Posts Tagged ‘Bolivia’

Walking Meditation

This mindfulness walking meditation focuses on body sensations and also adds an element of concentration that helps to focus the mind. I learned this type of walking meditation on a silent retreat with Eric Kolvig. The majority of the retreat was sitting body scan meditation with periods of interspersed walking meditation. This was my first multi-day silent retreat and I noticed that I began to develop an aversion to people who I didn’t know and had never spoken to. This walking meditation served to redirect my mind and helped me come more completely into my present experience.

I have since used the practice during many difficult times including intense physical activity or while experiencing strong emotions. I did an 11 day trek in Bolivia that went over 16,000 foot mountain passes almost every day. The walking itself was very difficult on steep rocky terrain. It was also a solitary experience since I only went with one other person, the trails were too thin to walk side by side, and there was no extra breath for speaking. This walking meditation helped to keep my mind focused, my feet moving and helped me see the beauty of the experience.

The technique involves counting each step sequentially starting at 1 each time until reaching 10 and then counting back down to 1. So for example, the steps would be counted like this:

1, 2
1, 2, 3
1, 2, 3, 4
1, 2, 3, 4, 5

This type of counting helps the mind to remain focused and can be very subtle if you are truly paying attention. For example you can notice which foot starts with 1 and how that alternates, and where different numbers fall within the pattern of the steps. At the same time, the meditator should feel the sensations of the legs and feet as well as noticing the surroundings.

This walking meditation technique fulfills all of the qualities of mindfulness practice in that it cultivates engaged attention to the present experience; it is based direct present moment sensory experience; it accepts the mind, emotions, body sensations and environment as they are without trying to change them; and it encourages direct investigation of the subtler aspects of the experience.

During practice, there are two main obstacles that can arise, the first is the mind wandering away and loosing track of the counting, in which case the meditator should gently bring it back. If the last number sequence can be remembered, the stepping and counting should resume where they left off. If the last number sequence cannot be remembered, walkers can start over with 1 or another number of their choosing. The other obstacle that can arise is an over-concentration on the counting to the exclusion of the direct sensory experience of walking or noticing the surroundings. When meditators notice that this has occurred, they can gently bring their attention back to their legs and feet or to the sights, sounds, scents or textures of their environment.

This practice is especially useful for people who are restless or have difficulty sitting still; are experiencing strong emotions, sensations or pain; or are having trouble slowing, calming or redirecting their thoughts. It can allow strong body sensations or thoughts to be experienced and accepted without allowing them to become overwhelming. It is also a nice way to vary sitting meditation, by providing time outdoors and a little bit of exercise.

Cartonera Yerba Mala publishes first trilingual book

The cartonera publishing houses started after the economic collapse in Argentina in 2001,  when many new social and economic models started to emerge. The cartonera (or cardboard recyclers) movement started when garbage recyclers began to coordinate with writers and artists to publish books with individually decorated recycled cardboard covers at a price everyone could afford. These cardboard books address the need for higher wages for informal garbage collectors, improving literacy rates, and the ability for a wide variety of voices to be published. I started writing this story about Ekeko the Aymara god of abundance, the first time I visited Bolivia in 1997. The final version of this creative anthropological book was published in a trilingual English, Spanish and Aymara edition through Cartonera Yerba Mala in 2010.

Como Detectar Abuso De Niños, Niñas y Adolescentes

Niños en todo partes del mundo encuentran situaciones de violencia y abuso. En muchos casos su propia familia o entre adultos en posiciones de responsabilidad, es donde los niños encuentran más violencia en sus vidas, ya sea física, emocional o sexual.

Según el Diagnóstico y Abordaje del Maltrato en Bolivia en el 2000, cada seis de diez niños sufren violencia física en sus hogares. También sufren violencia psicológica a través de las amenazas de botarles del hogar, riñas, insultos, gritos, prohibiciones de salir o la negación de darles de comer.

Además, según una investigación realizada en 1998 por DNI Bolivia sobre el maltrato en las escuelas y colegios, en las escuelas el 50 por ciento de los niños y niñas sufren maltrato físico alguna vez y el 6 por ciento lo sufren constantemente.

Esta presentacion junto con la Orientación Básica Sobre Niñez en El Contexto Boliviano, ambos hechos para un encuentro entre los cooperantes de Servicio Britanico, nos ayudan detectar y ojala prevenir el abuso de los niños.

Cholita fashion in Bolivia

Chuck Sturtevant and I did the interviews for this short video during the 2007 Cholita Fashion Show at the Hotel Presidente in La Paz, Boliva. This show happened at around the same time is the Miss Bolivia contest in Santa Cruz, which provided a cultural reference point for the event in La Paz.

