Vipassana Express – Sharing in Silence

I recently finished a 10 day silent Vipassana retreat at Pomona and as some doors close, more open, life flows on as some lives recede from mine. All is changing.

DAY ZERO

People start to shuffle in loaded with blankets, cushions, expectant smiles and exuberant voices.  The tea room spills over with greetings and home-baked biscuits as old students run to the quiets of their rooms. It’s an eclectic mix of ages, faces and stories.

Male and female are allowed to mix at this stage but soon we are to be segregated. I size up the competition and wonder who will be the gong ringer, who will sit front row and which of us will break the rules first. I’ve heard of people making midnight runs into town for some quick supplies or a rendezvous in the bush with a lover but for me I am happy to stay put. Time is precious and every second away from family is time I want to spend working on my self. Time free of ALL responsibility except keeping this body alive is extremely rare.

I take a long slow slurp on my tea, watching the resident dragon flies guard their territory around the centres water feature and decide to read the leaves in the bottom of my cup. I focus, swirl and leave to settle.

A definite human skull (tattoo style) – never clearer.

DAY ONE

I wake at 3.45am as I was asked to be the early morning going ringer – no competition and definitely not a task I would be putting my hand up for voluntarily but here I am, stumbling along the path trying to gong with love. Feels impossible. The only being to acknowledge my efforts is a young joey who peers from its mothers pouch and sniffs the cool breeze. I stand frozen in awe of the moment, watching each hairy nostril expand and contract as if teasing my mind about the upcoming day. Breath is an important focus for the first 3 days in Vipassana training.

Meditation begins , breakfast passes and my mind races through a thousand thoughts before the end of the next sitting. The time is only 10am. I have already adjusted my cushions a hundred times as the lady behind me grunts in disapproval, or so I believe.

It’s amazing how much we share in silence and how much is lost in silent transactions. Eyeball rolls and heavy sighs, a sideways glance to scare someone against taking the last passion fruit slice, coughs and snorts, hairs in showers, farts and shuffles and fragrances of sandalwood. The senses become more sensitive the longer we refrain from talking and I realise true silence is something we probably only find within our own dimensions.

Lunch bell rings and 60 something grateful people take respite from the aches of sitting and gorge themselves on the most amazing food. My plate resembles something of the leaning tower of Pisa. I juggle the glorious load towards the back deck finding some familiar backs already warming in the sun. I compare the toes that hang out from the male side of the screen with mine, pondering age, career and lack of visible scars or signs of earthly connection. How we judge.

Today I became full aware of a few things – my guts and my cravings for food. Vipassana food is so tempting and soothing.

Tea leaf reading –  flower

DAY TWO

Alarm sounds. I quickly dress and grab the gong. Its blowing harder today and the temperature has dropped. No kangaroos in the dark and no people. I hope my fellow meditators hear me through the trees conversations.

Somehow the meditation hall fills and people begin readjusting their cushions to form mini lounges. The souls karma is coming out as aches and pains, as is mine.  I long for breakfast, lunch and rest.

Settling the mind after a year of travels is proving difficult and although the people around me look like rocks of Buddha I am determined to make the most of my time. I smell Miss Sandalwood again and listen to the movements of a local roo outside, praying the tape of Goenka’s voice miraculously sparks into play. It has to be an hour, surely?

Food, shower, rest, walk in the woods along the fence……watch some ants gather seeds. I think the rains are coming.

Tea leaf reading – bent person with a pole walking….(it was lemongrass tea and lots of leaves)

DAY THREE

Became aware this morning that I haven’t been the loo for a number two since arriving….more prune juice in the porridge needed.

Gong, early shower, chanting and breakfast. The rain is here in full force as a result of cyclone Debbie. Powers out and as well as the umbrellas. People are walking barefoot to save their shoes and our meditation techniques are being delivered by a battery operated old school tape deck.

Morning chants done – breakfast is on. Goenka’s chants provoke an inspire me this morning and I feel the gratitude for having heard the Vipassana in conversations with friends. Grateful I made the decision to just go.

The people are moving slower now but there is still a fight on at the toast table. I saw someone hit the panic button after they had returned to the toaster beside MINE to find their centre made gluten-free bread had been removed and placed on a plate so that the toaster could be used. Drama and tears….emotions running high. HELP – wheres the manager?

