After ten days of vipassana

  1. I am the source of my own misery.
  2. Nothing is permanent.

These are two things I’ve realized during my first 10-day course of vipassana.

«Wow, what a discovery!» you may say. «Everyone knows that…» And so did I. Nevertheless, there was a trick—I realized it, and it made nothing but radical difference.

Imagine Bob. He is a smoker. He knows that smoking kills. Still do you see him trembling in fear? Now imagine Rob. He wakes up in the middle of a desert with a huge hairy tarantula on his face. Can you imagine him instantly coming up with the brilliant idea to make the removal of that spider a part of his New Year’s resolution? Or, let’s say, boldly claiming that he can throw it off whenever he wants, or even stating that tarantula calms him down?

This course helped me bridge the gap between knowing and realizing. Gradually. Step by step. Through practicing sheela, samma samadhi and panya.

Sheela is morality, which is achieved during the course through abstaining from:

  • killing any being (that is why all food is vegetarian)
  • stealing (all possessions are locked away)
  • sexual misconduct (men and women are separated)
  • telling lies (through practicing noble silence)
  • using intoxicants (such as alcohol, drugs, cigarettes).

The idea behind this is simple: you cannot meditate effectively if your morality isn’t strong.

When sheela is established, the next step is samma samadhi, which is a state of clear mind. This is gained through practicing anapana meditation. For 3 days the only thing you do is observing your breath—coming in and going out. Over and over again. Continuously.

This is the time when you face your own mind in its full megalomaniac insanity without a loophole of whatsoever character to escape this observation. I suddenly discovered that my mind is an agitated monkey with thousand arms stretching in all possible directions. Sometimes—simultaneously. It circled back and forth between the past and future occasionally taking me to some imaginary places. It tried to please me, upset me, make me feel good about myself, diminish me to complete nonentity, sexually arouse me and frighten me to death. It managed to do everything but one thing—remain in here and now. At some point I even wondered if all that chaotic and unquiet conglomeration of thoughts was actually me. Sooner or later though you realize that your mind wandered away and then you bring it back to observation of your breath. Coming in—going out. Over and over again. Continuously. And you keep it up until the next megalomaniac seizure takes your mind away to whatever direction.

Anapana is difficult. At least it appeared to me. But the more diligently you practice it, the clearer your mind becomes. By the end of day 3 you notice that your mind is less hectic and it takes less to realize it wandering away.

Once the mind is clear (more or less), you move to establishing in panya. Panya is wisdom. It is achieved through observation of slight sensations. Although these sensations are constantly present in the body, they are rarely registered. The reason is that our mind is not clear enough. This observation is called vipassana.

At first, you start small. You observe an area around your nose and upper lip. Thus whenever you stop feeling any sensations you can swiftly return to anapana without losing too much of concentration. On day 4, as vipassana commences, you are asked to move away from your nose and start observing sensations on the tip of the head and then slowly shift downwards to your occiput, temples, face, neck, upper limbs, trunk and lower limbs. Once you reach the toes, you move upwards in reverse order. This is basically all you do for the rest of the course. Every single day and on you equanimously, piece by piece, observe your body trying to overcome the threshold of gross sensations.

What are those sensations? They can be anything: itching, tingling, stabbing, warmth, cold, vibration, pain, etc. Half of them do not even have their own names. Sensitivity to sensations varies from person to person and from one body part to another.

At this point you may ask how exactly observation of sensations made me realize the following truths:

  1. I am the source of my own misery.
  2. Nothing is permanent.

The answer is simple though not as easy as it might seem.

The mind divides sensations into «pleasant» and «unpleasant» ones. I clearly saw how unpleasant sensations annoyed my mind while pleasant ones made it crave for them. But as soon as the pleasant sensation was gone, the mind got annoyed in a similar way! So I was utterly stuck in this loop circulating from bliss to frustration and back. Over and over again. And this is that very misery which felt like an endless experience. And the more I practiced, the clearer I was able to trace that miserable pattern. That’s how your panya becomes stronger and as a result you lessen your misery.

«Can’t I just find one pleasant sensation and stick to it eternally?» you may ask. Surely, you could—and here comes the second big question—if sensations were permanent. But you soon realize that they are not. No matter how pleasant this or that sensation is, it will pass. It is also true with the unpleasant ones. Scale these sensations up and you get emotions, compound feelings and behaviors. But the pattern remains the same.

So, the dilemma distills to this: «Is there really any point to suffer or crave over something that is impermanent?»

More info here.

via Daily Post

Books for giveaway

Today I gave away 31 books each containing the following message inside:

I confess—I have been greedy. Very greedy.

The book you are holding was a prisoner of mine for a long time. I kept it concealed on dim shelves and locked away in dusty boxes. Why? I thought I might need it one day. But the day had never come.

I am free of my greed now. So take it, read it, and pass it on when done.

Imagine this book as a flower thrown into a river—how many places is it going to pass during its lifespan? Many? None?

I left this book in Arkady Wrocławskie on 29/02/2018. Thus ends my story. What is yours?

If I ever get any answer, I will post it here.

via Daily Post

Things Russians never do

Here are some of my most favourite Russian idioms, which almost make no sense when translated word for word.

Russians do not snack.
They starve a worm (заморить червячка).

Russians never beat around the bush.
They prefer to pull the cat by its balls (тянуть кота за яйца).

Russians never cook a hare before catching him.
Instead, they divide the skin of living bear (делить шкуру неубитого медведя).

A Russian never gapes like a stuck pig.
He stares like a sheep at new gates (уставиться как баран на новые ворота).

Russians never mess things up.
They break firewood (наломать дров).

Russians never go crazy.
They crash from an oak (с дуба рухнуть).

A rich Russian does not live in clover.
He is rolling like cheese in butter (кататься как сыр в масле).

Russians do not simply grin and bear it.
They put on a good face for a bad game (делать хорошую мину при плохой игре).

Russians do not just run away.
They do legs (делать ноги).

A bad Russian journalist does not waffle.
He pours water (лить воду).

Russians will never pull your leg.
Instead, they will hang noodles on your ears (вешать лапшу на уши).

Russians do not just mark it well.
They make a notch on their nose (зарубить на носу).

Russians do not annoy you.
They blister your eyes (мозолить кому-либо глаза).

Russians will never make a mountain out of a molehill.
But they will make an elephant out of a fly (делать из мухи слона).

A Russian never bites more than he can chew.
Instead, he does not say “Hop!” until he jumps over (не говори гоп, пока не перепрыгнешь).

Russians never draw the wool over your eyes.
They guide you by your nose (водить кого-либо за нос).

Russians are never busy like a bee.
Instead, they turn like a squirrel in a wheel (Вертеться как белка в колесе).

A Russian spy does not keep mum.
He prefers to fill his mouth with water (набрать в рот воды).

Russians never roll in dough.
Their hens do not peck money (денег куры не клюют).

Russians never let the grass grow under their feet.
They would rather wait by the sea for the weather (ждать у моря погоды).

A Russian fool will not set the Thames on fire.
Neither will he snatch stars from the sky (звёзд с неба не хватать).

Russians are never broke.
They whistle in a fist (свистеть в кулак).

Russians will never twist you around their little finger.
But they will plait ropes out of you (вить верёвки из кого-либо).

Russians do not just blame you.
They hang all dogs on you (вешать всех собак).

Finally, Russians never say never.
They prefer after a small rain on Thursday (после дождичка в четверг) or when a crayfish whistles on a mountain (когда рак на горе свистнет).

via Daily Post