Reunion > by Tim Parish

verb's picture
Reunion > by Tim Parish

"Reunion" was a originally a pencil illustration I completed in early 2005 very soon after studying the Vipassana meditation technique in the Blue Mountains.

Below is a blog I wrote for Undergrowth's Nomadology project about the experience:

"Journeys Inward"  2005

Eight weeks ago I spent ten days in silence.

i've had a number of amazing journeys since that time, but haven't posted any of them, still trying to figure out a way to put words to the wordless space i found...

How would a bird describe swimming in oceans of oxygen to a fish?
I am still a fish, but i have memories of being a bird.
Does that make sense?

Let me tell you where im coming from.
All year I've been travelling, exploring this landscapes layers of political journeys, activist songlines, gypsy festivals, alternative cultural geographies, urban ecologies, rural agricultures full of international fruitpickers, art scenes hiding between the cracks of the corporate pavement.

in my last entry i began to wonder what it was all in aid of. When do you stop learning new things and start travelling just for the sake of it, because its complicated staying anywhere too long? It's so much easier to pack up and keep going.

So I decided to jump off the merri-go-round to see what else there is to see. I stopped talking so that I could listen for a while. I decided to do something different. To stretch myself in a new way.

I'd heard of the Vipassana meditation technique many times from friends over the years who recommended it as a profoundly affecting experience, especially for someone like myself who thrives on communication. When I was 22 I thought it sounded like the craziest thing I'd ever heard. Now, four and a half years later, on the other end of a Bachelor of Media Arts, I feel ready to get a bit of perspective on the way my mind has come to think. I've been slowly getting more and more distanced from the realms of information overload and spectacle fast foods for a while now. Suddenly silence and meditation makes a lot more sense.

So I logged on to the Vipassana website and entered my details. A week later I received confirmation, I had been accepted for the May retreat. Two weeks later I was on a bus back to NSW after a fortnight of decidedly unmeditative play in Melbourne (see last entry).

The Blackheath Vipassana Meditation Centre is perched elegantly on a hill overlooking the spectacular blue mountains, a valley rolls out beneath the dining hall where we congregate silently at rostered times, signaled by a simple bell chime one of the managers rings walking slowly around the property. From the balcony outside of the dining space you have a perfect view of the west winds, where the sun descended over the horizon each night in endless patterns of solar beauty as the landscape shifted into blue silhouettes, like huge rippled waves caught in one motion for this short eon of time. On the far side two white wind turbines diligently harvest the valleys breathe. Synchronised steel flowers in endless motion.

I was a little apprehensive about what it was I was putting myself in for, but excited knowing it would be something new. A challenge.

A chance to breathe.
We did a lot of breathing.
Breath is the key to focusing your mind. It's the first thing you learn in any meditation. Vispassana is particularly dedicated to this concept, eschewing mantra (sound trance) and visualisation techniques to encourage you to focus on the direct sensory perception of the here and now.

Easier said than done.

At first all I found was my monkey mind. There it was (I am?) swinging from neural branch to branch, chattering endlessly.

I found that the more I tried to remain silent, the more my mind wanted to talk. I had novels of ideas to talk about with myself. Enough memories to fill libraries with stories retold. enough project plans to fill entire museums with creations. Enough daydreams to cloud an entire mind.

After two days of this i began to observe my minds habits like a scientist of consciousness. Thoughts are like tides rising and falling, in constant motion - but are they me?  Because, if that's me, then how come I can observe it like I'm doing now?

Again, I have to ask - is it possible for a fish to understand the ocean?

And then I wonder, how did the first lifeforms learn how to breathe oxygen?

I began to realise that past those gates there is an infinite journey to rediscover. I began to feel ever increasing subtle sensations throughout my body. I felt the weight of gravity on my bones like it was the earth within me. I felt the heat of body, a fire burning through my every being. Worlds to be explored through the freeways of nervous system, swimming the rivers of my veins, the branched avenues of my capillaries. The tree structure of my brain, linked to the spinal column. Shivers up and down. My crown tingling.
My consciousness began to focus like a microscope onto every smaller energies, until I began to feel a beautiful shimmering effect through my body. The atomic powerplay in everything, within me.
It was incredible and transcendental, but it wasn't a separate reality. It was just a deeper insight into the nature of this reality. Another layer in the onion skin. A place to find perspective. To see it all a little clearer.

The clearmind.
There is nothing to say.
And everything to feel.

At the end of the 10 days, I felt like I was only learning how sense the tip of this iceberg. I began to understand that there was an ocean beyond it that I didn't even realise existed, or at least had pigeonholed into the realms of 'religion' or 'new age spirituality' or something equally rationalistic and close-minded.

Essentially, I was amazed that I had never made this journey before in my entire life, through the very body which housed me for every second I have been alive. Why don't more of us make this journey?

Ther answers are obvious of course, there is an endless smorgasboard of distractions from this journey. the social ecology to explore. the fences of cultural normality. The bazaars of art and music to taste from. The entire sensual reality to play within. Not to mention the entire supermarket of consumer culture which we just work to afford a place within.
all in all there is enough spectacle to blind ourselves with for many many lifetimes.

This doesn't really satisfy me as a description of this experience - but i had to put something down here, otherwise I would have missed the most profound journey I've been on all year. One that didn't require me to go anywhere at all - actually the complete opposite. But what I found in there was in some way more eye-opening, exotic and expansive than any trip over seas i could think of..