This blog post is dedicated to the memory of Bhante Vimalaramsi, who passed away on June 27, 2023. Bhante Vimalaramsi was a remarkable teacher who introduced the transformative practice of TWIM (Tranquil Wisdom Insight Meditation) in 1995 and established the Dhamma Sukha Meditation Center in 2003. It is with great reverence that I reflect on my experience of learning from him during a profound 10-day silent retreat in January 2022.
During a forest therapy session, I shared with the group how I've come to appreciate my anxiety as an invaluable early warning system, signaling that I must direct my attention to something in my life. As the wise Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh often said, "The way out is in" – the path to liberation from suffering lies within ourselves. To embark on this inner journey, I've realized the importance of finding stillness. This can take the form of a few minutes of seated meditation in the morning or immersing myself in the serene beauty of a forest. For me, turning inward involves sitting quietly and simply observing my thoughts without engaging in analysis or overthinking. I embrace the art of just being, with a gentle smile gracing my lips, as I tap into the peace within.
For most of my career, I lived life on auto-pilot, completely disconnected from my higher self. And because of this fast-paced outer world life, I lived with anxiety--a pain deep in my chest that was always there trying to tell me to pay attention. I ignored its call and just kept going through the motions of life until an experience in Bali awakened me to the possibility that there was a different way to be in this world. A way that is slower, simpler, more connected, and where I could take a deep breath without feeling pain in my chest. This was the start of a healing journey that included studying meditation with Kelly Smith, Mindful in Minutes, and eventually participating in an online 10-day silent retreat isolated in a small cabin in the woods.
The host of this vipassana was my Buddhist teacher, Bhante Vimalaramsi who asked me if I wanted to know the purpose of life. Who would say no to that offer? I said, "Yes, of course." His response surprised me. He said, "To be an observer." During the 10-day vipassana, I would begin to understand what he meant. In the stillness of meditation, I was able to observe my thoughts and I began to see the patterns of what I was fixating and ruminating over. The Buddhists call this clinging and craving. My thoughts were a non-stop list-making machine. To-do lists. Shopping lists. Things I wanted to tell my daughter, my friends. Over and over. Once I became aware of this pattern, I used a system Bhante developed based on Buddha's earliest teachings called the "6 Rs".
The “6R’s” training taught at Dhamma Sukha Meditation Center is a reclaimed ancient guidance system that evolves into one fluid motion becoming a new wholesome habitual tendency that relieves any dis-ease in mind and body.
The "6 Rs" proved to be a transformative and holistic approach to healing the mind and body, evolving into a wholesome habit that brought ease and tranquility into my life.
While I do not claim to be an expert in T.W.I.M. meditation, I wholeheartedly recommend exploring this practice. You can find a helpful video introduction and all the retreat materials, including Bhante's daily readings of the suttas and enlightening Dhamma talks, on the Dhamma Sukha Meditation Center's website. If you wish to delve deeper or discuss my personal experience, I am more than happy to connect and share.
Bhante was a strong advocate for listening to one's intuition and seeking answers from within. "You are your own teacher," he would remind me. Nowadays, when that flickering feeling stirs in my chest, I know it's time to pause, breathe deeply, and turn inward. Embracing the stillness, I listen to my inner voice and ask my intuition, "What is disturbing me?" The answer always lies within, waiting patiently to be heard.
As we bid farewell to Bhante Vimalaramsi, let us cherish the timeless wisdom he imparted and continue our journey of self-discovery and tranquility. May his teachings guide us to be compassionate observers, nurturing a profound connection with our inner selves. In the stillness of our minds, we find the true essence of life.