I would like to have calmness securely within me. I’d love to be calm- truly, deeply, fully calm in the quietest depths of my soul. Maybe you also would love to be able to sit and look at that leaf swaying against the evening sky, and just be thinking about that leaf swaying against the evening sky, and nothing more. Maybe you also would love to lie in bed, peacefully, and just notice your body gently drift off to sweet slumber; and not have your thoughts, fears, and worries bombard you.
And so, as I draw deeper into Buddhism in my own search, and learn of more and more fascinating alleys in this labyrinth of my own spiritual sojourn; I will continue to bring you what I’m discovering. This week we’ve looked at the Ten Fetters of the Mind, and got magically stuck on Fetter 6: Rupa-Raga. From Rupa-Raga, we have learned how, in five minutes, to create a deep, deep calm. I’d like to teach you how.
But, before this exercise can become meaningful to you, before it can work it’s magic; you need to understand what it means, how the system we are going to use works, and how to enhance your ability to succeed in it. And so, in brief, some background.
The Ten Fetters of the Mind
Buddha tells us that there are ten fetters. The Ten Fetters are the ten “issues” that one must overcome in order to reach Nirvana, the highest of heaven. I’m writing another article summarizing all ten for you, and will write articles focused on each one; but, as you already know about me, I worked spirally (not linearly) and only based on inspiration; and right now, well, I’m really moved by what happened in class and so I’m inspired to write about Fetter #6, so here we go…
Fetter #6, Rupa-Raga (attachment to form) is one of the higher fetters. The higher fetters are the ones that once you face them, you have to only overcome them in this lifetime, and you become an Arahant (an enlightened one). And so, considering I’m stuck on the first five lower fetters, which means I’ll be around for a while; I do hope you are stuck on one of the higher ones, and are almost on your way to Nirvana. Save me a good seat once you arrive, ok?
Rupa-Raga took me a while to understand, so I’ll explain it as clearly, and slowly as I can. I’ll tell you now, it’s beyond worth it to get it, for it’s very, very cool, and the key to reaching that deep calmness in five minutes, so stay with me.
What Do Rupa and Raga Mean?
Rupa means the rising of the abdominal wall, to bend, or matter. Rupa means the material body, the motion of the stomach moving up and down. Rupa is the form, the physical matter which is. Rupa, the one I can connect to best, is the physical rising of the abdominal wall when you breathe deeply. To take in rupa, to start to get it, simply put your hand on your upper abdomen, right below the center where your ribs cage ends, and feel the stomach rise, harden, move as you breath in. That, that focused, one motion of the stomach hardening right there is rupa.
Raga means the mind knows. That’s it. Raga is the mental knowing of what is. Therefore, rupa-raga is that interaction between the rupa and the raga. Between the abdominal wall tightening/rising/moving and my mind knowing that it is tightening/rising/moving.
Feel Rupa and Raga
Try it for a second to fully know what I’m talking about. Put your hand on your upper abdomen and take a deep breath in. Think, “I am taking a breath and my upper abdomen is moving up. My upper abdomen is moving down, up, down, up. Upper abdomen moving up, upper abdomen moving up, upper abdomen moving up.” That’s you in rupa.
Now, rupa-raga is simply us focusing our attention on one very specific motion in our body, and knowing it. It is us having a conversation, a very simple one that says something like this: I will myself to take a deep breath, my upper abdomen goes up, I know that my upper abdomen goes up, I will myself to take a deep breathe, my upper abdomen goes up, I know that my upper abdomen goes up. And then I simplify it even more, “I will my upper abdomen to stiffen, it stiffens, I know it stiffens. It stiffens, I know it stiffens. It stiffens, I know it stiffens.”
Hence, rupa-raga is in essence when I have a this very clear thinking of cause and effect, or rather action and knowing action, action and being aware of the action. That’s it.
What Happens When I Feel Rupa and Raga
Buddhism teaches us that when I can focus my attention on one bodily action (walking, bending, lifting, abdominal wall rising) and just know that, then I’ve reached rupa-raga. What happens in that doing/knowing cycle is that my mind becomes tranquil and clear, for I am only thinking of the doing and the knowing, and nothing more. My mind become tranquil, which leads to serenity, which brings me to happiness, which becomes comfort and ease. And so, through the doing/knowing of one simple action, I can reach, in less than five minutes, a deep calm.
