Pronoia and Showers of Blessings

What did I do on the last day of this eventful year 2015? Went for an hour-long walk in the neighbourhood park. Did some cooking. And then some reading and writing. And that’s when I stumbled on parts of this wonderful book by Rob Brenzy called Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia, Revised and Expanded: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings.


The book is about a wonderfully crafted word – Pronoia – defined as an understanding that the Universe is fundamentally friendly. It envisages a perception of life according to which we realize the fact that Life gives exactly what we need and when we need it. Nothing more. Nothing less. The word has its origin in Greek mythology: Pronoia is said to be one of the Oceanides (the beautiful, supernatural sea nymphs) and the wife of Prometheus, the divine rebel who stole fire from the Gods and gave to humans, thus becoming an archetype of human progress.

As I read parts of the book, it was increasingly clear how much we have taken for granted. Am sharing two pages of the book for the simple reason that it will help each one of us gain perspective of the fact that the Universe is actually a very friendly place. It is our inherent insecurities and blind beliefs that make us feel like victims, crucified and pilloried. In other words we permanently harbour feelings of paranoia, the very antithesis of pronoia.

Read the excerpt and you’ll look at life differently. And what can be better than that as we are on the threshold of another new year. Let us change our perceptions. Like Santiago, the shepherd in Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist says, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” Remind your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dream. So, surge ahead. It is a beautiful world and a small life time that we have! Happy New Year!!

Thousands of things go right for you every day, beginning the moment you wake up. Through some magic you don’t fully understand, you’re still breathing and your heart is beating, even though you’ve been unconscious for many hours. The air is a mix of gases that’s just right for your body’s needs, as it was before you fell asleep.

You can see! Light of many colours floods into your eyes, registered by nerves that took God or evolution or some process millions of years to perfect.

The interesting gift of these vivid hues is furthermore made possible by an unimaginably immense globe of fire, the sun, which continually detonates nuclear explosions in order to convert its own body into light and heat and energy for your personal use.

Did you know that the Sun is located at the precise distance from you to be of perfect service? If it were any closer, you’d fry and if it were any further away, you’d freeze. Here’s another one of the Sun’s benedictions: it appears to rise over the eastern horizon right on schedule every day, as it has since long before you were born.

Do you remember when you were born, by the way? It was a difficult miracle that involved many people who worked hard on your behalf. No less miraculous is the fact that you have continued to grow since then, with millions of new cells being born inside you to replace the old ones that die. All of this happens whether or not you ever think about it.

On this day, like almost every other, inside a temperature-controlled shelter. You have a home! Your bed and pillow are soft and you’re covered by comfortable blankets. The electricity is turned on, as usual. Somehow, in ways you are barely aware of, a massive power plant at an unknown distance from your home is transforming fuel into currents of electricity that reach you through mostly hidden conduits in the exact amounts you need and all you have to do to control the flow is flick small switches with your fingers.

You can walk! Your legs work wonderfully well. Your heart circulates the blood all the way down to replenish the energy of the muscles in your feet and calves and thighs, and when the blood is depleted it finds its way back to the heart to be refreshed. This blessing recurs over and over again without stopping every hour of your life.

Your home is perhaps not a million-dollar palace, but it is sturdy and gigantic compared to the typical domicile in every culture that has preceded you. You have at your disposal soaps, creams, razors, clippers, tooth-cleaning accessories: a host of products that enhance your hygiene and appearance. You trust that unidentified scientists somewhere tested them to be sure they’re safe for you to use.

Amazingly the water you need so much of comes out of your faucets in an even flow, with the volume you want, and either cold or hot as you desire. It’s pure and clear; you’re confident no parasites are lurking in it. There is someone somewhere making sure these boons will continue to arrive for you without interruption for as long as you require them.

Look at your hands. They are astounding creations that allow you to carry out hundreds of tasks with great force and intricate grace. They relish the pleasure and privilege of touching thousands of different textures and they are beautiful.

