Everything Expanded…

In November of 2012, I volunteered to take my Teacher Shinzen Young from the Airport to Niagara Falls where he was guiding a week long retreat. During our conversations he asked me if I was ever interested in writing a book about my experience. I mentioned that there are so many books on the market that talk about similar things that I felt that there was no need to write one. He suggested that I look at the book in a different way, a way of helping my students. I realised that this was true, by telling my story it would be beneficial to those who read it.
In December of 2012 I completed the Kundalini Teacher Training Course and decided to write about my life story. It took me until the end of March to complete it and from April to the beginning of June to edit and print it. During that time I was thinking about going back to Burma for a 6-month retreat. But instead another retreat came to my attention in Burlington, Vermont. I decided to apply and within a few months I was asked to participate in a 6-month retreat or longer at a newly established Monastery. This retreat will be different from what I have experienced in the past. It’s based on the Zen style tradition but with a modern twist. There would be 10 residences that would stay for the duration of 6 months and would have the opportunity to stay on for another if they choose to continue with the training program. It consists of 3 months of Mindfulness Meditation and 3 months teaching Mindfulness to students from kinder garden to elementary school.
At the end of June 2013, I had my first book launch with most of my students attended. We were coming together and saying goodbye until I return. The next day I headed to Toronto to visit my family for the weekend and then off to Burlington, Vermont on June 30th. While I was on the plane I was thinking that I would have to get up 2 hours earlier than everyone else to continue my Sadhana practice. It has been 1 year and 9 months since I started with almost year to go in order to complete my goal of 1,000 days.
I arrived, in the evening and had something to eat before practicing with the first 5 residences that have been at the Center since April. The remaining students would be coming in the next 2 days. I realised quickly that for the first 3 months the practice would be a 4 hour work period in the morning after breakfast and 4 hours of stillness in the afternoon. The first thing we did for our 4 hour period was to move all the supplies from the small kitchen that was currently being used by the Center to another apartment with a larger kitchen. It was a short walking distance from the original space and we were able to pack and unpack within the 4 hours. In the first week we were stripping wallpaper and painting one room to make it accommodating for everyone. We also had vegetable gardens and yard work to attend to while others residences were creating the School’s software program to teach mindfulness in the Schools for the second half of the practice.
The days and the months flew by working together as a team and practicing mindfulness meditation in the evening. After the first 3 months my role changed and I had more responsibility in maintaining the structure of the practice for the residences and also participating in teaching Mindfulness to designated Schools as part of our training. We each had a different partner each day, 3 days a week as we taught in different schools with students in different grades. This was very new to me but after the first 3 weeks we were feeling the rhythm with the students, they were beginning to know us and we them. It was fun and enjoyable for all. Teaching children are amazing. They pick up the practice quite easily and the insight they have pretty profound. One girl in grade one told the story that her mom was upset with her when she got home from school. The child asked the mom why she upset but the mother would not tell her. She told her mom that she needed to practice mindfulness. The girl then proceeded to teach her mom how to practice and she was able to calm down in a few minutes. It was amazing to hear her tell the story and to know that she understood what she learnt and was teaching it already.
Ten weeks went by quickly and the program for teaching the students had ended. We had only one full week of intense practice left to finish the 6-month training before returning home for Christmas break. I have been looking forward for our last week of practice for a while. The last 3 months it had been fast pace and my body needed the stillness before returning home. I also realized that half way through the retreat that I would not be returning to the Monastery. The experience was great but I felt it was time to return home.
December 15th 2013, I return to Toronto and visited with my family before heading home to Owen Sound. It felt good to be back. I took a month to rest before teaching at the Centers that I was established with. On June 8th 2014, I completed my Sadhana practice of 1,000 days. It felt great reaching the mild stone of Mastery. It has become a part of my life.
It’s now October 2014, my practice has expanded and new opportunities are emerging. Can’t wait for what’s in store for 2015.

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One year later…

Many people have asked me how my life has changed since Burma.  It has been just a little over a year since I have returned and much has happened.

