Thursday, February 25, 2010

(w)resting my attention.

last week, on a days notice, i decided to catch a ride out to central mass and spend five silent days at a buddhist meditation center, instructed in meditation practice by some really nice and knowledgeable dudes, and, of course, practicing it. practicing it from 5am to 9pm each day-- forty-five minutes of sitting meditation, alternated with forty-five minutes of walking meditation, with breaks for meals (breakfast, lunch, tea) and an hour of chores. i needed a little adventure, a little quiet, a little bit of that feeling of new skill acquisition, and a little break from my devices.

there were yogi's at the camp who were on year-long silent retreat, others three month, and many of those there, like me, for only a couple of weeks or several days had been practicing silent meditation at this center for ten, twenty, nigh on thirty years some of them.

i myself have never meditated before. i went to try this thing-- to see about this way of knowing supposedly more clear-eyed reliable, more searingly direct than all of my philosophical figuring. i didn't expect to get more than the rudiments in these few days, and that was right. i expected it to be a grueling exercise in not thinking-- like they'd equip me with some kind of punishing shock collar that zapped at the first suggestion of theorizing-- and there i turned out to be interestingly wrong. their task, they explained to me in (not) so many words, was to gently strip me of the punishing shock collar of my own making. the key was to notice, without judgment (!), when my thoughts had wondered and to bring my attention gently gently back to rest gently on my breathing. the impediment would be my own exasperation with myself.

to see clear is to see without aversion. that seemed to be a central notion. and looking inward we find many things to which we are averse. and the first and forever aversion to be overcome is the aversion our own distractability-- how easily we are subject to recursive and looping and endlessly repeating fantasies and replays of played out pasts. and that's before you ever even have to address your aversion to those fantasies and replays themselves! so first, and forever, i just had to train my attention on my breathing. rest my attention. just rest my attention on my breathing for a breath or two or three (that was really all i could manage at first) until i was carried away by one thing or another and then, eventually, to notice that i'd been carried away and to gently bring that same attention back again and again and again to the breath. gently.

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