I remembered my first course. A great awakening occurred at the toast table. Someone had touched my shoulder and moved my plate (physically moved MY plate) while I was standing there preparing the peanut butter so they could get better access to the toaster. I was in shock. MY PLATE. MY TOAST. It hit me hard that everything I had attachment too was, in my mind – MINE.

My shoulder, my plate,  my home, my husband, my car, my kids. My entire life was a creation of my mind including my body. I left the toast and sat on the rear deck crying. I understood that most of my worries were about what I thought was mine and what I should be able to control. All my fears and anxieties came about when I compared and lived either in the past or the future. I didn’t know how to live in the NOW even though I thought I had been.

I realised I don’t own anything except my own spiritual path. I choose that. Everything else is borrowed or a gift. EVERYTHING – yes even your kids.

Toast tables are a great place to discover yourself.

Tea leaf reading – star patterns – a map?

DAY FOUR

Still no power, still the discomfort of sitting for hours, still is the intention I have set for my mind.

Concentrating so hard on stillness I forgot to read my tea leaves and forgot that when I approach the teacher that I need to take a long slow breath before allowing my words to escape.

Everything is amplified.

DAY FIVE

Early gong, chant, breakfast, sit and Vipassana starts in enerst today. Both men and women both feel the shift in energy. My determination increases as does the winds of Debbie as the tape deck plays. I glimpse a life before this one wondering if it was mine.

I book in to see the teacher for the first time and decide to ask a few questions I have been longing to ask since my first Vipassana. The result – stay within the confines of the body. More questions arise.

A definite pattern is developing in my day and I understand why monks are partial to forming routines. Remove the second guessing and time-wasting of disorganisation so that all of your time can be spent on your path towards enlightenment.

Lunch, sit, ginger lemon tea followed by reading of peppermint tea.

Tea leaf reading – the number 4 – how appropriate.

DAY FIVE

The calm of the storm is upon us and the kangaroos make the most of the clear skies and new grass shoots.  Half a dozen or so young roos entertain us with a high speed race around the grounds of the centre. One flies like a torpedo towards me and I close my eyes hoping he makes the corner. Skimming its tail against my thigh, I become aware of the adrenalin pumping inside my body. They do 5 laps in total and finish as the gong sounds. Tail skimmer wins.

Sit, eat, shit, shower and sit. I remove all cushions except the original bum one and take a long last glance at the male pinnacle of stillness beside me. He must be over 60 and looks pretty cool in his sarong and loose shirt. I am determined. I am still.

Sit, eat, rest.

I watch the women walking in the bush from my window and note the differences in their gate, their pace and their mannerisms. There is one particular elderly lady who just doesn’t stop. I see her after each sit, before each meal, after each gong. Skinny as, she walks and walks and walks. I wonder is she shaking off some karmic past.

Tea leaf reading – scattered objects (toys?)

DAY SIX

Similar to my teal leaf reading really – just a whole lot of mess. I’ve been up for what feels like most of the night following a massive echidna who ripped up all the blue termite lining near the dorms, kangaroos and an old slow-moving python. I watched the moon, myself and my feet on the earth. Its cold and subtly eerie. I like it.

My morning begins like the tea leaf reading of last night, a mess. I can’t concentrate, I cant sit still. My heart becomes heavy with a sadness I have not yet experienced in life. It crawls its way into my thoughts and remains for days. I try to be mindful and allow the process of healing to flow but I form a hatred to these feelings. All is unravelling and my past Vipassana training  has left me.

I want to leave.

DAY SEVEN

Gong, shower, sit and eat. Gong, sit, eat and no shower. I feel like shit.

No teal leaf reading today

DAY EIGHT

Gong, sit, chant and eat. Shower, sit and I decide to sleep. I decide not to meditate and say sorry to all those that I have ever judged for not attending the hall when they were supposed too. I say sorry to myself for being so driven and stubborn, I say sorry, close my swollen black eyes and sleep.

Gong, eat, sleep some more.

I wake grateful, clearer and ready to drink tea.

Tea leaf reading – heart – corny I know.

DAY NINE

Gong, chant, eat and sit. Gong, sit, sit some more, cells and eat.