In your closet are many clothes you like to wear. Who gathered the materials to make the fabrics they are made of? Who imbued them with colours, and how did they do it? Who sewed them for you?

In your kitchen, appetizing food in secure packaging is waiting for you. Many people you’ve never met worked hard to grow it, to process it, and get it to the store where you bought it. The bounty of tasty nourishment you get to choose from is unprecedented in the history of the world.

Your many appliances are working flawlessly. Despite the fact that they feed on electricity, which could kill you instantly if you touch it directly, you feel no fear that you are in danger. Why? Your faith the people who invented, designed and produced these machines is impressive.

It’s as if there is a benevolent conspiracy of unknown people that is tirelessly creating hundreds of useful things you like and need.

There’s more. Gravity is working exactly the way it always has, neither pulling on you too much or too little force. How did that marvel ever come to be? By some prodigious, long-running accident? It doesn’t really matter, since it will continue to function with astounding efficiency whether or not you understand it.

Meanwhile a trillion other elements of nature’s miraculous design are expressing themselves perfectly. Plants are growing, rivers are flowing, clouds are drifting, winds are blowing, animals are reproducing. The weather is an interesting blend of elements you’ve never before experienced in quite this combination. Though you may take it for granted, you relish the ever-shifting sensations of light and temperature that interact with your body.

There’s more. You can smell odours and hear sounds taste tastes, many of which are quite pleasing. You can think! You are in possession of the extraordinary gift of self-awareness. You can feel feelings. Do you realize how improbably stupendous it is for you to have been blessed with that mysterious capacity? And get this: you can visualize an inexhaustible array of images, some of which actually don’t exist. How did you acquire this magical talent?

By some improbable series of coincidences or long-term divine plan, language has come into existence. Millions of people have collaborated for many centuries to cultivate a system for communication that you understand well. Speaking and reading give you great pleasure and a tremendous sense of power.”

First when I read this, I felt so ashamed that I have overlooked and taken so much for granted. Then once, I accepted my feeling, I felt immensely optimistic and experienced a surge of positivity coursing through my veins. What about you? Did this create an aha moment in you?? Would love to hear what you felt via comments.  

One Part Woman

One Part Woman is an interesting read (I took close to a month only because I undertook a lot of travel during this time). A striking tale, it deals with the life of a couple – Kali and Ponna – and the tribulations they face for being childless. The jibes, the insinuations, the off the cuff remarks, the vituperative callousness of people – all shake the very foundations of their matrimony and push them to consider participating in the chariot festival of Ardhanareeswara ( Mathorubhangan in Tamil which translates in English to One Part Woman). The festival night is marked by a custom – childless women can engage in consensual sex with any stranger. What happens next is what the reader has to find out for I don’t want to be a spoiler!

One Part Woman

In olden days when there were no procedures like IVF, this probably was a sane way of overcoming the tag of being barren. Besides children born to such unions were called God’s children. Under this context one wonders why there should have been such a furore which eventually forced the writer Perumal Murugan to kill his Muse! Sad, it is not only Tamil’s loss but also to every Indian for there could have been more translations in English / regional languages to revel and regale in reading good books – for Perumal Murugan is a compelling writer.

The narrative technique used is perfect for the unravelling of the plot – it flits between the past and the present – as memories and realities of Kali and Ponna. It is striking that the novel begins and ends with the description of the Portia tree which seems to be the silent witness to the intricacies of the evocative yet suspenseful happenings that are narrated with urgency, poise and élan.

Am sure that reading the novel in Tamil would be a literary pleasure, thanks to the lyrical and intense nature of the theme. For me a Tamil read would be a struggle but not impossible – I could actually translate a lot of the conversations into Tamil and enjoy it better.


