Saturday, April 5, 2008


My church (Unitarian Universalist) has an American Buddhist monk in residence for the weekend, and he led a meditation workshop this weekend. At first, I was over-scheduled and couldn't go, but my day opened up and the grandies were available for babysitting so I jumped on the chance to take part. Mindfulness- "being here now" is a goal that I'm striving for so much. There are a million tiny things piercing my consciousness at any given moment, so a day of meditation and turning inward felt like an amazing gift.

The workshop was, shockingly, torturous. I thought a day of Buddhist meditation would be like a tall, clear glass of water where my soul is a thirsty throat. Instead, I found it perfectly excruciating. My internal dialog was a constant barrage of "I suck at this," and when I finally found some peace in there, it was when I stopped trying for body awareness and let myself flow with the eclectic intuitive techniques I use spontaneously when I meditate on my own. It's vaguely like a hallucinogenic Tantric/Wiccan animated film with stream of consciousness poetry narration.

The insights I had were that my body is sorely, sadly neglected- my back and lungs are not even close to doing their jobs well. I can't even approximate decent posture, and my breathing is pitifully erratic and shallow. I'll never have a straight spine, but I can have a less burdened one. I also theorized that sitting meditation is artificial in the extreme; that the human body is patently unwilling to be still and quiet at the same time. I sat, still and reaching for an emptiness that would never come and longing for dance or Tai Chi or lovemaking. The monk was sexy, I noticed eventually, from boredom.

It started to seem so unbelievably strange and affected and decadent almost to be human beings, sitting in a building and listening to the near-soundlessness of our own breathing. It struck me as pitiable and disturbing to be earth creatures with pulses and skin and bones and blood who have so thoroughly and perfectly severed our own bodies that we have to struggle and be taught to exist peacefully "in" them.

I decided that guided meditations or mantras and chants are far more suited to me as play for my tired brain. As for my body- sitting, which it does far more than could ever be considered healthy, is antithetical to a true celebration of physicality. Movement- the spiral dance my hips find by instinct when I let myself dance, or the pounding of my heels on pavement or the old mud path in the woods across from our property- is the key to finding home in my body. The monk can sit- he does it with grace and nobility- but I need to have moving hips and feet to find my connection to a body in time.

The day wasn't a waste, though. I'm pleased with these insights, and the messages received from my crooked, chunky body. I'm happy I made time and followed through with a gift of good rich time for myself. I also ate a great cookie with lunch afterward.

1 comment:

Lexie said...

Sounds like a perfectly normal sitting to me! LOL

I'm sure you'd be surprised if you knew what the monk was thinking... mind just thinks. Every mind. The trick is to not let it get to you. To let it pass by... easier said than done!

(And of course, b/c we're cerebral, artsy types, sometimes thinking gets us a LOT of good new insights and sparks, so it isn't at all "bad" it is just nice to create a space away from thought for a little bit of time...)

I needz more meditation!