I observe a few people moving like they are in slow motion and remember the first time I ever time I really felt awake, alive and in awe of each moment. I too saw the sunlight through trees as a masterpiece of life in action. Colours were painted just for me and the whole of existence sang their songs not with voices or actions but with the energy of their hearts.

I am not in slow motion today but I am clear. I can see how important this moment is for me and how I chose to respond (or not) to the sorrow I have carried for days will determine how my day, my life unravels. Just being aware of sensations is my focus for today. Sadness, pain, sandalwood and vibrations in the ear – all just sensations – linked by an energetic pathway – fuelled by a creative force of undeniable love.

Gong, eat, sit, cells, sleep.

I wake and begin to pack. I want to be ready for when the gates are flung open and my family are waiting in Gypsy Green – our big green bus.

Gong, tea, shower and read the notice board.

What the fuck. I thought I was going home tomorrow, but no – another day and then home. I’m confused and deeply overwhelmed with a tingling sensation on the upper part of my lip. Fluid begins to roll down my right cheek and I observe myself cry for a few seconds. It’s a crazy thing to see yourself. Our feeble mind and even feebler emotions.

I drink tea and focus on the warmth of the cup instead of my feeble heart. We actually stay until the morning of day 11.

Tea leaf reading – definite tea leaves in a cup

DAY TEN

My last day to meditate. I am strong again. Gong, sit, eat, sit, sit again, eat, sleep, cells, sit, and tea.

I am focused. I am observing. I am moving forwards on the path I choose at this moment.

Silence breaks today so that we get a chance to adjust back into normality although I think Id like a world that was silent 50% of the time and silence was normal. I listen to myself talking and decide to escape to the openness of a grassy clearing near the hall to remove myself from the instant rise in energy. My body already feels like it is vibrating 100 times faster than normal. People want to share their stories, their lives, their new insight into how things flow – I just want to be thankful for the ease in which my sadness passed. I send some love and metta out to those that cannot let go of such sorrow and live with it daily. For some – all of their lives.

Tea leaf reading – circle – as clear as the skull.

DAY LEAVE

It’s the last morning I get to ring the morning gong and for that I am so damn happy.  I complete my cleaning chores, sit, eat, tell a few more stories and listen for the sound of Gypsy Greens engine.

I am aware today of my ability to observe emotions, my ability to tell too many stories and my ability to love. I am aware of my inability to control all things and for that I am truly grateful.

I love my family, my life and you.

Last tea leaf reading – dark green tea leaves settling in a white cup. Beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indigenous Portals left but not Forgotten

A few years have passed since I last talked about an indigenous portal we lived alongside. It was on our farm land in Australia and I believe my lunch with 2 indigenous elders who validated this portal to be the most pivitol moment in my spiritual awakening so I wanted to share the experience again. The indegnous people of Australia are masters at connecting with the land…..we could all learn from them.

At the end of 2004 my family became sick (literally) of our lives and bought a remote rainforest property in New South Wales. It took one hours drive to the local town for a loaf of bread, forgotten ingredient or social event. It was exactly what we needed. My family began to farm, drink from the river and spend the passing nights under infinite stars. We tuned into the seasons and the animals.

Every now and then I’d pass my husband on my way to the garden, sweat pouring from his body as he nailed, screwed or cut something for our house. We’d both stop, smile and comment about the energy of the lands. We were both happy. When working on the Sunshine Coast we hadn’t been very aware of anything except mortgages, food and appointments but there, in the forest we began to feel something new. At different times of the day or night a buzz that is difficult to explain used to tingle in our physical being, emanating from our chest like a controlled surge of adrenalin. Its vibration would sometimes wake us up at night. We’d talk for hours, explore each others bodies and surrounds, full of energy and creativity.

We discussed more and more often the chances of someone squatting in the forest. Our thinking mind wanted to understand the noise, the vibration that sang through the trees. It was state forest one side and National Park the other, dense and steep. We pondered loggers using a generator or the low gear change of a truck but nothing could explain the drone of an engine that changed its tone as much the wind changed directions. Of course we took a walk several times to unravel the mystery but we never found anything or anyone. One time I saw an aboriginal man standing beside a mountain ash tree near to where we felt the buzz most intensely.  Skinny arm holding a stick,  with his knee perched atop a mirage of a wooden stump, he reminded me of my father and brother all merged together, but black. The instant I turned to see him more clearly, the apparition was gone.

