Thursday, June 29, 2006

A Mother's Love and family's blessings

When I was 5, I came to India with my maternal grandmother and sister. We were going to stay for approx 6 months and would spend the majority of the time in my mosad - Nar. My dad's family lived in Nadiad. As a child, I dreaded visiting Nadiad. I would actually cry to my maternal grandmother, begging her to let me stay in Nar (my cousins and I would get into fights all the time).

On Monday, coming to Nadiad felt very different. I walked up the stairs to greet my baa (dad's mom) and all I could feel was her love and compassion. She was incredibly happy to see me there, I can't even explain it. Everyday, I just want to sit with her and hold her hand. A mother's love truly is powerful.

I have yet to embark on my solo journeys. Overall, I have not been too concerned or afraid of what the future in going to hold, trusting the universe. The whole passage to India has quelled any doubts I may have had. Regardless of where I go, I know that I am protected by the blessings of my family and friends. Since the first day I've gotten here to the incredible conversation I had yesterday with an old family friend, all I have experienced is love and support by all those around, even as they passed on their warnings and voiced caution.

Truly blessed. Thank you for your wishes and support.

Reading and Family

Before I left London, I received Tuesday with Morrie. GREAT book and exactly what I needed, especially in conjunction with the Power of Now, which is a challenging read in that you have to read it in bits and pieces.

I tore through Tuesdays, cover to cover. When I finished, I noticed something that I've been noticing alot recently: my lack of full attentiveness to what I was reading. I read quickly, it could be called skim reading even. I take the gist of the what I'm reading, but don't really reflect or take time to digest what I'm reading. Not a big deal for books like Da Vinci Code and other fiction pleasure reads. But for a book like Siddharta or Power of Now, its absolutely crucial to take the time to read carefully. As I read through Tuesday, halfway through, I though it would be beneficial to write down the important ideas, so I did. I found myself reading a little more carefully. When I finished, it was time to change something. I picked up the book again and actually read it. Taking the time to reflect. I continued writing down the important ideas. Now unlike Siddharta, which I feel like i need to read again, when Tuesdays gets passed on, I'll have taken all that I can from it.

One of the tuesdays was about family. I found this lesson particularly interesting and in fact had to put the book down to think/reflect on the comments. One of the important comments that Morrie makes is in regards to family vs friends. (Paraphrased) Family is the foundation. Friends will visit and call (when you are sick), but with family, someone will always be watching over you.

Today, I experienced that first hand.
After apparently having a slight temperature for over 1 week (I knew I had a temp one day in London, but after that day I was doing alright, but since I met up with mom, she's been saying that I am warm), I got "sick". I didn't have much energy and couldn't bring myself to consume any food. Things are better now and hopefully I'll be 100% before I get into the car in Haridwar, otherwise the windy roads are going to be painful. But I digress. Since the moment my family found out I was ill, they have continually been watching over me. Eat this, don't do this, let's go to the doctor. I actually think its a good thing i fell ill today rather than later. I am blessed to be surrounded by people who are making all efforts to make sure I get better. When the solo adventures begin, things will not be the same. Morrie is right.

Family. The people who will continually be watching over you (whether you're sick or not).

Role Model in Compassion

The last few days, I realized how that a great role model in compassion was right in front of my eyes. As I hestitated at times before tagging people, I have found my mom asking me multiple times if I gave something to this person or that person. Whenever she sees a child, she turns to me and goes Heena, give them something. As we prepare for our trip to the Himalayas, more than half of the stuff we are taking is packed into this large suitcase and isn't even for us. My mom packed over a bag load of stuff from Canada for us to carry to the Himalayas to give to the poor. As people come in and out of our home in Nadiad and when we visited our gam Pij, I continually hear my mom calling me to give a child a toy or take pictures of so-so. Incredible how happy someone gets when you take a picture of them, even though they won't see it.

