“We are fragmented into so many different aspects. We don´t know who we really are, or what aspects of ourselves we should identify with or believe in. So many contradictory voices, dictates, and feelings fight for control over our inner lives that we find ourselves scattered everywhere, in all directions, leaving nobody at home.
Meditation, then, is bringing the mind home.” –Soygal Rinpoche
For the sake of symmetry, I publicly began my 30-day meditation challenge on September 1, but I actually began it on August 30th, my birthday, when I took myself away for the day to a nearby meditation center and made my own retreat. My intention was to get a lot of writing done while in a gorgeous location, to still and quiet the noise of daily life so I could get some deep focus in. I was overdue for a good writing session.
What I didn’t expect was that the bulk of my retreat would be spent doing…nothing. I walked around the lovely grounds a little, and I did write—maybe a collective hour’s worth of writing in a seven hour day. But mostly I did a lot of sitting. Some of it sitting meditation, and some of it just sitting and regarding the fog drift over the ocean, or making eyes at a baby fawn that kept showing up with his family. I sat on benches and on the forest floor. I sat and listened to the running loop of chanting at the Hindu temple, and beside the man made lake where I saw dragonflies in four colors. I sat in a room full of skylights and looked out on forest and hills. I sat in a room with all the windows closed, did a few yoga poses, and looked into my internal landscape.
I had brought my book, my computer and my notebook but I was never bored enough to read. I wrote a tiny bit on the computer, and journaled some, but none of that felt interesting. I was surprised at how good it felt to be in nature, but also necessary, as though it was filling a well inside me I didn’t know was empty. And when the seven hours was up, in a blink, I didn’t want to go away from the place and it’s spacious stillness, even though I know it’s good to have a balance.
I’m struggling with that balance. Ever since coming home, and then beginning to meditate in earnest, I find myself easily overwhelmed by, well, a lot of things. Loud noise and speed, high pitched child chatter and TVs turned up too loud. This is not the place I plan to stay in; I think this is like an early stage. In turning down the speed of my attention and inviting in calm, there are growing pains. Ultimately I want to be able to weather the noise and speed of the world with the same calm I find in meditation.
Teachings about meditation urge you to be able to meditate through thunder and chatter. Some urge you not to scratch that itch or shift around, though I don’t come from that school; I think techniques that support you to keep doing what you’re doing are ideal over ones that make you feel bad for a human urge. There’s even a classic and unforgettable story of the monk who protested the Vietnam war by setting himself on fire, and meditating to his death. The latter example notwithstanding, the point is that meditation isn’t meant to take you away from the world. It’s meant to help you be in the world.