I Don’t Fear Much But I Am Terrified Of This…
I don’t fear cliffs, steep slopes, mountain lions, or bears. I fear silence. I fear stillness. I leave today on a 10 day silent seated meditation retreat and I am terrified of the deep contemplation of reality I will encounter in this time. I, like many of you, have healthy living practices including yoga, hikes in nature, and some meditation. These practices provide me with brief encounters with my deeper self. Then the 60 minutes are past and I head to Starbucks for a pumpkin spiced latte in a non-descript red holiday cup. Usually, my inner truth is faced in very small bites. I think most of us do this. Most of us subsist on a strobe light of inner reflection that, when too intense, is easily set aside and replaced with a glass of wine and a movie (insert distraction of choice). For the next 10 days this will not be an option for me. Very simply, I will sit. I will meditate. I will observe. There will be no escape from myself and I am afraid of what I will find.
So why do it? Good question. I know that meditation is empirically shown to decrease activity in the limbic center of the brain (panic and fear responses) while increasing activity and neuro-connections to the pre-frontal cortex (wisdom and planned responses). I know that when I meditate I have more patience and I am a better listener. 10 days of seated silent meditation will make me, at least temporarily, a sweeter, more patient, and more connected person.
During this process there is no reprieve by way of the daily releases we all take part in. I am not allowed to read, to write, to do yoga, or to exercise. I can’t even talk to others when I am in pain. The purpose behind these restrictions is to create a closed container within myself and my experience. I must see the pain and fear arise within me and I must hold that space until it subsides. In this way I can learn about the temporary nature of feelings and experiences. I do this so I can, in the future, observe my own petty jealousies, fears, desires, and frustrations but not react to them like they are the whole of my human experience.
Nobody wants to go to the dentist. We do so because we know that it is good to periodically clean our teeth. It prevents pain down the line and enables us to enjoy food in the future. However, it is uncomfortable and sometimes painful, but still we go. I am off to my spiritual dentistry. To clean the plaque off my soul. To polish my heart so that my smile is fuller and brighter. Love you on the other side.