Vipassana in Autumn

Autumn is no longer a suggestion. Days are suddenly much shorter. Leaves are definitely turning. One can feel the sap begin to descend downwards, into the earth.
Everything senses this change. Meals are warmer, more cooked food, less salad.
Suddenly the summer fruit we have been gorging upon is replaced with apples, pears, guavas and citrus. Walks with the dogs are taken earlier at night and later in the morning. With no television we tend to land up in the bedroom for longer periods. And with this slowed down existence the opportunity seemingly arose for me to choose to do vipassana or not.
There were many years where I had a total averstion to travelling to India. Felt that the suffering would be too great and that I did not want to witness it.
And yet one day I felt the strongest urge to go and a month later I was there.

So it is with vipassana. For many years a particular friend - Bruno - would venture on these inner journeys and return radiant and alive but also with tales of hardship. The hardship part made it an unlikely happening on the map.
Not that there is an aversion to discomfort, can do it easily, but not a seeking out of it voluntarily.

And so this dance of avoidance has thus existed for years.

Although we don't follow school term times in any ardent way, there is a joy when
the other kids are vacationing and one feels that one can be seen wandering around the village with the brood legally.

About a moon phase ago, the household was harmonious and I set off for a bike ride.
Had a big fat grin on the face. Life being particularly sweet. The leaves slowly turning, the puffs of smoke around the village, kids being totally inspiring.
And on the ride away from the home noises I was drawn to a garden where I sometimes sit. No one ever enters this space and I sometimes muse that it only exists in my reality. I am always alone in it apart from a paradise fly catcher that always alights in the space. Spend a few hours in here, leaning against some smooth, fat bamboo. Move deeper and deeper into the silence.
When the light changes I start making my way home. Of course I cycle directly towards Bruno who is cycling directly towards me. He in a bright red shirt and moi in a blue one.

We stop and chat. He tells me he is going on a vipassana in four days time and how he is really looking forward to it. He spoke of the venue which is not far from here. Only an hours drive away. No airports, tickets, visas none of that shit. Just a gentle meander. He also mentioned how the area reminds him so much of Ladakh, how beautiful it was.
I hear my voice asking when the next course was. A bit surprised of course.
And yet not at all surprised when a short while later I put my name for the next one.
And there was space beside it being the easter weekend. And even better I got a lift with someone who knows back roads through valleys I have not even contemplated.

My bed had two windows. Both looking onto mountains. The neighboring farm was a small game farm and at night one could hear the hyenas and lions. I slept with the curtains open and fell asleep under the stars and the waning moon. An owl would perch on the washing line post for a while and would make those occasional verbal calls. And then a diurnal bird would start calling out to the new day and the owl would be silent till the next night. What signaled the change of day so specifically that both these creatures would be aware of and respond to?

Waking up in the dark to a small bell and for a second the mind would say, go back to sleep and yet I would find myself arising, heading for the bathroom, splashing cold water on my face. Wakefulness. Walking in the dark to the hall with a soft glow of invitation. And there I spent 12 hours a day for the next ten days.

One night a snake slithered into the hall and there was some reaction to it.
Sage moved into me and I picked it up and placed it in a bucket.
A violin spider shared my room with me and honoured my space by staying on the other side of the room.
A pregnant ghekko also came to stay for the duration.
There was a plumbing problem in the chalet that at times was pretty gross, and my chalet partner left, leaving me to a room by myself. And then the plumbing problem got fixed. Delight arose.

For the first few days, I became a meditator. A new experience. With the technique meditation happened and mind was silenced, awareness sharp and focused. But oh dear the breaks those first few days showed me how alive my inner bitch still was.
Heap more food on your plate why don't you would be my silent comment to someone over helping herself. Don't you know there are another 20 people needing to eat.
And then I would go back in the hall and silence would take over again. Until the next break when mind would break free like a cobra after being held in a tank for a few days.

On the 6th or 5th night I can't recall but the discourse changed from being profoundly interesting to being buddhist dogma. All about the only way to relieve your samskara would be to follow this practice directly for the rest of your life.
And perhaps if it had not gone on for so long it could have snuck by me without the challenger arising.

Anecdotes about Buddha and his life and followers but to me the most vital of his teachings being ignored -
Events happen, deeds are done, but there is no doer -
all there is is consciousness.

Emptiness is form and form is emptiness.

