Monday, June 25, 2007

Blogging silence

Sunday, 5:40 p.m.
The silence begins in 20 minutes. Or in an hour and 20 minutes, I'm not sure.
I have come to Mercy Center ( for a five-day intensive East-West meditation retreat. Apparently it's a silent retreat. There are multiple rooms and patios where one can eat in silence, although I suspect that a group of people eating in a room probably aren't all that silent. Maybe that's why there are a bunch of room options in which to be silent while one eats: so there are never so many people chewing, chomping, snorting, swallowing, and clattering that it breaks the silence.
I figure blogging breaks the silence too, in spirit if not in volume. Probably no more than the five books, one magazine, and the Bible on my student-sized desk would, assuming I can maintain silence while reading them. If I'm cogitating, eating the words, does that break silence?
There is no actual silence. Even with my window shut, I can hear the rush of the wind in the trees and against the building. My window faces west, so I'm getting the evening ocean wind -- that shocking stupendous wind that I adore. If my window were open, it would howl into my cell like a train rushing by. Like the Holy Spirit rushing through that room so many years ago.

Sunday, 9:15 p.m.
I was right: reading and writing break silence. So does looking people in the eye or acknowledging them in any way. Maybe that explains the sketchy cell phone reception, rather than Mercy's placement in the hills.
Monday, 9:01 a.m.
After 2 meditation sessions (each is 25 minutes sitting, 5 minutes walking, times 3), I can honestly say it is much easier than when I was young. My brain still skyrockets around, but now it's more like the synapses are randomly firing than that my self is following some downward spiral. Progress?
Here's what I'm grappling with today: I didn't sign up for a sesshin (all day meditation for a longer period of time), not knowingly. What I signed up for, what I crave, is meditation morning and evening, and praying the hours and scripture study and long walks, visioning at 30,000 feet. Last night, my wonderful husband encouraged me to do what I want -- to stay but not go to the meditation practices, to come home and continue my retreat, to check into a hotel -- whatever will be useful to me right now. This kind of thing is one of the reasons I adore him: he both challenges me and supports my actual needs.
That's not the grappling. The grappling is whether God has something for me to learn from keeping the schedule I've been handed. Whether God wants me to learn a "new" kind of silence, so that there's less of me and more of God. I've already been slapped with the need to overcome disdain, as I practiced what I would say if I pulled out of the structured retreat. God made it very clear, in a very humbling way, that I may choose to do something different, but I don't need to justify my choice, especially not by criticizing what we're doing. (The internal patter goes like, "Hey, I did this for real at MBZC, in very strict Rinzai Zen practice, for two years. And I got the robes to prove it -- don't need to do it with a bunch of western posers." You see why God would not be pleased.)
The rest of the grappling is this: we have a number of isolated one-hour periods of free time throughout the day. What would happen if I just shut up and did the practice and actually utilized those spaces for the stuff I came here to do, instead of wasting them telling myself I don't have the time to do what I came here to do and trying to figure out how to gracefully get out of it?
If God is teaching me 1) stop criticizing in order to justify; 2) shut up; and 3) just do something, that will be a productive week, all by itself.

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