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Meditation Course Sharing, from DDMBA Toronto

Last weekend I attended the Introductory Meditation Class held by Dharma Drum Mountain Toronto Centre.

Fashi provided different variations of how to sit properly, where to place your hands, and how much to open your eyes while meditating. I appreciated how detailed her instructions were and why it was important to follow them. For example, I had difficulties counting because in the past, I counted on both the inhales and the exhales of the breath. It was mechanical and forced. But when I applied Fashi's method of counting only on the exhales and focusing on the air going through my nostrils with each inhale, the breathing felt deeper and more natural. Another very important tip I got was not to visualize the numbers when counting. In the past, I would close my eyes to visualize the numbers but this only made things more challenging. I often became drowsy. Keeping my eyes slightly opened without visualizing any numbers made it easier to focus as my mind had less thoughts.

We also learned how to perform proper stretching movements (an exercise before one meditates which is known as “Eight Form Moving Meditation”) and how to massage our muscles and joints (an exercise after the meditation ends). I never understood or fully appreciated the importance of doing the stretches and massages before and after each sitting meditation. But after hearing Fashi explain, I began to understand that these exercises helped us stay in the present even though the meditation was over, since we focused on feeling the sensations of our body. Fashi also helped us apply the same concepts in our daily lives, such as becoming more aware of body sensations while waiting in line. Another useful lesson was when we were taught how to mindfully relax. We practiced how to lie down in two different positions. Although relaxing may sound like an easy thing to do, I struggle with it when I’m under stress. I plan to use these techniques so that I can better manage my stress.

I appreciated how much thought went into this retreat. The entire event was well structured and balanced. Fashi taught, then we broke into smaller groups to discuss and share our thoughts. She incorporated many visual aids and we were given resources (like tracking sheets) to measure our progress. In hindsight, I realize that the organizers intentionally incorporated “mindfulness” more each day through the variety of activities they made us do.

By the last day, the stretches seemed longer, the sitting sessions were extended, and when it was time to eat, we were asked to refrain from speaking so that we could focus more on the actual taste of the food. There were more silent moments. We also did walking meditation. Even the chores we volunteered to do were done in silence, yet it seemed as if everything flowed naturally. I learned so much from the entire experience, and I am sincerely grateful and appreciative to Fashi and all the organizers. The atmosphere of the retreat felt calming, safe, and peaceful. It was nice to know that I was surrounded by so many people who were striving to become more aware and compassionate through the art of meditation. Everyone was supportive and eager to learn. Thank you DDMBA for providing me with such an incredible learning experience.

Written By: Martin Choi , DDMBA, Toronto.
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