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May 2008 Archives

May 5, 2008

Note* Meditation Retreat

All - I am back and alive.

I will be writing up and posting a multiple entry series on what happened, hopefully later today.

but for now, I can definitely say, the retreat was an amazing experience of a lifetime.

Meditation Retreat: Day 0

Note*
This is part of a multi-part posting about the 10 day Meditation Retreat I participated in. The names of the people I met have been changed, but for the most part, this is all as true as my biased and faulty memory can recall. I will not be describing the actual teachings/technique, not because I'm not allowed, but because I can't do them and you justice. If you would like to learn more about, you can go to Vipassana Meditation website

Introduction
I know I said it was a 10 day meditation retreat, but in reality, it took 12 days out of my life. The first day we were all supposed to arrive at the site by 4 pm. I had volunteered to give rides to two other women in the area as the site was 4 hours away. The first person I picked up, Sunny, was a chinese buddhist. She was living with her mother, a buddhist nun, and this was her second 10 day retreat (she had just done one a few weeks before and was really looking forward to this). I was a little apprehensive but it was good to be with someone who had already done one. My second pick up, Tammy, was a 40 year old divorcee. Tammy had seen an amazing documentary on the technique when they applied it in a prison situation. She had already been practicing some meditation and really wanted to try this technique (Vipassana).

The retreat was being conducted by a branch of the Vipassana Association but was held at a non-center site. What this meant is that instead of getting individual meditation cells at a place specially constructed for this purpose, we were staying at a outdoor recreational facility normally used by special needs children. Woohoo - bunk beds!

We arrived at the camp early and had a couple of hours to 'move in' to our assigned cabins. Each cabin could hold 11 people, but mine only had 7 people in it. I unpacked my sleeping bag and went back to the check-in station/dining hall to see if I could run into Sunny and Tammy again. Sunny was there, but had already started moving into a meditative state = she wasn't talking or interacting with anyone. I found Tammy talking to the woman who had the bunk bed next to her's, a 7th level Reikei master named Lana. We spent the rest of our free time chit chatting with other people and drinking tea. I also surrendered my purse and car keys for safe storage. Finally dinner was served, a light meal of kale soup with cornbread, and salad. The first wrinkle had set in. The meal was vegetarian, and the men were segregated from the women.

After the meal, they explained the rules again.
No lying (easy in our case since we weren't allowed to communicate at all!)
No stealing
No killing (this meant the bugs)
No intoxicants (cigarettes included)
No sexual misconduct (I leave this up to the reader to draw their own conclusions)

And most importantly, we weren't allowed to leave. Once we started, that was it.

eeeeee!

and that was it, we weren't allowed to speak, write notes, nothing. If it was urgent, we could speak to the female manager about it. The camp had been divided up into Male and Female areas; no leaving the camp area and no straying into the Male area. We went to the meditation hall and were assigned seats, no changing seats allowed. I hadn't brought a watch, but it was ok. There would a bell/gong sounding off for every schedule change.

So we began. That evening we sat in the Meditation Hall and started working on our technique. Our day ended with a 9:00 - 9:30pm break to get ready for bed, which we did in silence. The next day would begin with the 4am wake up bell.

May 6, 2008

Meditation Retreat: Day 1

Note*
This is part of a multi-part posting about the 10 day Meditation Retreat I participated in. The names of the people I met have been changed, but for the most part, this is all as true as my biased and faulty memory can recall. I will not be describing the actual teachings/technique, not because I'm not allowed, but because I can't do them and you justice. If you would like to learn more about, you can go to Vipassana Meditation website

An Enthusiastic Beginning
The morning gong sounded off at 4am.

I had ample opportunity to see this thing. It was the size of a dessert plate, and shaped like buddha or yoda (take your pick). You hit it with a stick and it made this fantastically loud resonating ringing noise that could be heard across the entire camp. but, at 4am, just in case you were resisting, the morning bell ringer (an amazing woman) would enter your cabin and sound that sucker off once or twice. Right inside your head.

I had half an hour to get ready for the morning 2 hour meditation block. So I washed my face and brushed my teeth and hauled off for the meditation hall. That first day, I had a really hard time staying awake. I kept nodding off like anything and I was starting to feel pretty bad about the whole thing, until the woman next to me (Carol, a tall swede from New York), almost fell on me.

