and be more conscious of our thoughts and actions. It has been said that humans are always observing our external environment and factors, and being affected by it but we often overlook the most important part, which is to observe within. How true… …

Observing the external environment

During our ‘free time’, I fed the hungry mind with observations of those around me. Everyone seems to be walking like a zombie, albeit more gracefully. “Why are they walking so gingerly?” I tried to walk more demurely mindfully but seriously? Wearing a flip flop has its limitations. That plus I like walking with a bounce, as that can help keep my spirits up.

In the dining hall, we started eating our last solid meal of the day at 11am and almost automatically, I observed the eating habits of my silent companions. Plates piled high and the metal mugs were filled with beverages. Girl on right ate quickly, girl on left ate slowly. Everyone has a deadpan expression. (Silent sighs) I kept an eye on the wall clock, and made myself eat slowly. Time loses its illusions in a space like this, every minute was profoundly and acutely felt. We had two hours before our next meditation session.

#Tip: Bring a watch or clock. I do not have the habit of wearing a watch (now you know how much I rely on my phone), and was disorientated until I borrowed a mini clock from the course manager on the 6th day.


Looking beyond the surface

According to our teacher, things are not always as they seem. I was beginning to enjoy his stories at the end of each evening. The previous night, he asked, “you can see the lighted bulb that brightens the room, but can you see the electricity that gives you light?”

“What is essential is invisible to the eye.” – The Little Prince

Things that are not immediately visible or felt does not mean that it is not present or should be ignored. While our mind gets distracted by our external environment, we may get influenced or affected and again, this leads back to the sensations of craving and aversion that will lead to misery. On the other hand, if one constantly reflects upon oneself, stays aware and remains calm and composed, then you can be happier and be more at ease, and you will not affect those around you with negativity.  

Living in the moment

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A footpath in Dhamma Malaya Center behind my room.

To maintain peace of mind, I walked outdoors whenever I could, even at 12 noon when the sun was glaring. Thanks god for nature! Housed within a plantation, Dhamma Malaya is surrounded by abundant nature. I noticed birds playing, butterflies dancing, and even the frogs were composing their personal symphony! Hardworking ants move in long curvy trails, transporting their prized food, while the snails slugged on. Nature unreservedly imparts lessons of life, if only one would stop and take notice.

I finally understood why people (that I’ve encountered in my travels) were always sitting outside their home or by the window. There is much to enjoy in one’s surroundings if only one observes carefully. But alas, I was falling back to old habits of observing my environment, instead of looking within! A nagging thought returned, ‘would it not be too self-centered to focus on oneself?”

The answer is no, provided that one remains neutral and equanimous. For example, much as one enjoys a particular moment in the sun, a wise person would not get upset if the moment disappears and dark clouds gathered above head. Isn’t it madness to get affected by something that you cannot do anything about? In the process of this madness, one’s negativity will affect those around you, multiplying misery. (shakes head) So, enjoy the moment but don’t cling on to it. Even if you are in a bad moment, live it and feel it; this moment will not last anyway.

‘Impermanence’ is a universal law of nature

I couldn’t stop dozing off. Somebody coughed in the background and the auntie besides me gave a loud belch. “No negative thoughts, no negative thoughts!” I reminded myself as I tried to ignore the disturbing noises. I have read somewhere that during meditation, the ‘toxics’ within will be released and some people will burp or perspire, etc.

I had no idea how long we have been sitting, trying to observe our breathing. A waft of sweet, earthy scent filled my nostrils. Roused by the howling winds of approaching storm and melodious bird chirping, the erratic weather seemed to mirror one of the truths of Vipassana: ever-changing, impermanence, anicca. Sunny and bright at one moment, rainy and gloomy next. We were told early on to to always have our umbrella with us.

Random memories floated, and I welcomed these forgotten motion images casually. “Face the truth, the mind will be going through a deep, surgical operation and there will be pain”, our teacher mentioned. But I was lucky. Till then, there were no mental or emotional pain for me. I like to believe that I have made peace with my past many years back; travel was my healing pill. Now, every travel opportunity was a learning journey that helped me to become a better person.

Still, the physical pain was distracting. The unexpected migraine pulsed on repeatedly, and the right knee joint was protesting. I was discovering aches at my shoulder and back, and I wondered how the older people around me were faring. I hoped that they were not suffering as much pain as I was. Gingerly, I changed position again.

[to be continued]

If you have enjoyed the above article, please stay tuned for more as I will be sharing a series of my daily thoughts on the 10-day Vipassana meditation at Dhamma Malaya Center along with some useful tips to know before going. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment. Peace, harmony and happiness to all! 

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To find out more about Vipassana or to register your interest, click here: https://www.dhamma.org/en/about/vipassana

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