Meditation enthusiasm

During my short retreat at Thich Ca Thien Vien, I learned something new about my meditation experience. I’ve only been on one other retreat, and it lasted just as long, however I did not run into quite the same roadblock. The meditation itself was as to be expected, periods of calm and quiet interspersed with thoughts, planning, fidgeting, and impatience.

The roadblock only emerged after some friends had left early in the morning. Prior to that, meditation had actually proceeded quite well, if we were to define “well” as silent, peaceful, and restful. The breathe would go in and out, and focus naturally built up without much effort. My chirpy little cricket friends sang their night song while I sat with my friends in the meditation hall. Thoughts would of course appear, but they subsided soon after, again drowned out by the silence and the chirping.

After my friends left to attend some business, I immediately felt a drop in encouragement. I had planned to stay the weekend with or without them, but after they left, my enthusiasm went as well. I tended to sitting and walking again, but without the same “success” as the previous sessions. Even after my fellow Dharmafolks came for visit later in the day, that same ease of meditation did not return. Instead, many thoughts had come, mostly about when the hour would pass.

While not a success in the previously mentioned sense, this period of sitting and walking did show me one thing. I know I’m lacking the energy and enthusiasm to continue finding stillness. My effort was not right because I did not want to stay in one position for such a long time. I would rather be there, not here! What was I thinking, going to meditation at the temple with that attitude? Of course I’m going to be impatient. My views and intentions were not in harmony with being still. It wanted to get up, move to ease the stiffness, think about what time it was, if the hour had passed….Sit? Fie!

Silly rabbit.

5 comments

  1. ingate says:

    Hi! Great minds think alike… I use this template too on my blog at: http://ingate.wordpress.com/

    I enjoyed your post having recently come away from a retreat in Northumberland. It is quite amazing the dramas we can create around just sitting still!

    What amazes me is how the world manages to continue when so many people don’t even have this amount of heedfulness!

  2. John says:

    If you don’t mind me delving into your experience for a moment, I think one of the reasons why it may have been harder after your friends left was that, suddenly, leaving was an option.

    I know my experience was that the second session was best, if only because I had got some of the kinks out and there was nothing much to ‘look forward to.’ I was going to be meditating for the rest of the day, I couldn’t avoid it, so I might as well not fight it.

    But, oh no, when someone gets up and leaves, that means suddenly the option of fighting it opens up again!

    The third session killed me, if only because I knew it was almost going to be over, and I could be rebellious.

  3. HealingMindN says:

    I don’t know about your retreat, but anyone who experiences too many distractions when attending a meditation retreat was probably not given proper instruction. Did your instructor ask you what is your intention through meditation? Did your instructor ask you what you want to take with you from your experience.

    From my experience, most people would like to instant command of focus and relaxation, no matter how chaotic and stressful a situation; this is the most basic intention that anyone should accomplish through meditation.

    Here’s a guideline to instant relaxation, no matter where you are: If you are standing or sitting, your back is straight. Relax your shoulders. Fell Your head hanging loosely as if held up by a string from above. Relax your focus as if looking at a distant horizon on the ocean. Relax your jaw by letting it drop slightly. Hold the tip of your tongue gently against the roof of your mouth.

    Your deep, slow, natural breaths towards your diaphragm should key the above responses, so you can experience relaxation at any time. The above responses allow your neural patterns to slow down to a focused, meditative state.

    From there, you can go into any kind of meditation you choose quite easily.

    Peace

  4. arunlikhati says:

    Oz, congrats on completing your retreat! Anh phục Văn lắm! I’m very impressed!

    I wouldn’t pay too much attention HealingMindN’s criticism. I think your teacher gave you proper instruction — his instruction is very similar to the instruction I received from a Burmese monk when I was much younger, even down to the very words he used.

  5. Oz says:

    Thanks everybody, for your comments.

    @ingate: Drama may be the right word! looking back, it’s somewhat silly, but if I were to sit again, I would not be surprised if it happens again.

    @John: Thank you for elaborating and pointing out a reason for my lack of stillness in meditation. Certainly, it was all in my head.

    @HealingMindN: Proper instruction can only go so far if the student does not go with it. Clearly, I was not. Also, what happens when “instant command of focus and relaxation” does not happen? I’d prefer to just sit.

    @arunlikhati: Thanks! I did very much enjoy Bhante’s instruction and his laugh =D We should plan another trip!

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