The following will be my attempt to summarize my ten days of silence at the Vipassana Center in Illinois. If you want to get the gist on what Vipassana is before you read it (which I would recommend), check out this post. It has some of the rules, guidelines and a little about the ideology- all good background for what I experienced.
In my program, I am required to take multiple courses on drugs and addictions. Last semester I took a chemical dependency course where I was required to write a paper about popular street drugs. One drug I chose was Ayahuasca. Why? Because people I knew who didn’t use drugs were talking about this substance and seemed interested. This was strange. Here is my opening paragraph from the paper:
“If there was a chance to experience [improved] healing and wholeness in the matter of twenty-four hours, but the path to reach that end goal was going through hell, would it be a temptation? This is not [only] a figurative hell of bad emotional places, but a literal hell of demons battling and slithering serpents, a replaying the worst experiences of one’s life, a sweating, panting, heart pounding experience complete with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. For most people, this particular path would probably not be a temptation, which is why the drug Ayahuasca will probably never enter main stream society as anything other than a subversive and interesting sub-culture fad. However, [according to some] for those who are willing to venture into the dangerous and terrifying possibilities inherent in using the drug, there is the possibility of a renewed self and an extended spiritual experience- a calculated risk not without serious dangers and consequences.”
This drug was not, and is not, a temptation for me, so I want to make it clear that I do not advocate for the drug nor am I a user. This being said, I had no idea that Vipassana would be, for me, the closest I could ever get to this experience without taking a mind-altering substance.
This week, my husband Jamey and I ventured in to the woods to see the world “stripped of its secret.” In this seemingly seemingly stark and monochromatic wilderness, it is easy to miss the subtle beauty of the natural world. I hope this post inspires you to keep connecting with the earth this December.
Following the winding path-away-from-the-path,
getting swept away by rippling waters,
traveling with the fallen leaves
“We are here to awaken from the illusion of separateness.”
– Thich Nhat Hahn as cited in The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy
In my ethics class this last week, the question of the “disappearance of community” was a point of lengthy discussion. The lamenting of this societal loss is not new. In the book by Robert Putnam Bowling Alone published fifteen years ago, the phenomenon of lost “social capital” was extrapolated on at length, from Bowling Alone’s website:
“The central premise of social capital is that social networks have value. Social capital refers to the collective value of all ‘social networks’ [who people know] and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other [‘norms of reciprocity’].”
While this particular definition is a little clinical for my taste, I basically agree with the premise: community is important and fulfills needs.
The absence of this “social capital’ is worth lamenting. Loneliness is an issue. If you search “statistics on loneliness in the United States,” you will find the following articles:
“For the record, woohoo! Not just art, but life- magic.”
– Jandy Nelson, I’ll Give You the Sun
I am just learning how to play again; how to make life magical. How to find the silky seedlings in dried out pods while walking and then set them free in the wind one by one.
How to grab hand-fulls of leaves and smoosh them into my face before tossing them high into the air and watching them fall.
How to whisper stories to trees while I press my hand to the rough bark and listen for an answer. (See The Silent Friends video).
It is good learning.
This last week my husband Jamey and I took Sawyer (our five-year-old) to see the Lego exhibit at the Columbus Museum of Art.
“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”
Lectio Divina, or “divine reading” is traditionally a form of contemplative practice from the Christian faith tradition where one studies scripture seeking messages from God.
Today, it can also be used as a contemplative practice where one meditates on a text of choice, often times a poem, seeking individual connections and meanings.
I hosted a Mindful Creativity Workshop for St. Francis DeSales High School staff a few weeks ago. Here are some photos and a responses to questions teachers asked in the workshop.
How do we make those spaces in our brain happen more often?
Brains are never going to be completely silent. Their jobs are to think, so those thoughts will just keep coming. I do find that my brain tells me fewer stories since I have been practicing for awhile, but what is more important than this is to “get distance” from thoughts. To know thoughts are not you. You don’t have to believe them. This will naturally create more “space” in our brains, because we won’t be feeding our thoughts as often. We will see that they are simply passing through.