Featured Articles

Who Wants to Meditate Next to a Jackhammer?

In my last post I suggested that people don’t like to meditate in noisy places, like Times Square, and that most retreats take place in the serenity of the woods, the desert, and the mountains. (Of course, right on cue, Patrick Morris sat in Times Square, making a mockery of my idea. Thanks, Patrick!) Anyway... people jumped in saying that the “where” of meditation doesn’t and shouldn’t matter, that everywhere is the same because the point is to deal with what “is.”

 

I agree.
 
And I disagree.
 
That meditation is meant to deal with what “is,” is true. That it’s the same experience sitting next to a babbling brook as it is sitting next to a construction site, is not. (Let the comments begin.) The fact that sitting in Times Square warranted a mention suggests that it’s out of the ordinary and unusual. I’ve never seen a tweet announcing, “Hey look, so-and-so sat in a quiet room! How cool is that!”
 
The human instrument also “is” what it “is,” and reacts to different stimuli. It’s the reason we can torture a person with loud noise or bright lights or lull somebody to sleep with a droning voice. Little will convince me that three days of banging pots and pans will leave a person as refreshed as they would be had they spent the time in a cabin listening to crickets. Crying babies can drive us mad, a slamming door wakes us up, and loud punk music in a sweaty cavern is physically irritating to most anybody over the age of 30. (Anybody really up for meditating in a mosh pit? Really?)
 
Most retreats promise serenity, calm, and an idyllic setting. Perhaps I haven’t dug deep enough, but I haven't seen too many notices for retreats in subway stations, or under highway overpasses, or stadium parking lots on game day, save for a few that were trying to bring meditation to unexpected places. I for one, would be hesitant to attend them. I know what it would do to my central nervous system. But I see promises of quiet, calm, and peace in most announcements for retreats.
 
I’m not trying to be snarky. I’m willing to learn. Indeed I would love to learn. If it could make my commute on the train, pushing through the throngs of people, like a day at the beach, please, teach me. Until then, I’ll keep working on what “is.” But for now I'm inclined to feel that certain versions of “is” are inherently more pleasant than others.
 
I welcome your comments.
Vote for this article to appear in the Recommended list.

Comments

"I'm inclined to feel that

"I'm inclined to feel that certain versions of “is” are inherently more pleasant than others."

nothing inherently 'is' anything.

preference

It's said (I think by Chogyam Trungpa, but I'm not sure) that an enlightened person can hold a piece of shit in one hand and a chocolate cupcake in the others and have no preference for one over the other.

meditation can happen anywhere. it does, and no one takes pictures of it. I'd be interested in that person's experience of meditating in Times Square; having a friend take your picture makes me wonder why you're doing it.

google "street retreats." there are lots of retreats that take place under urban bridges.

if you think meditation has to take place in a quiet, pretty place, you're placing conditions on it that will limit your ability to meditate.

I like to do lovingkindness meditation on the subway, when it's not too crowded. I get overwhelmed by the energy when the car is packed.

sorry if my comments are obnoxious or were on your last post. not my intention. meditate wherever works for you. don't reject people who have other ideas.

and meditating next to jackhammers might be the best thing you can do next to jackhammers -- or crying babies or anxious colleagues. this is life. don't judge it. see what your response is.
don't judge that. super good practice, if you ask me.

oh, and being in a mosh pit is all about being mindful and fully present in the moment, jumping into sensation, and dancing with the energy. I'm totally in favor of mosh pit meditation.

Week-thun at NY Shambhala Center

SEVEN DAY* INTENSIVE RETREAT: ENLIGHTENED SOCIETY IN THE CITY with Acharya Emily Bower

WEEKTHÜN in NYC August 11th—August 17th
Join us for a week-long sitting meditation intensive (or Weekthün) which includes approximately 8 hours of daily silent meditation, Dharma talks and practice instructions.
 
you might hear jackhammers or workers or passersby. you have to leave every night and get home and hear the baby cry.
 
but it's still a great experience.

What is...

Interesting! When you have a great and beautiful retreat, what are you going to do with it?

I dedicate the merit of my practice this way:

By this merit, may all obtain omniscience
May it defeat the enemy, wrongdoing
From the stormy waves of birth, old age, sickness and death
From the ocean of samsara, may I free all beings

I see in that in the waves are birth, old age, sickness, and death.

I think meditation is preparation for being in the world. It is a practice that gives us the wisdom and experience to live in a way more attuned to truth. The Buddah saw that renunciation was flawed. We must return from our retreats and share with others the wisdom that allows us to stand in the heat and face death and walk through sickness.

So, I ask, what do you do with a peaceful retreat when it is over? That answer, I think, is going to explain why someone thinks a retreat in NYC is a good idea.

The Laundromat

is a good place to practice...Tune in to the rhythms of the sounds...The whirling of the dryers....The swishing of the washers...The sound of the coins being placed, then shoved into the metal machines...And the silence between the activity....

Site developed by the IDP and Genalo Designs.