After the 2 hour block, we got half an hour for breakfast and then an hour to rest. Breakfast was always the same. We got oatmeal, stewed prunes, granola, yogurt, and fruit (always apples, oranges, and bananas). There was also bread (toasters were available), and a variety of spreads. To drink, there was tea, milks (soy, rice, etc), and water. plus breakfast OJ. I've never really had stewed prunes before, but I figured I would give them a try. They were ok, and certainly made the oatmeal more interesting.

Then I went back to sleep for an hour, before the next three hour meditation set.

The three hours were an introduction in "how do I sit without killing my legs". We were supposed to keep our eyes shut while meditating, but I was looking around to see what other people were doing. People were shuffling around a bit, so I figured it would be ok. I kept changing leg positions every 20 or 30 minutes. cross-legs one way, then the other, then to a half lotus, etc..

Then we hit lunch! Yay! There was salad and rice and vegetables. delicious. Then a one hour break before the 4 hour meditation block. Yet another exercise in trying to stay seated and conscious. We did get a short break every hour to stretch and go to the bathroom, but it was still pretty hard.

Then dinner time, which is not an entirely accurate description. Dinner was tea and fruit. And if you were a returning student, all you got was water with lemon. yikes! Now, I am a HUGE tea drinker. Usually about 6 cups a day of plain green tea. but today had a been a little weird, so I really loaded up my tea. I got some great lipton and even put sugar in it.

and then it was time for the evening meditation - another 3 hour block. But what made the evening block great was that in the middle of it was a discourse from the teacher. These were one of the nicest things to have because it would explain the techniques we had been working on.

And then, it was time for bed. What a day! It was the first time I think we all really started to understand what we had gotten ourselves into. I heard someone crying that night, but what could we do? not a whole lot except get some sleep for the next day.


May 7, 2008

Meditation Retreat: Day 2

Note*
This is part of a multi-part posting about the 10 day Meditation Retreat I participated in. The names of the people I met have been changed, but for the most part, this is all as true as my biased and faulty memory can recall. I will not be describing the actual teachings/technique, not because I'm not allowed, but because I can't do them and you justice. If you would like to learn more about, you can go to Vipassana Meditation website

Day of Pain
The morning gong sounded off at 4am.

We had all been sleeping with the doors open, so I could hear the gong very well. I got up, got dressed, and headed for the meditation hall. Morning meditation settled into this pattern. The first hour was fantastic. I wasn't quite awake, I would come in peaceful from watching the moon and stars, and I could just kind of zen through. But the second hour took some effort as my body realized I could be sleeping instead, and would try to do it again.

The first day had been novel, but now things really were setting in. The complete lack of communication was starting to hit. I realized that I was running a constant commentary in my head, and when I wasn't doing that, I was playing songs.. an amazing amount of music that I didn't know I knew. That day, I had Phantom of the Opera running through my head for quite a while.

I decided that I would take a shower that day, after breakfast. I didn't feel particularly dirty (you don't really sweat much when you spend all day seated) but I needed something to do. And this was the first time I broke Noble Silence. I headed into the bathroom and came upon a woman undressing. I was so surprised I just said "Sorry!" and then hauled into the shower. It was a little strange to have talked to someone but I figured since it was unintentional, it was ok.

The seated meditation was getting a bit tiresome. My back wasn't happy and I was starting to get an ache on the bones where my ankles would cross. And the time! Hours and hours of meditation. I had started to take some of the meditation hours in the cabin, where I could sneak peaks at an alarm clock. Half an hour started feeling like an eternity.

Lunch became the best part of the day. There would be something new and delicious to eat.. and I would try anything that they served because there wasn't much choice to be had. Steamed bok choy? I was all over it. The fact that there was no real dinner also made you appreciate lunch, and the idea of stuffing yourself was always something to ponder and decide against.

I decided to start napping during the post-lunch break. I had heard that meditating was supposed to give you energy, but I wasn't really feeling it. So I was settling down to nap, when I noticed that two new people had moved into our cabin. The first thing they did when they made their beds was to construct a privacy screen by hanging sheets from the top bunk to cover the bottom bunks. I couldn't figure this out. What would you need privacy for in a camp of 55 gender-segregated people all pretending that no one else existed?!

Whatever, I decided to save that one to ponder later, but that night when I was sleeping, I swore I heard someone eating crackers in their "privacy-bed". The idea was a little annoying. I was here to work on getting some peace in my life, and there was someone who was sneaking food into the camp. yargh... for that moment, I really started to have a problem with "Cracker-girl" because not only was she sneaking food on the sly, she was also a noisy sleeper. Every five minutes, she would perform some complete rotation on the bed. And our beds were made with those nasty plastic mattresses so there was a huge racket.

