Saturday, October 8, 2011

Getting Stuck on the Way Up

[Cleveland, our 6 month old kitten, takes a look out the window with his butt stuck in the blinds]

It's been a month since I've last written. I have only one excuse: school.

School has been amazingly busy this semester. It's no help that I also signed myself up for the impossible: four classes, practicum, research assistantship, working weekends, hour-long commutes. Needless to say, I dropped a class to keep my nose above the water line.

Even with the recent dropping of some of the load, it hasn't come without its consequences. In the month struggle my stress and anxiety levels went through the roof, I had an emotional breakdown, upped my intake of wine, and the meditation practice almost completely fell out of each day. I watched my sits go from nearly two hours a day, down to one, down to thirty minutes, down to thirty minutes every other day, and finally, twenty minutes once in seven days. I'm reminded of the story Phakchok Rinpoche told me about his experiment with the 'ordinary' life, in which he gave up meditating for an entire week. At first he didn't notice much difference, maybe he lost his temper once in a while. But by the end of his experiment he had become extremely stressed, angry often, loosing his temper frequently, in a constant hurry to go places and do things. "It was just awful," he said, shaking his head. He was amazed that people could function at some level -- albeit with varying degrees of insanity -- without the practice in their lives.

My month-long slope down hill felt very much like his experience. I'm trying hard to turn the boat around, but the current that has built up against me in the meantime has grown quite strong. There's a lot of resistance I have to work against just to get myself back to where I was on the path. It's not just the loss of concentration ability in formal sitting that's difficult to regain. It's more about the memories of various heedless moments I've had -- broken precepts, poor virtue -- that weighs me down. A careless lie, a mean word, one glass of wine too many... these things hurt the faith in ourselves necessary to push on.

I have an overwhelming urge to sit perfectly still, not doing a thing, but it's a real illusion of stillness that is actually lack of energy and motivation. I'm sitting still anyway, in order to try and slow it all back down. An hour's sit this morning and an hour's sit last night, listening to a few deeply meaningful dhamma talks, may help realign the focus.

I'm finding a little bit of inspiration in this picture of Cleveland from this morning. Even though his bottom half is tangled up and stuck in the blinds, he's still reaching for the perfect view.

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