"Meditation can take the edge off a hectic urban life"
Carl Honore wrote in In Praise of Slow: "My mind is learning to be quiet and still for longer. I feel less impatient and hurried. In fact, I am so relaxed I do not want to leave. Without my realizing it, my brain has also been engaged in some very useful Slow Thinking. By the end of the week-end, ideas for work are bursting up from my subconscious mind like fish jumping in a lake. Before returning to London, I sit in the car and scribble them down. Is it possible to transfer that meditative calm from a retreat to the real world? The answer turns out to be a qualified yes... Meditation can take the edge off a hectic urban life."
"I will be eternally gratefull"
For many many years I have lived in a state of unrest and unhappiness. There have been times when this has been unbearable and I was driven to dark places. I don't as yet know how the teachings and practice experienced during the past ten days will help me. What I do know is that this is the start of a long journey, but it is a start. I also know that I have some hope and for that I will be eternally grateful."
"Active loving kindness"
Even a person who does not accept the major premises of the Buddhist faith will, if he follows instructions given at the centre faithfully, experience a deep and invigorating calm. A calm possibly deeper than anything he has previously experienced. The atmosphere of tolerance and active loving kindness that surrounds the visitor to the Centre does much to strengthen the appeal of the mental and spiritual discipline.
Elisabeth K Nottingham
"Wish to leave suffering behind"
In vipassana meditation I first discovered that all the suffering such as worries, fears, anger, ill will and all this longing are impermanent. They come and go. This experience allowed me to come out from under their influence a little. Then I discovered that this very change is suffering. There is nothing in mind and body I could rely on. Because everything is changing. Mind and body are changing. This made the wish to leave all this behind come up in me. To escape from it all. I wonder whether it will be possible for me.
"I've noticed a clarity in my thinking"
It has been four years since I first came to the IMC UK. Since then I have been sitting one course each year. I wanted to write about how the experiencee here has helped me on a practical level in my day to day life.
When I first came here I used to suffer with severe irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). I had a long list of food I couldn't eat for fear of setting off an attack. Unfortunately I suffered an attack on the first day of the course.
I was shown much care and kindness by the kitchen staff here, who ensured that I was given whatever food and rest I needed. As a result I was able to sit the full course without too much discomfort. I haven't suffered an attack of IBS since that first course. In fact I can now eat whatever I want; that list of bad foods has long gone. I can't explain how or why this has happened.
This is my experience - this is how it is. And I attribute this to my meditation and to the staff who provided a safe environment for me to sit the course.
I work as a software engineer and the past two years have been particularly trying. We've had a major system to implement, and due to the stress of it all, we have had members of the team leaving or going off sick. This left me with a workload of 2 - 3 people with which I have coped very well.
Since coming here, I've noticed a clarity in my thinking. I often arrive at solutions faster than my colleagues. My programmes are always written quicker and in a simpler way than others. My manager's appraisal of me stated that I contributed to produce work of the highest quality under extreme pressure. Without a doubt, it is the mindfulness that I've learned and practised here that has enabled me to cope where others haven't.
How lucky I am to be in a place where unconditional kindness, patience, peace and teaching are in such great abundance. You help heal my body, clear my mind and help me find a little more peace each time I am here.
Mother Sayamagyi and Sayagyi U Ba Khin
When Sayagyi U Ba Khin first established the IMC in Rangoon he taught in aditthana* sittings that sometimes lasted well over an hour. He put a candle on a little plate and the group of close disciples were not allowed to move until the candle had burned down completely and the flame had gone out. Sometimes there would be just some liquid wax left in the plate and the wick continued to burn and flicker. Everybody was desperately waiting for the flame to go out. Then U Ba Pho, who was the jester of the group, one time, sneezed as strongly as he could directing the full force of the sneeze at the dying flame and the flame, finally, went out.
Everybody was greatly relieved and overjoyed and U Ba Pho was everyone's hero.
Mother Sayamagyi after a time, approached Sayagyi U Ba Khin regarding the aditthanas. She explained to Sayagyi that she felt that everyone was sitting there just suffering excruciating pain and that they did not experience anicca anymore; that the aditthanas were not conducive to developing the mind. Sayagyi reflected on this and then agreed with Mother Sayamagyi. From then on the aditthanas were restricted to just the one hour.
* Aditthana: Meditating with the strong determination not to move, if possible.
Mother Sayamagyi's Respect for the Teachings
Mother Sayamagyi used to come to the Dhamma hall for the beginning of every group meditation to recite the blessings and meditate with the students for a while. Then she would go to the pagoda and the assistant teacher would end the sitting. Mother Sayamagyi used to say that every time she came back from the pagoda to the walk-way joining her house to the Dhamma hall, the first thing she would do, was to check if the slippers of the assistant teacher were still there. If they were still there, she knew that the students were still meditating, and then she would take the utmost care not to make the slightest sound in order not to disturb the students.
Her respect and concern for the students went so far, that during the courses she would select her loungyis especially. She would only wear loungyis made of the softest cotton so that they wouldn't make any sound when she walked. She was worried that the swish of the loungyi as she left the dhamma hall might disturb the concentration of her students.
When the conservatory was first used as a meditation hall and students were meditating there, Sayamagyi was very happy that now men and women were able to meditate in separate rooms. However, the buggy in which she went to the pagoda when it was raining had to pass in between the conservatory and the pagoda. Sayamagyi said, that she felt unhappy about having to go between the students and the pagoda and that she always bowed down a little. Even though she was the teacher, she felt that it wasn't proper (akusala) to pass in front of the meditating students.
Mother Sayamagyi's Lunch
When Mother Sayamagyi was in charge of the kitchen at the IMC in Rangoon, every evening she discussed the menu for the next day with U Hla Htun, the cook. They decided on quantities and early the next morning U Hla Htun would go to the market on his bicycle to do the shopping. A lady student, Daw Su Su, also came with her car every day and did some of the shopping.
Under Sayamagyi's supervision U Hla Htun and his helpers cooked the curries, the soup and the salads. Mother Sayamagyi served the food and personally made sure that everyone was satisfied and had had enough to eat. When she went into the kitchen to fetch some food for herself after everyone had finished, she very often had difficulties finding anything to eat. She would lift the lid of one pot: nothing; the next pot: nothing; the salad bowl: nothing. She looked at U Hla Htun who shrugged his shoulders and with his bright smile would say "Koun bi", "All gone".
Sayamagyi didn't mind. She felt happy that everyone else was satisfied. She simply asked U Hla Htun to fry two eggs for her and ate them happily with dry rice. Sometimes, she didn't even sit down for the meal.
Mother Sayamagyi told us this story many times, again and again.