It took me a while to get to sleep that night, and I was wondering what I was doing at this place.

May 8, 2008

Meditation Retreat: Day 3

Note*
This is part of a multi-part posting about the 10 day Meditation Retreat I participated in. The names of the people I met have been changed, but for the most part, this is all as true as my biased and faulty memory can recall. I will not be describing the actual teachings/technique, not because I'm not allowed, but because I can't do them and you justice. If you would like to learn more about, you can go to Vipassana Meditation website

Cookie Day
The morning gong sounded off at 4am.

This morning, I just had to take a shower. Along with the new arrivals in the cabin, someone had shut the doors before going to bed, and I had woken up in a cold sweat. I had also been having startling vivid nightmares, which didn't help.

As I meditated through the day, I was becoming acutely aware of how distracted my mind was. Most of the time, my brain was either dredging up memories of my past, or replaying moments from movies, television, and books I had read. How well could I be functioning if I spent all my time replaying scenes from my past, in which bad things happened, I made bad decisions, or a combination of both? Which in some ways explained why I spent the rest of my time in fantasy media land. It reminded me of a scene from "Empire Strikes Back" where Yoda says "All his life has he looked away... to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was... what he was doing. " Did you know that Yoda was a buddha?

There were some definite positives on Day 3. I had started to accept that there was no point in thinking about leaving, in any way. Physically, mentally, I was going to be here and I was going to meditate. I also noticed that when sitting cross legged, my legs would go numb after 30 minutes or so. If I just waited it out a bit, then changed position, I could actually time a whole hour. Even though I didn't want to be clock watching, it was a relief to think that I could just meditate away until my legs hit the ultimate stage of numbness, at which point I could change them up a bit and then meditate a little more until I got a break. And the best thing about Day 3? Lunch, of course! That day, we got oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. I looked at the pile of temptation and then reached out and took one. Even though we weren't supposed to be in communication, I still didn't want to be that person who piggied out on the cookies. Of course, then I noticed that Sunny had taken two cookies! Two cookies! Still, I ate my cookie and was satisfied.

Afternoon and evening meditation went well. I had discovered two leg positions that I could stay seated in for at least 40 minutes at a time. That evening, I was feeling much better as I went to bed, even though I still heard Cracker Girl going through a lengthy, noisy, rolling around on the bed process before I fell asleep.

May 9, 2008

Meditation Retreat: Day 4

Note*
This is part of a multi-part posting about the 10 day Meditation Retreat I participated in. The names of the people I met have been changed, but for the most part, this is all as true as my biased and faulty memory can recall. I will not be describing the actual teachings/technique, not because I'm not allowed, but because I can't do them and you justice. If you would like to learn more about, you can go to Vipassana Meditation website

Home Truths
The morning gong sounded off at 4am and I headed out to meditate.

The fourth day began with more of the same. More memories, more escapism, more pain in the back, legs, and knees. I had started repeating to myself something I had heard in the evening discourse. "The past is dead, and the future can not happen without living in the present."

I repeated that every time my brain would throw up something from the past. And it worked; I never went through the same memory twice. I didn't really have too many problems with the future, but the weird recollections about movies and books were something I wasn't sure how to deal with. Eventually, I had to start telling myself that I wasn't going anywhere, and I slowly started to accept awareness of where I was. Which was a pretty nice place. During the breaks, we would all walk around the outdoors and look at things. I spent one hour investigating every tiny weedy flower that grew in the lawn around the camp. There were also three horses and a few goats in the nearby fenced area that were fun to watch.

For lunch that day, we had some great baked tofu and they brought out the leftover cookies. I took two that day, out of principle, and while they weren't as good as the day before, they were still pretty tasty. I spent about twenty minutes thinking about missing the loml and my cats and the nature of reality. I cried a little. I napped a little and had a strange dream about death of ego.

The meditating was going really well (if you account for the persistent battle for mental focus) and that evening we all kept progressing in the Vipassana technique. and while meditating again, I realized how much suffering I had caused myself. I cried some more. I cried enough to mess up the t-shirt I was wearing that day (having no kleenex), which was too bad.. because the weather had turned hot hot hot, and that was the only bona fide short sleeve shirt I had brought.

