I had a wonderful weekend packed with learning and meditation with the Venerable Amy Miller. The general topic was on the Nature of the Mind and developing some ritual around your daily practice such as creating a special place to meditate and adding a motivation in the beginning and merit at the end. These are things I will be working on incorporating.
As in my usual way of discovery, last minute I checked the Garrison Institute retreat calendar and found out that Krishna Das was hosting a chanting weekend. Wow, that sounded really awesome, and yes it was. One whole weekend immersed in chanting was a great antidote to news overload. We also benefitted from a beautiful Buddhist teaching from Tulku Sherdor. Many people were concerned about emotions during these troubling times and we were reminded how everyone, and that means everyone, just wants to be happy, free from pain and suffering. And that what we all have in common.
When people meet me, they see a very outgoing person, someone who can easily speak to anyone. I really appear as an extrovert. They are always amazed to find that I’m not as comfortable in larger groups and that I find it really challenging to speak in front of groups. So I chose the 5th Chakra, the Vissudha Chakra, to study and work on this month. The more I learned about this chakra, the more I identified with it and realize that it is out of balance. A person with a balanced throat chakra can express him or herself well. They can easily speak their truth and accurately express their feelings. An imbalanced Vissudha chakra can manifest itself by talking too much and/or not listening enough. You tend to question what you’ve said and ruminate if it was the right thing to say. I hold back a lot because I have a challenging time expressing exactly what I am feeling and I worry about saying the wrong thing. A blocked 5th chakra can also manifest in illness, such as frequent [...]
I took advantage of a stunning November day to take a hike/run down Camels Hump. It was nearly 60 degrees at the start, but a bit icy and some snow at the top. I really tried to make it a nature meditation by focusing my thoughts on the beauty and sounds of the mountain nature. As other thoughts would arise, I would bring them back. Running down and hopping the rocks was awesome, and much easier to keep your thoughts in the present, as it really takes concentration not to trip and fall. It was beautiful to notice the leaves, rocks, trickle of the water and the changing temperature from bottom to top and back down. I was hoping to do a meditation at the top but it was brutal with super gusty winds.
Quick visit back to New Jersey and I was able to take advantage of picture perfect 60 degree weather with a beach run and meditation on the sound and vast expanse of the ocean. I am practicing keeping my eyes more open during meditation and taking in the environment without becoming distracted. Meditate with me while watching this beautiful video.
Taking advantage of our gondola pass and wanting to get a good cardio workout, Peter and I climbed (for the second time) straight up Mt. Mansfield, under the gondola. It was tough, but at least you have a stunning view, unlike on a stairmaster. My yoga practice is primarily stretching. I find Malasana really stretches the back, and a lot of forward bends, seated forward bend, and twists usually help.
Driving home from the retreat I thought I was floating through life. But coming home, you always hit ground, at least in the beginning of your dharma practice. Instead of spending nearly 8 hours of learning and meditation and silence, or exercise the rest, I am meditating now two times a day for 24 minute sessions, and well, the other 15 hours are in life. I think I liked it the other way around, so as I move forward, I will try to unclutter my mind and my life, simplify, enjoy more silence and incorporate more practice. I love the peace! I did stop on the way home to visit my daughter at college and instead of running around, I went to meditate at the Ramapo Reservation with the magnificent view.
For anyone who has attended a retreat with a revered teacher, you can probably share in the feelings that I am having right now, at the end of the retreat. Or, as I look at it, it's actually the beginning. Everything I have done before as led me to this point, exactly where I was meant to be. I just completed a week-long retreat with Alan Wallace, progressive scholar, and one of the most prolific writers and translators of Tibetan Buddhism in the West. I now feel like I have a very basic understanding of Buddhism and the language of the teachings. Now, that is very different from saying I actually understand the teachings. That's lifetimes. What I do understand is where I am on the path and where I want to go. And I have an idea of what the path is, and where to start. It was a beautiful retreat, and I believe life-changing. I look forward to sharing what I have learned to help decrease suffering and increase well-being in those I encounter, either directly or indirectly.
Yesterday was a great hike on Camel's Hump, but the fog and freezing winds kept us from any views at the top. Today was the exact opposite. It was sunny and beautiful on our Cliff Trail to Mt. Mansfield Summit, following to the Subway Trail and then the Long Trail along the ridge to the chin. I was able to sit for about 10 minutes and just meditate on the beauty and energy. Thanks to my family for sharing this great adventure and the most spectacular rock scrambling.
Today I had planned to do my meditation at the summit of Camel's Hump but it ended up to be freezing and fogged over so that wasn't possible. I tried to sit for a few minutes which was fine. I then tried on the way down to have a walking meditation which was beautiful. My asana practice included a lot of forward bends to relieve some of the stress on my back during the 4 hour hike. I also added a few twists, squats which I find relieves some back pain and threw in a cobra which seemed to realign the spine.