I took metta meditation classes many moons ago – in January 2008, on the heels of a trip to Southeast Asia. I came back from that trip, maybe more enlightened, maybe braver, maybe more open to new things? But book-ended by a near miss crippling food poisoning incident, and the sudden feeling that I was being screwed over at every turn for being white, for being – in a universe other than my own Vancouver fuck-upedness – privileged. I also had this post-trip energy that made me go out and sign up for classes: Indian Head Massage, metta meditation…you know, those Eastern influences. In metta meditation, a branch of vipassana, you learn to send out goodwill and love to the people in your life – the ones you like, the ones you hate, the ones you don’t even know, and then, finally, to yourself. I loved my teacher – I could just sit and listen to her forever, and she lived and breathed the kind of measured, but grounded, peacefulness, that you try to achieve through a longterm meditation practice. And so I did that for awhile, 20 minutes a day, then a little longer, then a weekend sitting and walking session, and then…rage, followed by complete disavowal of all vipassana practice and a return to my pre-trip crusty, bitter self.
The other thing that meditation should bring you is an acceptance, and a concerted effort to relinquish all attachment: attachment to things, attachment to people, attachment to outcomes. I have met, in my recent life, dedicated practitioners who have this gift of acceptance, and who do live in the present, with chaos all around, and nay a negative thought. They’re not dreamers, or people that you necessarily want to punch in the face, you know, from Saltspring, or thereabouts: no – they are, in a word, happy.
I’m a fence sitter about most things, and especially about my love/hate attraction to Westernized eastern spirituality. I’ll be the first, and the loudest, chanting “longtime sun” at a really great kundalini class, but I’ll also be the first and the loudest, to despair and complain and be jealous of others’ successes. I’m at this difficult time right now at school, nearing the end, but terrified of the future, unable to sit and let the fates decide. I don’t want to return to my previous life, which was all work and no play, all uncertainty and no longterm planning, all wishing and hoping without the payoff. Pema Chodron wrote a super series of lectures about living with uncertainty, and it’s a book I return to often: she writes for and about the modern, Westernized Buddhist, whose ego is at once so massive and so fragile, and whose spectrum of success is so wildly skewed.
So, in my fence-sitting tradition, I cling to my yoga and to my patched-together meditation practice when I really need it, which is now. If I can do just one awesome thing in my own life, it will be to accept uncertainty and to just be cool.
The second and third awesome things will be: to have some fucking follow-through AND to be a micro electronics nerd. Stay tuned.