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02/13/2006 Archived Entry: "Back from the meditation workshop"

IT FEELS STRANGE TO BE TYPING A BLOG ENTRY AGAIN after nearly two weeks in silence. Feels strange to be typing anything, as a matter of fact.

The meditation workshop was a mixture of positives and negatives. Beautiful but unpretentious setting, caring people, vegetarian food tasty enough to satisfy even a meat eater. No "cultish" elements. Dedicated non-commercialism, with no pitches for donations, no tee-shirts or tapes or books to buy. And silence. Really lovely silence, broken only by the gentle call of hand-struck gongs marking periods of the day. But the beauties were blighted by dreary, authoritarian, nerve-grating canned teaching, a meditation technique that just didn't "fit" me, and a schedule that quickly ground me down.

As a meditator friend warned, nearly 11 hours a day of meditation was mind numbing, rather than enlightening. Perhaps for some that kind of total immersion works. But personally I'd have gotten more out of the meditation sessions had they been broken up with physical exercise, manual or creative labor, and question periods (as is, there was just one badly videotaped "discourse" in the evening and if you wanted to ask questions of the counselors you had to surrender precious rest breaks -- which was brutal, given that the work schedule ran from 4:30 a.m. to 9:00 at night).

The result: My brain died early on the third day and didn't recover, even as my body got used to the physical stress and grew more relaxed under the influence of healthy food, the calming atmosphere, and the total absence of computers, telephones, to-do lists, and outside demands.

In the end, I departed early (a no-no). I didn't get out of the experience what the masters intended to teach. But during hours when my brain refused to focus on the techniques being taught, I sat and pondered what was good in my life and what I'd like to change, and what was useful in the experience of being at the meditation center. Even though in the end I was glad to get the hell out of there, I remain grateful that such a place exists and is available free to anyone.

Coming home early, I reveled in simply keeping to myself, keeping silent, and taking advantage of unseasonably warm weather to get some caulking and painting done. Aside from twice picking up email, I haven't touched the computer and haven't written a thing.

Funny, the first couple of days at the meditation center, while struggling in both body and mind, I spent a lot of time composing blog entries and articles in my head -- mostly amusing takes on "Claire Flunks Peacefulness 101" or "Sitting is &^%$#@ing Hard Work!" (Like photographers who confess that they see their entire life's experience as a series of framed images, I'm always mentally structuring my experiences as articles, journal entries, or stories.) But once I quit struggling and realized I just was never going to "get" what I was supposed to get out of the meditation technique, suddenly I was getting it in another form. I was fully present in my own body and mind in the moment. And writing about it all became irrelevant.

The omnipresent Information Flow also became irrelevant. I worried at times about what was happening to Steve Kubby and Cory Maye, but could have cared less about the monotonous, inevitable sturm und drang that passes for Vital News. Funny, too. They call it "news," but the same rot was being broadcast and podcast and web-posted when I left and when I returned. Nothing "new" about the news.

I'm still feeling enormously centered and peaceful. But I can already see how the mere act of returning daily focus to this computer is going to be a Bad Thing -- bad for the body, bad for the attitude. The shoulders hunch. Muscles tighten. Fingers claw the keyboard. The whole body tenses and the mind follows.

The great saving grace: I finally got rid of my landline telephone and home Internet connection. They disappeared together at 4:20 on the morning I left for the meditation center. Despite the obvious PITA of having to trek down to our three-day-a-week library for Internet access, I can already see that not having an always-on (or even a quick dial-up) connection is a Good Thing.

I love the Net. Always have. I love computers. Knew I had to have my own the first moment I laid hands on an IBM System 36 mini-computer, more than 25 years ago, and I was in ecstasy a year later when I brought home my very own Epson QX-10 with its whopping 256k RAM 381k floppy disks (and no hard drive!). The moment I learned of the existence of FidoNet (before Internet access was available to us rural non-geeks), I hooked up a 300 baud modem and jumped on it (and instantly ran up a $600 phone bill spending hours on bulletin boards in Colorado and Connecticut).

But that's precisely the problem. I've allowed Net-connected computers to dominate my days for far too long. They've been my source of income, my lifeline to friends, my amusement, my news fix, my political passion, my trivial pursuit. Bleah. It's just TOO MUCH. And the telephone ... useful critter, the telephone; but shortly after I recovered from that 15-year-old yakking-on-the-phone-for-hours phase, I started to find the telephone annoying. Its noisy demands and intrusions haven't improved with time (even if they have been slightly tamed by voice mail, switch-off ring tones, and caller ID).

Defintely. Useful machines, computers and telephones. Miraculous creation, the Internet. But do they serve us? Or do we serve them? In my case, the answer was becoming too obvious.

Not quite sure how it goes from here. I'm pretty confident I'll be able to remain connected enough to do all that's needed, while not being so *&^%$#ing owned by damned "communications." Guess we'll see.

Time to live. Time to think deeply, rather than think in quick "brain bytes" between rushed emails and frequent checks of LewRockwell.com, Rational Review, Google News, and TCF.

Thanks for hanging in there while I was out of the world. And thanks to Debra, Thunder, and Ian for keeping Wolfesblog going in my absence!

Posted by Claire @ 01:10 PM CST

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