Cartoons and comic strips bring out the child in me. I enjoy reading them as well as have a good hearty laugh. But when I found Persepolis in my E-Library collection (I have collected many books over the last few years and was struggling to find time to read them) and started reading it, I realized I am reading a new genre – the graphic novel. A graphic novel presents the story in a comic strip format which is at the same time a long fictional work. What made Persepolis different is that it is not only graphic but is also autobiographical. This has made the narration in first person even more authentic and real. Besides her choice of opting for this format has aided her to use the graphics along with the text  – a powerful medium to convey the trials and tribulations, her struggles as well as tumultuous experiences.


I had read about the the pro-American stance of the Shah of Iran, the subsequent Islamic revolution, the deposition of the Shah of Iran and the coming into power of Ayatollah Khomeini who established Islamic rule with the interest of a History buff. However, that did not prepare me for what I read about being in Iran during those troubled times. Marjane Satrapi’s first hand experience of life in civil war torn Iran is heartbreaking and poignant.

The wild longing of a child to be free is curtailed and thwarted… The travails of a teenager growing up in a strife torn region is so alien to most of us… The aching pain of growing up as a child in a completely repressed society is something that those who have not experienced will ever understand. We take so much for granted, one of the starkest paradoxes of life, is brought to fore when we read accounts like Satrapi’s.

The throbbing agony of life in a war torn country is narrated with such stark vividness that it makes this beautiful graphic novel a most compelling read.

Five Stars to this awesome book! Do read it folks!!


Sometimes one learns valuable lessons in life from the most unexpected quarters and the least expected people.  And such lessons become eye-openers and we start looking at things from a totally new and different perspective.


Last weekend my daughter and I stole some time to spend at the Brookefields Mall at Coimbatore. Since our only agenda was spending some time together and definitely not shopping, we ambled around floor after floor, chatting and doing a lot of window shopping.  We reached the mall after a sumptuous lunch at Shri Annapoorna, a multi-cuisine high class vegetarian restaurant at Avinashi Road and hence even casual snacking was not on cards.

As we sauntered leisurely, we heard a rhythm of beats, different from the usual drums and percussion instruments. We reached in front of the place and found that it was a simple corn kiosk which served flavoured steamed corn. A small crowd stood there waiting for their turn and enjoying the cadence.

The Kiosk serving Corn

The vendor, a young man with a charming smile, was inside dishing out the corn cups and it was while making it that he used the ladle, strumming out a kind of kitchen music. We waited to see him in action and needless to say it was fascinating. As a group carried their corn cups and walked away, we impulsively decided to buy a cup of buttered corn. And as he started his chore, we filmed it.

Later we espied another corn seller in another floor – he had a bored countenance and a lethargic persona. No prizes for guessing – there were no customers for him.

What made one a winner and the other a loser? The winner had an attitude – the right attitude and oodles of optimism. His positive attitude gave him power over his circumstances instead of the other way round. He enjoyed his work so much that it was fun, not chore. He smiled often; it was his attitude and verve that made customers flock to him – even those who had no plans to get the stuff from him. We expressed our deep appreciation for his remarkable way of selling his ware and the difference he made to a seemingly mundane task.

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference” said Winston Churchill. Yes a big, palpable difference this person made was the biggest takeaway for us as we left the mall.


While at the Vipassana Course from 15th to 26th April, 2015 at Dhamma Ketana, Chengannur, Kerala, it was being close to nature at its best. Every day we had free time from 6.30 – 8.00 am, 11.00 am – 1.00 pm and 5.00 pm – 6.00 pm respectively. Over and above these we had small 5 – 10 minutes break after group meditation sessions and after Acharya Goenkaji’s discourse ends at 8.15 pm. Being an early riser I preferred finishing my everyday ablutions before the 4.30 am session began, and hence was relatively free afterwards. As the instruction page said very clearly that the only facility for laundry is washing by oneself, I had carried with me enough dress changes. This then gave me time for myself, to explore and be with nature.