I've always recognized my mom's huge heart. Whenever she sees someone in distress, she goes above and beyond to help them, be it monetarily or simply giving them a shoulder to lean on. As I conciously work to grow in compassion and kindness, the recognition of her capabilities has taken on another dimension. For her, there is no hesitation.

Over the last few months, I have found numerous role models in compassion. Now I've realized, one of the best has been someone I've known my whole life.

Losing one’s “smileginity”

Smileginity – lacking the experience of smile tagging (coined by my sister before embarking on her first experience with Trishna and I).

Lots of people lost their smileginity when I was in London =)

First, came a friend from Toronto, who currently lives in London. After a meal where she commented about the lack of openness and warmth in London, particularly in comparison to the tdot, it seemed like a great time to spread the kindness. Armed with smiles stones, we were off. As we neared a bank, I handed her a stone and nudged her to give it to the guard. The guard saw me do this and asked her if it was because I thought he was good looking…. Sure. Whatever will make him smile right.

As we made our way from Holburn to Waterloo bridge and back to Victoria station, we would go up to strangers: “Can I share a smile with you?” Man is London one hard city to crack! People looked at us with bewilderment at times, whiles other would at least say no thank you. We got a “fock off” too, but for the majority of our rejections, they at least smiled while saying no, so mission accomplished! The tourists were awesome! They always broke out into a huge smile.

Despite the rejections, my friend was out there handing them out left and right. She did a better job than I did! Soon, we were sharing stories of people we’d encounter who epitomized what smile tagging was about. They didn’t need smile cards or smiles stones, these people were them!

An European man (Armenian I think) runs a small coffee shop near her flat. He knows all the neighbours and is continually inviting people in to have some tea. Don’t try paying him though if he invites you in: I invited you, he says, don’t you dare think of paying. He listens to each person’s stories with care. It was too late to meet him, but I could just imagine the love and warmth radiating from this small shop.

Then there was the man in the tube. He couldn’t use his legs so he used braces/canes with his two arms. When I saw him I was walking into the empty platform with stones in my hand. As I looked over, he smiled so I went over to show/give him some. An even bigger smile (if that was possible) broke out on his face as he saw the faces.

“Here, these are for you.”
“What are they for?”
“They’re to make people smile. Just to spread some joy.”
He looks me straight in the eyes and say, “Give them to people who actually need them. In my condition, you can do one of two things, laugh or cry. I choose to smile.”
Speechless, I smiled and walked on.

Smile virgin number 2: my cousin.

Perfect person to lose her smileginity. As a ticketing agent for American Airlines, she sees loads of people each day leaving for destinations across the globe. Now she has her own jar of smile stones to give to children and frustrated customers to lighten up their day.

Smile virgin number 3: my sister

She knows about the concept, has signed up for the smile newsletter and has even tagged a friend or two, but strangers are a whole new ball game. Grabbing some roses, candy and business cards with inspirational quotes, my sister, Trishna and I were off. London, as I had already discovered, is def not as friendly or open as California. Apparently, I was lucky, people were becoming warmer as the weather became warmer. If there was a place where people needed some cheer, it would be London.

The evening started off with Trishna and I approaching random people giving out candy and roses, while my sister watched. We both had different technique, I was a give and go person, while Trishna stopped and talked to people. Soon we were both mixing it up a bit, when we realized Sej was just watching. Refusing to tag anymore, we waited for Sej to share some love. With a rose and card in hand, she’s off.

“Maam, can I give you a rose?.”
“No thanks.”
“Excuse me, can I give you a rose?”
“Hi, can I give you a rose?”
“It’s alright.”

Rejection times three… things were not going well. Change up what you’re saying. So she did.

“Hi, this rose is for you.”
“For me?”
“Yea, my friends and I are out spreading some kindness. We heard about this website from a friend, where people do nice things for others, got inspired and are out here. No gimmick. Just wanted to make you smile.”
“Thank you,” with a huge smile on her face.