Meditating in unchartered territory

I recently did a 10 day silent Vipassana meditation retreat in Cochabamba Bolivia, in the tradition of S.N. Goenka. The best way that I can think to describe it is like a long trek with several difficult climbs that are endless, frustrating, and painful as well as other moments that are peaceful, breathtaking and provide new viewpoints for life. When the retreat was over I immediately forgot all about the hardships and began dreaming about doing a longer one, perhaps for 30 or 45 days.

Unlike some other types of meditation, the Vipassana taught by Goenka is a highly practical body scan technique that makes use of mindful breathing to focus the mind but not as the object of the meditation. Nor does the technique use mantras or visualizations; instead the main object of meditation is the body sensations that arise. The first three days of the retreat focus on practicing the technique of anapana meditation which involves concentrating on the sensation of breathing around the nose. The following 7 days provide instruction and practice in observing body sensations. Each meditation session is framed by Goenka’s chanting in a style that is strange to unaccustomed ears but becomes an important source of nourishment on the retreat.

The course was given by tape in Goenka’s Indian accent along with an excellent Spanish translation. The evening dharma talks were lucid and witty, full of illustrative anecdotal stories from India. My favorite one was about his teacher Sayagyi U Ba Khin who served as Auditor General of Burma and instituted a successfully strict plan to reduce corruption including Vipassana meditation courses for all public employees. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if more governments tried this approach!

The talks were based on the unstoppable repetition of three main points:

  1. Morality- adhering to the 5 basic precepts including not killing, not lying, not stealing, etc.
  2. Taming the mind- through a single-minded focus on observing the breath
  3. Equanimity- training the mind to remain balanced by not reacting to any thought or bodily sensation, which little by little over time will teach the mind not to react with craving or aversion to any experience

The meal bell conditioned us all like Pavlov’s dogs and mealtimes were a great litmus test of our progress in equanimity. Watching the bowls empty from the back of the line was a very concrete lesson in anicca.

I calculate that during the ten days, we spent over 100 hours meditating, 60 hours sleeping, 30 hours resting after meals, 20 hours eating, and 10 hours listening to dharma talks. This schedule was daunting at first but I found that I quickly became accustomed to low-level tiredness and hunger. They became the least of my worries as the mind careened around, thinking about various topics including:

  • When will that woman next door stop yelling at every member of her household including the dogs? And can I specifically request that my dana donation be used to invite that woman to participate in the course next year?
  • At least this Shakira remix will drown out her yelling for a moment (although isn’t Shakira going through a bad moment professionally, she had so much more integrity during Pies Descalzos). Oh no not Kylie Minogue, I won’t be able to concentrate for the rest of the day!
  • What if I design a year-long program for kids who are at risk of dropping out of school, I could base it on Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. Each month would be based on recognizing and fostering a different type of intelligence so that every child could identify and build on their strengths…

And some of the techniques that I tried to get my mind to focus included:

  • Friendliness- hey dude, let’s just sit down here together and meditate for a while, it will be fun, yeah?
  • Bargaining-  if you concentrate now, I’ll let you think about multiple intelligences for 5 minutes at the end of the hour. Ok, I’ll let you sing Can’t Get You Out of My Mind for 2 minutes now if you promise to concentrate afterwards
  • Sternness and threats- you get back here right now or I’ll make you sit in the lotus position for the next hour. Here, now, pay attention!
  • Begging- please, please, please just concentrate until the bell rings, we’ve got to get through the next 15 minutes anyway we can

If you’re in Bolivia or anywhere else in the world for that matter, find out when the next retreat is, you won’t regret the steps you take on this journey of a thousand miles.

Recommendations for before you go:

  1. Read the main S.N. Goenka Vipassana meditation website carefully
  2. Walk a lot, preferably plan to go on a multi-day trek in the week beforehand so that your body will find it easier to sit for 10 days with very little exercise. I did the 3 day Choro trek and found that it really helped
  3. Familiarize yourself with some essential concepts including:
    • the three trainings: sila, samadhi, pañña
    • the three jewels: Buddha, dhamma, sangha
    • the three characteristics of phenomena: anicca, anatta, dukkha
    • the five aggregates: ripa, viññana, sañña, vedana, sankhara
  4. If you want you could also look up these additional concepts:
    • the noble eight fold path
    • the ten parami
    • metta
  5. Pack according to the given list and make sure to take flip-flops for wearing after showers and to and from the dharma hall; hand sanitizer, echinacea or other things to help you avoid getting sick when sharing tight space with many other people; hair bands for people with long hair to keep it off your face during meditation (you won’t need any additional itchy sensations); warm socks and polar fleece blanket to keep warm during 4am sittings; large shawl or wrap to use while resting in the grass between sessions; and mosquito repellent and after bite lotion.