When anyone does an intensive retreat for a long period of time the body requires less food, less sleep and some of the organs function at a slower rate.  When I returned home, it took me about 3 months to regain my strength.   Because I was not practicing 24hrs a day, my body began to feel heavier and heavier to the point when there were areas of pain in the body.  I began walking practiced each day to help me feel more centered and grounded.   With daily meditation and energy healing, the areas of pain decreased and dissolved over a period of time.

For 2 years I wanted to remove the TV from my home. In March of 2011, I finally did it and converted the TV area into a Meditation Hall to give students a place where they can come to practice.  It was a very freeing moment which opened my life up to new possibilities.

In the summer, my friends helped to promote my services in the community.  I felt shy at first but I saw how people were struggling and searching for ways to alleviate their suffering.  I was fortunate to reach a few people and help guide them through with meditation.

Although I continued teaching meditation classes and energy healing sessions with students, there was an aspect of my life that was missing. I wasn’t sure at the time what it was but I knew that I had to start getting up earlier in the morning. Then in September, I made a commitment with another teacher to attend Sadhana at 4:00 am each morning for 40 days.  Sadhana is 25minutes of prayer, 45 minutes of yoga and 65 minutes of meditation.  It had been 6 months since I practiced yoga and the body was stiff and unyielding. It took about a month to become more flexible in the positions. I also realized I needed to sleep when I returned home shortly after 7:00 am. As time went on, my body shifted and it required less sleep and I had more energy than before. I realized that this was the aspect missing in my life, the element of prayer and commitment. It filled the void completely.

I have been supporting myself through my practice and the small amount of savings I had left but it wasn’t enough to support my living expenses and I had to look for other ways.  At the end of the 40 days I was offered a contract position, which provided the financial support needed so I could re-focus my attention on my purpose.

In December I was asked if I would be interested in taking a Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training Course in February 2012.  I was not sure about this, because it was a 10 month commitment and there was no real desire to be a yoga teacher.  But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. So I agreed.

After 6 months I continue to start my day with Sadhana in the morning, teaching every moment I can, maintaining my contract job and studying for the Kundalini Teacher Training course.  For me life is being lived constantly in each moment. There is no time to focus on anything else but the present.

With Many Blessings,

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Return to Burma…

After my first trip to Burma (Myanmar) in 2006/07, there was an intention in my heart to return.  Life took over and 3 years later I set plans in motion to make the journey to the Panditarama Forest Meditation Center.  I arrived in city of Yangon on November 26th, 2010 after 32 hrs of traveling.  I was exhausted and excited at the same time.   I stayed overnight at the City Center Monastery before traveling to the Forest Center Monastery for 3 months of silent retreat.

The place was familiar yet different.  There were some new buildings in place but the day to day structures were the same.  I had more time to adjust to the jet lag than before.  Those who arrived with me had an orientation session on Sunday morning and we began the retreat schedule after lunch.  Each morning I arose at 2:50 am to start the day.  I had about 25 minutes to wash and dress before leaving my Kuti (home).  With flashlight in one hand, a thermos in the other and a shawl wrapped around my shoulders, I walked mindfully towards the Women’s Meditation Hall, arriving just before 3:30 am.  It took me about a week for my body and mind to relax and adjust to the schedule, but once I settled into the routine, I felt right at home.  Now I was ready to make a change I had been contemplating since arriving.  I was ready to let go of my hair that had been growing for the past 3 years and asked to have my head shaved.  With no mirrors allowed, the entire process was a sensory experience.  At the end I felt total free with no regrets.

The Monks reminded us each day to practice continuously from the moment we arose until the moment we fell asleep.  It helped to keep our minds focused and prevent thoughts from entering that could cause suffering.  Although these are easy instructions it is difficult to do, as the mind loves to think and perceive.   During my stay, there were 3 main areas that arose for me to work on: my thoughts, using love and kindness and my perceptions.

