After The Show With Brenda


Update from last week’s show:  we now have The New in our world!

Last week I talked about the huge tree that was taken down in my little town, so near where I live, and how they’d cleared the space to look like it wasn’t there and had never even *been* there; I wondered what would come next.  Would there be a new tree planted?  Would it be left bare?  Would it be left as a place for weeds to grow?

I got my answer yesterday, and took a picture of this sweet little newly-planted tree that might be a cottonwood tree; its leaves are heart-shaped.

So “The New” is here and planted already where the old was just removed, and it seemed like a pretty effortless transition.  There is no sign of what was once there, that 100-foot-tall tree with the trunk at least 5 feet in diameter at the base.  What a great metaphor.

And Kona has peed on it twice now, officially baptizing it.  So all is well.

Other stuff I noticed from this past week:  snakes; a snake theme — and snakes symbolize transformation and transition.  This morning it was misty, cloudy, overcast, very cool, had just rained a little, and seemed fresh, cleared, and kind of open, receptive and “expectant.”  It seems winter is coming early.  What came to me this morning was that we’re all in this together; look for pleasant surprises; expect the unexpected; don’t assume tomorrow will be like yesterday, or that this season or this year will be like last season or last year.  Predictability is not going to be a factor anymore.


Brenda was my guest today at Talking Stick Radio — just click on the link here and it will take you directly to the show.  Brenda just returned from a Vipassana meditation retreat where she spent 10 days in silence.

First she talked about the movie she watched, “Dharma Brothers,” and how that inspired her to look into this whole idea of going on a Vipassana retreat.

Next she described how everything was set up, how the days were organized, what their schedule was like.  Truly, if you’ve ever wondered what a Vipassana retreat would be like or think you might like to do this, it’s worth listening to her description.  She lays it all out pretty thoroughly — and would be happy to answer anyone’s questions about it.  People with questions can email her directly at and she’ll be happy to respond directly.

Vipassana, she said, means “to see things as they really are.”  What you see “as it really is” is yourself.  The ten days is about looking at yourself, for what you really are.

Every night during the ten days of silence they watched a video, taped in 1991, called a “discourse,” where the originator of Vipassana does some teaching.  Some of the information shared during the discourse was about pain and suffering — what causes human pain and suffering?

There are two causes:  craving and aversion.

Craving:  I want more of something — I want more money, more time, more sex, more love; I am desirous of something I don’t have.

Aversion: I hate what I have — I hate my addictive behavior, I hate the people I did my addiction with, I will never, ever, ever do that again.  I hate myself for having done that.

Vipassana teaches that we don’t have to experience craving or aversion; so how do we avoid them?  How do we avoid pain and suffering in our lives?

The crux of Vipassana teaching:  the nature of everything is that nothing stays the same; everything changes.

So for the first three days they focused on breathing.  No particular form of breathing is needed; just breathe.  Notice the breath.  Is it cool?  Warm?  When is it cool or warm?  Does the breath go in the left nostril only and go out the right nostril?  Notice everything about the breath.

On day four they focused on the body; scan the body, head to toe, with no judgment.  Is there pain?  Is there “gross” sensation like pain?  Is there “fine” sensation like tingling?  Feel each place in the body and notice whether it’s a gross sensation or a fine sensation, and just notice it without judging.  Just observe it.

She has been able to take this tool into her everyday life, now, and it’s become second nature to her.  For example, let’s say someone comes to her house and says “why are there water stains on your dishes?”  Rather than getting angry or focused and obsessed on why did she say that?!!!, Brenda is now able to make note of it, observe it, and know “this too will change.”  She can let it go, that way.  She knows that even pain doesn’t last forever.  When she noticed her pain in her body, the next time she noticed it, it had changed — it wasn’t there, it was different, it had changed.  Nothing stays the same.

Brenda prides herself on being a good observer of people, and she noticed that on day 8 there were a few more tear-stained eyes than on previous days, and she could feel it:  there was rising tension, a prison riot in the air, among these people who were not allowed to speak to each other and who had been completely silent for the 8 days previous.  A release needed to happen.

And it did.   Some guy (wouldn’t you know it would be a guy) farted, and another guy snickered, then another, then the younger girls started giggling — or perhaps they were tittering — and then the whole group, men on one side, women on the other, erupted in wave upon wave of laughter.  One wave of riotous laughter would crescendo, like tidewaters…then recede…and crescendo again…and recede again…until eventually it all died down and the release and clearing were complete, and the tension dissipated completely.  When they were able to speak freely to one another, they all agreed this was a necessary and very helpful event.

What’s one thing that she’s most proud of herself about, from this experience?  The fact that she did it, for one thing — she accomplished this being in silence for 10 days, and didn’t back out; also, that she let go of control, and went and participated in the experience.  She let someone else take care of the kitties and the puppies at home, let someone else take care of the house, let someone else take care of her needs while she was there, allowed herself to be away from the comforts and distractions of hearth and home and husband, and allowed herself let go of control and have the experience.

Brenda would like to come back on the show after some more time passes and reflect a little more on how this is working for her in her everyday life.  I think that’s a great idea, so I’ll have her back on in maybe November or December.  If anyone has any questions for her during that upcoming show, she’d be happy to take them — or now, if anyone has anything, comments, questions, feedback — she’d be happy to respond at her email address above.

I so appreciate Brenda’s sharing!  I’d invite anyone with a comment to reply below.


Edit: Brenda emailed me today with the news that S.N. Goenka, who created Vipassana meditation, passed away late Sunday night, September 29, 2013.


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