lac mahon, la peche, qc.

lac mahon, la peche, qc.
photo by graham law.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Art of Flying.

There was a flyer tacked up in 'Banyan Books' advertising a three-day Vippassana retreat on Vancouver Island with Ruth Dennison. I heard that Goenka excommunicated her from the U Ba Kin lineage due to some unorthodox teaching methods she had begun using in her retreats. The timing could not have been better for me to take a 'time-out'. As well, I hadn't seen the old girl in years.

It was somewhat deflating, therefore, when Madam Dennison showed no signs of remembering me at all. Nevertheless, the retreat began as they all did and, except for the unusual brevity of it, I really couldn't understand what was so different from the norm. That changed when we were instructed to pair off for a short mutual massage session in the early afternoon of the second day. That was weird enough, but what came soon after that blew my mind. Ms. Dennison told us to go out onto the front lawn of the place where we were and to fly around like butterflies. I really couldn't believe it. That was so not like any Vippassana retreat I had ever been to. Vippassana was all about silence, all about a strict routine of meditation, nothing else, at all, ever. I had accepted the little massage session, but this? I was consumed with a mixture of surprise, indignation and terror. I thought: 'I am a long-time Vippassana meditator. I've sat with Goenka for months. This is totally undignified and I will have to refuse.'

At the same time, everyone else began to circle the yard. So, after that moment of hesitation, I let go. I really had no choice. I let go, joined in and, as soon as I began to flap my arms like a butterfly, I began to laugh. I laughed harder than I had in many months. I glided around the yard flapping, laughing, feeling the soft moist grass under my feet and the warm afternoon air on my face. That was truly an amazing few minutes during what turned out to be an amazing meditation retreat.

Ruth Dennison may have been thrown out of that lineage of Vippassana masters, but she certainly managed to teach at least one very serious meditator how to fly.

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