Post #1998: Is meditation really my thing?

I have been home with a cold for the last two days which has given me the luxury of a little time that I would not ordinarily have had. On the other hand, I slept pretty much all of Sunday night and straight through to yesterday afternoon, so a good half of that time was given to rest. Today, I have been reading and thinking about meditation, in addition to engaging in some mindful cleaning of both our sleeping space and our studio space – both of which needed focused attention. Perfect when I am feeling ill and have nowhere to be, a slow tidying up of things is right up my alley. I’m thinking that I might even tackle my sewing area while dinner is on the stove in a little bit.

Even though I was coming down with this thing, I spent all of Sunday at the Zendo that I attend – it was my first half-day retreat, followed by the jukai ceremony for two members of the community. Jukai is like an initiation where the lay practitioner of Buddhism formally receives certain precepts (admissions to a way of life that encourages clear mind). By the time we got the ceremony I was feeling pretty ill so I didn’t take it in as much as I would have liked, but the morning retreat – an extension of the regular Sunday service – was a gentle opening up of practice and a reminder that I can sit even when I am feeling a lot of physical discomfort (something I couldn’t do a year ago).

I have two retreats coming up – my first “real” retreats – both in May. This is not by design – I signed up for a residential retreat almost a year ago, then I got involved in the Zendo and a non-residential retreat was scheduled for May as well – so now I am having both experiences very close together and am looking forward to them for quite different reasons – though I am also trepidatious because I still feel very much like a novice to this whole experience of meditation. I am reading Dan Harris’ book 10% Happier at the moment (after hearing him on CBC’s Tapestry on Sunday) where he writes about his discovery of meditation, including his first ten-day retreat (as a real novice to the practice) and I have to admit that I feel somewhat more prepared than he seemed to be (in his telling – he’s got self-deprecation down to an art, so it’s hard to know exactly where he was at). The fact he got through the ten days and came out the other side still in the practice is heartening! In fact, I love all the stories of how non-spiritual folks find their way to meditation and to Buddhism because – hey – it’s my experience too! And everytime I go to the Zendo to sit I wonder – is this really me? But it is really me, and it rounds out my life in a very satisfying way. I find with Zen in particular, I am able to participate in a non-judgemental way – because my teachers do not require that I believe magical things or focus on the enlightenment experience (two things I find distracting, and that get in the way of my practice).

I am writing this as I am choosing something to listen to in the meditation session that I lead once a week – we alternate between me guiding, silent, and listening to music. Because I am coldish and cough when I talk – tonight will be sound focused. These sessions are utterly unlike the zen sitting that I prefer for my own regular practice, but they are the kind of meditation gatherings that I would have appreciated when I was just becoming acquainted with sitting. Also, they give me a chance to teach as I learn – which is another kind of learning, and provides me more opportunity to think about what is meaningful in the practice.  There are only a few people who come every week – between two and four women – and they have expressed how much this fills a particular need and curiosity. Meditation without ascribed belief. Awareness practice in the company of progressive others who have made a bond over the weekly touchstone of sitting together.

And so it is, that I am sick and spending my days reading and drifting and meditating through my illness – hoping to get back to work tomorrow – but also grateful for a couple of drowsy, dreamy days.

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