Vipassana: Into the body – out of the mind

Happy Monday, my Lovelies.

I’m taking a stab at posting my musings on meditation each Monday – starting off with my adventures at a 10 day course at the Ontario Vipassana Centre.  I’ve already “missed” one – but here I am to try try again. You can find my first post (What is is, Why I went, What you DO) here. And the second post (The Grace-filled Dance of Silence) over here.

"Life's but a walking shadow..."
“Life’s but a walking shadow…”

Today I am ruminating on…The body.  On how and possibly WHY this form of “body scanning” meditation works so well for me.

No use beating around the bush – so I’ll just lay it out there…

I’ve spent a lot of years out of touch with my body.  As a survivor of Child Sexual Abuse – I developed the fabulously useful ability to leave the body in times of… trauma.  It’s been a long, hard, and wonder-filled road for me to find my way back in.

I am also a fanatical lover of WORDs.  This too may tie back in to the rough times in the way-back.  Reading has always been… an escape and a solace to me.  I am addicted to STORY in all of it’s forms.  Books, plays, movies, television, a tale told by a friend or a stranger.  I am seduced and lulled,  awakened and … challenged… by the spoken and written word.

I was talking with my friend, Bear, recently and he spoke of our mutual addiction to story in such a clear and enlightening way that I’d like to share with you.  He noted that it truly is an addiction and that we will feed it any way we can and that, like most addicts, we will always find the “easiest” route.

  • If there is a television – we will watch it.
  • If there is no tv – we will go to a movie
  • If there are no movies – we will read a book
  • and if we find ourselves BEREFT of all stories created by others… we will begin to write our own.

All through – weave the songs… story songs are best, of course.  And yes… if there is no music – we will sing our own songs.

Bear is wise.

I’m telling you this because it hooks in with my meditation practice.  I’ve used Mantras and they work for me as a form of focus.  They can help me relax – rather quickly.  But my recent discovery is… that they also limit the experience of meditation for me.

My mind grabs onto the Word and holds there.  Often, my mind rides the Words to relaxation and then…  begins to spin them back out into stories.  Even if it doesn’t do that, I find myself simply… hanging on to the word…not feeling anything of what is happening with the body.

And… I want to feel the body.

I want to … still the spinning stories… and rest in the body.

And I want to feel what is actually THERE, not what I wish to be there.  Meaning I don’t use my time on the meditation cushion to RELAX.  I do relaxation exercises at other times – to help me sleep or just because it feels so darned good.  But this meditation thing is … something different.

It is… an exploration.  An exploration of the sensations on and in the body. This is enough to keep me occupied for a good long while.

As I pass my awareness over my body – head to toe and toe to head – moving through each and every tiny bit… I feel sensations… and I also have blank or “blind” spots.  Places where I don’t feel any sensation at all.  I linger there for a few minutes.  I don’t “force” or create any sensation – I just … linger in awareness and then I move on.

Sometimes I hit a solid block of PAIN.  I notice it.  I might linger for a time and sort of… separate the pain a bit… is there heat? Is there throbbing?  Is there a centre of most intense pain?  How far does it really radiate?  Does it shift?  Then I move on to the next area of the body. Sometimes I tell the pain I’ll be back to see if it is still there on the next pass.  Most often it is.  Sometimes it isn’t.  That’s the point – the sensations are always changing changing changing.

This is what I am learning at a very deep level in a seemingly simple way.  Vipassana is a way to really come to understand the nature of… impermanence… at a core level.  I can know things in my MIND and yet… not really… BELIEVE them and therefore not REALLY know them.

Again, I will use my past to illuminate what I mean.  So… like I said… I’m a survivor of CSA.  I went into therapy in my twenties and started dealing with my shit.  Dealing with the things that happened to me as a kid because they were screwing me up as an adult.  Before I actually went out and found a therapist… I did what I always do and I started to read… I read all the books I could get my hands on.  I wrote about my journey in my play barefoot….

I was classic.  The classic “nobody ever knew” girl.  The grade A student, the class valedictorian, the smiling smiling girl who could take care of herself and anybody else who came along.


I carried on.

I came away from it and I never had to go back.  Well, unless my sister called.  But then her and Mom got away too, finally, and so it was all over.

Except they kept calling me back.  And my sweet little sister kept trying to kill herself.

It wasn’t over.  And I wasn’t OK.

Oh, I was functioning.   I worked; I went to school; hell – I even fell in love.

But I wasn’t OK.


I started to read – ‘cause that’s what I do – I read  – a lot.

I started reading stories written by “Survivors of sexual abuse”.

I read Kiss Daddy Goodnight, Our Little Secret, Recollecting our Lives, Conspiracy of Silence, The Obsidian Mirror  I read When Rabbit Howls.

I read Don’t.

