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01/01/2006 Archived Entry: "Sunday new year thoughts/silent meditation"

NO HARDYVILLE COLUMN THIS MORNING, sorry. I just didn't have one in me. This is only partly a result of my Year of Silence. It's also due to the holidays. But above all it's because of a large project whose deadline looms. The project is strictly "spec" and may never see light of day. But it's dominating all my work-thoughts at the moment.

Still, I'd be lying if I denied that my silence seeking had no effect on Hardyville or on blogging. The first thing I discovered (not surprisingly) when I took this turning was that habits, even small ones, are hard to break. The second thing (also not surprising) could be either a corollary to or a rebellion against the first: the farther I go, the farther I'm moved to go.

Last night I went to a party -- something I rarely do. I went only because it was hosted by The Pyramid Man and his family, people for whom I have a lot of respect. The Pyramid Man always seems in the process of discovering the world anew each day. And it turns out his wife and daughter, whom I've never met, are warm lively people.

I knew only one other person there, but Pyramid Man had evidently mentioned to her my Year of Silence. She wasn't sure exactly what that meant, and she laughingly told me that when I waved at her across the room instead of shouting out, "Hi, ------!" she thought for a moment that I might have actually vowed not to speak for the next 12 months. (Hm, now there's an idea.)

Then she told me something that sparked my imagination. Something that seemed like one of those Messages From the Universe that serve as signposts on life journeys. She told me about a place that gave free three-day meditation workshops in which participants remain totally silent.

When I looked this place up on the Net just now, I learned she was slightly wrong. People taking their first meditation workshop must agree to come for 10 days and work from 4:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. every day in absolute silence. (The only exceptions are two brief periods when you may ask teachers to clarify elements of the practices.) For 10 days, you can't speak to other participants, talk to yourself, use a telephone, communicate by gesture, or even scratch a note on a piece of paper. You also agree that, once you begin you will not leave the premises until the workshop is over. You eat their vegetarian food, sleep -- for those few allowed hours -- in their dorms, and remain completely focused on meditation. The three-day sessions are available only to those who've done all this before.

Sounds fascinating and grim. That would be more discipline than I've subjected myself to in most of my adult life. And when it comes to meditation I'm exactly like most people I know; sitting for five minutes trying to be peaceful is as nerve-grating in its own way as listening to rap music while somebody scratches his fingers on a blackboard.

After ensuring myself that there's nothing cultish going on (having seen too many friends turn into raving weirdos after even two or three days with the Moonies or the Lifespring crowd), I put in my application. And instantly went from excited to apprehensive. Egad. Sitting for that many hours focused solely on breath and mental stillness. Yikes. Putting that much trust in other people. Ack. Parting with my doggies for 10 days. Not writing for 10 days. None of this is what I do.

But right now, that seems all the more reason for doing it.

I have no idea whether they'll accept me. Perhaps this will turn out like my attempt to get test-Tasered by the local cops (who said yes, then backed out when they realized that even fellow officers are now suing over Taser-training injuries). Both sound like really interesting experiences. But all in all, getting Tasered would probably be the easier of the two.

Posted by Claire @ 01:04 PM CST

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