Speaking of crying, it was kind of hard sometimes to tell what was going on with other people. There was a lot of sniffling going on. There was also a lot of sneezing. It was almost like half the people had caught colds (later on I learned that the tree pollen was the culprit). But given the lack of communication, other people kept on being a source of mystery. Eventually I realized that you really had to pay a lot of attention if you wanted to figure out if other people needed help, especially when they couldn't talk. but I suppose you can think of most people that way, really.

Another day was over, and I headed to bed feeling good about things.

May 12, 2008

Meditation Retreat: Day 5

Note*
This is part of a multi-part posting about the 10 day Meditation Retreat I participated in. The names of the people I met have been changed, but for the most part, this is all as true as my biased and faulty memory can recall. I will not be describing the actual teachings/technique, not because I'm not allowed, but because I can't do them and you justice. If you would like to learn more about, you can go to Vipassana Meditation website

Where Am I Now?
The morning gong sounded off at 4am and I grabbed a quick shower before heading out to meditate. I didn't wash my hair that day because we had just hit a cold streak and I wasn't going to sit around all day with wet hair.

Though I couldn't communicate with my fellow meditators, I still thought about them. I had started naming them all Adrianne, after Adrianne Curry (the model who married Christopher Knight). I would think "hmm, looks like Adrianne is drinking hot water today" or "Maybe I should try that seated position Adrianne is using". In my more charitable moments, I thought of us all as sister nuns. "Sister Adrianne looks really peaceful by the stream today; Sister Adrianne is trying to exercise". In my bad moments, it was more like "arghh.. someone is neglecting to shower. I'm calling her the unwashed one".

So this is probably a good time for a reality check. It wasn't like we were living in the good part of "the sound of music" (a.k.a. before the nazis show up and take over austria). My meditation practice had been consistently challenging. As I would overcome one problem, another would show up. I had managed to deal with the physical pain, drowsiness, and urge to watch the clock. but now, I had started to briefly lose consciousness during meditation. It wasn't as bad as it sounds (i think), but it was hellacious to experience. One moment, I would be mindfully focused on my practice, then a split second distraction, a fleeting thought, and I would start pitching forward in some odd narcoleptic black out, only to snap back into consciousness before I fell over. It felt like this was happening several times a minute for hour-long stretches. After several hours, I concluded that my mind was making a last ditch attempt to avoid dealing with reality; I decided that I had to proceed anyway.

Compared to that, the nature of our surroundings really weren't hard to deal with, but I will include them for the sake of complete record. In the beginning, meditating in the hall was a little noisy. People were shifting around, trying to ease their legs and backs. but now, we had entered a period where we were encouraged not to move for hour long stretches. The noise level was reduced and now we could hear other things. Before and after lunch, it was like an orchestra of stomach rumblings. The rain had washed out a lot of the pollen, so the sneezing and sniffling had died down, which only emphasized the farting chorus. I really couldn't blame people. We were on a vegetarian diet which often included beans, and we were spending 10 hours a day together. Some social conventions were just not applicable.

poem: on an odd note

on an odd note
i love me.
i haven't gotten out of bed
i stopped using deoderant again
for like at least 2 weeks or so now
and I smell
i can smell my armpits
and I smell like that smell that I usually think that Jon smells like
and I love it
but its really me
I love me.

May 13, 2008

Meditation Retreat: Day 6

Note*
This is part of a multi-part posting about the 10 day Meditation Retreat I participated in. The names of the people I met have been changed, but for the most part, this is all as true as my biased and faulty memory can recall. I will not be describing the actual teachings/technique, not because I'm not allowed, but because I can't do them and you justice. If you would like to learn more about, you can go to Vipassana Meditation website

The Apple Crisp Test
The morning gong sounded off at 4am but I barely heard it. I felt like ass. I was tired, my body was tired, my head was tired. There wasn't much of a decision to make. I stayed in bed and skipped the two hour pre-dawn mediation session.

When the breakfast gong went off, I crawled down from the bunk bed. I felt a little better and noted that there seemed to be a few other people in my cabin who had decided to sleep in as well. These were the same people that I noticed missing from group meditations the past few days. So now I knew what was up. I got dressed and headed for breakfast.

