This year on my birthday I was not happy, needed no celebration, I needed solitude to seriously reflect. I have lived with a certain part of me being so dysfunctional, covered with lots of fear and self doubts, unknown anger at times. A trusted nun friend advised the deepest part of me needed to go on a long retreat, so I set my mind to embark on a month-long journey by myself. A lot have asked why not invite your husband along? Nope, this is only for me, with myself!
As usual, when we put the single minded intention out there, things just started to fall into the right places.
Very soon I learnt my dear teacher Thich Nhat Hahn (Thay – it means teacher in Vietnamese) and his wonderful entourage were coming to this part of the world, immediately the sign was so clear, that it was only right for me to plan my journey around his presence, and the place was non other then Thailand. Since it was Thailand, I was inspired to do something else. I admire Ajahn Chah’s wit and wisdom, I wished to stay in his forest monastery to be nourished by his presence and practice. With the help of many wonderful people, I had everything set up for the whole month of April.
It was as though things were not wonderful enough as they already were, my husband and I had a great opportunity to learn more Dharma and practice from Sayadaw U Tejaniya who was visiting Singapore right before I had to leave. Sayadaw is very dedicated to sharing the method of awareness meditation, a very humorous monk from Myanmar. Learning from Sayadaw have deepen my understanding of the Dharma, which was, at that time, the very tool I needed to hit the road. Sayadaw had helped connect many dots for me in a few profound ways.
#1 – similar to Thay’s teaching, Sayadaw said meditation should be easy to do and relaxing, so relaxing that it should take no more effort than mere recognizing we are sitting when we are sitting, seeing when we are seeing. In Thay’s way of saying, we should be washing the dishes to wash the dishes, not just to make it clean, Thay also said our practice should be joyful, life has enough suffering, our practice should not be suffering, without happiness, there will be no enlightenment. Meditation should be so so easy, so that we can cultivate the energy of mindfulness from the time we wake up, to the time we go to sleep.
#2 – we know anything and everything that takes place is due to cause and effect so we only need to be cool with it, the same with our attachments and aversions, likes and dislikes, our bad habits – our behaviors are results of passed conditionings, when they come, the more rational approach is to accept them, because they are governed by this law of nature, if we reject them, deny them, or indulge in them, we would make them stronger, but it doesn’t mean we just let them be, what we can do is we can transform them, train them, just like we train our body to run the marathon, to improve the quality of our muscles and stamina, we can train the mind, to improve the quality of the mind, to water the good seeds as Thay says it, and the method is very simple – we just need to be aware with the help of right view, its so simple that many people find it unbelievable and think they need a more sophisticated way that match up to the egoistic self.
#3 – Just through stopping, breathing, accepting what already is, aware of it, and to know everything can change, over time, we can be the master – this is right view. The mind is a habitual creature, all the time influenced by passed experiences, it likes to think that it is so great and mighty! Jesus said –“Father please forgive them, for they know not what they do!” – because we are always in the mercy of our mind, we think we are not, we think we make all our decisions, but how often we regret saying the wrong things, eating the wrong food or buying the red shirt only to hate it afterwards. We know that we need to know how to train to be a good runner, we need to know more than buying the right kind of shoes, similarly we need to know the suitable ways to improve the quality of the mind, to weaken the undesired parts of us, to strengthen the favorable parts of us – we do selective seeds watering as Thay would say. And similar to training the muscles, we need practice and practice and practice.
The path to improve quality of the mind sounds boring to a lot of people, to the rest, it can become the only life purpose worth living for. Some say, the ability to recognize the path is a privilege, not everyone are given the chance or have the right conditions to recognize its importance. The good news – when we are ready, the teacher will appear. If this sounds like a good idea, just set the intention out there and you will be on your way – I am speaking from my own experience!!!
So back to my dysfunctional self, I have spent my entire life not accepting it, hating it, its so obvious that I have not been helping myself at all but only have strengthen the undesired!! With the teaching of Sayadaw, I felt all ready, couldn’t wait for the exciting journey to practice and practice and practice. But as with all the spiritual seeking, I am aware not to fix any expectations, and I am ok with it, because its always my belief that possibilities can be endless so why limit myself to just what I can think of!