The Pondering Grapefruit
a blog of moments
Well, after so many gory and bloody stories, which I’m sure have made my readers feel uneasy, and a fair number of my friends worried about me, here comes time for the happy parts! My stories have happy endings, even though they seem impossibly bleak at first :)
7. The White Fish
Remember that white koi fish? It lived in that meditation pond, and it taught me one of the most important lessons. During the first few days of the retreat, we kept learning about the important of awareness and equanimity. Awareness, I understood, and was naturally good at. It was easy for me to do anapana, to find the rate of my natural breath, to smile at my mistakes and draw myself back to the present moment. It was easy for me to begin Vipassana and feel the sensations on my body come and go, the painful ones as well as the subtle, pleasant ones.
But equanimity was mysterious. Sure, I heard Goenka talk about it each night during the dharma talks: to be equanimous is to not favor the pleasant or to shy away from the unpleasant. To be equanimous is to no longer be craving or aversive. I understood half of equanimity in the sense that I was used to not being aversive. I have experienced a lot of pain in a myriad of forms—situational, emotional, physical—so I am accustomed to finding silver linings, recycling suffering into beautiful things, etc. I soon realized that my problem rested with handling my cravings for pleasure.
It all happened when we started working with “the flow.” We were taught, that when we feel uniform subtle vibrations in a certain part of our bodies, to sweep through them rather than scanning part by part. At some point, there could be a moment where the entire body is in uniform subtle vibration, and sweeping the entire body would allow for a flow of energy across our whole being.
I incidentally experienced the flow before we ever learned about it. That day I was just sitting in bed meditating, with my back against the wall and legs straight out before me. After going through my body once, I became aware of this lightness throughout my body, and decided to just let go of the scanning and just breathe. I was swept into a flow, and I felt like I was floating in a gentle buzz.
A couple days later, when we learned about the flow, I tried to recreate that moment each time I sat down. But the flow never came, and I became increasingly frustrated. It was near the end of the retreat too, and I began to feel an increasing sense of despair: despair that I had come so far, done so well, only to fail at the very end.
I talked to the teacher about this, and immediately after she told me, “Ah yes, you need to work on equanimity.”
Though I had heard the word many times before, this was the first time I understood it directly through experience.
She told me not to crave the flow, that it comes when it comes. She told me that she had the best flow of her life almost twenty decades ago, and she has to be mindful to not crave that every time she sits. We ended our meeting. Later that day, I went to the pond.
The white koi fish was there, gleaming brilliantly, and then vanished in a matter of seconds. I thought that I may not ever see it again because it is so rare. I then saw how silly it would be to expect the white fish to be there for me every time.
I then realized that the white koi fish was like the flow. If I craved to see the it every time I came to the pond, then I would never be able to enjoy looking at all the other wonderful elements of the pond: catfish, minnows, reeds, water lilies, dragonflies, ripples. The pond looks different every time I see it, and it doesn’t need to have the white fish to be appreciated. Similarly, my body never contains the same sensations twice. The flow may come, or it may not—either way, it doesn’t matter. I can’t be mad at a fish for not surfacing, so how could I be mad at the flow for not arising? If it does come though, I will cherish it.
I gained a lot of insight into my suffering—that a lot of my pain came, not from aversion, but from craving. I brought with me a sense of craving to many aspects of my life. In school and work, I craved the pleasure of constant praise and acknowledgement. In relationships I craved attention and pleasure from my partners, and when any of those waned, I threw a fuss. That explains why so many of my relationships, up until now, had been such a disaster.
One side effect of learning not to crave is that it actually helps me appreciate things more when they do happen. I don’t expect the koi fish to be there, aware that it will go away, so when it does come, it looks so much more magical. Applying equanimity to my current life, I feel like things are that much more precious, and I’ve learned to cherish what I have in the present moment. It’s led to many wonderful results… a new job, deeper friendships, and a great relationship with my partner.
And so… I witnessed the white koi fish, and that has made all the difference.
About this Blog
I have no idea how to describe what my writing is about. I just write. I post when I can, which can be weekly or monthly depending on where the universe is taking me. As for the Grapefruit, my Vietnamese nickname, Buoi, means grapefruit.