By Theresa Puskar
Dhamma Pakasa, Pecatonica, IL June 29th – July 10th, 2016
“A sensation appears, and liking or disliking begins. This fleeting moment, if we are unaware of it, is repeated and intensified into craving and aversion, becoming a strong emotion that eventually overpowers the conscious mind.” – S.N. Goenka
As I ended last month’s column, I had noted that for many years, I have been acutely aware of the anger that I have been feeling and expressing. As I spent time looking within, feelings, sensations, and thoughts began to unfold that disassembled my stories of being a helpless victim to the external world. I quickly noted that in this place of calm and inner focus, all of my senses had become heightened. I usually have difficulty smelling things, yet each morning as I walked to the meditation hall, I could smell the wondrous perfume of the flowers that lined the path. On the mornings that I could not smell their wonderful fragrance, I would smile, noting my own urgings to experience them again. I was beginning to “get it!”
As time progressed, and as I became more laser-focused, I felt more and more sensations in my body – all of which told their own story of anger, hurt, and shame. However, as Goenka promised, when I allowed the sensations to arise without judgment, if I focused on equanimity – neither craving nor expressing aversion to them, like the ebb and flow of life, they would arise, and in time, they would fall away.
“For real happiness, for real lasting stable happiness, one has to make a journey deep within oneself and see that one gets rid of all the unhappiness and misery stored in the deeper levels of the mind.” – S.N. Goenka
Each evening we would watch discourses by S.N. Goenka. The wisdom, truth, and compassion that he shared was awe-inspiring. I became excited, and at times tears would run down my cheek as I practiced. I felt the portal to my own liberation from suffering opening. I not only THOUGHT a way out, I felt it from deep within my being. There were also times when I felt overwhelmed. He had warned us one evening that, with all of the heightened energy, we may find ourselves struggling to sleep. For a few evenings, I struggled to sleep as I witnessed the workings of my far-too-busy mind at work. I was exhausted and became panicked. I approached the instructor and frantically started, “I can’t do this. I have to work and be alert. I am the sole breadwinner in my family. I need to sleep!” To which she compassionately and calmly responded, “Not to worry. You will be fine. The energy here is very strong. You will not experience it in the same way once you’re back at home.” She was right.
“Peace and negativity cannot coexist just as light and darkness cannot coexist…One who has love and compassion with a pure heart experiences the Kingdom of Heaven.” – S.N. Goenka
It has been over a month since the retreat. Since then, there have been many shifts, and I know without a doubt that there will be many more. While in all honesty I have not maintained the two hours of daily meditation, I have meditated several hours each week. The most obvious change has been in my response to the sciatica that I have been struggling with for the past few years. The pain has subsided, and is often non-existent. When I start to get that aching sensation shooting down my left leg towards my foot, I sit quietly and observe it. It no longer debilitates me. As opposed to abhorring, fearing, and resisting it, I observe it. I feel the sensations and note how they come, and then go…arise and then fall away. I know now that the pain is not permanent – nothing is.
I have also been facing some major emotional challenges. Something is different, however. When reacting, I sit quietly, and look within. I note how it feels in my body. I observe my racing heart, and the tension within my body. I feel the tightening of my muscles – the solar plexus, the jaw, the shoulders, the head, and the calves. As I observe the tension, I note the absolute terror that sits beneath it. Last Sunday I met and sat with a small group of fellow students in Naperville. When I arrived, I was wound up like an over-active cuckoo clock! My mind was racing, and my body was tense. By the end of the hour, I found myself shift back into balance again. While the happenings of the outer world had not changed, I was not tightening up in fear and resistance. I was present. As I drove away from the meditation, the green of the trees seemed greener, the smell of the summer rain was delicious, and the music playing on the radio shot feelings of gratitude and delight throughout my heart and soul. My latest mantra is “Yes.” When I note anxiety and fear, I take a couple of deep breaths, commit to trusting in a benevolent universe, and I fill my heart with “Yes.”
As I do one final glance through this column, I question as to whether I have given this experience the accolades it deserves. I then note the trepidation, the anxiety, and the tension as it arises in my body. I observe it without judgment, and let it melt away. I look forward to continuing on this journey of self-discovery. I know that I have a long way to go, yet with each breath that I observe, with each layer of sensations that gets peeled away, I know that I am one step closer to total liberation from my self-imposed imprisonment. May you too be liberated from suffering. May all beings find peace and harmony from within.
If you would like to learn more about Vipassana meditation, volunteer, or attend workshops, go to: dhamma.org/en/index.
If you wish to access my free meditations and visualizations, you can go to my website, TheresaPuskar.com and click on Publications, then Motivational Audios. I will be adding meditations on an ongoing basis, and you can also subscribe to the site.
Theresa Puskar, our All About Town contributor, is a writer, trainer, speaker, and inspirational audiobook producer. She authored The Terri Series – seven children’s books that focus on bullying, honoring diversity, celebrating creativity, non-judgment of emotions, finding alternatives to technology-based entertainment, discovering a non-judgmental God, and overcoming fears. She has also recorded a powerful experiential audio program, How to De-Clutter Your Mind and Live a Heart-Centered Life. To place an order or learn more, you can log onto her website at theresapuskar.com.