Vipassana Meditation

December 19, 2010 by

Vipassana, a word meaning, “to see things as they really are”, is an ancient technique of meditation as practiced by Gautama himself, dating back some 2,500 years. I’d felt drawn to attend a ten-day course ever since a co-worker had gone about a year ago, sharing with me the basics of the experience.

It’s a silent meditation, noble silence, meaning no communication of any type (words, gestures, eye contact etc.) throughout the entire ten-day course. The course is also donation based, which can be paid monetarily following the conclusion of the course, or by serving during another course.

You are to also stop any other practices during the course, including alternate techniques in meditation, yoga, prayer etc., as to give yourself fully to the Vipassana technique.

The schedule for each day was nearly identical:

4:00 a.m. ————————- Morning wake-up bell
4:30-6:30 a.m. —————- Meditate in Dharma Hall or in your room
6:30-8:00 a.m. —————- Breakfast break
8:00-9:00 a.m. —————- Group meditation in Dharma Hall
9:00-11:00 a.m. ————— Meditate in Dharma Hall or in your room according to teacher’s instruction
11:00 -12 noon —————- Lunch break
12 noon – 1:00 p.m. ——— Rest, private Q&A session with teacher
1:00-2:30 p.m. —————– Meditate in Dharma Hall or in your room
2:30-3:30 p.m. —————– Group meditation in Dharma Hall
3:30-5:00 p.m. —————– Meditate in Dharma Hall or in your room according to teacher’s instruction
5:00-6:00 p.m. —————– Tea break
6:00-7:00 p.m. —————– Group meditation in Dharma Hall
7:00-8:15 p.m. ——————Teacher’s Discourse in Dharma Hall
8:15-9:00 p.m. —————— Group meditation in Dharma Hall
9:00-9:30 p.m. —————– Open Q&A session in Dharma Hall
10:00 p.m. ———————— Lights out

The center I attended was in Shelburne Falls, MA, some four hours from Brooklyn. I arrived in a downpour a little after dusk, to find myself in a simply, if not completely undecorated building, not like that of a place which is neglected, but intentionally simple and full of warmth. The people who greeted me were genuinely kind and helpful, making me feel like I was in the hands of silent professionals. Only later did I realize these people were all volunteers or Old Students, meaning most had never before been assigned the position they filled so convincingly.

After having made my last calls and stored away my belongings, I was shown to my room where I was shortly acquainted with my two roommates. From then on the men and women were kept completely segregated except when meditating together, on opposite sides of the room, in the main mediation hall.

After eating our last dinner of the retreat, we met in the mediation hall to begin noble silence. I was so ready to shut the fuck up, that the shock of silence never actually got to me. It had been a near 23 years of yapping, and the opportunity to be quiet felt blissful. This of course didn’t last for long.

As silence began, a recorded chant played over the stereo system. This was my introduction to Goenka (goink-ah), That’s right, the dudes name in Goenka. The chant sounded like Aboriginal throat singing, and death metal, with a shaky pitch begging for a T Payne remix. An enormous grin span across my face. I thought I was gunna lose it. I later found out he’s speaking in an ancient north Indian dialect, that of Buddha. It took me a bit of time to get past the unintentional comedy of his song.  This was also the first moment I realized my teacher was an audio recording, something that turned out to be just fine.

Following the songs, he spoke for the first time, in English, giving specific directions on the meditation, many times repeating things twice. With his deep baritone voice and harsh Indian accent he’d explain “Beegeen, beegeen with a caaaaalllmmm and quiet miiiinnddd, callllllm an quiiett miiiiinnnnn… and begeen to Observe, OBSERVE de adia (area) de triangular adia below de NOstrils, an de adia insiy de NOstrils… just OBSERVE… patiently, persistently, ardently, consistently, CONtinuously, CONtinuously, equAnimously, patiently and persistently, patiently and persistently… you are bound to be successful, bound to be successful…” and the monologue would come to an end, followed by some moments of static until the stereo system shut off, when true silence began.

By true silence I mean people are still hacking up a lung, sneezing, breathing, cracking, sighing, and farting, but beyond all these external components, the chatter of the mind takes center stage. And so the detoxification begins. The long waited confrontation with the wild mind begins and it is a slow and painful process, but one that must be undertaken to overcome misery.

And so I spent the next three days, the longest days of my life, solely concentrating on my breath. My head was burning with concentration, and of course, the mind, so used to running freely with any thought that barrages the present moment, was insanely resistant to the idea of clearing the clutter, and fine tuning it’s focus. The ways in which it reacted and distracted were through doubting the process, procrastinating meditation, or becoming wrapped up in the good and bad thoughts that entered my mind. And of course, it’s conditioned human nature to guilt yourself for having a hard time with something, to become frustrated, angry, depressed etc. and this too became a distraction.