And at that moment I stopped being a meditator and just sat there quietly.
A pointer arose which had been with me for a few weeks, well did not arise but exploded - 'There is no becoming - you are already what you seek".
And with that it became apparent that what I was seeking was right here and now.
It was This. Ever present, unchanging, stainless.
And who I believed I was played out its role on this pristine screen with much aliveness and colour.
So clearly perceived that what I am is unaffected by anything.
The most tragic event could befall me such as the loss of my family and yet I
would be unaffected. Even witnessing the end of the planet as the sun gets active.
The greatest joy could befall me and I too would not be in effect of it.
Pristine clarity, Emptiness giving rise to fullness and merging back into emptiness.

In the breaks if I was not contemplating from under a fig tree, I found myself under a rhus tree with a universe of bees collecting the pollen. The weather was magnificent - there would either be an intense wind and chill prevailing or it would be beautifully clear and warm. Nothing insipid, just sheer majesty and wonder.

Discovered some almond trees that were tucked behind others, dropping their nuts into deep compost where they lay undiscovered. Found quince bushes and pomegranates that were not too badly stung. One day I took a fallen twig and wrapped it in a piece of bamboo and then tied a piece of grass around it. When I next walked past it someone had added a stone, and then there was a guinea fowl feather, and then a geranium flower - a shrine unfolded. And then there were several of them along the various pathways. Such a deeply human need to create sacred images and forms.

One session was sitting so quietly and for the first time felt the sensations that the rest of the group had been experiencing for days - (always the last in the class)
they started to intensify and my attention was drawn to the base of my spine - and I said no to it - I said no to anything other than the most ordinary experience that I could access any time.
I knew that if I had a lights one experience I would spent the rest of my life trying to recreate it.
Again and again I said no to phenomenal potentials, just slipped back into the ordinariness of sitting quietly and the majesty of it.

The wind.
The doves.
The Fiscal Shrike.
The tractor
The planes
The dogs
The teachers asthma spray and crinkle of throat lozenge papers
The discourse
The breathing
The sniffing/coughing,sneezing, yawning - suppressed for as long as possible and then exploding outwards.
The acorns bombing onto the corrugated iron roof.
The liberation ...... from the belief that I need to be liberated.

On the final day, talking had commenced. We were eating breakfast and were called out to behind the kitchen, in the male area. This is where it met the game park.
We were called to see an elephant. And then another appeared. They were very close to the fence. A few of us said hi but that seemed a bit silly. So I asked Bruno to sing and he did. A 'Dead can dance" number. In the cold morning air, his voice carried each note in the universe. The male elephant walked down into a donga and bowed and raised his trunk and remained like this for the duration of the song.
Ganesha himself was in that moment.

And in the week of my return earth is stretching and shaking, belching and groaning, doing some powerful emetics. Tectonic plates moving, air traffic coming to a standstill. The sun shooting off a prominence that is breathtakingly spectacular.
The Earth seems to be ready to reach her own point of singularity. I watch it all in wonder and delight.

And light a candle to echo Buddha's prayer:

May all beings be free
May all beings be peaceful
May all beings be liberated...........

And may we all learn to share a leaf of substance as these blessed creatures do.

It dawns on you
that this is what I am,
this simple everyday presence
just as it is.


nina said…
Su, this post, this is the one that will stick with me forever. Every line, every image, I love your naturalness, the mix of protest and surrender, always aware what you are doing, always in the zone.
Did you laugh when Ganesha visited? What a trip! And is that George come back to your homestead sharing the bounty? That red/green leaf comes in a plastic clamshell box here in the US at $6 US a pound. You know we are hated for this freedom.
Thank you for the work you put into this creation, it is a complete success.
I'll be back later, town calls, but I feel the urge to reread, re-see, connect deeper/higher.
Love, nina

Vword: sermatin, seraphim in the morning
su said…
This is the post that struck me at the deepest level.
Slowly pieced itself together.
Kept coming back to look at -
strange but true.

Words cannot describe what happened when Ganesha visited. There were silent tears, there was a radiant aliveness of the skin, the ears were vibrating, and in between it all was the silent watching.
Absolute perfection in a larger than normal life moment.

That red green leaf is a beetroot leaf. And that is one of George's great progency. He comes back to visit all the time.
Anonymous said…
Oh my, Su...
Thank you!
with love and respect,
Visible said…
Beautiful and clear...
Anon said…
Lots to think about here!

- Aangirfan
Pangolin said…
Yesterday I spent the afternoon in a field with a hoe. Picking out weeds at first and then planting a flat of tomatoes. While I picked the gleaner cauliflower that had bolted two field cats carefully displayed the gophers they had caught, one each, before settling down to eat. After, they climbed into my lap as I sat and rested. Today, a soft rain falls.

To bow is to honor the obvious and the subtle. To rise is only in preparation of the next bow to the beloved.

