Here now and now here or nowhere

The title of this blog comes from a play on words that "now here" is also the same letters as "nowhere" just with a space added in the middle. I am always trying to get better at being in the here and now, and I've always been a bit of a joker so that is why I chose this name.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

In Perfect Equanimity... Or Working Towards

I have just returned from my first 10 Day Goenke Vipassana retreat.  I feel as if I just climbed this giant mountain, got through the clouds to reach the top and once arriving here I can see it's just a plateau and I'm actually just at the base hills of the true mountains peak.  A long long way to go, but on the journey none-the-less.  This is something I've been meaning to do for a while but the timing never seemed to work. Of course timing usually doesn't seem to work for most things unless we really WANT things to happen.

A little info here for those unfamiliar. There are retreat centers all around the world that hold 10 day (and longer) retreats for people to learn Vipassana meditation. Vipassana translates to "Insight" or looking in on ones self. It is a system of internal viewing and cleansing developed as part of a bigger system by Siddharta Gotama, who later became known as "Buddha."  But these courses are by no means Buddhist or religious, anyone of any religious system can do them and incorporate them into their life and into whatever their religious lifestyle is if they choose.  The courses have many talks on DVD and CD/MP3's from a man named Goenke, a former Indian Burmese business man who found this ancient technique in his birth land of Burma, and was able to cure his medically incurable disease in his body.  Yes, it may sound new age or mystical but it has worked for thousands of thousands of people so maybe there is something there. (Note, this is not to say that if you have a disease, this will cure you. Just a small note of how he came to find this system)

The retreats are designed to help you live as a renunciate for the time of the course, as it is believed without these responsibilities weighing you down, it can help in the process.  So this means the cost is ZERO, it is funded on donations from former students who have found and love the process as it works for them.  The food is cooked by local people and former students who come to help and offerer their services to the new students as a repayment, a donation of their time, energy and care.  It's vegetarian and delicious (note: food changes per location and what is grown and eaten in those areas.)  The quarters are sparse and simple built on donations from others; why do you need much when your days consist of sitting, learning and meditating?  A bed, mosquito net, toilet, shower. Simple and perfect.

During the process I felt that I wasn't a "good" student. What is a good student though? It's perception based and one usually has harsher views of themselves than others have of them. (How many times has someone told you how great a job you did, and you think to yourself.."Me? Really? I was ok but not great.")  I had a hard time understanding the concepts at the time, and I would ask my assistant teacher there questions on what I was supposed to be doing because I didn't feel the things spoken about.  Because I didn't feel them, I was hard on myself. "I'm not doing it right. I'm not good at this. This doesn't work for me, I should do something else." How hard and judging we are on ourselves, and how quick to abandon ship.  I also wasn't silent the whole time.  There was another student who had told us all how this was not his first time doing one of these courses, but we found out on the last day that actually it was his first time doing this technique. On the second day he passed me a note. I didn't want to read it at first, but then I thought, "Oh, he is a return student so if he is doing this, it must be ok."  There was also a monk there who would sometimes speak a little with me, and if a monk at a meditation training is talking, then it must be ok.   Of course, I was the one talking and taking part of this, so I don't blame others but myself for not fully following the rules, but it aided in me not being a great student. I know for next time how to do things better. And that's fine. Many things, for me, in life have to be done over and over again till I really understand them.  I'm actually usually not the best student the first time, but second and third I'm much better.  I seem to learn more from my mistakes than from the traditional teachings.

By the end, almost all of my confusions seemed cleared up. But again, still far to go on this process. People who go on these courses, and make it all the way through (some will last a few days and then quit, as it's a lot of time and energy to commit too.) will usually do two things after. The first is spread the word about it. When you find something that makes you happy, it's human nature to want everyone to do it.  How many of you started yoga, running, a new healthy food, whatever... that seemed to improve your life tenfold and immediately went out and told everyone about it.  We want to share our happiness with people (we also want to share our miseries, but that is another story).  So yes, this is just one of my sharing's with people about the course and why they should do it.  The second thing students do after completing it, is start to plan another one. Maybe a year later, maybe longer.. but there is the urge to go back.  Part of it is to go deeper, but part is also because during the 10 days, the lifestyle is set up for you.  It's easier to meditate deeper when you are removed from everything. When you have no phone, internet, work, people talking with you... etc.  When you have bells reminding you of what time it is and what you have to do at that time and where.  When you have a person leading you through these meditation sittings.  This is all easier and maybe a "better" place to go and be able to get deeper into your meditation.  So one who has completed these courses, who has seen the immediate improvement in their mental condition, they will want to go back and take part in another... and another.  They will maybe also want to go back and be a helper, to give back to countless others like the countless others who also have given back to them. For me, I can't wait to assist, as karma yoga has always been my area that I live in. Giving to others is something I truly feel at home in.