And so I sat and meditated on my breath, time and time again, and just observed natural respiration, and every time my mind got the best of me, I would calmly pull my attention back to my breath. With this came an immense amount of impatience, resistance, anger and frustration, all of which I began to observe as if it weren’t my own, creating space between the “my” and the “emotion”.

By day four my mind had grown sharp and meditation had become blissful and easy, only to realize we hadn’t even begun Vipassana mediation. This was simply a period allotted to quieting and sharpening the mind (called annapanna meditation), preparing for the actual technique.

This is where shit hit the fan. I mean the highest quality and quantity of shit you can imagine, full speed, hitting one of those high-powered, industrial fans. We were to bring our attention over the entire surface area of our bodies, covering every square inch, observing any sensation that may or may not crop up. Subtle, gross, painful or pleasurable, itchy, tickly… makes no difference. Intellectually, this is easy to understand, but to put this into practice, for at least ten hours a day, is such a difficult feat, it’s enough to make you realize you can achieve any, I mean fucking ANYTHING.

Now you’re probably wondering the point to all of this. Yes, to become fully liberated from misery… but why this way?

By sitting still, and noticing all the sensations that crop up on the body, you notice one common tie. The sensations come and go. And so then this idea is applied to anything and everything. Everything is impermanent, and yet so much of life is spent with this attachment, this clinging to the pleasure, and this aversion towards any negative sensation or circumstance. And so this is discovered on an experiential level. The mind is trained to observe sensation equanimously. Every sensation that crops up, whether it be intense and painful, or subtle and pleasurable, or somewhere in between, equal focus without any preference towards one or the other is given, allowing you to except the reality exactly as it is, not as you’d like to be.

And so this grueling, pain-staking process of facing everything that’s accumulated over one or more lifetimes began, and I was to observe the sensation only if it were within the area of my current meditation, observe the sensation exactly as it felt, and then move on to the next area, continuing my endless scan.

As the days wore on, subtler sensations could be felt, and by the time the ten days were over, vibrations could be felt all over my body, within my body, and throughout my spine. During the course, many Sankaras (old emotion trapped in the body) were released through tears, or by allowing the sensation to surface, observing it equanimously, and allowing it to pass without any clinging, aversion, or reaction of any kind.

Let me make on thing clear, that by detaching from the old habit of reacting to pleasure or aversion and remaining equanimous, doesn’t mean to be indifferent to any sensation or situation. Quite the opposite. Separating yourself from reactions, preferences, and coming to terms with the actual reality allows for you to fully feel the present moment, whether it be a great party, delicious food, incredible sex, or on the contrary, loss, death, or a break up, you feel all these things without the mental aversion or clinging, which always intensify the experience past what is real, and result in misery. Always misery.

Sooner or later the understanding that we are all just a constantly changing mass of atoms, held together by the one dimensional perception of the eye, overrides any prior theory of separation between you and anything else. Just as if some dude named Jon’s girlfriend broke up with him, or Jon’s watch was stolen, you are obviously unaffected by these circumstances. And so the understanding of attachment as a gateway to misery becomes apparent, that by involving an “I” in anything that results in attachment, good or bad, on a mental, vocal, or physical level, inevitably results in misery.

And through this realization, my compassion grew exponentially. The ones who are creating the most conflict, the ones putting their misery on others (energetically, physically, or vocally) are the ones who need the most love. These are the ones who are the most ignorant, the most hurt, the most reactive, and the most miserable. These pain bodies, these people who in the past aroused so much fear, hate, and negativity, become your greatest teachers, and are to be treated with the most compassion.

By practicing Vipassana meditation, I was able to experience the old habit of the mind, where clinging and aversion (to anything) made up a great deal of my life, change to becoming detached from those sensations, and experience first handedly the bliss of accepting life exactly as it is.

I urge anyone who feels compelled to try this type of meditation to get on it. Though it takes an extraordinary amount of focus and effort, and becomes a lofty lifetime goal, the benefits are unparalleled, and by mastering the art of living, we too master the art of dying, the ultimate test of a life well lived.

I know ten days off seems impossible to come by given the busy nature of our hectic lives, but even sitting down in the morning and night for ten minutes at a time, focusing on the breath and calming the mind, gradually increasing the duration to fifteen, twenty, thirty minutes, I think you’ll begin to notice a significant change for the better. Perhaps our reactive nature will begin to diminish, perhaps an unconscious pattern will become apparent, and thus the process of reversal will begin.