Since the accommodation had a tiled roof, day time was hot. When the fan was switched on, it circulated hot air making it quite uncomfortable to be indoors. So I went out, strolling beneath the canopy formed by huge trees. Teak, mango, jack fruit, bread fruit, silk cotton, scores of coconut, and some other trees that I could not identify towered over each other in a bid to compete for sunshine. The rose apple and bilimbi (irumban puli in Malayalam) tree right at the entrance of our quarters were comparatively smaller in size but were laden with fruits. After breakfast at 6.30 am, it was so invigorating to take the walk. The orange and yellow rays of the sun created patterns of light when they gleamed and sparkled through the gaps of the lush canopy.

The Serene Walk Path

The Serene Walk Path

Morning is the best time to watch bird and I spotted woodpeckers, golden orioles, drongos, parakeets, babblers, magpie robins, crow pheasants, red whiskered bulbuls, mynahs, brahminy kites, water hens and pond herons. The twittering, chirping birds were a sight to behold. The melodious Cuckoo on the other hand could be heard loud and clear but was very difficult to spot.

A little white spider would spin a big web each day and wait patiently for its prey. And one day I spotted an unsuspecting bee fall onto the web. The spider rushed close and started spinning silk around the bee and rolled it up soon into a small bean like ball! The truth of life was writ large there – what is food for one is death for another.

The pond nearby was a favourite of some water birds. One day I espied a long shining yellow rat snake swimming across the pond to gracefully slide into some fissures between the stone walls around the pond.

A special corner in the verandah of the meditation hall came to be my all-time favourite.  Sitting there, in the green paddy fields beyond I could see flocks of egrets and storks. The creepers in hedges were the haunts of sun birds. The tiny birds – the purple male and the brownish female were a delight to watch. As I sit on the floor and look down on the ground, I also observed ant-lions (kuzhiaana in local language) in action, in its sand pit traps. It was remarkable watching tiny insects walk by the insecure foothold of the pit. And when they slip to the bottom, the prey is snapped up by the lurking ant-lion. Yet another fascinating spectacle was a colony of miniature honey bees that had made its hive in a crevice under the wall of the building. Bee after bee flew into the crevice and flew away too, displaying its trade mark diligence. Then as I sit there and peer into the darkness, I saw scores of fireflies, twinkling in an enchanting sort of way. It suddenly struck me how much of light pollution we have created around us that we hardly see these fascinating little creatures.

There were a couple of stray dogs that came to forage the waste bin far behind the meditation hall. And some fellow meditators (mostly foreigners) would pet them and play with them. It always made me wonder why anyone would want to befriend strays. Any dog for that matter unless vaccinated can be a carrier of rabies. Maybe I learnt this lesson quite early in life being a Vet’s daughter and because we always had pet dogs at home that Dad vaccinated with unfailing regularity.

We plucked the tangy, juicy fruits of the fruits of the Rose Apple tree (Syzygium samarangense) (Chambakka in local parlance) and munched on them while walking down the path.

Rose Apples

Rose Apples

Butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies were aplenty. These fluttering and flying beauties held me captive during the walking sessions.  The ripe rose apple fruits fell down in large numbers and were swept away to the side of the walk path. Some butterflies fed on the fermenting and rotting fruits and later staggered and flew away as if they were on a high!

Spectacular streaks of lightning on the days when we had summer showers added light to the pitch darkness of the night. The rumble of thunder reverberated and sometimes rudely woke us up from our meditations. As the downpours subsided a different kind of ensemble played out – and the whole place came alive with thousands of chirruping crickets!

Observing nature closely and being in its midst has had a telling effect as it seemed to improve the overall feeling of emotional and mental wellbeing. I am sure being out of touch with the outside world as well as being constantly connected with our technological devices hastened the feeling of respite and joy.

Vipassana thus brought in me a lot of inward happiness and optimism towards the future. Every time there has been a stressful situation I have been able to tell myself that even this will pass away. It has been just about two months since I completed my Vipassana course and I have been able to practice it every morning on almost all days. I know I must practice it for an hour in the evening too and am confident that I will be able to do this in the near future. Spending time in silent retreat with nature for company was the best way I lightened my mental world and increased the world of my heart. The emphasis was not only on engaging in noble silence but also in enjoying the peace and quiet. No doubt that Vipassana is a beautiful technique to make holistic changes in our lives and help us become self-aware.

