Monday, December 03, 2007


Last night I returned from a weekend retreat to Kripalu, a yoga center in western Massachusetts. Eventually, maybe I’ll write up something about my experiences and thoughts from there. Suffice it to say for this post that it was a wonderful blend of yoga, meditation, and instruction based on the Yoga Sutra, and I came home a little bit changed. For reasons not clear to me, the following came out in second person.

* * *

Knowing that you’d be coming back from retreat, you had arranged to take today off from work.

Your wife arranged to have a day off, as well, and you went grocery shopping together after getting the boys off to school. Pushing a cart around the aisles of Sam’s Club, you experienced the most profound and pervasive and clear-seeing of the unsatisfactoriness of existence that you’ve ever had. It was, literally, dis-illusioning.

It is quite startling to walk past pile after pile of devices people use to pursue happiness – triple-bladed razors, and multi-speaker sound systems, and liquor-filled chocolates, and frozen corn dogs, and cases of Coke Zero, and artificial poinsettias, and diamond rings, and economy sized bottles of Rogaine, and barbecued ribs (“whose?” you wondered), and Cuisinarts – and see in all of them strivings and in none of them fulfillment. And the sense was not in any way limited to materialism. It was an equal opportunity perception that applied as much to your job, your lifestyle, your engagement with family, your detachment from family, your community, your writings, your arguments, your accumulations.

What was, perhaps, most remarkable was not the apocalypse of the previously unimagined – it was, instead, a discovery of what has been glaringly obvious all along, but which was covered not by a conspiracy of others, but rather a contrivance of your own mind. Of course, it is all pretentious and vapid and unsuccessful. You knew that all along. But previously, you participated in the courteous and communal lie that it was all just fine, nonetheless. Previously, a prominent part of your mind was more than willing to see the emperor’s clothes.

This morning, that part of your mind seems to have retired, or at least retreated back from the front lines, allowing you to see what was in front of your face.

And not only is it everywhere, it’s grim. Detachment isn’t hard when what you find is a festering mess. But you indulged your sense of aversion as you languished in the repulsiveness of it all. A Buddha could have found, nonetheless, compassion and motivation. So you saw something. Good and fine.

Now keep seeing, but see also your aversion. Feel where it creates sensations. Notice them arise. Watch them as they persist. See them subside. Then see how aversive suffering can be let go of. And see how you can be of use to others.

Remember that the feeling of aversion subsided when you got home. But it wasn’t the getting there – it was the process of cleaning the garage floor, gathering the shards of glass from the bottle of molasses that fell from the torn grocery bag as you unloaded the car. The sense of aversion decreased more as you wiped up the dark syrup, goo-ing up the paper towels with fragrant mess. And it simply dissolved as you sponged clean the residue, leaving at least one spot of the garage floor, really pretty clean.