I am just back from a 10-day vipassana retreat and as I arrived home I noticed a few things that normally would’ve bothered me, such as some people’s behaviours, weren’t bothering me any more.
What happens during silent meditation retreats is that we are practicing sharpening our awareness, constantly focusing on the present moment, taking mindfulness to a deeper and deeper level each day.
After ten days of practice I had become much more aware of my feelings, emotions and the whole environment around me. And my habitual responses, the ‘auto-pilot’, were less active than before. And arriving home I could notice my perception of my environment was also changed. I found areas that were cluttered incredibly out of place, for instance, and I was able to tidy them up.
The practice of mindfulness raises one’s awareness and little by little what was not apparent before becomes apparent, and what appears to be comfortable often shows itself as discomfort. Nothing really has changed in the outside world, but one’s perception of it has changed. And only then we may realise that we live with a lot of discomfort and are completely oblivious to it. We have shut down to our own suffering, and we don’t even know how miserable we actually are. We are living on the surface and missing out big time on what life is all about.
Well, and you maybe asking what vipassana retreats have to do with Feng Shui?
When I visit homes of people that are centred, and often these people have awareness sharpening practices (such as mindfulness or vipassana –insight- meditation), their homes are spiritually clean and physically very harmonious. They tend to have an intuitive understanding of positioning of furniture and objects; their home is de-cluttered, clean and exudes some peace and calm. Also independent of their financial situation they have chosen homes that are well positioned and beneficial for them from the Feng Shui physical and astrological points of view. Simple coincidence?
I don’t think so.
At the end of the day awareness is the best gift we can give ourselves, and the world. It is reflected in our attitudes towards work, towards our loved ones, towards our homes and towards life in general. It is reflected in the choices we make moment to moment (aka the snow flakes – yes exactly those that add up to the snow ball…).
In spiritual practice, just to clarify, we speak or right awareness or right mindfulness. Meaning that the type of awareness that leads to a more fulfilling life is not the awareness that a bank robber has while cracking the code of the safe (just in case you were wondering!), but awareness that arises coupled with correct understanding of the law that encompasses all natural phenomena (dhamma).
Just to give you a few examples.
I had a client who came back from a ten-day retreat and gave his entire wardrobe away because he realised he never liked any of those clothes.
Another client, living in a dark and damp apartment to save money, was given notice by the landlord two weeks after our consultation when the need to take better care of herself became clearer. She then moved into a much nicer apartment with lots of natural light and water views.
When we live a life without awareness it’s like our world is small and confined. We have less time, or no time, for others, and as Pema Chodron nicely puts it: ‘I remember the time when my life was the size of a postal stamp’. And our suffering is so intense we can hardly move, but for most of the time we pretend we are fine, although every step we take is taken out of fear.
That’s why is so important that we sharpen our awareness, starting with self-awareness. Behram Ghista my Teacher says: ‘the inner world is the world of causes, the outer world is the world of effects’. It’s ok to see healers and doctors about our physical and psychological discomforts, but anything they can gives us is never going to address the problem itself, because it will only be dealing with the symptoms.
At the end of the day, no one can come and save us from the mess we have entangled ourselves in. We have to do it ourselves, preferably with the guidance of a Teacher. And the earlier we start the better, because we will have a lot less knots to untie!
Our homes are just a reflection of our minds, both conscious and unconscious. When we choose a home to rent or to buy, often that reflects our understanding about ourselves and the world (as we perceive it). The more aware we become, the better the choices we are able to make, because we are letting go of those knots, and the better our homes will become.