Saturday, April 27, 2013

From a Deeper Place

Dhamma Torana is a meditation Centre a couple of hours north of Toronto, where the Buddhist technique of Vipassana is taught and practiced. I’m heading there tomorrow for a weeklong work period, during which volunteers like myself will work at whatever maintenance, building or landscaping projects are scheduled. It’s a time for service. Any “old student” is eligible to participate, an old student being anyone who has completed a 10-day course during which the practice is taught. But for me, the work period is an opportunity to practice meditation in a deeper and more focused way than I have in the ten years since my training.

I took my course here in Ontario, just a few months before the centre opened, at a rented camping facility a ways east of the current centre. There have been many opportunities to visit the centre, but this will be my first, and it coincides with the 10 year anniversary of its opening. In commemoration, there will be a 1-day course in the middle of the work period – an all-day meditation. On each of the other days, there will be three 1-hour sits, and the general guideline of silence and the avoidance of distractions will be followed throughout.

Vipassana has been a very helpful practice for me, despite the fact that I practice it so laxly. Students are encouraged to do two 1-hour sits per day. I manage a single 20-40 minute sit perhaps four days a week, on average. And there’ve been long stretches during the ten years when I didn’t meditate at all. But the benefit, when I do practice, are clear.
I’m more grounded when I’m meditating. I feel more rooted, more solidly seated within myself. I notice that I’m less agitated, distracted or put off by events and people and problems. And, I’m less inside my head. That last is a big one for me. A theme of my entire adulthood has been freeing myself from living too much in my head.

And I’ve lately noticed this freeing happening in a new way. I find myself making decisions that seem to form not entirely in my mind, but in some deeper, less conscious place. So often, my decisions are a result of long deliberation and the mental weighing of factors and tangents and possible outcomes. But occasionally, a decision simply wells up, from some inner source, and its rightness is evident, even before it has generated any change.
Deciding on this trip to Dhamma Torana is actually a case in point. Had I given it much thought, there was plenty to argue against it. Vacation time is limited, and we have so many things we might do with it. There is family to visit, including aging parents. There is Cloud, our new country retreat to see to and make improvements on. And so many other possibilities. But the notion of giving service time to the meditation centre, and deepening my own practice in the process, had been rising quietly in my spirit, and when it emerged as a clear, directed thought, my thinking about it felt like a formality. I knew it was the thing to do.

It’s a wonderful feeling when decisions come from this place. It probably comes across as anti-intellectual, and I guess it is. But there is other intelligence than Mind intelligence, isn’t there? I guess this could be called anything from being guided by conscience, to inspired, to having a gut feeling, to being spoken to or guided by God. (And I bet we could generate some really contentious arguments by debating the point) Maybe the key thing is simply to be open to such inner direction. I hope to be.
So as of tomorrow, I’ll be at the Centre, doing service work and deepening my meditation practice. I’m looking forward to it.

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