Monday, October 11, 2010

And Thus, I Emerge

I want to share how my vipassana meditation course went, but I don't even know where to begin. I certainly wouldn't call my experience "good" or "fun" -- it was transformative. We spent our time trying to train our minds. As an athlete, someone who spends a vast amount of his time training his body, I assumed that training my mind would be similar. The factor I utterly failed to take into account was how untrained my mind was before starting the course.

Let me put this in cycling terms, so that I, and perhaps more of my readers can understand:

Imagine a ten-day course where people are asked to pedal their bicycles for eleven hours each day. Now imagine that a wide range of people sign up for this course. Some people, having completed the course before, know exactly what challenges lie ahead, while others don't even know how to ride a bike.  Everyone, regardless of fitness, will find this course challenging; however, someone like myself, who rides his bike constantly, will adjust to this extremely intense environment much easier than someone who hasn't ridden his or her bike since childhood. A good athlete, with a solid understanding of what his body can do, is likely to choose an appropriate pace to pedal for those eleven hours. An out-of-shape person, fresh off years of sitting on the couch eating Arby's, will almost certainly overdo it on the first day, and spend the course floundering.

So it felt with me in this meditation course. My mind was utterly unprepared for the challenge -- prior to this course, I'd never meditated more than ten minutes at a time. My mind, never having exercised like this in it's life, tried to keep up the first day or so, but, let me put this lightly, imploded catastrophically shortly thereafter. I found this experience traumatic, painful, and yet somehow inspiring.

I found that training my mind, especially my sub-conscious mind, is like training a large, powerful, extremely distractible, and extremely hyper labrador retriever named Shredder how to sit. I showed up at canine obedience school thinking I'd get Shredder to sit on the first day, while in reality this goal was totally unattainable -- "Sit Shredder," I'd say, and Shredder would go bounding off into the distance to hump legs, sniff butts, and fight the other dogs. I've taken the first step, but Shredder will need weeks, months, or years of steady, patient, persistent work before he'll be a good dog.

Keep at it Shredder. You'll be sitting in no time.

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