Wednesday, June 3, 2009

CC: May 2009 Revelations

Sometimes we experience moments so powerful, so real, so intense that our hearts feel like they’re going to overflow.

Immediately we start grasping. How can I explain what I’m feeling?

But the more we try to describe it, pin it down, examine it, the more it eludes us. The clutter of words that we surround it with seems clumsy, painfully inadequate. It only pushes us further away from the experience.

The only way we can do it justice is with silence.

Some things are meant to be known, not understood.

Shown, but not explained.

The most important thing you can learn to do is stop thinking.

Breathing meditation:

Inhale the world.

Exhale yourself.

What is he rambling about this time?


Since I’ve just published five entries all in one go, I’ll save the rest of my entries about sime more of my experiences in McLeod until I return from my adventures in Ladakh.

CC: On a More Practical Level

There are eight of us standing in a room with four beds. The walls are covered in pictures of the human body, yoga charts, and cryptic drawings with notes scrawled on the side. I notice a banner of the blue Medicine Buddha next to me (my time at Tushita paid off after all!). It looks as though there’s a pair of girls and another couple who have come together. That leaves three of us guys and one other girl.

Ten minutes later as I’m lying half naked on one of the beds watching one of my fellow male participants rub oil on another hairy man’s chest, I say a silent prayer of gratitude to the massage lesson gods. There’s a Texas (massage?) oilman looking out for me somewhere (Sorry, inside joke. If you read our Ryersonian article…)

After learning some very simple, relaxing massage techniques and practicing them on our partners we move on to a few more dubious sounding parts of the traditional Tibetan massage. We’re taught to locate our partner’s top four chakras and instructed to just touch a finger to them without pressing at all and just hold it there for 3 sets of20 seconds.

Alright, now the bullshit hits the fan, I think to myself. A minute later our teacher is over at our table showing how it works on me. “You have asthma” he tells me from touching my lung chakra. “You’re gonna wanna hold your finger here for about a minute every day and it will start to get better in a couple weeks.”

Ok, so maybe there is more to this than ancient superstition. As a number of other techniques that hardly even involve touching the body start producing their advertised effects I’m already starting to doubt whether Western medicine is everything it’s cracked up to be. And so nice to spend the time involved in a practical hands on practice after a week and a half of abstract Buddhist philosophy.

So if any of you want to sample a bit of Tibetan massage from someone who’s spent ten days getting fully (alright, barely) certified in the practice be sure to pull me aside for a couple hours next time you see me.

Diploma and Everything - I must be good!

And the Verdict Is…

Alright, I know a few of you have been asking what I made of my time at Tushita at a whole. Difficult question to answer. One night after chanting mantras in the gompa, I felt such a wonderful body of energy hanging in the room that I couldn’t bring myself to leave for half an hour after it ended. Another day I felt as though I was being brainwashed, and rebelled against the experience with every fiber of my being. In short, I found much of it amazing, and much entirely distasteful. Everything that you need for an intensely meaningful experience. I may not have learned from it exactly and exclusively what they meant to teach me, but learn from it I did.

It planted the seeds of a lot of interesting ideas in my head and helped strengthen my belief in some concepts I’d been playing around with a while. I was surprised to find that lots of it is remarkably similar to Christianity – it share many of the best and the worst characteristics, and there’s a surprising number of overlapping ideas. As a zen master might say - different fingers, same moon...

I'm pretty sure I'm living in the thunderstorm capital of India. Every three days! Too gorgeous.

CC: Zen and the Art of Falling Out of Your Upper Bunk

One morning I woke up in midair.


I painfully climbed into an empty lower bunk, apologizing to everyone I’d woken in the dorm, and tried to sleep it off.

Several hours of limping through the next day later, I suddenly remembered something I’d seen the previous night.

After our last meditation session of the night, I’d continued to sit outside on the steps to the gompa, staring at the full moon rising above the trees and taking in the scene before me. Below, someone was circumambulating the stupa not far away, immersed in a walking meditation. Every step he took radiated confidence, mindfulness, grace. There was such intensity and purpose in every movement that it was as captivating as the moon hanging in the air above.

Lama Yeshe's Stupa

Before going to bed I had walked around a couple of times myself but always felt clumsy and awkward in the process. I couldn’t sink my attention into my steps to the extent that I wanted to and my unconscious impatience with the task disrupted the rhythm of my movement. I felt like a bumbling idiot.

