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Raji Lukkoor

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Inner Pilgrimage: Ten Days to a Mindful Me
by Raji Lukkoor   

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Publisher:  Third Eye, an imprint of Pentagon Press, India ISBN-10:  8182745020 Type: 


Copyright:  March 2010 ISBN-13:  9788182745025

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"Inner Engineering: Ten Days to a Mindful Me" is a profound human experience, a modern-day
response to the primeval human quest for truth and meaning in life. By engaging in the author’s spiritual journey, readers learn about vipassana—a timeless, powerful, non-sectarian, and non-mystical tool for transformation. They see how the practice of mindfulness, nourished through regular meditation, can help anyone to live a life that is fully expressed, affirming, connected, healthy, compassionate, and vibrant. This book will appeal to all spiritual seekers and to anyone with an interest in Buddhism or meditation.

Inner Pilgrimage: Ten Days to a Mindful Me is a comprehensive, moment-by-moment description of the author’s ten-day vipassana meditation retreat. The story unfolds with her arrival at the retreat as an ordinary being seeking a calmer, more centered existence. Sacrificing every luxury and self-indulgence, and following a rigid daily routine that excludes reading, writing, praying, listening to music, watching television, and talking, the author spends ten hours everyday, meditating. She focuses on her breath and observes her bodily sensations, often without moving for hours at a time.

Inner Pilgrimage provides rich imagery and clearly articulated details of the author’s physical experience and her mental & emotional states, during sustained meditation. It provides a compelling insight into her experience of discovering the realm and rewards of vipassana meditation.

Inner Pilgrimage is one practitioner’s personal spiritual journey. It is an inspiration to others looking to transform their restlessness and judgmental tendencies, into having an inner calm and heightened awareness that together nurture and enhance spiritual growth.

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Excerpt from Chp. 4, pgs. 65-68

Day Three: Sit, Breathe, Feel

The early morning routine is beginning to strengthen my sense of awareness. No sooner does the gong clang at 4:00 A.M. than I arise, shower, and set off to the dhamma hall.

Last night, Goenkaji instructed us to focus our attention on the triangular indentation located between the end of the nostrils and the upper lip, or the philtrum, and to become aware of any kind of sensation there. The conjecture here is that if the mind is centered enough to feel sensations in a very small area of the body, then the individual is ready to receive the vipassana technique. A tide of excitement flutters my heart as I step into the dhamma hall. I’m dying to know what vipassana is and how to practice it.

I’m beginning to like the 4:30 meditation. The serenity of the outdoors fills the room, casting an enchanting spell on the meditator. Snifflers, sneezers, and coughers are greatly reduced in number as two-thirds of the crowd are not in attendance. The air conditioner activates only after 8:00 A.M. Interruptions being minimal, I fall silent nearly immediately.

Getting the mind to focus on a narrow area such as the philtrum is no small task, as it turns out. I attempt it, but my nose keeps getting in the way! Not that I have a large nose or anything, it’s just that it gets between the area of focus and my “sight.” I imagine detaching my mind from my body, setting it directly across from me, and observing the triangular upper-lip area from the outside. Needless to say, this is colossally confusing. Frustrated, I start over. I take off the philtrum from my face and visualize it in front of me. Then I try to observe it as if I’m staring into somebody else’s face. As it turns out, this isn’t a very good idea either. My frustration is up several notches. “How do I do this? Nothing seems to work.” The out-of-sight success frazzles me. I’m very close to giving up when I remember Goenkaji’s words.

With a deep breath, I calmly and patiently recalibrate the lens of my mind’s “eye,” aiming it directly at the indentation in my upper lip, ignoring the silhouette of my nose and disregarding my physical discomfort. I do this over and over. As the seconds turn into minutes, I get comfortable with the idea of watching my upper lip. I don’t feel any sensations yet, but I can smell success and I know it’s within reach.

As the early morning sitting comes to a close, the rumble of the audio rolls through the room. I quickly become absorbed in the chanting. The Hindi couplets Goenkaji sings are profound and poignant, and resonate the teachings of Eastern philosophies. It’s not nearly as torturous as the nights before. In fact, my body sways back and forth as if it were enjoying the melody. I’m surprised as earlier I disliked his singing. I still do. I mean, who wants to listen to a melodically bland song? That’s just my opinion, of course. Anyway, his singing is quite palatable now.

At breakfast, for the first time today, a sense of presence washes over me. I wait patiently in line, bereft of any ill feeling toward those ahead of me who need extra time to fill up their bowls. If they set their grimy plates or spoons on the counter, I pick them up, promptly, willingly, and stick them in the dishwashing rack. I take the time to mindfully eat my oatmeal, one spoon at a time, experiencing its texture on my palate and swallowing it with a sense of gratitude.

Following breakfast, as I strut back to the cottage, a scene in the meadow stops me in my tracks, captivating my senses. In the meadow, an expanse of bright, golden dandelions beams in the warm sunlight, a light breeze rippling the supple stalks, rendering a performance that is jubilant, soul-stirring. Butterflies, orange, brown, copper, fan their delicate wings and siphon the flowers’ nectar. They flutter about, flying up and dropping down, delighting in their heavenly dance. I watch with bated breath, knitting my eyebrows, deep in thought, wondering why I haven’t noticed this resplendence before.

