A brief look at my meditative journey to date
Updated: Jun 4, 2019
by Eric Hansen
My meditative journey started a few years ago when a friend mentioned that he had registered for a course called MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction). I had only heard little of mindfulness at that time and knew almost nothing about meditation, but decided to attend the course taught by Peta McAuley. In many ways this changed my perspective and led to a whole new way of looking at things in life. As the course progressed I became more and more interested in the underlying foundations of mindfulness meditation. While MBSR itself is secular in its approach, I learned that its core concepts are based on Buddhist psychology and I became eager to learn more about this. I started reading articles and books about Buddhism and even attended public lectures at the Centre of Buddhist studies at HKU.
However, I realised that spending my time only reading and contemplating about the Buddhist teachings (and in a way more theorising the subject in my mind) was not really advancing myself on my meditative journey. The only way to do so, I concluded, was to apply that thinking in practice and engage in mindfulness meditation, which would require a lot of dedication and time commitment. I must admit that I struggled with finding that regular routine of daily meditations. Living in an energetic city like Hong Kong with all its distractions and working in the financial industry hardly provide the ideal backdrop to induce meditative calmness on a day-to-day basis. I experienced some sense of deeper meditative calmness for the first time when I attended a week long Metta meditation retreat at Fa Hong on Lantau that was taught by Visu Teoh, a former ordained monk in Myanmar. The surroundings at Fa Hong provided the detachment from day-to-day life and the regular daily meditation practices created a sense of calmness, content and peace, which I truly enjoyed.
With that memory still on my mind, I registered for the recent Vipassana retreat taught by Jessica Mui, which also took place at Fa Hong. The former monastery provides the idyllic setting with a view of the Lantau hills and forests with Tung Chung and Chek Lap Kok in distant views. I had met Jessica previously at one-day retreats near Tung Chung and I hoped that this four days retreat would help me further improve my own meditation practices (and understanding!). The retreat followed a rigid daily schedule full of meditative practices, beginning with sitting meditations at 6am, followed by mindful eating and working sessions, and alternating sitting and walking meditations throughout each day.
What I really enjoyed and benefitted from at this retreat were Jessica’s extensive teachings during the Dhamma talks. They provided the right setting to further dwell on the Buddhist teachings and apply them ‘in practice’. I was a bit amused by what Jessica called ‘Buddhism 101’ and what I considered some of the more advanced teachings around understanding mind-body processes, co-arising of the five aggregates and observing cause and conditions through mindfulness. These are among the core concepts in the Buddhist doctrine that - frankly - I had struggled understanding in more depth and experiencing in my own meditative practices so far. Jessica was able to lay them out in a clear conceptional way and explain how they relate to each other creating a more coherent picture in my mind. I still do not claim that I fully understand these concepts, but the teachings certainly advanced my understanding to some degree. A lot of time was devoted to discussions among the group (of mostly advanced practitioners of mindfulness meditation) and we were given opportunities to ask our many questions. I aimed to embed some of the learnings in my meditation practices, for instance by paying more attention to the ‘six sense bases’ and observing the effects on the states of mind (through mental formations). My focus on the increasing discomfort from prolonged sitting during meditation (which can become rather intense!) in some ways seemed to enhance my ability to observe the other senses with more clarity. It seemed to give a glimpse of what more could be observed by just making the time to engage in longer and also more regular meditative practices!
At the end of the retreat, I walked down the hilly path through Lantau’s amazing green nature towards Tung Chung to return to my daily life in Hong Kong. I kept thinking that this Vipassana retreat was another meaningful step on my meditative journey and it invigorated my desire to continue this path and to engage in more meditative practices, and hopefully to attend another meditation retreat in Fa Hong very soon again!
然而，光讀光思考佛法， 很易流於抽象理論思維，並不能令禪修更進一步。我知道，要禪修有所進步，需要要將佛法實踐, 應用到正念禪修上。這，需要投入很多時間和精力。無可否認, 在香港這個活力充沛的城市生活，實在有太多事物令人分心。在金融界工作，很難有理想的環境讓我可以平日也培育平靜的心。所以，當我第一次參加在大嶼山法航精舍舉辦、 由淨行導師Visu Teoh帶領的一星期慈心禪修營，我感受到深一點的禪定。法航精舍的環境讓我遠離日常煩囂。禪營的密集修練,培育了一種平靜、滿足感和安寧。我很是喜愛。
因這美好回憶，我報名參加梅斯清老師Jessica帶領的內觀禪修營。地點也是法航精舍。精舍前身是一座寺院，恬靜宜人，背靠青山園林，遠眺可見東涌和赤臘角。我曾參加Jessica 於東涌帶領的一日禪，希望四日的內觀禪營能增加我對禪修的理解， 讓修行有所增長。禪營裡，我們跟隨固定的時間表 - 早上六時開始坐禪，然後禪食和工作禪，接下來的時間，就是輪流坐禪和行禪。
今次禪營最大得益，就是Jessica在法談時段的教導。我可以好好地學習佛教教義，實踐教義。我對Jessica所講的「佛法101」，以及對我來說比較深的教義，例如身心活動過程、五蘊相互作用和生起、從禪修觀察緣起法等很有興趣。這些是佛法的核心教義，但在此以前，我不得其門而入。Jessica能夠將教義清楚闡述，解釋他們的相互關係。我開始對佛法有較條理清晰的概觀。並不是說我對佛法已了解透徹，但禪營裡學到的確實增長了我的理解。我們有很多時間與有禪修豐富經驗的同修一起討論, 也有很多機會發問問題。我的目標，是把佛教理論融滙貫通至襌修上。例如我把注意力放到六根門上，透過觀察行蘊，了解心的狀態。當我注意長時間坐禪頗强烈的不適，某程度上令我觀察其他根門當下的現象時更清晰。 這讓我看到，定期長時間禪修，原來可以讓我觀察明白更多。
禪營完了。我沿著大嶼山的翠綠山徑走到東涌， 返回日常。回頭一看，這次內觀禪營是我禪修路上的重要一步， 為修行注入新的動力，讓我更精進。希望很快我可以再參加在法航舉辦的禪營!