Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Seat of the Soul

A couple of weeks ago Wes and I went on a three day silent meditation retreat. It was at a Buddhist retreat center. The schedule was basically this: up at 6:15 a.m., 45 minutes of sitting meditation, 30 minutes of walking meditation, 45 sitting, 30 walking, meal. It went on like this until 9 o'clock at night.

Wes sat in a chair (as did many people), but I chose to sit cross-legged on a meditation pillow and then switch off and sit on my meditation bench. I sit half-lotus all the time in yoga, no big deal. However I have never sat like that for 45 minutes. It was brutal.

Cross-legged was brutal on my ankles and my knees. Meditation bench was brutal on my butt and my knees. By the end of the second night, I thought I was going to die. So I thought for the last sit of the night, I would be in a chair.

There were these green plastic lawn chairs that cost about 25 cents to manufacture. I was a little late getting in and everyone was in place so I quickly grabbed a chair and sat down in the back.

Instant nirvana. It was like sitting in the lap of a lover; like sitting in a hot fragrant bath; like sitting on a heavenly throne. Why had I been torturing myself for two days? Why this was the most comfortable chair in which I had ever sat! I felt embraced by the chair, loved by the chair.

We were supposed to be doing vipassana meditation which is being in the present moment and simply watching your thoughts arise. Here were my thoughts:

I love this chair.
I want one of these chairs.
Could I could put it in the living room?
I would meditate every day if I had one of these chairs.
I wonder if they have them at Fred Meyer?

You can see this was not keeping me in the present moment. So I decided to do metta meditation which is "loving kindness." You think of someone and then send them unconditional love.

May you be peaceful and happy.
May you be safe and protected.
May you be strong and healthy.
May you live with ease and joy.

So I started with that, praying for myself first, which is what you are supposed to do. I couldn't help thinking how peaceful and happy I'd be if I had one of these chairs.

Stop thinking about the chair! And then I thought, "Ah, Grasshopper! What you resist, persists!" So I did metta for the chair.

May you be peaceful and happy. You would be in my house.
May you be safe and protected. I would never leave you out in the rain.
May you be healthy and strong. May you never break a leg. Or your back. Or your seat!
May you live with ease and joy. I would give you your own little corner.

I couldn't stop. At the end of the sit I realized that it was my physical pain that kept me in the present moment. For the rest of the retreat I was either on my pillow or on my bench. Brutal, but focused.

Enlightenment eluded me that weekend. And I've never found those chairs. But I'm keeping my eye out for both.


Nin Andrews said...

I love this entry. I've been there at those retreats, thinking of everything from chocolate to how the little beany things in my pillow hurt my behind. Retreats are never what I expect, but they do help me see how important comfort is to me. And how my mind has a life of its own.

Kelli Russell Agodon - Book of Kells said...

Hi Debra,

This was wonderful-- once in yoga I was so hungry that while I tried to stay in the moment I kept thinking of mashed potatoes. I was so tired and hungry and I moved into that half-sleep/half-awake period, but I woke myself trying to eat the air--yes, I was now dreaming of mashed potatoes.

BTW, in case you've noticed you had a few new readers, I've linked your blog up to mine and did a post about your new book- yeah!

much love

Jim Barker said...

HA!!! This post had me laughing at my computer! I once found enlightment under my bed with the dust bunnies... but then I lost it again. Alas...