Here’s the latest instalment of The Under 35 Project, by Caitlin Bargenquast. It’s the first post on July’s theme, “Starting and Deepening Your Meditation Practice.”
Revulsion is the foot of meditation, as is taught by the singing ancients.
By now I have been formally introduced to techniques of meditation for 9 years. I have practiced. And the practice has worked on me, slowly, passionately, in bursts, or sneakily. It has sunk into me to the point that I cannot un-know the practice, nor the insight I have gained. Meditation has provided a path connection to basic goodness—upon glimpsing, profound heart change, basic inspiration imprint reflected in truth fractals. Now I can sense my life in terms of degrees of awareness of this goodness. In some precious moments I am so close to the vibrating dot on the spot that I am becoming a collection of blurred edges, soaring ever exponentially closer, and made only of infinitely enlightening potential, grateful. In some equally precious moments I am bored, lazy, pacing around my studio looking at my meditation cushion, eating potato chips and masturbating and surfing the internet on my Droid.
About two months ago I stopped meditating. Not like up and quit, or renounced my practice, or gave up my Buddhist vows, or anything, just stopped making it to the cushion.
A couple weeks later I noticed it was literally gathering dust.
Practice materials are supposed to be sacred.
Treated with reverence and care and attention.
Sacred dust cushion.
I would like to be able to say that it is always some joyful inspiring thing that brings me back to my meditation practice. But it is not.
I check in with my meditation instructor.
“How is your meditation practice?”
“Oh I definitely have a relationship to sitting. Well, to not sitting lately.”
I beg for some sort of enlightening inspiration. I’m an inspiration junkie. Always so excited to begin new projects, excited to get somewhere.
“Well, sometimes it is helpful to connect with sangha. And sometimes it is inspiring to read some dharma material, connect with vision. And other times, you just have to keep wandering. Keep busy. Keep not practicing and wait and watch and see. And you may have to hit bottom, and feel such a sense of disgust that you reconnect with why your practice is helpful.”
I shall sink down deep to the dark depths of busy un-practice… Reconnect with beginner’s mind.
Something like that.
Revulsion is the foot of meditation as is taught… I allow myself to observe what is going on, just casually. Not formally. Just, what am I doing exactly? Gross. Gross out mind. Sticky, sweaty, fat, pig mind.
Revulsion is the foot of meditation as is taught.
Oh my lovely apartment.
My privilege disgusts me
Then my guilt disgusts me
My disgust disgusts me
Revulsion is the foot of meditation as is taught.
Noshing on another bag of processed crap, ingredients: self-doubt, laziness, a long laundry list of “shoulds” and refined sugar. (Yes, I’ve noticed that when I eat a lot of sugar, I really don’t give a crap about much except TV. And more sugar. But that’s me.) Wake up. Wake up. Wake up. Hello? Hello? Anybody home?
Cycle. Cycle. Cycle. Meditation is boring. Study is boring. Partying is boring. Friends are boring. Eugh, my amazing life and amazing lovers and amazing art projects and amazing community are boring. Lonely lonely boredom. Lonely lonely boredom. Effed-up, run-away mind trains.
I catch myself slouching before my apartment door, holding a bag of groceries. Something about my posture belies my youth. I could be 40 or 50, or a cute little 70-year old woman bringing her groceries home. So happy and content and cute standing there. Holy shit. I’m 26 and if I don’t watch, I am going to be that cute little 70-year old, if I even make it that far. Fuck.
Precious life. Precious, precious life.
If I don’t want to miss my life, I remember to meditate. When I have too much to do, and I want to cry because I am so nauseated with my listlessness, I remember to meditate. When I get so disgusted with another frozen TV dinner tray of thoughts, standard addictive American diet of negative thinking, impoverished greed, anxiety, and overwhelm, I have to look closer. I must examine what I am really feeling. I must look, sideways and then full-on until all the details of my lazy, boredom stand out in high relief, clear as though a painted brush stroke across a blank canvas, because I have to see. I have to see the carnage of wasted time. Look at it written on my face, and in my body, look at it strewn about my apartment, catch myself when I jack off again instead of working on my art. And see. And be repelled. Feel the disgust wash over. And yes, sometimes I must become sick with it to feel true revulsion of the ego, of the causes of suffering. The actions that lead to suffering. Revulsion is the foot of meditation…
It is a tender heartbreak that finally washes over me, that brings me back to practice. When I finally see myself suffering. Tender and broken-hearted love. And then there is gratitude. I think some people call it grace. It feels like cooling nectar pouring down from my crown, bathing me and washing me clean. I feel an unfurling, a release of tension. And when I remember gratitude that fills my heart again, I am renewed, realigned. I feel myself at the beginning again, brilliant and awake and ready and awed. When I am grateful, it is precious to notice my breath, connect with the simplicity of being. Inhale and exhale. Sweet gift. It’s a sweet moment coming back to my practice, back to the ground of simplicity, of noticing sentience. I can feel. I feel. Basic. Precious. Delicate. Impermanent. Being.