Buddhist teachings speak of "the middle way." Goenke would speak a lot about keeping a perfect equanimous mind, which I chose to understand as similar to the "middle way" that Buddha spoke of. Not too hot or too cold. Be happy, but not too happy as too happy leads to an eventual peak, at which sadness follows after. Instead, just be happy. Be equanimously happy.  It sounds obvious and easy, but I'd like to see you try this. There is also much talk about impermanence, which when understood with equanimity seems to go hand in hand. This may seem pessimistic, but actually it's the opposite.  When you realize truly that the sadness you are experiencing at that moment will change.. how can you be sad still? One holds on to sadness because they feel horrible, things will never get better... but as soon as you see they will, then you already start to change... eventually you are happy again. But maybe you become too happy, great! Only then you fall down again and are in the sad hole.  Many people, myself included, live on these emotional waves, up then down, then up, then down.  It may not be a huge rollercoaster like some people we know experience, but we seem to all have ups and downs.  Once you truly understand the idea of imperanace and keeping that middle mind to it, then you start to come out of the deeper and longer low waves. the waves become more central and even-keel.  and what does this mean exactly, well, you become more happier.  Ok, it may sound too simple or far fetched or maybe even crazy.  Fine, think that. I'm just a beginner on this and maybe I don't have it all figured out. Scratch that, I definitely don't... but I can tell you that after these 10days I'm a lot more confident in it all than I was when I began.  I'm still the same me as I was before... only am I?  I'm 13 days older now, that's a 13day older me than I was before I started. Tomorrow I'll be again different. The same mostly, but different. Nothing is permanent, not even ourselves. When things change on a minimal scale, we don't see it... but this doesn't mean they don't change. I found this concept truly helpful in life.  I remember coming back to my home town for the first time after living away for a while. "This is not my town! How it has changed. How horrible it now is.  No, when I was here, it was wonderful, perfect, but now... no way."  Of course I see now, the town changed, yes.. but I also changed. Everything changed. It wasn't horrible. It was as it was. But I wasn't keeping an even mind, I kept a clinging and attachment to the past, but the past was just that. Why worry and relive it, it's gone. And the future will just be the future, unknown and in the future, so why worry about what will be.. it's not here.  Now is here. Here is now. Living in the present is much harder to do, but seems to give better results.  This doesn't mean never think about the past or the future. We must have somewhat of a plan for the future, though not an attachment to the plan.  And we must look back on the the past to learn from mistakes, but not to live in the past as so many of us do.  Again, sorry if this seems to basic or new age, it's just how I see it right now and here (which of course is impermanent and may change at another point.)

So what now?  That's a good question. I've been given some tools and systems to start to make a change in myself. To fix the unhappy areas and increase the happy ones. To improve myself and the world around me.  But it's a process and by no means happens at the snap of a finger. These things take time. Without a start nothing can move, so I now begin this journey and hope it adds to increased value in my world and yours.

In metta (the cultivation of loving-kindness) to all

Sunday, February 9, 2014

This is Just Bananas

I'm not one to usually tout things non travel related here, but a friend of mine made a short movie and it's been doing well around the film circuits.  It's quite humorous and enjoyable and now that it's up online publicly, I thought I'd share it out with you.


Bananas from Aaron Rosenbloom on Vimeo.

Hope that you enjoy. And feel free to spread...

