Every evening during the short meditation from 8.30 – 9.00 pm, after the discourse by Acharya Goenka we were given instructions and practice of the next stage of Anapana meditation. This was a technically sound practice as we were able to practice for half an hour immediately and then the whole of the next day. This helped us to get a good grounding in the technique.
Day 3 (18/04/2015)
Today during the meditation sessions we were required to be aware of the triangular area of the nostrils and the area just above the upper lip. The smaller the area, the sharper the mind will get. Normally the mind is so gross that one cannot feel subtle sensations. We need to learn to sharpen the mind. So we need to be aware of the touch of the breath anywhere on the inner wall of the nostrils, outer rings of the nostrils or the area below the nostrils or above the upper lip. The smaller the area the subtler the mind will become. This is also symbolic of the progress we make – movement from the gross reality to the subtle reality. However we had to remember that we cannot create subtle realities. We had to leave that to the laws of nature. Whatever manifests there, we had to be aware of it. There would be some biochemical reactions there which will make one feel sensations like tickling, tingling, itching, throbbing, prickling, warmth and so on. We cannot choose sensations. It happens naturally. Whatever comes up, just observe and accept. Just observe the sensation and acknowledge it to be the reality of the moment. This is called Samma Sati in Pali, the right awareness. Do not react – for example don’t scratch when it itches. Just observe. No itching is eternal. Even this will pass away. A new word came to enter our everyday vocabulary – Anicca (pronounced aniccha) – it meant that things rise in one moment and in the other moment pass away. Imagine a river. At no point in time will the water in the river remain the same. It flows and moves on. But the continuous flow of water in the river creates an illusion of permanence in our mind which makes us believe that the water is the same.
Simple, logical things. Why didn’t it occur to me till now? The answer was also readily available. In the fast paced world we don’t observe things. We do things. But we don’t observe. We do things mechanically and never with awareness. And even when we do with some awareness, we do ten things together, that we don’t even remember what we had done. Ah, multi-tasking! In the corporate world we take such pride in this skill.
Day 3 was truly insightful. The practice began at 4.30 am like always and till noon no luck with sensations. But by the end of the day I could feel subtle sensations in the inner wall of the nostrils. Ah, the exhilaration of the “eureka” moment! But wait, that’s precisely what we had to stay away from. Liking something results in craving and hating something results in aversion. Both lead to actions that fulfil the craving or aversion respectively and the next action and the next and so on. A vicious cycle of craving and aversion is born and the mind gets mired in the bog over and over again till the point of no return.
By night however I could feel the gnawing pain in my knees – the result of sitting cross-legged for hours together. There was no hard and fast rule that one has to sit cross-legged. I have been used to doing that and hence my preference for it. So before going to sleep I liberally massaged my knees with a gel that I had carried with the fond hope that I would feel alright in the morning. I was also looking forward to Day 4 as it was the day when we would be initiated into what is actual Vipassana. Whatever we had been doing for the last 3 days and till 3.00 pm on the 4th day were only baby steps towards Vipassana.
(To be continued)