“Bhavatu Sabba Managalam”
“May there be every blessing”


Day 10 (25/04/2015)

Ah, the final day has dawned. What started as a slow and an excruciating experience gradually became more interesting and meaningful with the passing days. As I look back, I am convinced this is one amazing decision I have taken. Suddenly the delusions were exposed – the realization dawned that we look at change to happen only in the outside. So we tend to correct things outside. But we fail to look inwards, inside. Actual change can happen only there, within. Vipassana gave us the other angle – as we progress and look at things inside we realize the cause of our misery it’s 50 % outside and 50 % inside. And with continuous practice one is sure to reach the stage where one becomes aware that misery is generated from within. Whenever one reacts one causes misery. In the course of the 10 days, we were taken symbolically and systematically through the facets of the Triple Gem i.e. in Buddha, in Dhamma and in Sangha – the qualities they stand for. One who traverses through the path of enlightenment is taking refuge in the Buddha. The path in itself is called the Dhamma.  Constant practice alters the practitioner and the stage of goodness one reaches is called the Sangha. And the final result of taking refuge in the Triple Gem is to purify the mind.

In the morning session we were introduced to Metta meditation. Metta bhavana, or loving-kindness meditation, is a method of developing compassion. It is rooted in Buddhist tradition and after Vipassana practice we are expected to close it with Metta Bhavana. While Vipassana is looking inward through a moment-to-moment observation of the body/ mind with awareness, focus and equanimity, Metta is a practice wherein one opens the heart to oneself, others and all of life, thus accentuating the inter-relatedness of all life in this beautiful planet. After Vipassana we were asked to relax (sit quietly with closed eyes and a peaceful mind) before initiating us into Metta meditation. In Metta Meditation we were asked to focus on Metta phrases:

May I be free from all anger, hatred, ill will and animosity…
May I generate love and goodwill, peace and harmony…
May all beings share my peace…
Share my harmony…
Share my merits…
Share my Dhamma…
May all beings feel happy…
Feel peaceful…
Feel liberated…
May all beings be happy, be peaceful, be liberated…

Finally it ends with the Pali phrase “Bhavatu Sabba Managalam” meaning “May there be every blessing”.

This is the only time when we were asked to focus on phrases. Otherwise Vipassana stays clear of visualizations and phrases in a bid to induce focus. According to Vipassana using mental images, using mantras etc are artificial and do not help in clearing the cobwebs at the deeper level. So those who are used to guided visualization meditations, verbalization or mantras may find it difficult to break from that habit. Choosing a particular object to stay focused on makes Metta a concentration practice. We practiced Metta the whole day so that we get enough practice in the technique. The aim of Metta is to share the purity one develops during the practice of Vipassana with the world at large and thereby creating goodwill, harmony and peace.

At 11.00 after the morning session the noble silence ended and we were permitted to talk. The lunch was a noisy, chattering affair. We looked at each other and talked and talked. We went to our fellow meditators and got to know them better. Even after spending 10 days under the same roof without talking and meeting each other’s eye, it seemed there was an underlying camaraderie betwixt us. In between we found time to buy books and CDs that were displayed. We also handed in our donations to the staff detailed for the same.