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Yoga Burp, Release

I recently took a few day vacation from the Tea Fields of Sri Lanka to go down to the south. I had a friend who was vacationing in Mirissa on the southern coast and I wanted to visit her as well as go surfing. While there I realized that in the last few weeks I had put a little extra baggage on me and should probably work on that.  My daily walks and yoga sessions had been getting a little shorter in duration, if existent at all.  So now that I'm back I've started to be more present with this matter.  Yesterday I did a deeper stomach workout in the middle and end of my yoga practice.  Afterwards something felt off in me.   There was a sense of nausea through out the day, something I don't usually have.  In the evening when doing another yoga session, I started to burp. I couldn't stop it. Burps were coming and kept on coming. Luckily, just this gaseous feeling and no nasty intestinal flavors coming alongside with.  All of a sudden this big heavy burp came from somewhere deep inside me.  It was like nothing I've ever felt in a burp before. It brought tears to my eyes. Then more tears and I realized I was mildly crying.  I also realized I felt immediately lighter and more airy.  This burp was something stored inside of me from who-knows-when.  And now it was gone.  It wasn't just a burp, it was a storage of emotions and feelings trapped on a cellular level somewhere in stomach region. Through the abdominal workout I was able to lodge it's release from the structure where it was held and it slowly made it's way north to find it's way out.

Yoga can be transformational in many ways. When we first start to practice, we feel a greater sense of self worth and happiness. We feel healthier and more confident. And we only grow from there.  As we progress along the way, we start to learn more about our bodies from a subtle intuitive way. We have emotional breakthroughs and breakdowns in our yoga practice.  I've seen many a person in a long and deep pigeon pose hold brought to tears as the memories that one may store in their hip and sacroiliac regions start to release from their cellular frame and escape the imprisonment of the body. For me, it was a simple stomach routine which was all that was needed to start the catalyst in motion to help release whatever stored memories were holding me down and get me burping for joy!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A trip to Dambulla

Having some (ok, a lot) of free time while here in Sri Lanka trying to set up a yoga program with a hotel, I decided to take a day to go see the Unesco Dambulla Temple caves. I'd seen pictures of the insides of the cave and it looks beautiful.  Just outside of town you also have Sigiriya. Sigiriya is famous for its 200m high red stone fortress and palace ruins which are surrounded by the remains of an extensive network of gardens, reservoirs and other structures.  I had read and heard that while Sigiriya is very impressive, it's also very tourist overrun and over-expensive at $30 a head.  While just behind it is another temple and high rock, Pidurangala. Pidurangala rock is almost as high as its famous neighbor and provides a pleasant view onto its sibling as well as the surrounding area. It also cost $2 and had virtually no people on it. Though you don't get to see the ruins atop of Sigirya, having traveled extensively, ruins are ruins and after a while your brain doesn't process them much.

After hiking up, doing a little bouldering work at points near the top, and chilling out on the top with a view, I decided to head back to town to catch the caves as I was only in town for one day.

The caves are amazing. I've been to caves, I've been to temples, I've been to temple caves. None held a candle to these ones.  I was completely in awe. The beauty and majesticness of it was truly magnificent (as I hope the pictures can somewhat show).  I had a few problems here, but so did a few others.  Turns out there are a few entrances in, but only one sells tickets. And if you come into that entrance, the ticket area is hidden. You then walk up a steep hill (small mountain) and get to the the caves where they ask for tickets. Why the ticket place isn't here makes no sense to me, but then again living in developing countries long enough I know to ask for sense is nonsensical. As you can guess, I didn't have a ticket. So after trying hard to negotiate up top (to no use) I walked back down, furious., found the ticket place and trudged back up. Funny thing was, the second time up wasn't so bad, maybe it was more of a hill in my mind or maybe I was just too upset at the ridiculousness of it all to realize I was even walking. At one point I, stupidly, thought, "I'm not going to go. F this, if they have no order or logic."  Luckily, I am not that ignorant, only moderately. So I made it back up, showed my ticket, and went in to see what so far may have been the most impressive thing I've seen here in Sri Lanka.

Little note: The picture with a small Ganesh in it also has a white thing next to the tree on it. This is the bone of an elephants skull. It's considered holy to the worshippers of Ganesh. I thought it was pretty neat.

























Thursday, November 28, 2013

A New Adventure Begins...

Writing from BKK Airport.  In an hour I'll fly to Sri Lanka to start a new gig with yoga and massage.  A new country, a new adventure.

Let's make it a great one.

Love and Light!