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ANAPANA AND THE FIVE-ALARM FIRE

Updated: Jul 9

When I arrived at the center, my right and wrongdoings inner compass, which once oriented me to Earth’s existential enterprise, was as erratic as stormy cloud formations. Still, I was sane enough to want to remain earthbound, recalibrate, and move forward in the light of life. For the first three days of sitting, all 50 or so students were instructed to observe, not imagine, any sensations that arose, e.g., tickling, prickling, itching, pressing, pulsing, numbing, burning, cooling, and warming. Initially, these and any other sensations were to be observed within the triangular area, starting at the vertical midline groove that runs from the top of the lip to the Philtrum between the nostrils.


Nothing other than the tiny area was to be observed from within. As a result, my streams of thoughts dissolved at an unpredictable rate, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, but sometimes not at all. There were no levers to pull or buttons to push. As I relinquished imagination and the idea of control, the scanning technique steadied, and my focus sharpened as my sensations became increasingly distinctive. Though seemingly strange, overly simplistic, and mundane to continually do this for the first three 10-hour days, the practice of Anapana (Ānāpānasati) proved to be fundamental in upping my patience, commitment, and acceptance. An attitude of either tolerance or intolerance had no place in the technique. Consequently, by becoming aware of physical sensations in this methodical and scientific manner, I learned how to bolster the muscle of cognition. Unknowingly, I was training for what would come in the subsequent seven days and far beyond.


Mindful breathing throughout the practice of Anapana rekindled my inner eye, that which struggled to view things, not with a ruler or a scale or to compare or judge, but just to see things as they were, without being magnified out of worry and not diminished out of indifference. Why shouldn’t it have struggled? After all, my ambitions were tailored to reap quantifiably impressive and fast gains. Society had conditioned me to account for profits and expenses, wins and losses, to impress teachers at school, and to turn over impressive quarterly reports to my Certified Public Accountant so that he could prepare my companies’ tax declarations so that I could acquire another remarkable car, or property, or electronic gizmo. When I look at old photos and see the automated combo bidet/toilet I outfitted one of my houses with, I just stare and wonder why such things became important to me and how I came to identify with a Japanese-made robotic toilet. When I remember driving during late afternoon traffic on Los Angeles’ 405 freeway in my Porsche Cayenne and seeing a beat-up brown Nissan driving just as fast as me, at 5 miles per hour, I recall saying to myself time over, “Eric, you are an idiot.” Instantly, my delusional bubble burst. Speed and direction were not entirely mine to control, I realized. Indeed, that was an existential turning point that gained the attention of a 5-alarm fire. Who would rescue me from the flames of illusion, and where could I escape? Since the integrity of my innate internal compass was already compromised, I had no clue.


Somewhat paradoxically, the dimensions of business were seen as being tightly interdependent; however, this view didn’t hold in terms of the interconnectedness of life itself, where all beings, things, behaviors, and actions — past, present, and future — spin around the sun while pivoting uniquely and moving as one. Separated from my Vipassana Practice, Nomadic Period, and Pedagogic Experiences, the following anecdotes will describe how I incrementally transformed and developed a daily outlook that is, in theory and practice, honored, harmonious, and holistic. Earth revolves at an average of 29.8km/s. The hands of time turn so quickly. However, the rainbow I have journeyed has transcended not only the limits of a clock. This manner of existence consumes my intrigue and fuels my investigation into optimal living: how to be, do, and have by acknowledging and accepting more fully the unseeable dynamic of our dance partner, the universe. Dive with me into this sea of discovery. Heighten skills of observation and participation to brighten and serve your journey to its best. As seeds of love, I give these miracles and insights from the well-worn tales and treasured pockets of memory. May they flourish and serve your life’s garden with the resplendent color of a rainbow.






Photo: Anapana rainbow

Eric Baronsky

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