There was the woman who looked at me funny when asked her if I could give her rose. “No, no,” and then she points to her son, “that’s my son.” I realized she didn’t speak much English, I again try to give her a rose, when she shakes her head, I move on. A few moments later, I see her again.
“Maam, can I give you this rose. It goes perfectly with what you’re wearing” The yellow complimented her red sweater.
“How much?”
“It’s free”
“Three?” holding out three fingers.
I make a zero with my own. “Free.”
She looks at her son, who gives a small nod. With a smile, she takes the rose. As we walk away, I see the two of them reading the smile card.

I guess they continued to watch us before passing us. As we neared the intersection, we see a woman coming towards us with a yellow rose in her hand already. As we look ahead, we see the woman and son walking on, no rose in hand. They had already continued the chain of kindness.
One of the guards at the House of Parliament took a rose and candy. While putting them aside because he was on duty, he promised to pick them up and give them to someone walking by, whom he thought needed some cheer.

We tried to do the same with some police officers (ask them to pass them out). Since they were on duty, they couldn’t accept. But a conversation did ensure, covering what we were doing, why we were doing it and an invitation to dinner for my sister (I tell you, smile tagging could be a great way to “meet” people ;).

After tagging some cars, hitting up the tube station (GREAT place to tag), passing on cards to taxi drivers and helping an Italian family navigate the tube, we ran out of supplies. With smiles on our faces, we headed home.

“So what did you think?”
“Not bad. That was interesting,” replied Sej.

Smile virgins 4 - 6
The next day, me and Sej were out for lunch with some of friends. As we left the tube station and walked to Nando’s, which apparently has great chicken for you non-vegs, I spied a Tesco express (the same store we had bought flowers and candy from the previous day). Remembering the smile cards in my pack and seeing the 4 able-bodied people around, what better time and place could there be to go tagging?

After eating, Karim and I go to grab some flowers and candy. A very interesting conversation ensued (paraphrased below).

“So what exactly are we doing?” I had simply told them that we’re going to do an experiment.
“Spreading kindness. We’re going to give random people flowers/candy, along with a smile card.”
“Why here? Why are you spending your time and money on people in London, who are relatively well off. Why not do something for the poor people in India or elsewhere, where people need assistance and would actually appreciate what you are doing? People here won’t care.”

Whoa. Heavy loaded question. Why? What’s the point. Even in the short while that I’ve been doing this, I can’t really say that anyone has really asked me that. Something felt right so I do it, but I never had to verbalize it. So I began my attempt and thanks to Gibran, I had someone else to help support my argument.

In the Prophet, there is this great passage on giving. (posted at the end of this post). It is Gibran talks about givers thinking of those who are most worthy of their gifts. The prophet goes on to say (paraphrase from what I could recall at that moment) who are we to decide who is worthy or unworthy. If each of us has been given the gift of life already by the Almighty, who are we to say that someone is not worthy of what we have to give. We are not giving something as precious as life itself.
I could tell the argument wasn’t persuasive. Time to try again. I was fortunate to be the person in this discussion.

You talk of giving to the poor, well I’m going to India. I’m going to work with the poor, yet I still feel like this is worth my time. Think about this way. All these people, who are well-off, who might not appreciate this, are going along their usual routine, wrapped up in their own lives. Maybe today, maybe when we do this, one person will “wake up,” be jolted out of their world for even a second and think wow, this is cool, I should continue this chain and do something kind for someone. It doesn’t matter if that someone is a stranger or a friend. The point is that they have taken action. They have performed an act of kindness. Kindness like anything else must be developed. Today we might give someone the push they need. Only through giving, can one develop one’s capacity to give. Today they’ll give once. Maybe tomorrow or the day after, they’ll have the desire to give again. Slowly the ball will pick up momentum. Today, you and I are willing to do something for the poor. Maybe tomorrow, this person too will feel the desire to do something for those people too. In these acts, we are not only developing our own capacity to be kind, but potentially helping someone else develop their own.

As I said it, I realized I was getting to one of the reasons that I did all this. Only through giving, can one develop one’s capacity to give.