A few weeks later we met our nearest neighbours(1km): aka Flo, Rock and Snoop the dog. They were walking alongside our dusty road waving some white papers. We stopped to talk.

Öne conversation led to another and before long we asked if they knew anything about loggers or people up in the forest behind us. They knew the property well and had been living out here for almost a year.

Flo laughed, “you mean the portal?”

“What portal?” I questioned.

Flo described a sacred energy that ran through the hills. She also tried to tell us about a man who believed there was a yeti and a large prey mantis type of creature that would stalk him on clear nights. Hhhhmm…the conversation took a downwards turn and we put it down to the magnificent mushroom season that had erupted in the last few days of humidity and rain.

TCR 8

Returning to our farm, family and friends, life continued on. I needed a health practitioner for my daughter and was given a local contact. After leaving our appointment I felt the treatment was more for my spirit than the nasal complaints of my child. I was given a number to call about the energy of our land….and connect with someone who had dreamed of me weeks before – it was all very strange.

In the same week a close girlfriend had an aboriginal man perform a cleansing on their farm. My friend told me that while he was ceremonially smoking the lands he asked about a girl with fire-red hair (I did at the time) who came down from the hills and bought with her a tribe. He wanted to talk to the girl with the red hair.

I rang the number. It was Friday afternoon. “Hi, I was given your number to call…….” I paused not knowing what to say.

A deep, elderly voice spoke, “Ï have been waiting for you to call”.

We talked for a minute or two and arranged a lunch at our farm the next day.

I prepared (as I love to do) a feast and invited our neighbours. Any occasion out this far is worth celebrating and sharing. We heard a vehicle entering the driveway and walked outside to greet our guests.

Uncle Larry introduced himself first. A dark aboriginal man, 70’s, dressed as my mother would dress my father. Shirt pressed and clean jeans, belt in tight and a head of slick grey hair. His wife, Aunty Christine was laughing and talking before her feet hit the ground and Uncle Barry, a friend of Uncle Larry’s stared at the hills in quiet memory as we ushered them to the back deck.

We all sat, wide-eyed staring at each other and talking of the coincidences that bought us together. Uncle Larry said he had dreamed a vision of a white girl with fire-red hair who left the ocean waters to live in the hills. She was followed by many  ancient ones with long sticks. They were coming home.

We learnt Uncle Barry had grown up as an indigenous boy with his mother in this exact part of the forest. I felt joy and guilt at knowing this history. Occasionally Uncle Barry would talk in his mother tongue with the spirits as if they were sitting  right beside us……..Uncle Larry laughed at his brother in skin as the birds raised their songs and the wind-swept light across our hearts. Sunlight shone directly into the eyes of us all. The conversation died. We sat in awe at the life that moved around and through us. We all acknowledged the flow of sacredness in silence, knowing we appreciated its power.

Uncle Barry was the first to speak as he pointed his finger towards the Mountain Ash tree where I had seen the apparition……”You got a portal”……then the three guests began their conversation as if nothing had happened, chatting to themselves.

“Whhooa, whooa” said my husband. “Portal, what do you mean portal?”

Flo, our neighbour, who had been pretty quiet till now couldn’t help herself, “see…I told ya….told ya….its a portal”

Uncle Larry explained that this portal was for men’s business (which explained my unsettled feeling when ever I tried to walk the path beside that area). It was a concentration of energy that followed the spirit highways of our ancient Australian lands. Mountains and wind tunnels, ritual and time contoured the portals dimensions. This concentration of wisdom’s settled and swirled about 60 mtrs from our home. It is not visible with eyes and not heard with the ears but sensed.

I had so many questions, my mind was racing. As far as I could understand the aboriginals would enter a trance state (some not) and jump between lands, between seasons. Portals were for the awakened souls to meet and dream, share and connect with self and others and all creatures, dead or alive.

As our three new friends” were leaving, Uncle Larry turned to me and said”, “just keep meditating near the portal and doing what you’re doing, the land here needs no cleansing. Everything you need you already have.”

Ï continue to this day to do what I did then. Meditate, stay open and try as much as possible to move in a direction that enhances life for me and all others.

About one year ago we attended a small indigenous festival. Long story short we connected with a lady who seemed tirelessly busy, performing, weaving, swimming and actively promoting equal rights for her tribe back in WA. Passing her one morning she asked if we wanted a reading and although we had not spoken prior to this moment, I agreed.