Rupa-Raga practice of meditation is a wonderful, fast way to get to that calm we all wish to float in. Why? Because, silent meditation can sometimes be really challenging. Sometimes, my mind is so busy, so full of thoughts side-swiping me; that I simply can’t stop them. Sometimes, when we are asked to close our eyes and be silent, a war starts inside. Rupa-Raga, especially for those challenged by what comes up in silence, is a marvelous way to reach that deep peace and calm without having to force your sometimes insistent mind to shut up.
Deep Calm in Five Minutes
You’ll need to get up and do this one. Just reading it won’t do you any good. Sorry. J
Go to a room that you feel safe in. (When we did this meditation, we were a marvelous international group of backpackers from China, France, Israel, Canada, and New Zealand. Our Clean Your Soul classroom is an open second-story un-built area with metal rods as borders, no walls. The room’s daily chaos that day had mattresses, woven bed mats, and sheets scattered in various corners and an electric cable wound around the columns of the room. We had to criss-cross and tread lightly in our exercise. The three Chinese friends did not feel safe in the room and constantly opened their eyes to be sure they weren’t falling off from the railings or walking into wires. So, be sure the room is basically obstacle free and you feel safe enough to walk around in it with your eyes closed.
Close your eyes and simple walk. Walk lightly, slowly and with full intention on just walking. As you walk, tell yourself what you are doing. Choose the words, a simple mantra that works for you. This is what I repeated to myself, “I am walking. I know I am walking. Walk. I know that I walk. Walk. I know that I walk,” which eventually became, “Walk, know walk. Walk, know walk, Walk, know walk.”
That’s it. Just that. Just walk and know that you walk, and you’ll feel it.
As you become a bend/stretch/lift and knowing that you bend/stretch/lift, you lose yourself (called Anatta in Buddhism). You will feel this deep calm take over. You may see colors, you may feel , like I did, the sluggishness of those moments right before you fall asleep. I liked it, a lot. You will feel what you do, in your own way, but your aim is that it is some derivative of calm, a deep calm.
Creative alternatives include raising and lowering your hand, bending over, stretching your neck out, nodding your head forward, and pressing your hands one palm against the other.
How Does Help Me In Life?
Rupa-Raga for you and I means that we can, in just a few short moments, reach a deep calm. It may not work each time and will not bring the same results every go at it, but you have, now, a tool to use to bring you to calmness. So, next time you are about to fight violently with someone who you feel victimized you, next time you are about to stuff that cake down your throat in anger, next time you are about to drown yourself in alcohol or drugs to numb the pain; try your rupa-raga routine. Try to close your eyes and walk, alone and in silence, in your doing/knowing, and see if that brings you any clarity.
Technically, rupa-raga is the sixth fetter because it stops us from reaching our fullest spiritual freedom. How so? It’s so enlightening, right?
That’s why. People stuck in the ‘issue’ of rupa-raga have felt the ‘high’ of enlightenment for just that second, they’ve zoned out, had an out of body experience, been in that deep place of calm and desire it again. That desire, that wanting to be in a state of rupa-raga becomes an obstacle that they cling to, and keeps them from reaching enlightenment.
I don’t think it’s an issue of simple-minded earthlings like you and I, just yet. I think that if we want to feel that calmness, it is highly preferred over the myriad of ridiculously unhealthy other things we crave for. I’d rather be addicted to rupa-raga, I’d rather be a meditation-junkie than crave incessant attention, sex, sweets at night, alcohol, coffee, cigarettes, drugs, passionate fairy-tale love affair, carbs, and Facebook for hours. So, in the realm of things, I’m cool with being addicted to rupa-raga.
Choose your poison right? If I become a rupa-raga addict, I’ll let you know. I will. Really, I will. I will be the first to stand in front of the room and say, “Hello. My name is Gabi and I’m a Rupa-Raga-holic. “ Promise.
So, let me know if you liked this, if you got it, if you want to join my Rupa-Raga-holics Wanna Be Club. Tell me if you got up mid-sentence and walked the room, and felt it. I’ll be here. For now, I’m still in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I’m still learning about Buddhism, Quantum Physics, and Breathing Meditations, until the next inspiration sweeps over me, and I go there too.
I’m bowing to you in my thoughts. I can’t do it this second cuz I’m pretending to be the midst of a deep walking mediation. I’m imagining my eyes are closed, I’m walking around room #52 at the Garden Village Guesthouse, and I’m seeing yellow blobs swooshing in my head. In reality, I’m typing this and giving my youngest daughter a spelling test with words including ‘train’, ‘taxi’, and ‘door knob’; and she’s being uncannily silly about it, making weird hee-haw laughs at every word I say. I’ll take life right now, exactly as it is. Exactly as it is.
Have a great day friends.
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