I thought that sleeping in would have made the day better, but it didn't. Instead, everything felt off. Normally by breakfast, I had this good feeling that I had started the day well and things would continue. But today, today just felt weird.. like I had dragged myself out of bed and was sitting down to yet another meal of oatmeal, granola, and tea. Since the weather had turned so cold, we had also been given some apple cider. I took a small serving and decided I didn't like it. Instead of pouring it out, I decided to add hot water and make tea in the same cup. When I tried it, it tasted awful. I made an angry face at my cup. Then I realized that I was getting mad at my cup, which was ridiculous. So I started laughing and smiled at the cup. Then I realized I was acting crazy so I abandoned the cup and left the food hall.

After breakfast, I contemplated my attitude. Which was a little odd, since I didn't really have much of an attitude to think of. I wasn't interacting with others. I didn't have much to think about others. I wasn't reliving my past, I wasn't replaying movies in my head. There wasn't much "me" going on. So I headed into the next meditation block, assuming that would get me back on track.

Again, lunch was the best part of the day. And today's menu consisted of lentil soup and the ever-present salad. A bonus for today: apple crisp with whipped cream for dessert. oooo! I grabbed my soup, salad, and water (I had started to add some variety to my beverage selection) and sat down to eat. And then it happened. I lost it.

As I was eating, I noticed one of my sisters (the unwashed one), serving herself some apple crisp. but not just one serving. several servings into a soup bowl, topped with about 8 tablespoons of whipped cream. My first (furious) thought was not the best one. If everyone served themselves the amount of food that the unwashed pig had taken, there wasn't going to be enough apple crisp for everyone to have.

My second thought (which I ignored) was that there had always been enough food for everyone and surely the staff would have enough apple crisp.

but, as I stated, I ignored my second reasonable thought and headed right off to scoop up some dessert before it was all gone. I took a single serving and sat back down at the table. I then proceeded to ignore the apple crisp. I tried the soup. It was good. I had some salad. Also, predictably good. Then I figured, I had gotten worked up about dessert, I tried a quick taste of the apple crisp.

it was not good. ??? How could it not be good! Everything was good here! And then I realized. I had ruined dessert for myself with my shitty thinking. ughhh... I thought about my previous actions. I took another look at the unwashed pig. She seemed to be ok. Maybe she was having a bad day too. Maybe she really needed extra dessert. Maybe I should stop calling her the unwashed pig. hmmm.. I tried another taste of the apple crisp. It tasted better this time, but not as good as the lentil soup. I ate the rest of my food and got a second serving of soup and some tea.

After lunch, I paced around the women's walking area and thought about my day. It was going pretty badly, in my estimation. I had skipped the first meditation session of the day, and then lost my temper at someone I didn't even know over something as petty as dessert. I felt like I had failed - I wasn't sure what I had failed at - but I had.

Oddly enough, acceptance of my failure lead to an incredibly good meditation practice for the rest of the afternoon and evening. As I went to bed, I resolved that I would not skip the morning session again.

May 15, 2008

Meditation Retreat: Day 7

Note*
This is part of a multi-part posting about the 10 day Meditation Retreat I participated in. The names of the people I met have been changed, but for the most part, this is all as true as my biased and faulty memory can recall. I will not be describing the actual teachings/technique, not because I'm not allowed, but because I can't do them and you justice. If you would like to learn more about, you can go to Vipassana Meditation website

Call Me Sister
The morning gong sounded off at 4am and I made it to the morning meditation. After my previous day, I was determined to make the most of my experience at camp. I was meditating pretty well. It seemed that we had all settled into this calm quietness of meditation and awareness. The one thing I could still hear about myself were my ankles cracking when I walked across the meditation hall to my cushion.

That day, I broke two rules.

As I was coming back from the bathroom during one of the breaks, Lana walked near me and said "You have got to stop making faces."

hah - I know I have a bad habit of doing this and I said to her "Yesterday, I thought I was going crazy. I was making faces at my coffee cup!"

And she said "I KNOW!"

we had to stop talking then before things got out of hand. It was really amazing to speak after 6+ days of silence, but I found it oddly disruptive. I wasn't going to feel too bad about it, since I hadn't said anything terrible but I resolved to not let it happen again (mainly by staying away from Lana).

Lunch that day was salad and beans with tortillas! It was the most exciting lunch I had there, because that meant Burritos! and I don't think I was the only one who got excited because there was also a huge tub of sour cream out.. and by the end of lunch that sucker had been hit pretty bad. I also was around to witness some of the largest burrito making attempts ever.

