Do You Need a Treat or a Treatment?

Published in Eumundi Green Issue 175

I generally manage my physical and emotional stress levels quite well but my family has been building a house all year (insert copious amounts of rain here) and between that and what seemed like an eternal school holiday, I was feeling a bit tight and tense, so I thought I’d ‘treat myself’ to a bit of therapy.

I have been practising yoga weekly with Jodie Mudgway for the majority of this year and always come away from her sessions feeling warm and stretchy. I had hears other people in class talk about her Zen Thai Shiatsu massage/healing sessions so I thought I’d try for myself.

During the treatment I felt a sensation I have often experienced during the course of a yoga session and one which, up until now, I have only really been able to describe as ‘good pain’. In the nurturing environment Jodie has created however, it suddenly seemed wrong to refer to this sensation as pain – good, bad or otherwise. It was a signal from my body (that up until that point I have been trying hard to ignore) telling me that the coping mechanisms I was using were really not serving me well and I just was not ‘letting go’ enough in life.

As busy people with jobs, businesses or families, many of us don’t make time for ourselves. And if we do, we tend to refer to these experiences as I have done above, as some kind of treat.

The word treat really has a lot to answer for because if keeping yourself healthy and mobile is a treat, then what is normal? If normal means being tired, crank and in pain, then I sure don’t want to be ‘normal’!

So, lying on the mat of that positive, supportive space, I made a choice; a choice not to have ‘treats’ but ‘treatments’ and to have them when the need arose, not when I thought I deserved them or could fit them in. I also made the choice to use language that supported this. I would no longer feel ‘good pain’ but be aware of the sensations of stretching or pressure to take away the negative connotations and emotions that really only served to make my muscles tighter and my mind quietly aggravated.

Vipassanā – An Introduction to Silence

Published in Eumundi Green Issue 181

I have a deep love of and curiosity for the world I inhabit and am fascinated with the nature of reality that each of us experiences. This drive led me recently to Vipassana.

Vipassana is a 10-day silent meditation retreat run at Dhamma Rasmi, a speciality meditation centre in Pomona, right here on our doorstep. So, you might be new to meditation (and possibly even to silence!) and the thought of spending ten days without speaking might seem daunting, but it was actually very achievable.

The silence essentially removes everyday distractions and allows you to turn your focus internally. And, you really only spend nine of your days in silence, The 10th day is dedicated to sharing your experiences with others and acts as a shock absorber before returning to the real world. You are also able to ask questions of the course instructor and at the end of each night you can sit in on a general Q&A session, where you can ask questions. You can also speak for practical reasons, like needing a blanket or to get help unblocking a toilet.

As to the meditation, although being one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation (which was recently rediscovered by Gautama Buddha more than 2500 years ago), this course provides a non-sectarian method by which you fully experience the ever-changing nature of life, in all its forms.

It is easy to dismiss the effectiveness of this practice because it is essentially such a simple process. Throughout the ten days you progress from concentrating on your natural breath flowing in and out of your nose in its own rhythm, to feeling the subtlest of sensations on your body.

The course also delivers personal anecdotes that foster a deep understanding of the impermanent nature of existence and how this knowledge can be translated into all areas of your life. The literal translation of the word Vipassana means to see things as they are, and through participation, meditators are able to gain their own personal insight.

For those of us searching for simplicity, change or betterment, a Vipassana course offers opportunities for self-transformation through self-observation – no hype, no fuss, nothing but your breath and body.

The international Vipassana website (www.dhamma.org) states that it is this “observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body that dissolves mental impurity, resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion”. And yes, that is the eventual aim. A balanced mind full of love and compassion, with the added bonus of full liberation and enlightenment, if that’s your life’s goal.

I would have to say that because of my exploration into quantum physics and alternative sciences, my experience of Vipassana was extremely deep and rewarding. I underwent journeys on both the physical and mental planes unlike anything I have ever known and my mind was opened to many, many “dot-joining” understandings of our universe and my experiences of it.