Both my daughters were standing beside me. She placed her hand on my youngest child’s shoulder and began rattling off a series of personalities traits that only a mother could know. She whispered in her ear to feel Ok with herself and don’t be scared of the black sisters. My eldest daughter was next and again she read her like a book. I was in disbelief at her ability to know us….really know our past, present and apparent future direction.

She then placed her hand upon my shoulder and said “welcome home – welcome home sister….hhhmmm busy times for a gatekeeper….you know that portal on your land…well I’m shuttin it down….no more mens business, its time for the women….hhmmm open to it sister”.  She shared so much more, so much knowing. I put it in my heart hoping I could access it later for my mind at that moment was numb.

I listened and trusted I would understand but still to this day I don’t really know what I am doing….I trust all is flowing on its karmic course with me steering the boat forwards.

I see the river banks and sometimes go ashore for supplies but mostly I try to move ahead towards the ocean again.

All we need is already within us. Love to all.

Renovation of our Lives (and bus)

Its feels like I am sitting inside a zoo. Hundreds of waking birds call to their mates as the creatures of the night return to dens, nests and grassy lays. It is predawn in Australia and I have not heard such a commotion for over a year. Throughout most of Europe, Balkans and North Africa, animals are either wiped out for farming, eaten or too afraid or sick to appear. Not here. I can understand why so many of the people we met on our travels want to come and experience the beauty of this southern land – its friggin amazing.

Tuning into the sensation of warm ocean breeze against my eye lashes I believe with every cell that this is the perfect time to meditate, stretch the body and awaken senses. The energy of waking nature surrounds me and fills me with a sense of gratitude and comfort. No wonder the aborigines of Australia are so connected to the land – you cant escape it and who would want too?

I remind myself that this is why we have returned home. I breathe in the freshness, follow the flight of a territorial raven and feel the instinct of knowing this land expand in my chest. Closing eyes again I realise this week is a big one, as we prepare to drop a deposit on our new home on wheels. The next “Gentle Revolution”. The decision to live aboard a bus comes from our desire to remain unattached (to land and property) and out of the system (mortgage, debt and government handouts).

My family, as like many, have been there before, stuck in the day to day grind of meeting expectations and repayments, school appointments and social standards, to the point of tearing us apart. We know we just dont fit the mould – for some it just works.

the-simpson-family-2

Thinking over the last year of travels, the people, different cultures, religions and countries, I realise each of us hold our own key to the way we want to live but how and when we unlock that door of potential, of life, is influenced by many things. For me, the primary influencer is what I surround myself with. What comes into contact with our minds, bodies and spirits the most.

As several kookaburras mark their boundaries with deafening laughs I know this is why we have come home. We want to surround ourselves with loving people, healthy clean food and water and be FREE to move and work amongst the flow of energies that I once felt prior to leaving.

Australian ancestors speak to me and I have missed their conversations.

While I was traveling I always felt my spirit was playing catch ups. I am not sure it ever really found me. I don’t dispute the benefits that travel had upon our growth as a family and as an indivual but I do doubt the money spent on the vastness of our efforts. Lesson learnt – we are now ready to journey into the land of unknown again, pushing our limits of love and exploring new territories – spiritually, mentally and physically.

First things first – BUS next week and beyond that – who knows. Open roads mean open hearts for us.

Grateful to be home. Let the renovation of our lives and our new home begin.

Love to all.

bus-4

 

 

 

6. Whos hair, here, hearing me?

The bus has broken down and while we are lucky enough to have booked a short house sit I am coming to terms with waiting it out in cloudy Cornwall while the ‘Gentle Revolution’ is attended too. Its been 4 days since the bus went to the mechanics and I have cleaned more labradoodle hair in that time than I have in my entire life of hair loss and haircuts.

 

The dogs are odd, the house stinks and I feel further away from any sense of spirit at the moment than I have in a long time. I soften my thoughts and see the plea for approval as I pass by the dogs. Gliding my hand across their cheeks to reassure them, both dogs smack the lounge with loving tails to communicate they received my acknowledgment.

Shuffling the kids off to sleep, I remove several crummy plates from beneath the bed and begin to think of all the people who have expressed the desire to do what we are doing, and right now, I wonder what they actually think we do? We, being the family extension of me.

