Karma Ling [en]
Karma Yoga in a magical place
To start this new blog, I'd like to share an adventure I lived lately : my stay in Karma Ling, a buddhist center (located in Arvillard, France). From the 1st of February to the 1st of April, I went there, with the mind thirsty for discoveries, in order to learn how to meditate, in exchange for my voluntary work. By the way, it was a little bit more than voluntary work : I was a "Karma Yogi", which rather suggests that I was "making good karma", or that I was teaching myself gift and righteous values. A revolutionary idea, isn't it ? For two months, I have been the male Cinderella of the institute, 6h a day and 6 days a week : I was cleaning the Vaults Room (the refectory) and the toilets, and sometimes some bedrooms too. This job is often devalued (wrongly), but for me it was a great opportunity to meet all the birds of passage.
The atmosphere in Karma Ling is particularly conducive to meditation. Enclosed between two ridges, nature is pleasantly present there, and colors the silence offered by the reclusion. This place is really magical, and has a little something from Miyazaki's movies. The main edifice was built in 1173 by the Carthusians who lived in it for six centuries. Then in 1979, it's been taken over by a group of buddhists, on demand of the tibetan master Kalou Rinpoche, who entrusts the direction of it to his main occidental disciple : Denys Rinpoche.
This was a brief summary of Karma Ling and my adventure. There's a lot more to tell about it, but now I'd like to go straight to the point, what I learnt there : the art of meditation.
The Open Mindfulness meditation is the basic essential in the practice of buddhism. It's the occidental, secularized version of the traditional Shamatha-Vipashyanâ : mental stillness - bright vision. There's nothing esoteric in this meditation, which is natural and non-cultural, for devoid of any concept.
It consists in remaining fully aware, conscient, present, attentive to everything that comes to us : perceptions from the five senses, and also from the "mental sense", feeling thoughts and emotions.
We start with the sense of touch, trying to feel every sensations of our body, from feet to head, and from outside to inside : we do a body scan. Then we try to remain aware of he whole, without focusing on any particular sensation.
After that, we can add breathing to our awareness field, feeling everything that results from it : cold or warm in the nostrils, expansion of the chest and abdomen, etc.
While we remain aware of all this, we then try to open ourselves to visual, auditive, olfactory and gustative feelings. Being aware of everything the eye can see, with a "panoramic vision", always trying to keep to the whole. Same thing for the audition : we let everything come to us, consciously.
What about the mental sense ? Well, when we try to remain aware of all that, it quickly appears to us that it's kind of impossible : the thing that impedes it is precisely our thoughts. They take us miles and years away from here and now. Being aware of our thoughts simply means becoming aware, two seconds or ten minuts later, that they seized us, and that they are not our mind but only thoughts going across our mind (translator's note : english version is much easier with the word "aware" !). Then we can clamber out of them, without following them, and go back to the other sensations. It's about taking over the control, the attention they take from us (we can also, of course, keep following our thoughts, but we can do it remaining aware of everything that surrounds us).
And now, emotions. It's said that emotions are thoughts loaded with affect. It's affect, attachment towards them, that makes us chew our thoughts over, whether they are source of anger, fear, pain, shame... To deal with emotions, we can follow a four steps process, that Kornfield calls RAIN : Recognition (e.g. : not denying we're angry), Acceptation (not thinking we should not be angry, or we don't want to be angry), Investigation (letting the anger express itself, taste it, without following it) and Nonidentification (becoming aware that we are not the anger we feel, that it's only passing - and letting it pass). That way, we can fully live our emotions and let them go away.
Therefore, meditation is more about feeling that thinking - or as our dear Jangchub so nicely says : "rather than testing, tasting" (original : "plutôt que de prouver, éprouver"). It's a letting go on everything that controls our mind. We look for nothing, but being, experiencing the present moment and all its fullness, without any hope nor any expectation. It may seem superfluous, but it makes us lighter, brighter, more joyful, more patient, and gives back to every single moment its own magic.
N.B. : In order to break a big a priori, we should emphasize the following fact : "meditating" doesn't actually mean anything, it's not about reaching a special state of awareness we'd call "meditative state". Meditating is only about "training oneself to meditate" : it's a perpetual training, and as my good lama Gyaltsen says, there's nothing to succed, and therefore nothing to fail. As a result, nobody can say : "I can't meditate", or "I'm not good enough for it". Don't think twice, it's alright !
May everything be favourable !
I hope you'll find in these few words some inspiration. If afterwards you sit down for ten minuts, and try to experience all this, then this post has reached its target. Anyway, Karma Ling was for me a wonderful experience, and one thing is for sure : I'll go there again shortly !
I'll end up with these words from lama Gyaltsen : "Let's keep practicing relaxation and letting go, it's the best attitude to cultivate in any circumstances ; and let's act as rightly as possible in every situation life gives us to live, permanently, everyday".
Karma Ling's website : http://www.rimay.net/