Aiight. Let’s give this a shot. I hand him the candy and a bunch of smile cards and take the roses and we’re off. We meet up with the others, disperse the candy and make our way back to the tube. Sej and Karim go off on their own and really quickly, you could see Karim was having a blast. Two of the others enjoyed it two, while the fourth found the process a bit intimidating, which I wholly admit it is, especially the first time.

Soon we see the Evening Standard stand. It was the tag that a friend had mentioned before. We pull out some pounds and smile cards and hand them to the lady at the stand. As she tries to hand us a paper, we explain. Bewildered, she agrees and accepts some candy also and we’re off again.

The tube like I said is a great place to tag. By the time I got inside, Karim and Sej had already tagged all the workers and Karim was looking a rapidly dwindling supply of candy. The train ride was the best. Everyone in our vicinity had candy and cards. People were talking to us about what we were doing and one girl told her boyfriend that he had to take the cards to Australia with him and pass them on! As we stepped on the train, you could feel the positive vibrations coming from that car.

The day was a success. By the time I handed Karim the rest of my cards, he and Sej had already decided to go tagging again.

Tagging reflections
One interesting conversation occurred on the street as a woman inquired about what we were doing upon receiving a rose. As we explained, she summed up our observations of London.

“Good luck. People in London are very skeptical. They won’t take stuff from strangers.”
“All the more reason to do this in London.”

She was bang on. From the three days of tagging, the responses were consistent. People here have become trained to be suspicious of strangers. People asked us what the catch was. We often had to say “free” before giving something out in order for someone to take it. People expected some catch and were surprised when there was none. It was the perfect place to tag. In California, it was so easy. Smile at someone and they’d smile back. Here, people looked at me funny. I bet the weather does make a difference. Plus California is its own little world, where people tend to be more open and friendly. London needed the cheer. One day, I was walking through London with my kaki while handing out smile stones. Upon seeing that I got rejected 4 of 5 times, she said that Londoners won’t accept things from strangers. It didn’t matter though, for the most part they at least smiled when they saw the stones. London was an experience. Maybe I got hooked on tagging while in California because it was so easy. In London, I really experienced and realized what Rev Heng Sure said:

Being brittle and hard is easy,
It takes courage to be kind.

It really does.

London Travels

For me, voyaging to different places now has a different meaning. Less concerned with the tourist sites, inspired by the journeys of many others, now I want to meet each places’ people. The easiest way to do this is to share smiles of course. Not hard, right. I mean I’m loud, outgoing, I can do this. But frequently, I found myself hesitating. That’s when Rev Heng Sure came back to me (found in heart songs from friends unknown- thanks all).

Being brittle and hard is easy,
It takes courage to be kind.

As I walked the streets, his words rang in my head when I found myself hesitating. Only through giving, can one develop one’s capacity to give. It does take courage to be kind, funny how it takes courage to express love, which is our Being’s true nature, but it is comparatively easy to stay within our own little bubble, which is not even true reality.

Thursday, after calling friends and running back and forth between making plans, I took matters into my own hands. I was going to visit Stonehenge. As weird as people thought it was, I took the trip alone and I’m glad that I did. It was the day after Summer Solstice, so I saw the order of the Druid perform a high noon ceremony honoring the sun. Over 50 Druids dressed in white descended upon the stone monument, which is not only an artifact of the past, but a temple as well. As I walked the perimeter, I tried to recall all the tales from the book Sarum. Indeed, if I hadn’t read the book, Stonehenge would have been just a pile of rocks.

The English countryside is beautiful, it reminded me of the countryside outside of Toronto.

If my travels thus far has shown me anything, its that you will stumble upon the most interesting people along the way. On the train ride home, I met this amazing family who was just coming back from a week long festival celebrating the solstice. Their 3 year old daughter had a blast drawing smiles to make smile stones and telling stories about what she saw (brown and black horses, and no silly, there were no green ones). The couple is involved with creating this community where families can come without worries of negative influences. Once a month, they have a club night with music, etc. where they can all get together and hang out. There is music and dancing and children can come too. They don’t publicize the club, people come by word of mouth. The husband is involved with helping websites post streaming audio and video and they both work to create community events for families and kids. Great people with huge hearts and their daughter was sooo cute =) The conversation was a tad difficult to follow with the accents, but we understood each other enough =)

Friday, June 16, 2006

First Day in London

Was fairly uneventful.

