Vipassana course diary: The Anapana days

1. On the first day, I notice that i am having trouble maintaining awareness of respiration. So I decided to exercise slight control so as to prevent the breath from getting to subtle. It is when the breath get’s subtle that awareness is lost. This has usually been happening to me near the end of each exhalation. At this time the dullness and pain  in my chest also used to intensify. The intensity of this dullness and the subtlety of the breath together caused me to lose awareness near the end of the exhalation. This was solved by exercising slight control. My awareness became longer and the breath naturally became much smoother.

2. Soon the pain in my legs started overpowering me and distracting me from awareness of respiration. So i started focussing on non reaction for a while. Once my mind clearly observed the causality behind reaction and pain, the reactions stopped. I was then able to take my attention back to my breath without reacting. I was still afraid to offer exclusive attention to respiration (part of the mind being occupied with non reaction) due to fears over reaction and then pain. This can also be seen as reaction.

3. Observe the breath as it goes in and as it goes out. A disturbance is bound to come. It will come. Accept it when it does. Then go back to the breath. Don’t be upset at the disturbance that just happened. But do know that it happened. Accept that it happened because this is the habit pattern of the mind which does not like to stick to any one object. Understand that by focusing exclusive attention on the breath, you are breaking this old habit pattern of the mind of flitting around aimlessly. Understand that by not getting upset, you are breaking another old undesirable habit pattern, i.e. that of getting upset when things do not go your way. Understand that by bringing your mind back to the breath you are building qualities such as persistence, tenacity and resilience.

4. Feelings of elation will come as you observe your breath. Ignore them. Pay no heed to them. Understand that you are not practicing Anapana meditation for feelings of elation. You are practicing Anapana meditation to break the old undesirable habit patterns of your mind as outlined above. Understand that you are practicing Anapana meditation to build desirable habit patterns of the mind as mentioned above. Understand that the feeling of elation is also a defilement whose purpose is to distract the mind from it’s task of observing the breath. The feeling of elation is an obstacle to maintaining the continuity of awareness. This defilement will weaken if you ignore it and strengthen if you indulge it. So ignore it. Pay no heed to it. Understand that if you do pay heed to it, you also will fall prey to his twin and opposite, frustration. Frustration is what you experience when you are exasperated at your wandering mind. If you indulge elation, you will fall prey to frustration later. Understand this.

5. Similarly do not indulge feelings of achievement when you notice that you have observed your breath without disturbance for a long while. This too will lead to frustration later. Everything I wrote earlier about elation applies here as well.

6. I realize that I have been playing games of sensation over the last 3 days. Perhaps I am still playing those games, but do not realize it now. But That is okay. The important thing is that you not play these games consciously or by design. The object of Anapana is the concentration of the mind, not the experience of pleasant sensations

7. The teacher talked to me about an old meditator who had been meditating since the 1970s. This guy had apparently done over 157 10-day courses. Yet, he had progressed not an inch. He has now been debarred from the center. This shook me. How did this happen? Apparently, he had not been practicing properly. Perhaps he was trying for siddhis. He was known to sleep in the pagoda. This news scared me. I resolved to practice properly with full understanding and with sincerity.

8. The teacher told me of another head teacher who was expelled from the tradition because of seducing a woman (was she a student? ) at the center. He had reached a high stage. How else could he have become a teacher? But he fell like this. Why? Apparently he had not been practicing properly. What was it he was not doing? Apparently he had been suppressing his defilements, not eradicating them. But how to make sure you eradicate, not suppress? By understanding. By understanding what? By understanding the nature of impermanence. When temptation strikes, one will do well to remember that the temptation is temporary. It is impermanent. It will leave. In a few minutes it will no longer bother you. So why make effort to satisfy an urge that will go away all by itself in a little bit of time. Why risk adding impurities to satisfy an urge that will not remain in a little bit of time?

9. Impermanence is perhaps the greatest wisdom to come out of all this.

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About masculineffort

A Man should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, seduce a woman, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
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