So it was an exciting day for everyone I guess. After lunch, I decided to treat myself to a shower, and that was when I broke the rules again. I had set up all my stuff in the shower stall when I saw one of those weird long legged flying bugs. It was steering badly around the walls and I didn't want to kill it, so when I turned the shower on, I angled the head away. but to no avail, eventually the bug flew into the water and got stuck on the floor. As I watched this insect get slowly swept towards the drain, I tried to pick it up. But there was no way to so it without snapping a leg off or something so I let it die. I felt bad about it, because if I had just swept the thing out of the shower before I turned the water on, it would have gone on to some other thing. Was there a metaphor for life in here somewhere?

Meditation went on and then the dinner break came up. I was outside drinking my tea when I saw Lana getting reprimanded by the female manager for talking. Nothing too harsh, but then I saw Tammy getting the same talk. weirdness. I hadn't seen them talking but I suppose it must have happened.

The day was largely uneventful and marked only by these small incidents. Though, it was rather exciting to think that we were almost done.


May 19, 2008

Meditation Retreat: Day 8

Note*
This is part of a multi-part posting about the 10 day Meditation Retreat I participated in. The names of the people I met have been changed, but for the most part, this is all as true as my biased and faulty memory can recall. I will not be describing the actual teachings/technique, not because I'm not allowed, but because I can't do them and you justice. If you would like to learn more about, you can go to Vipassana Meditation website

Sensation or No
The 4am going went off and I rolled around in my sleeping bag some more. After seven days, I it had become well ingrained in me that I was making my own choices. And what I had learned was that the gongs always seemed to go off 15 minutes in advance of when I really needed to be anywhere and I had plenty of time to roll around in my sleeping bag, brush my teeth, wash my face, get dressed, look at the moon, before shuffling off to meditate in the pre-dawn.

Meditation had been going pretty well, but I had started to notice some odd sensations occurring. My nose had been going numb from the sides for the past couple of days, and I was getting some headaches. I had initially thought these sensations were a psychosomatic expression of some sort generated by the intensive self investigation that the retreat was engendering. I spent most of that morning just observing the sensations (or lack of). Finally, I realized that the headaches were eyestrain. I had developed a bad habit of moving my eyes while meditating, even though my eyes were closed the whole time. 10+ hours of daily meditation for multiple days coupled with this bad habit were finally showing in some nasty eyestrain. And for some reason, this was accompanied by this odd numbness on the sides of my nose. I wasn't sure why, but I could remember one thing that seemed relevant. Compression of the optic nerve can result in the flattening of the nasolabial fold (that would be the two lines that run from the side of your nose down to the sides of your mouth ). This can sometimes look like Bell's palsy (a type of facial paralysis).

I suppose this would be an appropriate time to place a pithy quote. something about the effects of education, or a little knowledge being dangerous. Or maybe just a question like "how the hell did you know that?". yeah - I dunno.. don't you ever get bored sometimes? anyway, back to the story...

going on the assumption that my bad meditation habit was causing the numbness, I spent the rest of the day working on my meditation technique. And yes, lunch that day was great.

May 20, 2008

Meditation Retreat: Day 9

Note*
This is part of a multi-part posting about the 10 day Meditation Retreat I participated in. The names of the people I met have been changed, but for the most part, this is all as true as my biased and faulty memory can recall. I will not be describing the actual teachings/technique, not because I'm not allowed, but because I can't do them and you justice. If you would like to learn more about, you can go to Vipassana Meditation website

Its the little things
The 4am gong went off and I headed to the meditation hall. Pre-dawn had become one of my favourite meditation times; it was peaceful and it kept the day peaceful as well. Meditation went well. I was still working on not straining my eyes and looking forward to breakfast (which coincidentally, occurred right at sunrise). As I headed in for my customary granola and yogurt, I saw a little sign posted. Since we weren't supposed to talk, most communication was through signs. Like, "Please don't wear shoes inside. It makes the floor dirty." or "Please label and re-use the same water cup". Anyway, the sign I saw today was one of the most exciting yet. It said "Noble Silence will end at 10am tomorrow."

wow. We could start talking. tomorrow. oddly enough, it wasn't as exciting as I thought it would be. Earlier in the week, I had been full of talk. Things I wanted to say, things I should've said, things I couldn't wait to say. but sometime in the last couple of days, it had all gone away and now, there was nothing to say. That morning I skipped the granola and yogurt in favour of toast with jam and some fruit.