My family has a huge german shephard that doesn't like anyone else. So during the day I left the house so he could roam. Went to the library, figuring I could transfer my stuff off my hard drive to laptop, but I didn't have an adapter. Went to the library for a bit. Began to read The Prophet. (side: viral/guri- great book, easy read- thanks!) I absolutely loved the passage on giving. I don't have the book on me right now, but I share that and my reflections on it soon.

After spending my max hr on the net, I had an hour or so to kill before I could head home, I figured what better time to meditate since my practice has been lagging amidst the hecticness of packing, etc. I found a church nearby and they were having noon mass. Thanks to Tash, I kind of knew of how things would work. It was very refreshing to have a chance to sit and meditate =)

The rest of the day was spent with my aunt and relaxing. Had some great conversations about girls, marriage, etc. The next few days I feel are going to pass similarly without too many time pressures. A nice way to unwind before all that will be and is India.

Interesting recent observations about the ethnic mix of my surroundings:
1) At vipassana- i realized that there is some diversity that Cali just does not have. While in Cali, I never came across a guyanese person or someone from the west indies nor people from the carribean, while people from these places are found all over toronto. toronto wouldn't be complete without caribana. Also where are the greeks?
2) My flight to London was packed with Muslims. I was actually quite surprise. There were Muslims from all over the world, which reminded me again of how prevalent this religion is all over the globe.
3) Tooting is South Asian central!
4) Interesting comparison of South Asian culture in London vis a vis Canada and the USA (those two are really different also)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

[London] Faith in the Universe

Having faith in the universe and placing myself in the hands of the universe has been one of the more liberating things I could have done and in retrospect, I have no idea why I didn't do that earlier (but everything happens at the right time).

After not sleeping for 24 hours, running all over, I packed and was ready to leave. The flight was GREAT! There were some AMAZING kids behind me and person I was sitting next to was awesome.

When I got in line for customs, I realized I left my ticket pouch on the flight. I then spent an hour running around terminal 3 trying to get my stuff. Unfortunately, everything was closed up. Normally I would be freaking out. But as I sat there waiting. I had a tool to calm down and pass the time- meditation and somewhere inside, I knew that it would be found. I actually had NO doubts. Irresponsible still. It would be very very bad if the pouch feel into the wrong hands. But at that moment in time, I had done all that I could have done.

This morning we find out that they didn't find it on the flight. As soon as my cousin tells me I realize where it was- my laptop bag. I agree, totally irresponsible of me. I was mad at myself yesterday for not being mindful, but I knew getting angry or worried excessively wasn't going to help the situation. Lesson learned and hey I bet there is going to be a good reason for me not having a stamp in my passport from customs. Anyways, net is going to sign off in a minute.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Vipassana Info

For those who may be intrigued.

You can find more info on Vipassana, the techniques, the course dates and locations, etc at

There is no cost to go to a course. At the end of the course, you give whatever you feel like giving and often rides can be arranged so don't get rides/$$ be the reasons you don't go.

Silence and Me

I remember the first time I went to Wednesday Meditation. How am I going to last the hour? I had even emailed Nipun with this concern. "Don't worry, an hour doesn't seem that long"...yaa right.

I drove down with people I didn't know before then, but I figured hey I can be sociable, I'm sure the hour drive won't be that bad. Halfway through the drive, the conversation came to a close and there was silence. I recall feeling like I should say something, there was something stifling about the silence, but I couldn't think of anything to talk about. Lil convos started here and there, but there were distinct silences. I was the only one who was uncomfortable with these periods. We made it to the house and were early. "Great, I have to meditate for longer than an hour..." I stalled as much as possible. You can go to the bathroom first, I insist. I made it through 40 minutes of meditation and then the time passed with every minute being an eternity...when was it going to end. It def was the people and the conversations that happened afterwards that made me want to come back more than the meditation itself.