The next session started at 2.30 and after it ended and we had our tea, we were asked to collect our phones and valuables which we had submitted on the first day to the authorities. After that it was time to get in touch with folks at home. The next session was at 6.00 and so we were left with very little time. Another round of Vipassana and Metta Meditation was followed by the screening of the documentary “Doing Time, Doing Vipassana” a film by Eilona Ariel & Ayelet Menahemi. The winner of the Golden Spire Award at the 1998 San Francisco International Film Festival and the winner of the 1998 NCCD Pass Awards of the American National Council on Crime and Delinquency, it captures brilliantly the path breaking prison reforms undertaken by Kiran Bedi when she held the position of Inspector General of prisons in Tihar Jail. (Dear readers do watch this movie at – it will be a life changing experience). Yes, ‘the little woman with a big reputation and an even bigger vision’ Kiran Bedi introduced Vipassana in Tihar Jail, and it came to be the most ambitious project in the history of Indian prisons. Many prisoners experience profound change, came to realize that they can be normal human beings. Incarceration is not the end. There is the possibility of a life with positivism, forgiveness and transformation into a complete human being. The film was so very engrossing and poignant. I wish many more prisons all over the world would weave Vipassana into their systems so that there are no more criminals, only reformed souls. When the sessions for the day ended, we went back to our rooms and were once more huddled in conversation. We sat late into the night and by the time we went to bed it was 2.00 am.

Talk! Imagine how much of chatter goes on in our daily lives and the impact it has on us, even though we scarcely realize it.  The actual physical act of chatter and then the non-stop chatter in the mind! I hope I will be able to be aware and control both kinds of chatter, especially the second kind. And when I hit the bed, my mind played it over and over again like a stuck tape recorder – the ten days’ experience, the people and the place around and most importantly the documentary. Technology is a great distractor too. Gmail, Face Book, Whatsapp – all kept me wide eyed till 4.00 am – and I woke up with not even a wink of sleep. And that was how I went in the closing day morning for the meditation session. After the session another discourse by Acharya Goenka was delayed due to another power outage. After breakfast, when the power supply resumed we watched the discourse rapt in attention. In the discourse Acharyaji once more exhorted us to take in only things that are logical, pragmatic, reasonable and rational. Use this yardstick to review what was learned in the last ten days. Another yardstick is to see if there are tangible benefits by practicing it. And the third yardstick is to ask if it is harmful to others. Then if it is acceptable by all three yardsticks, accept it at the actual level – at the level of practice.

As we bid goodbye to our fellow meditators, we exchanged telephone numbers, email ids and so on. I realized how we came from such diverse cultures but have all been tied to the sacred thread of Dhamma. As I look back, what has enamoured me to this day is that the entire teaching of Vipassana is completely universal. It is absolutely non-sectarian. It never praises one sect and puts down another. It is balanced and equanimous. It is utterly devoid of rites and rituals. The shift through Vipassana is the shift from misery to happiness, from ignorance to wisdom and from bondage to liberation. And this shift being gradual, may not be immediately perceptible. And as I come to the end of the narration of my Vipassana experience I can only gratefully acknowledge this soul for silently gifting the world one of the most powerful and life changing kinds of meditation – Vipassana. I thank and am eternally grateful to that moment when I decided to join the course. I am also indebted to that power if discernment in me that held me captive to Vipassana during the entire course.

Finally, dear reader, I do hope you get a chance to experience the life-changing Vipassana technique.


Day 9 (24/04/2015)

The first thing that came to my mind as I woke up on this penultimate day of the Vipassana Course was the exasperating shoulder pain that was getting from bad to worse. Added to this was the hurting knee. I wondered if I was regressing and was vexed as to what would happen if these persisted even after the course was over. I had to undertake the travel back home by train, hauling the luggage, and climbing the most user-unfriendly steps to reach the platforms in railway stations. Keeping these in mind I sat in the chair for the early morning session of meditation. However, I felt rather incomplete doing so and quickly moved back to the crossed legged position for the rest of the day. I brought in a couple of cushions (many of different sizes and shapes were piled up for us to pick and choose to suit our need) more and made myself comfortable before I entered Vipassana practice.