The rest of the day was rather speculative. I spent my meditation breaks looking at things. I had finally figured out that the crazy looking contraption in the playground was a wheelchair swing. The rudimentary sundial I had started constructing earlier had been knocked over by a meditating sister on a walk. Some of the other women had gotten into a horse petting frenzy during lunch. I suppose after 10 days of no contact, you got a little odd. and I would be lying if I didn't admit that after day 6, I had started hugging my pillow in my sleep (instead of resting my head on it).

Dinner was fruit and tea again. I finally decided to join the women in the fruit salad club, which I need to explain. Every day, until we ran out of bananas, we had the same fruit selection. We'd take our fruit in little bowls and sit around the dining hall or outside and eat our fruit like a herd of large apes. Hand to mouth, eyes fixed on our bowls, not a word to be spoken. But after several days, people had started getting crazy. People had started with simple cuts, slicing oranges, removing the end of banana peels. This quickly evolved into segmenting the orange slice so that there was no trace of skin (the fancy orange slicing), slicing bananas up into neat sections, and butchering the seeds out of apples. Eventually, people were building fruit salads and requesting leftover breakfast yogurt to mix in with it or sprinkling seeds and cinnamon or honey over it.

And that was the day. People were looking happier than they had in a while, in anticipation of tomorrow.

May 21, 2008

Meditation Retreat: Day 10

Note*
This is part of a multi-part posting about the 10 day Meditation Retreat I participated in. The names of the people I met have been changed, but for the most part, this is all as true as my biased and faulty memory can recall. I will not be describing the actual teachings/technique, not because I'm not allowed, but because I can't do them and you justice. If you would like to learn more about, you can go to Vipassana Meditation website

Pleased to meet you
The 4am gong went off and I got up, for what I believed would be my final 4:30am meditation session. I had thought that the excitement of being able to talk would have destroyed my concentration, but it didn't. I felt pretty good about things actually. I savored breakfast; I put jam and honey on my toast. Afterwards I walked around a bit and then decided to pack up my bag. I guess there was a little anticipation going on. Technically, we weren't allowed to leave until 7am the next day, but I had to do something.

At the next meditation block, the assistant teacher informed us that we would be allowed to talk as soon as this session was over, but we still needed to maintain silence in the meditation hall. So we all meditated and then... silence was over. Our session ended early, and we all shuffled outside. I think I waited to start talking. I waited until I saw Lana and Tammy, because I didn't really know any other people (other than what 10 days of observation had provided to me). And then we just started talking.. all of us, we talked about how we had felt and the weird things that had happened to us. In the course of the 2 hours before lunch, I managed to get sunburnt by not paying attention to the amount of sunlight - that's how much talking we did. Even lunch was strange, because it was so nice to just be able to say "thank you" and "after you". I discovered that some of the other women had gotten eyestrain just like me. At some point, it got to be too much. I had to walk away from people and take a quiet walk around the camp, several times actually.

We still had to make two more meditation sessions for the day, but they seemed so easy now compared to when we had started. And that night, instead of bunking down in silence, all the women in my cabin talked until lights out. It was amazing what I learned. It turned out that one of the women was pregnant and had morning sickness, which explained the puking. Another woman who had seemed perpetually unhappy had some serious chronic pain that she was dealing with. Once we could talk to each other, all the silly petty misunderstandings just fell away, and we were all so happy to meet each other. Because at least, we all knew what it had felt like to go through this ordeal.

At some point though, we all had to go to bed. There was still a 4:30am session to attend the next morning before we could leave. We all swapped e-mails and went to bed.

May 22, 2008

Meditation Retreat: The Last Day

Note*
This is part of a multi-part posting about the 10 day Meditation Retreat I participated in. The names of the people I met have been changed, but for the most part, this is all as true as my biased and faulty memory can recall. I will not be describing the actual teachings/technique, not because I'm not allowed, but because I can't do them and you justice. If you would like to learn more about, you can go to Vipassana Meditation website

Going Home
The morning gong went off. For a moment I had thought of going to the door to greet the gong ringer. She had woken us up for the last 10 days; it would've been nice to say 'Good Morning'. but, she was too fast for me and I was too slow to greet her.

