Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Meditation Blues

I was listening to the very end of The Marriage of Sense and Soul, and Wilber was talking about the value of meditation and all the physiological, psychological, and spiritual effects that it has. I said to myself, for the bazillionth time, "Why don't I make a regular discipline of meditation?"

I have been a serious meditator in the past. I undertook some intense meditation retreats in the past -- 10 days of meditating twelve hours a day. For about eight months I meditated two hours a day. For about another year I meditated an hour a day. In fits and starts I have engaged in various meditative disciplines: vipassana, Zen, vedanta, and good old-fashion Christian rosary. And yet I have never been able to make it a permanent part of my lifestyle . . . in spite of the fact that most every spiritual teaching makes it clear that it's strongly advised, if not mandatory.

Why don't I keep it up? I have a few ideas:
  • It's entirely possible that meditation is not compatible with the way I live the rest of my life. In all aspects of my life -- career, home life, and spiritual community -- I am continually persuing a relatively ambitious, hectic, time-crunched, over-committed agenda. I invariably hit periods of time when one of my doing priorities overwhelms my committment to meditation. "I really can't sit right now, I have to get this stuff ready for the SKS meeting tonight." (Of course, the SKS tradition would argue that confronting all those competing priorities is a kind of meditation, but that's beside the point. The commitment to cultivating an interior state is not as strong as the commitment to building an external, tangible result.)
  • I've never really felt any progress in a daily discipline. In intense meditation retreats I have gotten to extraordinary states of concentration, peace, and calm . . . but daily sits of limited duration have never gotten me to that state. It is more likely an exercise in frustration, attempting to push out distractions and thoughts, or just keeping from falling asleep. Goenkaji's vipassana tradition insists that two hours of meditation a day should be enough to alter your daily state of mind . . . but I could never really tell if it was doing anything for me. Sometimes it was hard, sometimes it was very relaxing and comfortable, but it just didn't seem to be at all transformative. It's hard to maintain a steady discipline like that without seeing some results. (Of course, the Zen tradition would maintain that even thinking in terms of results would be wrong-headed and contrary to meditation.)
  • My theology never really came to terms with meditation. When it comes to brass tacks, I have more faith in doing than being. Somehow I think God will love me better for serving the Group or building or making something, instead of just changing my interior states.

So, if I wanted to change any or all of that, what would I have to do?

  • Get a meditation teacher. I count Augie as my spiritual teacher, but he has never been a teacher of meditation. That's not a critique at all; it's just not what he does. If I want to get better at it, I need some real guidance from experienced teachers.
  • Sit with a group. I used to meditate with various groups in the SKS, and I could probably do it again, if I made it a high enough priority.
  • Give up something on the material side. There's just not enough room in my life right now for meditation, so something's got to give. I know that if I was smarter about my work, more conservative in my estimates, more modest in my expectations, maybe I could get the time back. But that, in itself, is a meditation of the highest order . . . if I could do that, I'm not sure I would even need to meditate.



Post a Comment

<< Home