Day 2 – Meditation Retreat

⦿ In agitation, emotional/physical pain, and sense of futility, I am tempted, but only ever so slightly, to quit. I remind myself that breakthroughs, achievements, and rare outcomes flow from difficult work, from those who overcome the barriers—not through imposition of force or control of the self, but through determined and focused use of will and faith that persists through challenges.

⦿ My mind creates such misery.

⦿ Rivulets of hope spring up in the trenches of pain.

⦿ I miss Trisha. When I could focus the mind no longer, I made it to the end of the 6pm sit by bringing to memory Trish, and our two pups, Emma Lou and Cooper. How blessed I am to share home with these three.

⦿ The absence of the phone reminds me of stories I’ve heard about the ghost limbs of amputees. I keep thinking that it’s there. Damn you, Reddit.

⦿ My back is killing me. I had never quite mastered how to sit upright well using cushions or meditation benches; and a lifetime of poor posture – both standing and sitting – does not support hours upon hours of sitting upright on the floor.

Fortunately, we can still shift positions during these initial days, so I make an adjustment here and there during the hour-long blocks. And in between the blocks, I try every combination of cushion or bench I can conceive of, in all contortions of butt cheeks and leg bones, including using a meditation bench that ate up half of my checked-in bag to bring with me.

In these early days, most meditators are relatively still, but hearing significant shifts of position as people try to dissipate the pain of sitting for so long is also not uncommon.

⦿ And loud breathers! The hall is so silent that some loud breathers around me are not jelling with my agitated mind. But, we’re also meditating with face masks on due to the world still being somewhat in pandemic conditions. (Masks will become optional by Day 4.)

⦿ I would estimate that roughly 25% of our time in group sits was spent receiving instruction and/or “dhamma talks” from the organization’s late founder and the course’s conductor, S.N. Goenka. Each group sit begins and ends with Goenka’s audio instructions and/or chanting played over the hall’s many speakers; and each day nears its conclusion with 1.25hrs of a dhamma talk from a 1991 recorded video of the same man.

⦿ The first three days we are focused exclusively on anapana meditation. The only thing we are doing is bringing our attention to the triangular area of our nose, nostrils, and the area just above the upper lip. We are instructed to observe, observe, observe the breath. Never to control or manipulate it, just to watch it in its natural state. Is it rapid? Is it shallow? Is it agitated? Etc. By repeated and eventually sustained observation of the breath, the mind, we are told, will be made sharper, more sensitive, and more able to be with the present experience. We will do this for three entire days as prep for the actual technique of vipassana, to which we will be introduced on Day 4.

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