Saturday, September 26, 2009

Vipassana Retreat, Installment 21

SUNDAY, JULY 12, 2009, 7:47 AM
            I have regretted not signing up with other facilitators besides Pam. “Participation is the key to harmony” has been my mantra/motto during the retreat, and I dropped the ball on facilitator talks. It would have been a chance to get to know various people, an otherwise difficult endeavor during a silent retreat. Yesterday morning I made one last look on the sign-in sheet table to see if there were any open slots I missed. I spotted a fresh page with 2 slots, both available. I checked the name; Shit, it was my roommate, Ray. He sort of freaks me out; what if we have a session and it’s awkward and weird? I sighed, checked my motives. I would be passing on the opportunity due to cowardice and regret it thereafter. The 2 slots were at 1:30 and 3:00 PM. The latter would conflict with the First Timers session, so I wrote my name down in the earlier slot. And immediately regretted it when I remembered the lunch eating meditation, which usually breaks up around 1:45. Should I cross out my name? No, that would be too weird. I guess I could leave the eating meditation early; others have done that, making the “namaste” bow on their way out.
            As it happened, we ran into each other in the room before lunch. I asked for a slight postponement because of the eating meditation and he said acceded.

        We met in the library nook and moved outside, to the white plastic lawn chairs in under a shady tree near the circular courtyard. I didn’t have an agenda in terms of questions about my practice; I wanted to get to know him a little, as much as anything else.
Ray is about as tall as I, trim but not gaunt, with a shaved bald and a white beard coming in. He said he was 68. His favorite form of meditation is FOCUSING ON INTERNAL TALK. He likes to go on walks, both brisk and super-slow. He was the leader of the walking (super-slow) meditation session on Wednesday afternoon that I attended. He alternates between sitting and walking meditation as a way to deal with the physical discomfort and boredom, doing mostly TALK meditation. I said I like to walk as well, but that I do FOCUS OUT.  He replied that he starts to space out on FOCUS OUT after about 10 minutes; he strongly recommended I try TALK.
In fact, he led me in a TALK session right then, having me sit with my eyes closed, labeling TALK and QUIET as the states arose. I was frustrated; I found a lot of unnecessary TALK arising in response to the noting and labeling process itself. I told Ray this.
By way of answering, Ray shared about his history with the TALK technique. He’d thought of himself as a “cold German”. He’d attend retreats and didn’t interact, doing the extensive walking meditations as almost a “fuck you” to the other attendees. He’d get more and more alienated throughout each retreat.
            Finally, he discussed the matter with Shinzen during an on-line session. Shinzen had Ray focus on the TALK, teasing apart the IMAGE and FEEL aspects. Up until this time, Ray had been meditating in desperation, attempting to quiet the voices in his head. Something shifted during this session; when Shinzen checked in later, he asked how Ray was doing with the voices. Ray said, “Fine’. At least for the moment, those voices no longer had the power to upset him.

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