The next afternoon as I limped with every step while trying to walk at a normal pace, I felt the previous night’s clumsiness amplified to a comic level. Very funny. After a while I gave up and slowed down to a snail’s pace. And I noticed something. If I took small, slow steps, I could walk perfectly normally without any pain. Even though it was much slower and probably much less efficient, I immediately started to felt better about myself. I set my pace several notches slower.

Everytime I got restless and started to speed up, or ceased to be mindful and removed my attention from each step that I was taking, the pain in the hip that I’d landed on last night was quick to bring my attention immediately back to what I was doing. Inattention was no longer an option.

Before the day was through I found myself fully absorbed in every step that I took; giving my utmost attention to every shift in weight, bend of the foot, and change in rhythm that I experienced. As I walked around the stupa that night – intensely mindful and with a fluidity and grace that was entirely absent the day before, it all suddenly became clear to me. Life really has a funny way of teaching you what you need to learn sometimes.

All the same, I think might stick to the lower bunk in the future.

Add ‘walking with an elven grace’ to the CV…

CC: Tushita Meditation Centre Mix ’09

Definitely one of the most interesting things about spending a week and a half in a monastery is adhering the rule wherein you can’t talk or listen to music. Although I must admit that I did break the silence a couple times (A monkey made me do it! Literally), I was surprised how much I learned just by not talking. Everything becomes more immediate. Since there’s no words to hide behind or justify yourself with, every action you make screams out at ten times its usual volume. When five of you are standing around the sink brushing your teeth, that’s exactly where your mind is. You’re not fishing for thoughts, trying to express your feelings about anything, or worrying about anything other than the act of tooth brushing. You see people as your friends that you’ve never spoken to in your life. It was really intense! I learned at least as much from the experience as from the teachings.

On the flip side though, that many days spent in silence is a surefire invitation for any song you’ve ever heard in your life to pop in and get stuck in your head for a while. So, for your benefit (and that of all sentient beings), here’s my Tushita Meditation Centre Mix ’09 (alternately referred to as Drunken Elephant Mind Mix ’09) of all the songs that managed to get stuck in my head for the longest amount of time. Now you can reproduce the experience of being sequestered in a Tibetan Buddhist meditation center from the comfort of your very own home. Please note that a song’s inclusion does not necessarily indicate that I like that song. This especially applies to the conclusion that Clare Hill is about to jump to.

  1. The Art of Dying – George Harrison (Reincarnation and other obvious reasons)
  2. Tomorrow Never Knows – The Beatles (song about The Tibetan Book of the Dead)
  3. A Taste of Honey – The Beatles (I put a lot of honey on my bread and this song arose in my mind. This one’s really sad)
  4. It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding – Bob Dylan (Just cause it’s too good to stop thinking about once you start)
  5. Daddy Cool – Boney M (I think it may have something to do with my Mr Cool T shirt. I felt particularly lame having this in my head)
  6. Like a Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan (The constant ‘how do you feels’ in analytical meditations)
  7. I, Me, Mine – The Beatles (Got some ego dissolving to do)
  8. Stop Your Sobbing – The Kinks (Just stupidly catchy)
  9. I’m Down – The Beatles (Actually pretty fun to have stuck in your head. Maybe my favourite of the lot. I may have been feeling down at the time, I don’t know)
  10. Human – The Killers (Lord knows what this was doing there)
  11. Om Mani Padme Hum mantra (That’s one catchy mantra! It doesn’t help that it was playing in every CD vendor’s shop on my trip in Nepal either)
  12. I Dig Love – George Harrison (Bit of compassion and loving kindness. It’s a pretty cool song too)
  13. Moose and the Grey Goose – Paul McCartney (I was reading one of the Jakartas about one of the Buddha’s previous reincarnations as a goose)
  14. Lady Be Good – George Gershwin (I was just really happy. It was the version from the film Manhattan)
  15. My Sweet Lord (Pirate Version) – George Harrison (I have no idea)
  16. The Levee’s Gonna Break/Plastic Man mashup – Chris Ciosk (Bob Dylan/The Kinks) – (Guess I was just bored)
  17. Oh! Darling – The Beatles (There was a gorgeous thunderstorm after a great meditation session and I was feeling a bit intense)
  18. Falling Slowly – Once Soundtrack (Gotta have some romance in there somewhere – I certainly wasn’t going to get it from the monks)