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One Day Retreat with Chi-Chern FaShi

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The day started off with the “Eight Form Moving Meditation” exercise, followed by two sitting meditations, with yoga exercise in between. Next was the meditation talk, followed by lunch (vegetarian of course). Two more sitting meditations, with yoga in between, followed by another meditation talk. There was one bonus sitting meditation before our Questions/Answers session.

What stuck in my mind was Chi-Chern FaShi (or Venerable Ji Cheng) going over how we should stabilize our body by having three points of contact with the cushion. Full lotus would give the optimum three point contact. Since full lotus is difficult, the next best thing is half lotus. Chi-Chern FaShi demonstrated the half lotus posture, placing his foot on his upper thigh (close to the hip/groin). For beginning practitioners, this may be a bit difficult. Nonetheless, I believe this is a very important piece of information to keep in mind.

From my experience, placing the foot on the upper thigh, close to the hip/groin area, we allow the foot to have a natural layer of cushion. For beginners, since we are not that flexible, we tend to place the foot on the lower thigh or even on the calf area. This will cause much unwanted pain, due to the fact that the bones around the foot are in close contact with the bones of the lower leg (close to the calf area). After some time of sitting, the bone to bone contact will become very painful and difficult to bear. Placing the foot close the hip/groin area gives the most comfort, enabling one to sit much longer.

Another important point I found grounding, was when FaShi talked about adjustment of the body, adjustment of the breath, and adjustment of the mind. FaShi stresses that adjustment of the body is the number one priority. If one does not adjust the body well, and continue to adjust the breath or mind, it will be very difficult to achieve total stability. The unstable body can affect both the breath and the mind. Adjusting the body means to make sure that it is sitting in the correct posture: straight back, and slightly bent forward as to spread the weight among the three points of contact (the two knees and the buttock), tongue on upper palate of mouth, arms gently resting on thighs, plus many other things.

The body is like the foundation. Without it being stable, breath and mind will be more difficulty to stabilize. Once stability of the body is achieved, adjustment of the breath will then be noticeable easier to achieve; followed by adjustment of the mind. But while we are adjusting the breath, anytime the body screams out pain, adjustment of the breath should stop, and attention should be brought back to adjustment of the body.

Lastly, there were some good points that Chi-Chern FaShi brought up during the Question/Answer session that I would like to share:

When we meditate and pain arises, we should realize that pain is impermanent. Also know that to get rid of pain we must learn to relax, and not force it away. The more we try to force it away, the more painful it will get. Only by relaxing, the pain will naturally ease off.

FaShi mentioned that being aware of the breath is only one method. We can also be aware using our other senses. FaShi gave an example of being aware of the sound with our ears.

FaShi brought up a great point about not giving up when pain arises. Assuming you have the correct posture, and leg pains arise, this should be looked upon as a chance to improve your skill by holding on even longer because our body has an innate ability or tendency to adjust itself. If we just give up at that critical moment, we may never achieve stability, even if we practice for a very long time.

During meditation, one may experience illusions: be it good or bad. In either case, never attach to them. For future meditation sessions, do not wish it to occur or not occur again. Just focus on the method – adjustment of the body, breath, and mind.

During meditation, one may feel certain sensations. Examples are: Hands or legs feeling hot, cold, or sweaty. All of these sensations may be the cause of chi energy trying to circulate and being stuck at those points of sensation release. So, do not be alarmed. Just go back to the method – adjustment of the body, breath, and mind.

Pain is a form of repayment from our body. Everyday, throughout life, we treat our body in certain way. During meditation, it is time for our body to repay us in that same way.

(shared by Sam Gieng)

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