The surprising matter however was notwithstanding the pain which overshadowed everything else, I was able to experience the warmth / tingling and other subtle sensations in other parts of my body. Today we were asked to sweep head to toe and in the reverse direction and then see if we could feel the sensations inside the body as well by moving our focus, this way and that way, piercingly and penetratingly through the body. We were asked to see if we can pass our focus through the spinal cord. After this, we were asked to do spot checks by taking our focus randomly to a body part and to see if the mind immediately feels a sensation in the area of focus and if the sensation remains limited to the area of focus. For the last couple of days I have also been noticing a strange occurrence. As I got engrossed in my Vipassana practice, I experienced occasional sobs. But there were no tears whatsoever. I wondered if it was the soul that was weeping for the hurts and broken spirits of many a life time. It dawned that some very deep cleansing was what was happening to me. I am reminded of one of my favourite poets, Khalil Gibran’s lines:

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls;
the most massive characters are seamed with scars…”

I told my daughter about this later and she says, “Ma, don’t freak me out!”  🙂 May be one day she’ll discover for herself the unmistakable benefits of Vipassana and then she’d be in a better position to understand the multifaceted technique and the effects it can have on the sincere practitioner.

By evening the pain was so unbearable that I doubted if I was suffering from Spondylitis. The need for a quick fix remedy was so very desperate that it made me do something which is not permitted. We had an acupressure specialist in our midst (with whom I interacted on Day 1 before the noble silence began) and I went to her and signalled that my shoulder pain was unbearable. She felt the area and opined that the pain is in all probability mental defilements finding external outlets. She applied pressure at various points, took out the acupressure plaster dots and put them in a couple of places. It was pure magic and very soon the ache was contained. The relief in me was palpable and a new verve and buoyancy radiated from within me.

The evening discourse of Acharya Goenka reminded us that the next day was the last day and that we would be initiated into Metta or Loving Kindness meditation. The liberation from pain and the fact that the next day was the last day of the course (we would get to talk to each other in the afternoon and by 5 pm we will get our mobile phones to talk to our dear ones back home!!) made me anticipate the day with exhilaration. After so many days of not being able to sleep as soon as I hit the bed, I drifted immediately into sound sleep and woke up only when the gong went to wake us up at 4.00 am.

(To be continued)


Day 7 (22/04/2015)

Contrary to expectations, I did sleep late woke up at the clang of the bell with a heavy shoulder. It was as if a ton of bricks were kept on them and I wriggled under the weight. Besides my calf muscles were sore too due to cramps I experienced sometime in the course of the night. It was another rainy night but thankfully there was no power outage. The roof of our room was tiled and hence when it was hot it was unbearable with draughts of hot air making one feel oppressed while when it rained in the evening or at night, the tiles became cool and it was very pleasant. Despite the heavy rains, water logging and greenery around it was amazing that we were not tormented by mosquitoes.

Today’s meditation was a continuation of what we practised earlier – observe sensations objectively while moving one’s awareness from head to toe, part by part, piece by piece. The fact driven home was that the secret of success in Vipassana lay in the continuity of practice and determined focus. The two keys that will assist one in the path of Vipassana are awareness and equanimity. If you miss sensations, you miss the deepest recesses of your mind. Change and breaking the habit pattern must start there. The most important thing to remember is to never crave for or develop aversion for this sensation or that sensation. The deep surgical operation of the mind that happens during this time is sure to remove many deep seated complexes that have been in your mind for ages. With their removal one experiences liberation from sankharas and through that natural enlightenment. When all the gross, solidified sensations dissolve, one experiences only fine, subtle sensations.

By evening time we had more rains and the weather was so very pleasant. Meditating in such positive environs is any meditator’s dream. Evenings were pleasant and nights cool. But the rains also brought in thousands of termites that swarmed around lights. These pesky termite alates forced us to switch off the lights ahead of time. We were told to focus for a couple of minutes on areas where we felt grossness and this only increased the solidity I felt on the area of my shoulders. Though I knew it was some very persistent and stubborn sankharas getting eradicated, I admit the skeptic in me wondered – did I create a new pain for myself?? I have already had enough issues with my back and knees, and this one was most unwelcome. Once again the night was long and arduous as I kept tossing, turning and aching.