What more in life than to live harmoniously in the present moment, awakening the god within us, and sharing this god (love, faith, purity, devotion… whatever you want to call it) endlessly with the world around us. I believe we all share this goal in one way or another.

El Guincho

December 16, 2010 by

El Guincho is a fishing bird from the Canary Islands, as well as the alias of Spanish musician Pablo Díaz-Reixa’s current project with an Afro-beat, Tropicália type twang.

Had Jodorowsky dabbled in music videos, this would be an accurate example of what to expect. So nice. And the song “Bombay” is just spot on. Enjoy the combo of slick grooves and beautiful BÜBS


Gobble Globble Glolbble!

November 27, 2010 by

Happy Belated Turkey Zay!

For all of you sitting at home, feeling anxious and irritable from the proximity of prying relatives and the over consumption of Turkey, Tofurkey, or Fofurkey, check out Tame Impala’s “Solitude is Bliss”. What better than a sweet music vid to take yr mind off the daunting conversation you had, tongue tied, trying to explain your path as an artist, only to fall on deaf ears of your second uncle once removed who’s mind has been hardened and tardened by countless years on the grind. If the video doesn’t work, try TM or chair pose.

The Suburbs

November 22, 2010 by

Back when I had invisalign, and Blake was actually able to drive a car, we had dinner and played a show with these dudes at Tufts U. They even played “Headlights Look Like Diamonds” based on my request. After not having grown with them since “funeral”, I checked out the new burbs vid, and, yawto too!

Note: The video was actually directed by Spikes Brother, Mike Jones

Typical Conversation with Blake

November 4, 2010 by

Phone rings, caller reads “Blake.” I answer, “Hey Blake Lake, Zah?” Without a pause, Blake responds “Heymanlisten, do you have any incense in the house?” The quickness of his jive, and the bizarre nature of the question intrigue me. “Might be some downstairs in a cardboard case as long as a stick of incense, depicting Krishna in full lotus, text reading “incense stick”. Blake says, “Ok cool, ok actually I just found some up here, yeah cause the thing is I order some pizza last night, ya know? And I wanted to warm it up so I put the oven on low and I know the flame is on the bottom so I made sure not to put it near there and so I wanted to warm it up like they do in the pizza delivery boxes, the red ones they bring to your door. So I put the pizza in the oven (here it comes) inside the pizza box (!) and the whole thing caught on fire, and it was kind of unexpected cause the flame was so low and that’s never happened before cause I made sure to put it on the top oven rack, so yeah now the house smells a little bit like burning.”

Now, for most people, this would be very, very concerning, but in the case of Mr. B, it’s somehow excused. At this point my mind is laughing hysterically, but trying not to make him feel too bad, I explain “Yeah, I understand what you were trying to do, but just so you know, it’s an oven, and it cooks food at high temperatures using fire… and you surrounded your food with cardboard, an extremely flammable material… It’s all good man, but that’s unbelievable.” Blake continues to spit his rationale, as if this situation could possibly be written off as a common mistake.

Jan Terri

October 28, 2010 by

Forget everything I said in the last post, and direct all your attention on Jan Terri. Notice as you get slammed in the face with Jan’s tasteful melodies and gripping guitar work … to learn her process would be a gift far grander than bathing in a vat of milk duds.

And let us not forget the video itself. The Director and Jan obviously had a strong vision and relentless work ethic as they set out to capture the story of a women leaving a hotel, getting in a car, and going to the airport.

… you best not tune out before getting yr fix of “get down goblin.”

Hell Yeah

October 28, 2010 by

This has got to be one of the best music videos, most certainly up there with “Glisoli” by Sigur Ros and “Do or Die” by Fury of Five.

Baths

October 21, 2010 by

This guys got it right. I have’t heard music this good in a while. And the video… I was transported into futile Japan. According to Calvin, dudeman has a kodama sticker on his laptop (he saw the show earlier tonight), making me think he’s a Princess Moninoke fan… which makes complete sense… I can see the influence. For those who don’t know, we named our band AKUDAMA as a misinterpretation of KODAMA, the tiny tree spirits that protect the forest.

I’m so thankful and equally jealous of such insanely creative and talented minds. To put it into the words of my Brazilian friend Thiago, the combination is “so nice” (it really helps to hear his accent… “so nayze”… you get the point.)

Be sure to catch a show of his at CMJ in some dinky club before he takes over the world with angelic glitchy bliss…

Siouxsie

October 18, 2010 by

The combination of krishna, heart mirrors and the neck at 1:22 is perfection.

Reflecting Light

October 7, 2010 by

Just in! Check out Blake Lake’s cover of the B actress in Die Hard.