Sunday, September 20, 2009

Vipassana Retreat, Installment 15

FRIDAY, JULY 10, 2009, 7:37 AM
            I did the Yaza sit last night, staying up until 5:00 AM. I wanted to see if I could bring concentration, clarity and equanimity to falling asleep in my chair. (I had abandoned trying to sit in the half-lotus position on my meditation cushion around midnight). Instead of avoiding doing the “Zen Lurch”, I tried to make it the object of my meditation. My difficulty is, I zone out, going into TALK right before I nod off, only catching myself after I lurch forward and snap back into momentary wakefulness. I was unable to bring concentration and clarity to this process, but was able to have equanimity (one out of three ain’t bad).


         Prior to the start of the Yaza (10:30 PM), I walked the labyrinth in the chapel. Choshin had written an announcement on the dry erase board announcing that the Center had made one available to be walked at any time, 24/7.  I decided I’d rather do this than another hour of sitting. I hoped I wasn’t jumping the gun; the Yaza schedule indicated there would be 2 walking meditation sessions during the night. Terry would lead us. He’s one of the facilitators and he always seems to be in a happy, laughing mood, ready with a smile and a hug. (He reminds me of a male version of the main character from the recent Mike Leigh movie, “Happy Go Lucky”)

To reach the labyrinth, one had to pass through the Garden Room and pass through the doors at the left/front of the room. Upon entering the chapel, I found the labyrinth to be a replica of the one on the floor of Chartres Cathedral. The labyrinth is also duplicated on a hilltop at Forest Lawn Memorial Cemetery in Glendale, California, which I have also walked a few times. That model is constructed from black and white bricks. The one at the Center was the same size, approximately 100 feet in diameter, with the path itself being about 1 foot wide. It was printed in black and white on a large canvas pentagon, stretched out in the center of the chapel floor. There was a sign by the door demanding that it be walked only in stocking feet, or wearing the surgical booties obligingly provided in a nearby box.

            When I entered another student, Angela, a perky, petite, auburn haired young woman, was partially through the labyrinth. She walked it as quickly as possible, holding her arms out at right angles sto keep her balance as she glided around the hairpin turns. I had to step out of her path as she made her return journey.
            In contrast to Angela’s high-speed approach, I was doing walking meditation, taking each step as slowly as possible, but maintaining one’s balance at all times. It reminds me of Tai Chi; one goes through the poses prepared to be able to stop and maintain one’s balance at any point. It takes full concentration to maintain one’s equilibrium walking so slowly and continually.  

I felt I should try to use the labyrinth-walk as a form of prayer. I’m currently reading 2 books, “Bread in the Wilderness”, by Thomas Merton, and “The Coming of the Cosmic Christ”, by Matthew Fox, I’ve found in the Center’s library. These books (and being in the Center itself) have rendered me more receptive than usual to the Christian mindset. I walked the labyrinth route silently reciting the St. Francis of Assisi prayer like a mantra, trying to focus on POSITIVE FEEL.
However, the floor of the chapel was obdurate marble and my feet and ankles were starting to feel pretty sore by the time I reached the center of the labyrinth 45 minutes later. I walked the return route at normal pace, exiting 10 minutes later.v

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