When I received the email notification that DDS (Dharma Drum Singapore) will be conducting Chan 1 (禅一), I was overly delighted as I have been waiting for this moment. I immediately signed up for Chan 1 and eagerly looked forward to that day.
When I arrived at DDS on the day of Chan 1, I was greeted by several helpful and cheerful volunteers who assisted me to sign in and allocated me a seat at the Meditation Hall. After putting away my belongings (including my phone) in a locker, I headed towards the hall. Prior to the start of the session, we were reminded to put away our phones for the entire duration of Chan 1 (9am – 5.45pm). We were also urged to remain in silence, and it was not necessary to talk to other participants or to greet Fashi (法师) and the volunteers. The rationale for doing so is for us to remain detached, so that we can practice mindfulness and focus our mind on meditation only with minimum distractions.
Chan 1 began with Eight Form Moving Meditation (八式动禅). I found the eight forms of exercises very useful in reducing the tension in my muscles. After the moving meditation, I felt more alert as my body stretched and relaxed. The moving meditation was followed by sitting meditation before we break for lunch.
During lunch, we practiced eating meditation. Each of us is encouraged to maintain utmost mindfulness throughout Chan 1, including during lunch period. The food provided was simple yet delicious. Internally I felt very grateful and in awe of those volunteer “chefs” who have provided us such tasty food. I must admit that eating meditation is challenging to me as I would usually gobble up the food, especially when I was hungry and get distracted by the irresistible palatable food. However, of course the point is not the food. For eating meditation, the main idea is to be mindful of chewing our food thoroughly before swallowing it, doing so helps us to be able to enjoy the full flavor of the food as well as aid in proper digestion of the ingested food.
After lunch, we practiced walking meditation. We walked slowly in a circular pathway around the hall, taking each step mindfully. I feel that walking meditation after a meal has the secondary benefit of helping us further digest our food. After that, we had a resting meditation when we lay on the floor, closed our eyes and relaxed our entire body.
Following that, sitting meditation resumed with breaks in between. I like it that there are ample breaks for us to hydrate and refresh ourselves. Participants who did not need the break could continue to meditate on their seats. Before and after each sitting meditation, we were reminded by Fashi (with demonstration from a volunteer) to do small sets of yoga exercises, aimed to prepare our body prior to sitting meditation and to loosen and relax our body after sitting meditation, since some of us might experience body discomfort (body aches and pain) while trying to maintain a stationary sitting meditation posture over a prolonged period of time. Prior to the start of sitting meditation, Fashi reminded us to do a “body scan” first to release tensions in all parts of our body starting from our eyes, ears, face, head down to neck, shoulders, etc. before we proceed to engage in meditation techniques such as breathing-in breathing-out, counting our breath, etc.
Fashi also led us through prostrations as well. We were led to prostate with the normal usual speed at the beginning and gradually slowed down our prostrations. I find this interesting as I have never prostrated at such a slow speed before. It made me realized that I was often in a rush when prostrating. It then occurred to me that low-speed prostration is a form of meditation itself as our mind became mindful of every movement we made when we reduced our speed significantly during prostration.
Towards the end of Chan 1, we did Evening Liturgy (晚课) and had discussions and interesting sharing in groups. At the end of the day, I felt my stress and anxiety have dissipated. I left DDS, feeling that I have made the right choice in attending Chan 1, rather than going for staycations. I was filled with a delightful sense of fulfilment, clarity, relief and am full of gratitude to the volunteers for their time and efforts, especially to Fashi (常炬法师) for his compassion for organizing and leading Chan 1.
Written by / Cheok Lai Tee 蒋来娣
Photo credits / pixabay.com
Event date / 24 September 2022