First Focus

Unlike most people I know, ten days of silence sounded like heaven to me, so I was looking forward to that aspect of the retreat. But sitting in meditation for more than ten hours a day sounded excruciating -- and it was.

I learned about Vipassana meditation while listening to Oprah interview Jenny Phillips on her Soul Series podcast. The interview was about a documentary called The Dhamma Brothers and I was fascinated to hear the stories of how this meditation technique had changed the lives of hardened criminals, prisoners with no chance for parole. I knew I needed to experience it myself in order to understand what they were talking about and soon found a Vipassana retreat center in Jesup, GA, offering a 10-day course that fit my schedule.

Rising each morning at 4:00 a.m. to meditate for two hours before breakfast, the daily schedule was rigorous and challenging. Every day I wanted to go home. But each evening the discourse by S. N. Goenka, a gifted teacher and storyteller, inspired me to continue for at least one more day.

The first three days seemed an eternity. Each day, for the entire day, we focused on one thing: noticing our breath as it passed in and out of our nostrils and the accompanying sensations on the area between the top lip and the nose. Seem boring? A waste of time? To the contrary... this diligent practice enabled us to focus our minds with acute sharpness and sensitivity in preparation for the true practice of Vipassana to come.

It also made me aware of how easily my mind is distracted and how out of touch with the Greater Reality
I become when I allow distractions to overtake my life. What enables you to focus on the "one thing needful," to be fully present to what is?

"The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light." (Matthew 6:22)

This is the first in a series of articles about my experience of Vipassana meditation. Next month, Flames: Hell, Passion or Purification?