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About 25 years ago I chose to go to Japan to a Vipassana meditation retreat. I experienced something that I never imagined possible - the experience of the mind and body as one.
To reach that experience takes a tremendous effort - not just 10 days in silence but 10 days with a silent conscious mind. And it takes a big daily commitment to keep it going. I later found a far simpler alternative.
A Vipassana retreat teaches the art of living
Learning the technique of Vipassana requires eliminating all stimulation - no talking, no consciously looking, no touching, males and females separated. And in my retreat, males and females were each grouped communally in one large room, but no mental or physical contact with each other within the room.
Naively, I thought that my biggest challenge would be surviving the physical regime of up at 5:30 and meditating most of the day. There is a talk from the guru at 9pm (others may not speak) and then lights out and it starts all over again the next morning. Ten days.
It turns out that the real pain comes when you achieve silencing your conscious mind. Who would have thought that you could even do that? It takes about the first 4 full days to learn the skill.
You are then able to experience the oneness of your unconscious mind and your body. You find the knots, pains, fears, all your accumulated agonies and you undo them. All our fears and reactions and neuroticism are reflected as physical forms in our body.
Vipassana teaches you how to undo these, and how to avoid them in the future. It teaches you how to break the chain of your reactions so that they do you no harm. Vipassana teaches you the art of living.
What Buddha taught is what Vipassana teaches - but not Buddhism. At lunch break each day it was permitted to queue and ask one question of the guru. On the third day, I queued. "How do I stop activating my thoughts?" I asked. Did you have fewer today than yesterday? Yes, I said. Good - keep trying. That was it.
At the nightly 9pm review the guru announced he would not respond to any further questions about religion. There were Americans amongst us. You are here to learn a technique, he explained. The technique was taught by Buddha, but there are no -isms in this technique. Save yourself being turned away by not asking such questions.
Vietnam had been bombed in the name of God, as had Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. God has even given Americans the right to infect themselves and their neighbours with Covid-19 - as an anti-lockdown demonstrator proclaimed on ABC World News this week. But our guru saw them off. They weren't happy about it, but we didn't get bombed.
Vipassana was an experience that I recommend. When I returned to work, I said little except that I had been to Japan. It surprised me how many of my friends and colleagues remarked that "there is something different about you" - more relaxed, less edgy, more in the present, less reactive.
Despite the benefits I experienced from the Vipassana method of meditation, it takes a huge effort to build it into your life. That's because they suggest a minimum of 2 hours per day. You get one hour back from needing less sleep. Nevertheless, after 2 years, I stopped.
My Indonesia business partner only slept 3 hours each night
Around that same time, I was working in Indonesia. I set up a business there and for five years spent two weeks of every month there with my team.
I was close to a well-connected guy who was also a martial arts instructor. He often went to bed in the early hours of the morning, and was up three hours later! How do you do that, I asked.
Meditation - a special technique, very simple, was his answer.
He told me that he could not teach it to me, as that was not allowed because in this matter, he was a student. He arranged for a guru to meet me.
I still do this meditation. It takes just a few minutes, and it relaxes me before bed.
When I'm stuck, this mediation finds the answers for me. It does that either during the process itself, or when I wake up in the morning. I have learnt not to worry about things which block me, just to let the answer come to me.
The number three matters
Although the technique is very simple, there is a power in a number associated with it. That number is the number three. The number 3 is one of my favourite numbers.
Three is all about creative expression in every form such as art, music, writing, speaking. It is sharing your voice - opening up to who you are. In sacred geometry, three lines form a triangle.
The sacred 3 appears in many religious, physical and spiritual forms, such as earth, sky, you; birth, life, death; body, mind, soul; the father, son and the holy ghost; the Three Jewels (the Triratna) that make up Buddhism.
Circling yourself, the earth, and the universe
Here's the basic method, I'll explain a few nuances after this:
Relax into it, resonate with another person
There are six important nuances:
To reach another person that you wish to connect with, think of the third circle moving out from you as embracing (circling) that person. By doing this, you may find that person suddenly resonates with something that you have been trying to communicate.
I do this mediation before I go to bed, and it gives me answers - three sets each with the three circles.
Practice makes perfect. Relax into it. If you find it uncomfortable to do with your legs crossed on the floor just do it sitting on the side of your bed.
The answers will come. Puzzles will reveal their answers.
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