Thoughts Like Clouds


© — I used to sit a lot.  And simply watch my thoughts.  I plan on doing a lot more of this, as it is very rewarding.  I sit in meditation, watching my breath, and watching my thoughts.  I practice a form of Buddhism called Vipassana.  Pali is the language the Buddha’s teachings were recorded in, and ‘vipassana’ is a Pali word meaning “insight meditation”; ‘buddha’ is the Pali word for “enlightened one.”   Vipassana is the form of meditation originally taught by the Buddha.  In Vipassana one just allows thoughts to pass by like clouds in the sky.  No clinging, no attachment, only letting them pass by.  For those who stick it out, advanced Vipassana can include labeling thoughts with a short list of single words.

Related to Vipassana is Zen Buddhism, along with other sects of Buddhism.  Sitting Zen means letting your mind go blank.  Zen meditators sit facing a white wall, and do all they can to clear their minds; I find this impossible.  On the other hand, Tibetan meditators concentrate on objects, like mandalas, spirit images, and mantras.  I like Tibetan Buddhism, as it is wonderfully colorful.  However, I find it far too complicated for me, so I sit Vipassana.

I sit at home, meditating 40 minutes to an hour.   I do walking meditation at times, slowly pacing back and forth on a ten-foot path.  And I do retreat work.  There is a place about an hour north of San Francisco called Spirit Rock.  Tucked into Nature Conservancy lands in the rolling hills of Marin, Spirit Rock is at the confluence of nature and peace.  The sitting hall can comfortably hold 100 meditators, and the modern, simple housing and facilities can care for them day and night.

The day starts at Spirit Rock at 6:00am with the daybreak bell ringing, ringing the bell being my favorite chore.  An hour of silent sitting follows, and then a delicious, organic breakfast.  Breakfast is meditation, too, as are all the meals.  One carefully notices the color and smell of the food, then its texture and taste, and finally the movement down the throat.  Bite after bite, until it’s gone.  More sitting and walking meditation continue, followed by lunch.  And then again through dinner.  At some point during the day you will have a chore, and that is meditation, too; every movement is carefully noted.  The evening meditation includes a teaching by a highly experienced Buddhist Teacher.  At 10:00pm, one sleeps.  Day after day.  No talking, no eye contact, no reading, no writing.

A retreat at Spirit Rock is usually ten days long.  I have done over 100 days like this, and have found it peacefully enriching.  Watching my breath, feeling the ground beneath my feet.  And watching my thoughts.  Not thinking about them, or letting them dwell in my mind.  Not getting caught up in what they mean, or what they are worth.  I just sit, mostly, and let the clouds float by.

Bob Hansen

Copyright – Robert W. Hansen – 2012

Related links: Spirit Rock

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