Fast forward 3 months

The rest of the Wednesdays weren't so bad. Typically at 45mins, I couldn't concentrate anymore. The Gayatri Mantra and controlling my breath simultaneously only kept me focussed for so long. Interesting thought now in retrospect. It wasn't that bad trying to concentrate when using the gayatri mantra. My mind didn't wander that much especially while I was "in the zone" (ie not the first 5 mins or last 15 mins). That experience constrasted starkly with my experiences with Annapanna (one of the three techniques taught at Vipassana) and Vipassana. As mentioned in my previous post, my mind went on walks MANY times, especially during those first few days of the meditation retreat.

And with respect to silence.
Now I've come to apprecation silence. It's no longer suffocating, but rather a moment to sit quietly and go within. Interesting how much a person can change in a few months/ 10 days.

Silence. Aum begins and ends with silence. I remember reading that once.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Vipassana and my brother

So I've posted on this thing 4 times already. I'm in the flow and am just going to go with it.

Amazing is all I have to say. I reflected on my relationship with my sibling a bit on an older blog and to summarize, essentially my sister and I talk every day essential. My brother, well he's my brother. I care about him and know he cares about me and the three of us know that we can rely on each other when anything goes wrong, but I don't talk to him on a regular basis and some people quite frankly didn't even know or believe that he existed especially since my sister is such a prominent part of my life, conversations, etc. When they both came to Cal for my graduation, things had shifted. We had gone through a lot as siblings over the last year and this was the first time it was just the three of us being able to hang out and it was amazing and now this.

My brother has gone to Vipassana, but I never really talked to him about it or he didn't really talk to me about it, just said it was good. I can see why now as an old student. I cant really explain or do the experience justice in a sense to paint its picture with non old students, they won't get on some level. But today I came back from my sitting and I got a call from my brother and the stories just flowed of each our experiences, the differences, similarities. Even though we sat our first course 2 years apart, we were in communion with each other. Turns out I thought Vipassana would be something I could share with my parents, but they are practicing other things now and as Goenkaji said don't dig many wells, pick one and find the water (he did have an analogy drawn from water- I was excited AND he mentioned "Berkeley University" in his talk too =). But parents or brother, it is something I can share with others and I do trust especially because I have seen in action that even one Dhamma meditator can transform a family.

"Be Happy"

Interesting observation from the retreat.

I'm all about smiles. You hear it everyone, science has proven it, if you smile you'll begin to and will feel better, more content.

As Vipassana, they are all about being happy. Goenkaji closed every discourse with blessings to be happy. Every sit was completed by wishing happiness for all beings. Signs would say be happy.

The sign underneath the dessert for example:
Please take 2 cookies each
be happy.

No smile. Just the words be happy.

Smiling wasn't encouraged, it always be happy. In fact, I recall looking at Virginia (our assistant teacher's) face at one point and recalling a passage from Siddharta, where Siddharta is describing seeing Gotama for the first time. What struck him was the pure joy on his and the gentle passive "smile" that was on his face. I could see the same look on Virginia's face. The compassion and unforced "smile".

As I looked around and reflected a bit I began to understand. In the "mundane" world, smile and be happy are considered synonmous. At Vipassana, we were continually in the environment where we could learn how to be happy. And when I say be happy I mean BE happy. The state of actual being. The important word is not happy, but BEING happy.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

10 days of Silence

The silence was the easy part. In fact on day 9, I thought tommorow when we can talk, I'll be silent still or atleast somewhat more quiet... ya that didn't last very long.

