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I arrived at the ashram around noon and checked in. I was given a room and told to do as I pleased. This place had been founded by a Jewish fellow who was a real Vipassana nut. I was finally here. I had somehow made it. It was my final journey of the year. It was the last inner pilgrimage before the a-bomb exploded in San Diego and I knew this. I really did.
It was back to vipassana-land. " Don't feed your thoughts! Observe them. They go on forever.." So said the new teacher. I sat in the shrine-room. It was large. I just kept watching my mind. There was nothing else to do. I tried not to duplicate my experiences. I tried not to expect anything. I tried not to get attached to my emotional fluctuations. This was the real challenge here. I was ready for it. For I was now a veteran. I wanted to win the battle with my mind. I really did.

The sitting continued. I hated getting up so early, so I drifted into the grave-yard shift. I sometimes would sit next to the Buddha statue in the shrine-room and see my thoughts just kind of regress into certain patterns. The observer was watching his thoughts and then another observer would watch
the observer and so on. I wondered if this was how one could eventually bump into astral realms.

There were periods of intense weeping and this would kind of clear the heart-space for a while. I was learning to be attentive and aware. I mean, to what was actually there this moment, and no other moment. It was harder than it sounded. Your skill determined just how subtle your awareness was. I mean, like what was your touch-point of sensitivity? It was an important question. Thoughts seemed to always chunk into constellations. Thoughts were really tricky. I mean you could observe them, but it was also very easy to get lost in them. They were a tough concentration vehicle. That's why the breath was less hairy. I mean, you could always go back to the breath. Once you were at the movies, it was easy to get lost in the show.

As I watched the snow silently drift from my window, I realized it was really important to learn how to concentrate on an object. Different objects interested the mind with different kinds of intensity. The mind loved going to the movies. It was hungry for tons of objects. The mind needed thoughts like
the stomach needed food. CHUM, CHUMP. It was endless gluttony. Greater awareness was the key to survival here. Vipassana was the science of micro-awareness. The mind would be fed with less and less thoughts. It was put on a diet.

DIRECT EXPERIENCE. This was the thing. It turned all experiences into a less polluted form of reality. Direct experience even made the object vanish after awhile if you got deep enough into it. All shells needed to be stripped away. No husks could remain. That's what you had to do to get aboard the enlightenment express. It was leaving off track 109.. So you had to really hurry.

I mean it was silly to get attached to ghosts. It was kind of important to let the awareness come out. To just let things reveal themselves. It was important to observe. If the mind got confused, you just went back to the breath. That's how you kept awareness focused and aimed. There was nothing to really judge. You just did it. I mean, all perception and feeling were just temporary. So why judge? This non-judgment brought a new lightness to your mind. It was great.

When one really experienced directly an object, it just disappeared. I mean, it wasn't really real to begin with. But to get to this level of experience was hard. Our minds have a nasty habit to make things as real as possible. I mean all normal experience was indirect. All illusions thrived on this indirect experience. The breath cycle was your anchor. If you wanted to focus on these emotional and mental cycles you could. The focus if it was intense enough made them dissolve. That's what you wanted. After they dissolved you were free to go back to the breath and anchor your mind there. Or if you couldn't dissolve these mental and emotional cycles-that's why you then went back to the breath. The direct experience of the cycles betrayed their illusory nature. It was spooky. The breath was like a training tool for the ultimate goal of casting away mental ghosts. This is what ultimately generated a calm and forgiving mind.

I walked into town when silence was finally broken. As I walked through the snow, the wind slapped my face. I thought about forgiveness. It was dumb not to forgive. It was fucking useless. It hurt. It felt heavy. You had to give it all up! It was important not to be defensive. To just breathe a little easier. The little town, near the ashram was filled with many war memorials. I was so amazed how such a small place could have lost so many men and it really made me sad. All these men had died because somebody, somewhere had held a grudge. You had to practice forgiving. It made life a lot less miserable. You had more space to feel a little better inside. You were less isolated. This was true wisdom. And it didn't come out of a sermon. It came out of my own experience with my mind and body.

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The following comments are for "Harvest of Gems: The Vipassana Retreat"
by gamblerman

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