So close your eyes and take a few deep breaths into the belly, really deeply into the abdomen. Really feel your body sitting here in this room. Right now, you’re nowhere else. You’re not at work, you’re not at home, and you’re not driving here. Your body is here in this room. This is what you have to prove to yourself – “I’m here. My body is here. I’m nowhere else. It’s impossible to be anywhere else.”
Take your attention to the top of your head and feel the sensation on the top of your head, whatever it is. Can you just feel the sensation without judging it as good or bad? Can you feel the pure sensation? There’s no right or wrong sensation -there’s just sensation. Feel the sensation of the eyelids on the eyes, the breath going through the nostrils, your mouth, your lips, your jaw, and your chin, and keep breathing into the belly.
Feel your shoulders. It’s quite common to get tightness in the shoulders while sitting, but if you feel that tightness just try and sit with it rather than trying to change it. Go to the left shoulder. Go down the arm to the left elbow and feel the elbow. Go down to the left hand and feel your hand. Feel your thumb and each finger. Feel the whole left arm. Take your attention up to the right shoulder. Go down the arm to the right elbow and from the elbow down to the right hand and feel the hand. Feel the thumb and each finger. Feel the whole right arm. Feel both arms and both hands.
Take your attention to your chest, as you breathe in and out through your nose. Feel the gentle movement of the chest with the breath. Take you attention down to your abdomen. This is the most tangible place in the body to feel the breath, to be with the breath. As you breathe in and out, feel the rise and the fall of the abdomen.
This isn’t about focusing on the breath. It’s not about focusing on anything, but using the breath to centre yourself, to anchor yourself, bringing the attention back again and again to the rise and fall of the abdomen with the breath. The breath becomes your anchor, your home base. But you also need to be aware of everything else around you – sounds, thoughts and sensations . . .
Feel the left knee, the right knee, the left foot, and the right foot. Then feel your spine. Be really aware of your spine – from the top of the spine, down the back, to the bottom of the spine. Whether you’re sitting on the floor or on a chair, it’s good to have the spine unsupported, independent – straight but flexible – not rigid. This isn’t about being rigid. Discipline does not mean rigidity. It takes a lot of discipline to be flexible, to be open, to be soft, to be strong. So feel your whole body.
Each time you realize you’re not here, you’re thinking of being somewhere else, doing something else – it doesn’t matter what the thought is about – gently bring your attention back to the rise and the fall of the abdomen with the breath. Keep it as simple as possible.
You’ll probably need to do this again and again and again – bringing the attention back the breath and the abdomen. But if you’ve spent most of your life in the thought world, thinking, it’s obviously going to take time and practice to be here, to realise that you’re here.
You can only realise something through your body. This is something each person has to realise in his or her own body. Nobody else can do it for you. And it is possible. I know when my teacher said this to me I felt an excitement that I’d never felt before. I felt that maybe this was possible for me.
So, you need to be incredibly determined but also incredibly humble.
This retreat is called ‘Vast Emptiness’. This perfectly describes the enlightened state because it’s this vast, beautiful, wild, emptiness. I had no idea it would be like this. But for some reason I was prepared to do anything for this. I can see now why. Because it’s bigger than anything you could ever imagine. Your thought world is so, so limited. And that’s how most people lead their lives – in this limited world.
Of course it’s hard at times. But as I often say, it’s worth anything. The amazing thing is that it never ends. That’s the vastness. You don’t lose it. There’s nothing to lose.