Back in the quarter, I reach over to the tissue box and pull out a tissue. My stuffed-up nose has been irritating me since dawn. I blow into the tissue to relieve the obstruction. Blood comes squirting out and falls into the tissue, making a brilliant red spot on the crisp, white surface. My reaction at the sudden sight of blood is surprise, shock, confusion, and alarm. “Gosh! I’ve never had a nose-bleed before. Why is it bleeding? How long is it going to bleed? How do I stop it?” As I wipe my nose dry, I remember that the teacher had asked about sensations in the nose yesterday. “Oh, that’s what it’s about.” It’s an expected outcome of the focused breathing. I drop the used tissue in the garbage can and visit the bathroom before heading out. On the counter lie several white plastic tubes with the sign, “Saline water. For nasal rinsing.”

I step outside. “Think I should do some stretches.” I exhale and spread my legs three to four feet apart, then turn my legs, feet, and torso to the right so my hips face my right leg. On a second exhalation, as I bend my torso and bring my left hand down to the ground by my right foot, a big bug, perhaps a beetle, nearly two inches long, purplish black, fierce, vigilant, on all eights, like a warrior, crawls out from under the bushes and marches toward me. I stare, eyes wide open, legs frozen, and lungs tightened, as it approaches me. It crawls right under me, seemingly unaffected by my presence, and then inches forward as if preparing to attack an invisible enemy. Ordinarily, I would have screamed and scampered off at the sight of an insect that size. But today, I un-pretzel myself, arise, and watch the bug crawl away and disappear under a clump of dry leaves and twigs. My mind feels stable, alert, untouched by fear.

© copyright Raji Lukkoor, 2011. All rights reserved.

Professional Reviews

The New Indian Express
A young woman's yearning for inner peace is about to be realized at a trip to the woods, to unlock the secrets of the mind. Hosted by spiritual guru S N Goenka, a ten-day meditation retreat she attends irrevocably alters her perspective and her future. The book is a comprehensive description of the author's ten-day vipassana experience. With rich imagery and clearly articulated details of the author's physical experience, mental and emotional states, it is an inspiration to others.

Dr. Kiran Bedi
Retd, police commissioner, winner of "Asian Nobel" prize, 5-time author, fervent vipassana advocate, and 'the Pride of India' says:

"Finished reading book 'Inner Pilgrimage' Ten Days to a Mindful Me. A brilliant account of Vipassana Meditation course Raji Lukkoor did"

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Reader Reviews for "Inner Pilgrimage: Ten Days to a Mindful Me"

Reviewed by Raji Lukkoor 11/21/2011
Vipassana means ‘insight’ in the ancient Pali language.

Somewhere on day five, half-way through the ten-day meditation retreat that Raji Lukkoor attends and records engagingly in the course of this book, she quotes William Hart (from ‘The Art of Living’ – a book on vipassana): “All our lives … we have rarely tried to examine ourselves, our own mental and physical structure, our own actions, our own reality. Therefore, we remain unknown to ourselves. We do not realise how harmful this ignorance is, how much we remain the slaves of forces within ourselves – of which we are unaware.”

That insight unfolds for Raji in so dramatic a way that she immediately feels impelled to put down her experiences – documenting every single one of the ten days – in her own stream-of-awareness style.

So what we have is a gripping – often humorous – and very personal account of how she learns to examine her ‘own reality’ – guided by the voice of S N Goenka (the founder of the ten-day programme), the instructors, and the processes of vipassana meditation.

What begins with a simple series of grievances (“Oh no, the AC will dry out my nasal passages”) and the typical mental niggles of an urban housewife adjusting to new physical surroundings and changing habits in the middle of a group of meditating strangers gradually gives way to deeper levels of discomfort – emotional and physical disturbances – that she wrestles with, overcomes bravely, and honestly shares.

Raji writes about her experiences with a keen sense of observation that is both amusing and instructive. To anyone reading her story, it is like a taking a co-journey into what happens during the vipassana meditation retreat.

T. A. Basubramanian
Reviewed by sharo martin 11/20/2011
My Review
I have often watched documentaries on retreats with the secret yearning of wanting to attend one of these myself one day. They show you the difficulties people have to overcome and the unbelievable transformations of peoples lives that can take place, it is simply amazing.

What you don't actually think about is what it is really like to participate on such a retreat for the whole period, spending every minute there, on the personal journey you have to travel to get to your destination. For anyone thinking of going on a similar retreat this is a great book to read, giving you an insight of what it genuinely feels like to the there, day by day, through the authors writings.

When I first saw this book, for some reason I was immediately pulled towards it and couldn't wait for its arrival. On opening the book two words struck out to me straight away 'inner war'. The description was so clear and so close to home that the book grabbed my attention as soon as it had began.

As well as explaining, in fantastic realistic detail, how living through the whole course felt - through the emotions, the ever so true worries the author felt, the pain and yet the enlightenment she felt, it also explains basic Buddha and meditation methods learnt. These are the parts where you may have to re-read certain pages to fully understand.

For me the main message in the Buddha teaching is that everything in life is impermanent and by not accepting this we create our own problems. "Why agonize over that which is I, me and mine? The body and the mind are mere wavelets of vibration and energy. Egoism is futile because if brings unhappiness, disappointment, frustrations, sorrow, anxieties, and worries. Happiness is to be sought not in the outside world where society judges you, but within the person, where eternal peace, compassion, equanimity, wisdom, joy and moral integrity flourish."

A fascinating read and I have so much respect for the author, travelling through her own journey.

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