My thoughts – I began to see how my thoughts manifested themselves.  The word snake kept popping into my mind when I was doing walking meditation, within a few days a small snake appeared on my path. The first time it happened I didn’t make the connection.  The second time the thought arose another snake appeared a day later at the front steps of my Kuti.  I was afraid, and in my mind I told the snake to leave.  It immediately turned and slithered away.  The third time it happened, I made the connection, and realized that my thoughts was calling the snake and the snake appeared from that command.  I began to clearly see the cause and effect of my thoughts.  I forgave myself for my actions and extended gratitude to the snakes.

Love and Kindness – During some of my sitting meditation images arose of people who had hurt me.  These images did not subside when I used my labeling technique, but persisted until I used a different approach.  I began to extend love and compassion to each person and found that the images eventually dissolved.  I felt the love and compassion encompassed me and forgiveness was in my heart.  The next time these same images arose they subsided easily and went away.

 Perception– I experienced how judgement arose within me when someone walked directly in my path during walking meditation.  I realized that my perception was based on my own beliefs and I was not open to other solutions.  I began to change how I responded to the situation each time it arose.  When I saw someone walking on the same path that I was on, I would use the label “seeing” and quickly the judgement fell away.  I would then move out of the way so the person could continue on.  This simple act brought joy to my heart because there was no more suffering due to judgement.  Although this sounds easy it was the hardest spiritual lesson to learn.  I began minding my own business instead of observing what others were doing and focused on my own practice within.

Three months went by quickly and it was time for me to go home.  It took me another 3 months to adjust to my home environment, and then the work really began.  Using the spiritual lessons learnt; I practice daily in order to bring peace and harmony into my life.  This spiritual path is a never ending journey.  Each moment can challenge us in different ways.  It can bring us joy or suffering if we allow it.  I find by acknowledging each situation as it arises, pleasant or unpleasant and then letting it go, helps me to be more present.  Doing the best I can each day and being grateful for all my blessings, I am truly happy.

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A little about me…

Mindfulness Meditation & Energy Healing

My name is Frances Brown and I would like to give you some insight on how Mindfulness Meditation and Energy healing has changed my life.

In 2001, my dear husband passed away due to illness, which caused a great deal of emotional pain and suffering in my life.  Losing someone very close to me was the hardest thing I ever had to go through.  I turned to Energy healing to bring myself back into balance.  I saw how it helped me to heal emotionally from the lost that I was feeling.  I wanted to learn how to practice healing on myself so I can eventually help others.  I began studying Therapeutic Touch and formal practice of Mindfulness Meditation in 2004.  After completing my first Mindfulness Meditation intro-class, I decided to attend a one-week intensive meditation retreat.  During the retreat some of the emotional pain had dropped away and I began to realize that there were many benefits to this practice.  For me one week was not enough,  there was a desire in my heart to participate in a longer retreat.  In 2005, I took courses in Reiki I & II and started practicing on others. I began building both the Healing and Meditation into my private life.  In 2006, I began searching for a place where I could do a longer retreat and I found a location.  In November of the same year I left my job, my family, my friends in Owen Sound, Ontario for a 10-month journey to follow the guidance of my heart.  I spent 3 months in a silent meditation retreat at a Burmese Monastery deepening my meditation practice, then continued to Calcutta, India spending 6 months with the Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa Order) working with the sick, the poor and the dying.  In the last month of my travels I saw different parts of India before returning  home.  Shortly after my return I was given an opportunity to teaching Mindfulness Meditation to beginners in 2008.  I also completed my Reiki Master Training to teach others how to heal themselves. 

I never dreamt how my life would change so dramatically, from what it was to what it is now, servicing and teaching others.  Enjoying what you do has it rewards but the benefits of seeing another person blossom and grow are my greatest joy, it is truly is a fabulous new world!

Through my own knowledge & experience, I have learnt that meditation and healing helped me to release the emotional tensions in my body and give me the skills to alter conditions and patterns that caused suffering in my life.  It has healed and transformed me in so many ways and I hope it can do the same for you.

♦ May we walk a little lighter on this earth by releasing our heavy burdens ♦


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