Tat Tvam Asi.

v'word: bessou, be soul, as if we were anything else....
nina said…
If Pango Pango was an island, I'd go there and seabathe and build a chickee on his lee beach.
nina said…
Su, have you noticed how closely the basic structure of the McGregor cottages resemble Evariste Ahimana's dwelling?
nobody said…
I'm happy for you Su. That was all perfectly marvellous. I have a smile on my dial just thinking about it.
Anonymous said…
Kantahanan is the home of every song. The word kantahanan is derived from the tagalog words "Kanta" which means "Song" and "Tahanan" which means "Home".
Anonymous said…
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chickory said…
thank you for taking me somewhere i will probably never go. i cracked up imagining your rebellion to the dogma and later having the meditation broken by sprays and candy wrappers....oh darn that material world.

im proud to find myself on your sidebar in such stellar company. thank you.

i really like the ganesha image you chose...and i do agree the elephant holding up his trunk in salute was he himself...for those about to rock -we salute you.

very enjoyable post.
Ash said…
magical... :))
Zoner said…
I very much enjoyed reading this. Thank you.

su said…

Excuse my tardiness of response.

The wind has blown any sensibilities far away.

Nina, yes it does look like Ariste's homestead. I always loved that painting.

Ravi, with respect, love, gratitude and a big fat smile, hi there.

Visible,thank you for swimming in these waters.

Aangirfan, thank you for tasting.

Pangolin, we have had an epic bow and arrow making time of late.
bamboo has been the most widely used but not great - all the boys really want to learn blacksmithing - knife and sword making in particular.

feel a need to try and set up a workshop and slowly start gathering necessary tools.

All knowledge has come from ‘out there’,
while what is closest is ignored.
In a certain way,
every molecule of this universe
is pointing back at what you are.
The very impressions received
are the nourishment of knowing
everything you need to know.

Since then the elephant has appeared in 5 dreams.
All with a red sun in the background.

Ash - I await your next image with bated breath.


Zoner - hi my friend.....pleased to see you here.
Anonymous said…
thank you for the link to Gilbert et al
Dare i say? the timing was impeccable!

the weeping and gnashing of teeth that is occurring on this planet due to all these 'bummer scenes' (for lack of better words, but you get my drift, i'm sure).... i ran back to your site for some sanity and followed on over to seeing-knowing... like a cool summer breeze in our 100+F temps!!

Hopefully your seasonal change is progressing in an enjoyable manner? Our spring was long and enjoyable and only yesterday did we finally hit 100F for the first time in 2010- but it surely won't be the last!
The body has already adjusted and 72F has become 'chilly' again.... or should i say 'nippish'...
Somewhat inane to be talking weather, but where i live too much of it can kill you, so one pays attention to temps. and over-heating...
Again, thanks for your blog and thank you for being...
with love and respect
su said…

thank you so much for venturing back here.
it is insane out there and gilbert has been a life saver when mind threatens to suck me into its never ending misery.

we have had two major cold spells each lasting only a few days thankfully. the winter pattern here is mist in the morning, which lifts by 10 to expose the most crisp, clear, blue skies one can wish for and then the sun, more gentle now but still strong beckons me into his embrace in patches of the day.

if i don't look outwards at the net for news, my world is absolutely perfect.

love and peace.
Burnie said…
Just read your post. What a beautiful way of saying. Living some of your words I understand the struggle that wouldn't be if I paid more attention, grin. Our path's are similar I think my head is just a bit harder as I fall back to the male version of bitch. The truth I think is that we are surrounded by a magnificence that goes beyond anything we could imagine..I seek.
Thanks for your poem on my site. It is definitively what is going on.
So, you are my teacher in this instance and I am grateful. And thank the god's for speel check.
su said…
I was finally able to get on your blog, which is truly beautiful! You are an exceptional writer, and a very clear person! It’s a shame that those whose approval you would like don’t read it. I forwarded it to Zachary. I know he will enjoy it.

I will keep reading it. I was right to begin with when I told you to write a blog long ago. But, you have exceeded even my expectations. Truly, amazingly beautiful and touching.

Burnie said…
The message is/has been my grasp, it has always been there as you say. It is I who am blind. I have no name for my belief, no set of rules. the requisite is walking away from one part and embracing another..change. In that walking with head down scowling, one could think, why do this awful thing to yourself when you are surrounded by those who love you, by all the creatures, by beauty in so many forms.

And you go holy shit, I don't need a prison guard for my cell, I put myself there voluntarily, I can walk anytime I want. It has taken many years to get this..what a dummy ha ha, I laugh and say thanks again for another lesson.

Aint it grand that people from all over the world can find this common never fails to blow my mind,

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