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Monday, November 30, 2009

A peaceful titan or Madonna in lingerie?

The reasons for coming to Shambhala that rainy night were eclectic among our group. There was my fictional reason, stress relief, for help with depression, and my favorites:
  • further develop one’s psychic ability, and
  • complete a fourth-year assignment to try something new.
The university student brought along her boyfriend, who sat at the ready to yank her out of there and run for the door if it started to resemble some weird cult.

After making sure everyone was comfortable—extra cushions or a chair for those who needed them (not me, I could sit cross legged because I was fit and did yoga regularly), it was time for simple instruction:
  • Keep your eyes open and the gaze forward on the floor without focusing on anything in particular.
  • Just breathe and be still.
It was off to the meditation races. Here’s what my inner life looked like for those few minutes:
  • My ankles are starting to hurt. How am I supposed to think of nothing when my ankles hurt?
  • Back to the breath.
  • Gotta remember the followup lice treatment. It’s a miracle our washing machine hasn’t kacked out with all the insect troubles we’ve had to deal with over the last two years.
  • If I find gnits on their heads after Round 2 of treatment, we’ll have to do 12 more loads of laundry. I’ll want to run away from home.
  • Breathe
  • Maybe I can whittle our wardrobes down to five outfits each.
  • Oli should sign up for this. It’d be good for him.
  • Shut up!
  • Must get Sauvignon Blanc for Saturday. And red wine for Friday too for that matter.
  • What’s Tibetan for: She who has the attention span of a gnat?
“Time’s up. Anyone have any thoughts?”

I snorted. That’s all I was—a seething mass of thoughts that make me feel dissatisfied and snarly.

Henry shared a Buddhist anecdote about imagining we’re in a house, with the front and back doors open.

“Just let the thoughts pass on through,” he said. “Don’t serve them tea and cookies.”

That’s what I was doing wrong. I was busy renovating, growing heirloom tomatoes, preparing a 10 course-meal, and opening the door for the jangling horde of uninvited thoughts.

Then we took another crack at it. Here’s how it went:
  • Breathe.
  • Maybe I’ll sign up for a course here.
  • Just thinking. Breathe.
  • Breathe.
  • I wonder how often these cushions get cleaned?
  • Breathe.
  • Someone here is a really loud breather.
  • Breathe
  • Hey, it’s quiet in my head. Shit! I ruined it.
That was much better.

I figure that if I could achieve a few more seconds of mental peace, then I’d probably stymie it by getting irritated by my own blinking.

On Sundays, they meditate for two hours here. Two hours!

The rockstars of Buddhism (not to be confused with Buddhist rockstars) go on retreats that last for three years, three months and three days.

Start with smaller amounts of time, Henry suggested.

I learned to run one minute at a time. I’ll meditate one minute at a time, until my brain becomes a peaceful titan, or maybe my brain will become muscular, yet svelte like Madonna in lingerie. Figuratively speaking.

I have a small head; no titan would ever fit in there.


  1. I have a small head too. All the better to get the xx-small toques on sale that no other adults can wear.

    I noticed that you remembered to keep breathing throughout...this is essential to the practice. And you managed to do it effortlessly and without stopping.

    I would say it was a success.

  2. Thanks, Sheyna! I think it's important to set realistic goals.

    And the small head thing can be a real advantage, as you've pointed out.