What AM I doing?

I am not certain most of the time. I don’t question myself like that much anymore. Right now I am throwing hairy socks into the ever increasing washing pile and stacking plates in places I am not familiar with. Sexy yeh. Okay, so we don’t have a house or land, a flashy car or retirement plan but we are free to explore at will and every corner we round is a new experience waiting to unfold, a new connection waiting to be made. Its amazing really – this world of ours  – but even the most adventurous have daily self-care tasks.

I have no shame in the mundane and no regret for the cycle of existence I played out before today. It’s here, in the repetitive actions of our lives that an element of freedom awaits. Lying within the energetic pathways of our body is a space so small its indescribable, free of conditions and limitations, waiting to be discovered. You need to find this gap, this stillness. It’s where you nurture your soul and find comfort with your present life.

When the mind and body experience an action or thought that has occurred many times before, it relaxes, knowing its course. As if locked on an automatic setting our mind switches off. We can drive several blocks without being fully aware of where we have travelled. We can brush our hair, pull weeds from a garden or peg out the washing paying little or no attention to the action. itself. We are unaware.

(teeth cleaning photos courtesy of many free internet sources)

Mundane, repetitive actions occur ALL the time. Which means more time to practice awareness. Next time you clean your teeth, relax, close your eyes and bring your mind to the action. Dont force the pattern but watch it. What side do you clean first? Do you move your brush up and down or round and round? Dont change how slow or fast you brush – just brush. Be the observer and you will notice it seems to occur without much effort. You have done this action a thousand times before and now it seems to happen of its own accord. I used to enjoy this game before I stopped smoking but now use it as a technique to heighten my awareness and bring spirit into my daily life.

You will also notice that for just a few seconds or even longer (depending on how much you observed or concentrated) that you have forgotten your household chores, the ache in your legs or the women down at St Ives shops who called you a ‘thievin gypsy’. You forget everything except the action of cleaning your teeth.

Once you feel the mind observing the action you can do the same for other areas of your life. You will begin to realise the patterns we play out in our mind affects us just as much as the physical actions can. These patterns are energetically trapped within the spaces of your physical body and mind and affect your health. Find, follow and catch your internal dialogue before it becomes a repetitive pattern that plays itself over and over. I am fat, I am lonely,  I am poor, I am stuck here in this life, I am, I am, I am.

I am here, in the Southern most part of England, residing in the shell of another persons home making the most of my current situation. What a blessing to have a warm, safe and stinky home in a time of need. It reminds me I am alive and how beneficial incense can be.

 

I sit, write a few drafts about what I just thought and bin the lot. It’s hard to explain how we came to be – traveling the world, laughing, living and loving – but this is only my perception and projection on a social media platform and Id’ hate to move someone further away from their true path chasing a projected image.

Trying to write from a place of authentic love, I close my eyes and follow the flow of energy from the crown of my head to the center of my chest. I have not been practicing as much as I could be – the energy is hard to track and fuzzy. Not the clear and constant stream I am used too that grounds to earth and allows my love to expand beyond the confines of my heart chakra. I concentrate hard and send metta to those I miss and thank the universe for this down time. This time of reflection and self observance. I feel some guilt about how we may present to many and remind myself that some, maybe just one, may need to hear its possible – before they take that leap of faith. So hear this – we are doing it and loving it. It’s such an epic adventure to release and step into the unknown.

Walking to the bathroom, I remove my clothes, step under the warming water and allow any guilt to wash away – it turns to inspiration and I want to shout to the people of the world.

I love you!

You can do what ever you dream.

We are DOING the same as anyone else – just in different locations and on different levels. We are living how we want to live at this moment. You are living just how you are allowing yourself to live also.

I am a carer just like you. I am a lover just as you are. Sometimes experiencing pure connection and joy while at other times too tired to turn the shower on let alone another human being. I am an artist trying to figure out the balance between ego and inspiration and I am a sensitive being, trying to live an authentic and graceful life, tormented by material possessions and comfort foods.

I am the reflection of my surrounds, including that of my own thoughts.

The hardest (and easiest) part of obtaining the life you seek is letting go of what you think you need and living with what you really need.

For now – it’s an ongoing journey and one I am loving every second of.

 

***