Everyday I felt as I prepared to take rest that my mind was journaling, mentally writing stuff down. I tried repeating some stuff to myself, thinking that if I repeat it, I'll remember it for when I can actually write again (in addition to not speaking, you cannot read or write and really do anything to distract your mind). Now as I sit to write, some distinct ideas and emotions remain, but many of the details have faded, which is perfectly okay.

oh the agitation. I knew it yet was amazed as the speed and impermance of the thoughts and memories as they raced through my mind. Surely though, the progression was fairly rapid actually, the amount of time it took before I noticed that my mind wandered decreased as I focussed my attention and concentrated my mind on the respiration. (Side: I smile as I write some of these words as I hear Goenkaji's voice saying them).

Midway through Day 2. Silence. Nothingness.
My mind was blank. There were no thoughts, there were no ideas, there was nothing. Where did the whirlwind go? I felt my mind shutting me out. Saying no you cannot come in. You have observed what you have so far, purged yourself of the attachment to those recent memories, but no more. Slowly I developed patience, very slowly.

I experienced that day, what I would experience again: my inability to be in the present. I was bored. The assistant teacher spelled it out more clearly. Boredom is really not appecting the present moment. I was running from waht was the reality of the moment. It was the old memories or thoughts of what I should do (I was trying to find ways to stay "entertained), but my breath that was the reality in that moment. This moment is reality, not the past or present.

The mind began to open again and the battle raged on. I found myself sucked into the memory of leaving school, saying goodbye to my friends and while I knew in some part of my mind that I should go back to my breath, I wanted to relive the moments and in this reliving I began to experience my attachment to my friends. After the tears were shed and the sitting was over as I stood up, a sense of relief of lighting was felt everywhere. I had begun to let go.

Day 10 was interesting.
Lunch time was sensory overload. The silence of the dining commons was no existent, you couldn't hear the clatter of utensils over the chatter, but what conversations. They were no ordinary ones. I understood the value of the silence, the importance of it and at the same time was SO grateful that we had the day to talk. Every single person's experience was difference. Every person's background was different. Every person had their own tale of their life and course and in addition to learning from the meditation I learned from the women around me. I ended up in one person's room talking until 2am (and this is when we'd be going to sleep at 930pm each night and still had to be up at 4:15am to meditate) with a woman in her 20's who had done EVERYTHING you would do in your 20's, tried it all, a women who had made it through such a difficult period in her life and was still alive and simply and had these two great kids (people thought we were sisters, which was amusing, but it felt true in the connection I felt with her), and this person who turned 50 had the most ridiculous experiences in her life and was at the point where she was ready to cleanse. So someone really "starting" their life (me), someone passed the one big phase of, another at the prime of her adult life and another "settling" down and the latter stages. It sounds cliches and i cringed as I wrote these last words, but they are both true and false. For we all are living and the stages are merely stereotypes and ways we try to categorize our life and make it more manageable. But nonetheless, so much energy, wisdom and positive vibrations were being generated in that room, in the entire space. The next morning and all today, all I can really feel in peace.

The lessons learned:
1) I am running and have been running from reality. My mind is so agitated. Going from activity to activity, project to project. I used to think that the quote that best summarized me was: Doing nothing is the most tiresome job in the world because you can't stop and rest. And it was, it did characterize me, but over the course of the retreat, I had to face reality face on. In those sessions, especially you had to meditate in the hall for an hour and not open your eyes, I had to face reality. There was only so much I could do to think about what else I could be doing or thinking of the past, but the reality was that moment not the past or present. I by no means have gotten completely over the fact, but I have begun the process and I def have come to appreciate silence. Two weeks ago, I actually thought when is the last time that I sat and just thought and I couldnt recall a moment. I'm always thinking on the go, mind moving at the a thousand miles a minute. It's where my frustrations would come from with people who didn't follow my thoughts. In meetings, etc, I'd be saying one thing and my mind has moved on to 10 steps down the line. So i'm learning to slow down. And hey now I have a way of dealing with having "nothing to do" I can meditate (dunno if I could do that for extended periods of time randomly when I have not stopped my activities when the intention of sitting, but its a start).

