A Direct Experience

“There’s courage involved if you want to become truth. There is a broken open place in a lover.” -Rumi

I was away for a week with three facilitators, and approximately 125 participants.

Along with very comfortable tank tops and yoga pants I packed a three-ring binder with plenty of paper, Post-It notes (various colors and sizes), highlighters, pens and paper clips. I read my assigned books and carried them with me in my very well packed backpack. I was ready to learn.

I learned more than I ever have. I understand more about mindfulness and the brain than I did a 10 days ago… But the three-ring binder’s plastic still crackles as it opens and the paper inside of it is all but blank. The Post-Its are unopened, the highlighters and pens are filled with their birthed ink and the paper clips could easily be returned.

They called it direct experience. And for the first three days that’s how we learned. We meditated — seated, walking and moving. We were mindful when eating, listening, speaking, bathing, dressing… Living.

“When the Buddha was asked, ‘Sir, what do you and your monks practice?’ he replied, ‘We sit, we walk, and we eat.’ The questioner continued, ‘But sir, everyone sits, walks, and eats,’ and the Buddha told him, ‘When we sit, we know we are sitting. When we walk, we know we are walking. When we eat, we know we are eating.’” ― Thich Nhat Hanh

We used our senses. We got curious about what we sensed, both internally and externally. We answered only from direct experience, from what we sensed in the moment. And then we got quiet for 36 hours, we were in silence. Silence? But what if someone needs me? Does the outside world really go on “without me”? My parents, my friends, the studio? It all continues? What about my books, the music that needs to be heard? And my loose leaf paper went unused. And my Post-Its untouched. And my Twitter, Facebook and Instagram  all went black. No talking. No technology. No writing. No reading. No music. No eye contact.

No eye contact. What? I can’t look at someone? Ridiculous, I thought. Unnecessary, I groaned. This is foolish, I whined.

And then, 36 hours later on Wednesday, I looked up. In a silent room I saw people that I had been with since last Friday at 7:00 pm. I looked at their eyes, and through teary eyes, I saw them and they saw me and I felt, directly and deeply, what an honor it is to connect. To connect with others, oh, but what a deep honor it is to connect with me. How courageous it was to meet me. To begin to meet each guest —

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jellaludin Rumi

To connect to my inner world and then, to look up and see each other, that’s love. And, for me, a deep truth rose from that space. A truth that’s mine. A truth that I can unlock through direct experience… A truth that no book can ever teach. Everything I need to know is inside of me.

“I have been a seeker and I still am, but I stopped asking the books and the stars. I started listening to the teaching of my soul.” —  Rumi

Erica, xo

Written by Erica Denman