Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Learning Vipassana (Insight) Meditation

This is a Swedish woman (below) who showed up to learn meditation at the same time I did in Wat Mahathat, Bangkok. I was late because I got stuck shopping :-). This English speaking monk spent 3 hours with us! He described the process, discussed Buddhism, and answered all of our questions. By the way, he claims that reincarnation IS part of the Buddhist belief system, unlike what others have said. He is nearing the end of his 1 month stay as a monk. When asked, he said his is doing it to honor his family (having a son become a monk for even a short time is a good thing).

After an hour of discussion, he showed us how to do both walking and sitting mediation. You start with walking because it clears the mind better - the physical activity stops the thinking process some. I mentioned the process in a previous post (slowly walking and repeating the words for your actions three times in your mind (e.g., lift, lift, lift; prepare to turn, prepare to turn, prepare to turn). Then after 20 minutes of this, we did sitting meditation. Of course I complained about not being able to sit without leaning on the wall ("my back is killing me") and that I couldn't cross my legs for a long time... blah, blah, blah. He said, do it as comfortably as possible and then don't move for 20 minutes. If your leg hurts, think "pain, pain, pain," and if your mind runs, say "thinking, thinking, thinking" but don't let it get into a story. So, I did it for 20 minutes and did not scratch any itches (remarkably they disappeared shortly after thinking "itching, itching, itching.").

Then we had a debriefing. It was interesting. I found my mind doing all the stuff that runs me - like when I was doing the walking meditation criticizing myself for not going as slowly as the Swede could and for not having good balance, and when sitting, evaluating my experience so I'd be ready for the debriefing ("thinking, thinking, thinking.") And then planning, planning, planning... how I'd make a labyrith in the backyard at home so I could do this walking meditation I'd practice every blah, blah, blah. Mental diarrhea. Guilty as charged.

I think this mediation is a good thing. It gives one an immediate awareness of every little mental thought or physical twitch competing for attention. Once acknowledged, it seems to disappear. It can return, but then you just do the three time process again. Yeah, this is the practice that can lead to in the moment. I want that. ME, ME, ME, teacher....

Helena, the Swede, and me with our teacher after meditating. He gave us his e-mail address: joe :-). Before the photo he reminded us "don't touch me." While walking on the street I had to always remember to move away from monks because they are not allowed to touch women - and not look us in the eye, either, except for this kind of situation. Helena and I hung out some afterward - it was great to talk with another woman traveling solo.


  1. Wow, big post for insight. Embrace what is so, don't discipline yourself out of it...that is so Western of us. Thank the itch, acknowledge too much brain, etc. I get to think about this (thinking, thinking, thinking)

  2. This is hilarious cuzzin! Your "mental diarrhea" cracked me up. I don't know why I never read this travel blog before. It's great!!!