I actually comforted myself with the knowledge that what had happened to me was no where NEAR as bad as that.  I hadn’t shattered into a million pieces.  I hadn’t even repressed anything.  I remembered.  It wasn’t that bad.  I should just be able to get on with it.  Shit happens to all of us.  Whatever.

But my world was falling apart.  It was time for me to deal.  So. I read some more.

I read Safe Passage to Healing, Healing Hidden Memories, Safe at Last, Reach for the Rainbow, The Wounded Heart.

 The Courage to Heal (holds it up to audience)  A fourteen-step program to a full recovery.  Fourteen – we get two extras, eh?

Well,  they aren’t really steps, they’re more like….”stages on the healing journey”   but…  (Baptist preacher style – book raised.)  A fourteen-step program to a full recovery!  I can do that.

One. The decision to heal

Heal.  From what?  We aren’t sick – we’re sad.  If any one is sick it’s them – isn’t it?

Maybe.  But I can only deal with myself.

The play proceeds to walk through each step on the journey…  It was a tough thing to write and a tough but amazingly rewarding piece to perform.  I’m glad I did it.

But moving on to what I want to say here… I read… I found a therapist and I began talking about what happened to me.  I began working my way through it… and … EARLY ON… really early on… I “knew” that what happened to me when I was a kid wasn’t my fault.

Of course it wasn’t.  I was a kid.  I knew that.  I understood that.

But… even though I knew it in my head… I DIDN’T BELIEVE IT.  My body didn’t believe it.

Believing that it REALLY WASN’T MY FAULT took YEARS and when it finally… broke through… oh my god.  It was as though a dam burst and I thought I would cry forever.

I remember going to see Good Will Hunting with a fellow who was my boyfriend at the time.  You know the scene were Robin Williams finally as the therapist finally breaks through the wall to Will… the “It’s not your fault” scene?  That  is one of the most powerful moments I had ever seen.  I remember it so well.  The movie is running and the fellow beside me knows SOME of my bizness… he knows I’m a survivor… and I can feel him squirming a bit… and he turns to look at me and say that the scene is lame and… I am a weeping silent sobbing heaving WRECK.  And he is STUNNED.  Because… see… some people don’t get it.  They don’t get that we can KNOW something and yet… so NOT KNOW it.

I was exactly like Will.  I would say, “I know… I know … I know…” and oh man… I just so didn’t know.  I still thought it was my fault.

But I don’t any more.

That’s the power of body work.

And, I believe, that is why this method of meditation is working for me.  It is based in the body teaching me something.  And I don’t have to “figure it out” or “create a story” about these sensations of pain or pleasure – I just … notice them and most importantly – notice the fact that they all arise and pass away… that they are ever changing.  As is life.

I can learn this.  LEARN it.  In the body.

There is much more to explore here… and don’t even get me started on the concept of… we are NOT the body…and so on…

But for now… this is enough.  For me.


Well… this certainly went a different way than I thought it would when I sat down to write it.  I knew I wanted to talk about the body… but I had no idea all this stuff about CSA would come up.

Goes to show…you never know what will pop out onto the page.

Since it did… I also have to add… My heart is aching for Dylan Farrow.

I don’t want to dive into the frothing waters surrounding her and her family right now… but I do want to say…

I believe you, Dylan.

And I send out the best song I know for us to dance to… together.

~May you be happy~

Go easy ~p

5 Comments on “Vipassana: Into the body – out of the mind

  1. I am envious as I am not successful in meditation. My mind seems to just wonder like the scene in the movie “Eat, Pray, Love.” I find I can meditate somewhat while coloring mandalas. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Colouring mandala meditation sounds wonderful.
      I get to a lovely calm place whenever I draw and colour too.
      I also often feel very meditative on some of my walks…. So many ways to find the silence.
      Thanks for stopping by, Diane.

  2. Pam! I spent the last year with a therapist who does body-centered work… this post sounds like some of her teaching. Amazing what we can walk around with. Life is so inneresting. Thanks for sharing, again.

    • Hey Holly – thanks for the note. This post is really opening up some great conversations.

      I’ve done only a wee bit of body-centered work in a therapeutic setting…but a lot of work in theatre that touches on this sort of thing.

      Relaxation and movement. Breathing. Body awareness.

      The meditation is a new adventure…and I’m loving it.


  3. Pingback: My First Vipassana Retreat: Part ONE: What it IS – Why I Went – What you DO | pambustin

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Finding My Bearings Now

A post-dramatic approach to breast cancer

Starting Over

Because there's never enough time to do it right the first time but there's always enough time to do it over

Ailish Sinclair

Stories and photos from Scotland

Cathy Standiford

Historical fiction, poetry, essays

Finding My Bearings Now

A post-dramatic approach to breast cancer

Starting Over

Because there's never enough time to do it right the first time but there's always enough time to do it over

Ailish Sinclair

Stories and photos from Scotland

Cathy Standiford

Historical fiction, poetry, essays

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