2) My actions, my sentiments and attachment to people and the things I do are very intimately related to the image that I want to create of myself in those around me. I act and verbalize things to maintain or enlargen that image and many of my attachments to people are not because of the person, but because of the image they have of me and the reflection of myself that I see when I look at them. Sounds really egocentric and it is. So learning to be more true to myself and what is the reality. I could see small changes already manifesting on the last day. When we would meet and talk, many spoke of how they want to keep in the touch and understandably so, I mean the sense of community you get when you are meditating with 45 other individuals and do not care about crying or bodily noises (believe me there were plenty) is incredible. We are were sending out vibrations to each other supporting each other, without realizing it and without saying a word. But typically in such a situation, which has come up countless times at conferences, etc, particularly overnight ones Ive attended, you say we should for sure keep in touch, etc, etc. But I had an awareness that this wass not going to be the reality with a lot of teh people taht I sat the course with. And this time I found myself not saying those words because I knew was aware of the reality and was not going to verbalize it to be something else. Baby steps in change.

Funny thing, is as I write this and as I spoke to my sister I'm realizing how much I'm talkin like the people I met. Some of the sentence structure of the stuff Im writing sounds like that of Goenkaji (makessense, he was hte only voice I heard for 10 days). random observation.

So now, I am my own master. It is up to me to maintain the discipline, which I know is goign to be an INCREDIBLE struggle, to practice regularly. For all your Vipassana meditators, send some metta this way. All else, positive energy will be needed and is appreciated =)

Be Happy,

10 Days of Silence, the precursor

My kaka planted the seed. When he visited, there was a calm surrounding him, his attitude and demeanor. He spoke of this newly developed equanimity towards everything that he was facing. He was going to bed late as he was in town for a wedding, yet still waking up at 4:30am, refreshed and ready to go. Sit with me one day and meditate. I looked and him and said kaka I'll take my sleep instead.

Several years later, my parents each attended their first course. Soon after, my brother (along with my mom) went to his first course. My parents kept bugging me and my sister to go to one also, telling us of all the young people at the course. Oh there was this one girl who just got her degree the day before the course started and she came. You should go. Nah, this isn't for me.

Timing is everything. Three years later, I somehow from googling something and following links (bored and waiting for us to leave on a camping trip) come across this site: I'm addicted. (This is the day after I read about the fat man walking) I sit there, reading and reading, entry after entry about this amazing young this people had set out on. Something deep within was stirred up. Here I was 3 months to graduation, planning on going to India for a year to get some field experience and as I read, I realized that I had no idea WHY I wanted to serve. WHY did I always want to do development work, WHY did I want to work with the poorest of the poor. Why, why, why. The "answer" became clearer and clearer. If I wanted to serve. If I want to give of myself, I needed to know myself. I needed to create the change within me in order to change the world. I began to understand the words engraved on the tombstone of the Archbishop, the words that I recalled to so many orders. After trying to change the world, down to reducing the goal to changing his family, on his deathbed he realizes: if I had only changed myself, I could have changed the world.

If I want to serve, I need to develop the capability to serve. To give of myself, without leaving myself with nothing so that I can continue to give. I would go to Vipassana.

As the days grew closer to the retreat, oddly my thoughts were not cluttered with questions or thoughts of what it would be like. I was surrounded my people who simply had said, it will be a growing experience. When I left their home, Viral left me with one idea: remember Heena, the only reality is the present moment. You have to be in the Now. Gives me the Power of Now and says remember that throughout your journey and throughout Vipassana.

I began reading, its a thoughtprovoking read. I get to page 6 by the time I leave. No preconceptions, nothing. I think I tried to avoid thinking about it also because I didn't want to think about what it would be like and develop anxieties particularly towards the concept of silence, which my friends could not believe I would be able to withstand. From attending several Wednesdays before I left, I felt that I had atleast started the process of calming the mind, be it for the 30 minutes or so (I NEVER could made it through the hour, but I was cool with that) and through Wednesdays, I had culvated the desire to be instructed in a meditation style.