That morning's session was ok and soon enough, it was over. We all headed off to breakfast and for once, we weren't segregated. It was strange and there wasn't enough room in the women's side anymore. Women were eating with their husbands, boyfriends, and friends. I ate outside for the last time with some other people. The girl I talked to was pretty interesting. She was the youngest looking woman there, and she looked like she was about 18. Amazingly enough, she was here with her mother. And even more amazing was that it had been her mother's idea. I was kind of glad that I was here on my own impetus because there had been some really hard times, and I know I would have been resentful.

The whys and hows of people getting to the retreat were amazing. Meditation centers have to be peaceful and for that reason are usually situated in remote locations. I myself had given a ride to two women for the 4 hour road trip. A couple of people had ridden the chinatown bus from New York city just to get somewhere where people would give them rides. People had flown in from Miami to North Carolina to get rides. Couples drove in from New Jersey. There was even one volunteer from Canada. I know I never said where we were, but as you can guess, we were in the mid-atlantic region.

At 7am, the retreat was officially over. Several of us stayed behind to help pack up the kitchen and meditation hall. I had a moment to speak with our assistant teacher, who told us that she was a volunteer as well (all the staff are volunteers). The retreat had gone very smoothly for her as well. Her job was to facilitate giving meditation instructions and to talk to students when problems or questions arose. When she wasn't doing that, she meditated in the hall to give all of us a sense of peace. I was surprised to find out that some people had actually left during the week. None of the women had left, but several men had left.

sooner than later, everything was packed up. People found their rides, and we all said our good-byes. It was a little sad to see everyone go, but at the same time, I was really glad to go home. I really wanted to see the loml.

Since coming back from the retreat. I've felt much better about life in general. I intend to go back and volunteer for another retreat. As a server, you only meditate three times a day while preparing things for people who are there for the retreat. I can't think of anything more amazing than helping someone else do what I did. So there it is, my 10 day retreat (really 12 days). I know I didn't really elaborate much on the amazing suffering of 10 hours of daily meditation, but that's because it can not be described. let me know if you have any questions. I think this kind of thing is great for anyone and i'd be happy if these blog entries get others to consider going on the 10 day retreat.

May 23, 2008

Is you or ain't you

I've been a little ill lately, but today I felt better than yesterday so i went out for lunch. After a brief burrito, my tummy still isn't quite all there yet, I decided to investigate Target. Their latest advertising campaign has been for a line of organic cotton shirts, and I could use one of those. I'd recently come across some rather startling information on how Cotton is not really the fabric of our lives as cotton growth and processing involves an incredible amount of pesticides, and resultant air/water pollution. But you can look that up yourself.

Anywho. I'm pulling into Target, telling myself "just park in the first spot you see" while blatantly ignoring the available ones that are "just too far out", when I see one. As I pull in, I realize the reason this spot is available. Some peoples have left 2 shopping carts smack in the middle of the spot. It only takes me a few seconds to make the decision; the parking lot isn't busy and I'm out of my car. I'm going to take these carts off where they belong, which isn't right about where I'm going to park.

As I start trundling the carts off, leaving my car in the lane, a man speaks up. He and his buddy were getting in the adjacent car. "Man, can you believe how lazy some people are?"

to which I respond, "Its a really nice day. People could take the extra minute to put these back." at which point his buddy takes the carts and says "I'll wheel these in" and his friend says "I'll pick you up at the curb."

Now I walk in and I pass up the buddy and tell him "nice job" but he's not looking particularly happy about his good deed, at which point I realize (probably a little slower than most of you) that it was these guys who had left at least one of these carts in my spot in the first place. hah!

funny stuff, so I go inside and inspect Target's organic line which is ok - but not anything I'm interested in buying. and that was my outing of the day.

May 30, 2008

how stuff happens

well, last night I was cutting my own hair and I accidentally gave myself an almost-mullet. now I know.

In honor of the occasion, I thought I would post some links because, there isn't much I can say about my hair.

a love poem

and because I can't find a decent link, here is a posting of a favourite passage from the Hua Hu Ching:
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10
The ego is a monkey catapulting through the jungle: Totally fascinated by the realm of the senses, it swings from one desire to the next, one conflict to the next, one self-centered idea to the next. If you threaten it, it actually fears for its life. Let this monkey go. Let the senses go. Let desires go. Let conflicts go. Let ideas go. Let the fiction of life and death go. Just remain in the center, watching. And then forget that you are there.
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I hope you enjoy them as I will be calling up my old hair stylist and begging for an early appointment.

About May 2008

This page contains all entries posted to daisyblahg in May 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

April 2008 is the previous archive.

June 2008 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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