Day 8 (23/04/2015)

Waking up with a nagging pain is the worst way to begin one’s day. Though I did feel like running away from the course at times, the last couple of days have steeled my resolve. Notwithstanding the gross sensations and the pain experienced, I was keen to give Vipassana a fair trial. So I moved to the meditation hall with steadfastness and the conviction that Vipassana will do me good.

Today we had to move our awareness from head to toe, toe to head, and then sweep in both directions. After two sweeps we had to go part by part again. Wherever there were gross hardened sensations or blind hazy spots, we had to focus our awareness there for 1-2 minutes. This focus intermittently on my shoulder made the dull ache a throbbing pain by evening. Even while writhing in agony, I made earnest attempts at being aware with equanimity. As each wave of pain shot up, I told myself – “even this will pass away.” Aniccha. Aniccha. Aniccha. There are some very deep seated and deep rooted complexities that were getting eradicated through this numbing pain, I reasoned.

I had to apply Profenid again to ease my pain but I don’t think it really helped. I lay on the bed, listening to the chirping crickets, the croaking frogs, the occasional rumbles of thunder and finally at some point of time the song of cuckoo birds. The night thus saw me spending hours in wakefulness before sleep enveloped me.

(To be continued)


Day 6 (21/04/2015)

I woke up to darkness all around me. So I turned and closed my eyes once more, only to be startled by the clang of the bell announcing it was 4.00 am. Power has not been restored. After over 14 hours without electricity and switching on the motor to fill the overhead tank, I knew water would be scarce. The early bird catches the worm. I just about managed to get some water for my morning ablutions before I saw the water trickle, drip and then stop. Ouch, I cannot have a bath! The downpour had left the atmosphere cool and it was better not risking a cold water shower even if water were available, I reasoned. The Dhamma volunteer had kept a couple of emergency lamps on the path to the meditation hall and so we did not have to stumble along.

It’s the sixth day today and we have already clocked over 50 hours of meditation! Yes, a good many hours were spent on training the mind which galloped hither and thither, bringing it back to awareness and attention. A couple of months ago, I would have thought of undergoing such intense meditation as impossible. But here I am – in the thick of it all and relishing it to a great extent. It’s at such times one looks at oneself with fresh eyes and respect.


Today too two participants who wanted to leave the camp were promptly shown back to the meditation hall with the advice to give Vipassana an earnest trial. In the course of the day’s meditation, we were to move our awareness from head to toe part by part and observe sensations and then go in the reverse direction. As I paid attention to the observations without reactions, I noticed that a lot of them were subtle tingling/warm sensations. However there seemed to be some gross sensations which gave me dull aches especially around my throat, nape and shoulder areas. I observed the pain on both knees too as I continued to sit on the floor. The teacher called us to him in batches of four to ask questions and make clarifications regarding the technique. A fellow meditator complained that she could not sleep at night and the teacher replied that it was normal as one is not doing physical work and at the same time spending close to 10 hours in meditation. This answer comforted me a great deal too. And when my turn came, he said he was happy to see me not using the chair and earnestly make an effort to overcome the sensation of pain. His appreciation was a great incentive and I continued to sit down cross-legged despite the numbing pain which by now I had learned to take in my stride.

The point driven home time and again by the teacher and in Acharya Goenka’s video discourses was that the entire structure of the body is composed of sub-atomic particles called Kalãpã – consisting of one of the four elements, earth (solid), water (liquid), air (gaseous) and fire (temperature). However, when one starts to examine the reality within, one will understand the elements at the subtle level. Thus if the fire element is predominant, the sensation is either heat or cold; earth element reveals heaviness or lightness; air element has everything to do with movement and water with cohesiveness. And when observes the sensations, all the sankhãrã or the accumulated karmic burdens of all our lifetimes arise and pass away. They burn up layer by layer till even deep rooted ones show up and just evaporates. It’s probably this that’s causing me those gross physical sensations. What began as simple discomforts in the morning were threatening to take a much painful shape by night! And I was just not looking forward to another sleepless night accompanying an already aching shoulder.

(To be continued)