I often have people say to me that they couldn't do a Mahasi course. It would be too hard. I am at pains to say that as a beginner (or false beginner - those who stop and start) you can dip yourself slowly into the hot bath. You don't have to scald yourself!
Email from Philip:
This email from Philip is especially inspiring because it answers a regular question of how can we bring the Mahasi technique into our everyday lives. You cannot note all you are doing especially when it is something your have to use your head for such s adding up bills. But the use of noting to still thought during daily tasks is especially skillful. And to bring ourselves back to the default position of 'just sitting', 'just standing' is a great aid to reserving energy for motions tend to snowball into the activity.And from that poise to intend the the 'next thing to be done'.
"I am trying to keep thought at bay in all daily physical tasks, and am deploying the noting technique into activities. I think it has required me to come home from the retreat and "switch on" thinking in order to succeed in developing a naming system for various motions. For example, the day before yesterday, I developed a naming system for general motions around the house (reaching [for an object], moving/lifting/rotating /pushing/pulling [an object], placing [an object], for example).
I realised that developing such a set of names involves many decisions, such as how finely to sub-divide a complex motion, when to name a complex motion as a whole ("turning") rather than sub-divide it ("shifting", "turning foot", "shifting", etc.), and exactly what words to use (neither too long nor too short). Somehow, I wasn't able to develop new names well at the retreat, I think because I needed to have my thinking fully switched on in order to do so, and I didn't realise this was the case.
The noting is a great help --- I only need to switch it on and thought goes away and I come into the action; if I note more carefully (e.g. when chopping vegetables, if I note even the intermediate movements of reaching [for veg], rotating [veg], moving [knife] placing [knife], cutting down, sliding back, etc.), then all tension drains away.
I am now entering the world of work which, for me, means (largely) carrying out tasks that involve thought in some way. I find myself in the curious position of being calm and without the sort of agitated energy that normally drives me to begin work on some task. I now need to learn how to focus and work on a task in a new, calm way.
Email from Max:
Max came on a week's course with virtually no knowledge of the Buddha's teaching nor of any experience of meditation. I asked him to send an email about his experience so as to encourage others who may have doubts about coming. His email shows that such 'hardships' as sleeping only 6 hours and not eating after midday are not arduous when you are practising vipassana. As for his praise of my teaching and the food, well you'll have to take that as it comes! So please don't let fears of 'not being good enough', stop you from coming.
I found out about Satipanya just by chance. And I'm so happy I did!
I've been always curious about Buddhist philosophy , but I never had the chance to get into deeply. I was particularly interested in some form of meditation, but I had no experience at all. Anyway, someone, by chance (Karma?), put me onto Satipanya.
I first checked it out on the website and I found it interesting - the Mahasi course. I said to myself, "That could be what you looking for ". And so I booked for a week retreat.
When I got there I met Bodhidhamma straight away. After few minutes I was relaxed and comfy already ! I don't even remember the last time I had a similar sensation.
At the beginning I was a bit worried because I had no experience, and the schedule was very different from the way that I normally live. For example , no eating after midday. What ?!? I'm ITALIAN. Its part of my culture - eating. How can I do that ? Go to bed at 21:30 and wake up at 03:30?!? I live in London, you know - pub , theatre , restaurant ... I thought, "I'm gonna die!"
But I was wrong. From day one, following Bodhidhamma's advice and teachings, I really had no problems at all. Not with sleeping time, and not even about eating! Well .. I have to say, Pete's (Satipanya manager) "cuisine" was very good. He love's cooking - and you can tell that!
Meditation periods, sitting and walking, were just a natural process during the day. Being aware of everything, or at least trying! And also the Noble Silence. What a wonderful thing! Talking about the meditation itself I have to say that I had some problems sitting for so many hours at the beginning, but no-one forced me anyway.
Bodhidhamma is a very genuine person, no matter who you are or where you come from, he will talk to you in a way that you'll remember for your entire life .. believe me!
First of all I think he is a talented teacher. I mean he could have taught me how to play a piano , or how to dance Salsa , or how to make a wardrobe from the Ikea leaflet .. whatever. He's gonna teach till you get it straight. But apart from that, which is good enough, he is a man who helped me a lot with my mental states.
I learned a lot from him, And since I got back to my "normal" life, I'm just living in very different way. The Mahasi course really helped me. I'm definitely more relaxed about everything and I try to understand what I'm doing (which sometimes is not easy) and I have a different vision about a lot of things.
I'm not rushing anymore like I was doing before. Well, maybe I'm still doing it a little bit, but with awareness!
Last but not least ... Wales ... what a lovely place! Hills and sheep are your landscape. Lovely place to work out what's going on inside your mind.
I'm looking forward to going back as soon I have got some spare time. Maybe for a contemplative course if I have only a couple of days.
I could stay here talking and writing about Satipanya for hours, but you may be getting bored.
My advise is: if you're interested, GIVE IT A GO ! You won't be disappointed.