Friday, March 13, 2015

Silent Meditation in a Group

During my time at Mepkin Abbey this year, I had the chance to try silent meditation in a group.  The thinking was that we might feel surrounded by support in a way that we wouldn't if we meditated silently in solitude.

At 9 a.m., we met in the small chapel that's part of the retreat center.  We could sit in chairs or we could sit on cushions on the benches that back the wall.  Some people took their shoes off and sat cross-legged.  Some of us kept our eyes open, but most of us shut our eyes.  The room was arranged so that we could stare straight ahead and not be staring at a participant.

The plan was to meditate for twenty minutes seated, then go outside to do a walking meditation for twenty minutes, then come back inside to finish with a twenty minute seated meditation.  We would do a session at 9 a.m. and again at 2 p.m.

I expected my monkey mind to go a variety of places.  I expected to have to call my mind back.  I did not expect to fall asleep so quickly and deeply as I did with each seated meditation.

Perhaps I should not have been surprised.  The last time I did meditation, at the end of a yoga class, I fell asleep.  But I was stretched out on the floor.  I thought that if I was sitting up, I'd be able to meditate.

Perhaps it's a sign of how much I was able to empty my mind that I fell asleep.  Perhaps it's a sign of my weariness.

During the last bit of meditation time, I stayed awake longer than other times.  I wanted to hear from God, but God was silent--unless my sleeping was a message.

During our discussion about our experiences, our monk leader seemed to say that the point was to learn to empty our minds, so that we build that skill so that we have it ready for when we need it in our noisy lives.  And I certainly understand that.

I found it far easier to empty my mind while taking a slow walk.  Of course, we can't always do that in our busy lives.

But we can take a bathroom break.  One of my techniques is to combine the bathroom break with a walk to other floors, to use the bathroom break to remind me that I need to leave the computer screen for a few minutes or more.  It's not the tolling of the bell that I'd prefer, but it is a tolling that I can count on.

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