By Jennie Williford
Pranayama Yoga Studio
We all search for peace and harmony because we feel it lacking in our lives. We suffer agitation, irritation and disharmony as we are bombarded with the consequences of a financial recession, global pollution, devastation and war. We see these external miseries as the cause of our personal suffering, so fear and helplessness take over. We have all experienced this to some degree, and know this is no way to live.
How can we come out of this suffering? How can we move forward in a world that seems to somehow be falling apart around us? First, we have to realize the suffering we feel is not about external events, but that it begins within our own mind. Change is inevitable, so the good turns to bad and the bad to good, whether we like it or not. In any given situation, all we can control is the way we react. So, we have to make an effort to take control of our own mind to search out peace and harmony.
Since reaction is the cause of all human suffering, many teachers have found that just diverting attention seems helpful: if you find yourself agitated, you could merely listen to soothing music, count to 10, or focus on your breath. However, these techniques act only on the surface of the mind, burying and suppressing the root cause of suffering deep within our consciousness. Without eradicating the root cause, we may ultimately perpetuate or even exacerbate our misery.
After much exploration, Gautama, the Buddha, found a clear solution to the problem of human suffering. It is called Vipassana, “seeing things as they really are.” He found pure observation at the depth of the mind allows us to retrain the mind, not to react harshly to external stimuli.
Escape is not the solution, but facing a problem, not giving it strength, and slowly watching it subside gives us clarity and peace of mind. By learning to remain balanced in the face of everything we experience deep inside, we are better able to detach from external situations. Detachment is not indifference, but the ability to remain balanced while imbalance surrounds us, ultimately tapping the well of pure love, compassion and equanimity under every circumstance.
But the Buddha lived a long time ago in a different country. Is this technique practical or possible here and now, in Rockford? Being a natural skeptic, I continue to ask myself that question, even after practicing Vipassana for five years. But the answer is always “yes.” Our suffering is universal, so the remedy must also be universal. No matter what faith, background, class or creed, people all over the world for thousands of years have benefitted from the Buddha’s technique. It simply is an “art of living,” a way to know yourself through the wisdom of observing reality as it is in every moment. And a resource for learning this technique is in our own back yard.
Dhamma Pakasa, the Illinois Vipassana Meditation Center, is in Pecatonica, and it holds continuous 10-day residential retreats throughout the year. During those 10 days, you learn the technique of Vipassana within a comfortable and nurturing environment. The retreat gives you the time and space to systematically process and integrate the practice into your life. At the end of the 10 days, you have empowered yourself with a tool to help you find a deep clarity and peace within.
Now’s the time to come and see! There will be an Open House at Dhamma Pakasa Sunday, May 23, from noon to 4 p.m. It is a time to visit and tour the center, ask questions, and talk with people who already benefit from the practice. There will be refreshments and video screenings as well.
May we all experience this universal truth. May we all be free from misery. May we all enjoy real peace, real harmony, real happiness. May all beings be happy!
See you there!
For more information about Pranayama Yoga Studio, visit yogarockford.com or call (815) 968-9642.
From the May 12-18, 2010 issue