Monday, April 7, 2008

Chewing vs. Chatting

It is so good to be writing again. I returned from the Insight Meditation retreat very slowed down. I didn't realize how much I was in an altered state until I stopped for gas, neglected to retrieve my gas cap from the top of my car and heard it roll off and hit the pavement. I stopped to retrieve it on the side of the road and continued on my way much more carefully. Three words to describe this retreat are nourishing challenging and centering. It is always humbling when I sit for an extended period to realize just how noisy my mind is. It was a challenge to be mindful of my thoughts, my emotions and the sensations in my body and attempt to greet them with compassion. Sitting for many hours a day with my fifty eight year old body was quite daunting. At one point I thought my hip joints had gone on strike and would refuse to support my body in the cortortion of a cross-legged sitting pose any longer. The next meditation period I tried sitting on a chair and noticed a cold draft on my neck in that part of the room that felt like sitting in a refridgerator. The next sitting period I returned to my cushion and tried kneeling with lots of support under me. That was much less painful and therefore less distracting. This retreat was entitled Living with Change. It stressed the nature of impermance and how we can trust things to not be the same from one moment to the next. This was comforting to me as I knew if I just focused on anything it would soon pass. In my clear moments I knew that both the pleasant and unpleasant aspects of my experience were temporary and worthy of letting go of. Returning to my breath felt like being held in the arms of a trusted friend. Except when it didn't.
I felt such gratefulness for the other retreatants and the teachers sharing this experience. It is such a delight to sit with over fifty other people who are dedicating themselves to practicing together. The silence of the retreat. made it very cool to hang out with a group of people and not worry about interacting socially. I enjoyed eating my meals with my focus on chewing instead of trying to chat. This morning when I was meditating and noticing my usual challenges I imagined all of the others surrounding me and it really helped. I feel incredibly grateful for meditation and a renewed sense of commitment to regular practice. My mind needs more than half an hour to quiet down and I want to create forty five minutes regularly to give it a chance. The quietness of my mind spills out into my life and informs everything I do and everyone I interact with. Why not maximize the odds of showing up as a me I really like? I highly recommend regular meditation practice. The duration is not as important as the constancy, says Lloyd Burton, one of the retreats' teachers. Start with five minutes or two for that matter and sit every day. Why not today?
This blog just froze up and I didn't know wheather I would lose the whole thing or not. I noticed that equinimity is also temporary. My sense of serenity and acceptance is also impermanent. When I thought I would have to rewrite this entire thing the last four days faded. It did seem that I dwelled less on the worst case scenario and moved to action more clearly.
Maybe that is the best to be hoped for. That each new experience will leave us with a more developed toolbox of skillful means to return to the present. That is a lot.

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