November 11, 2012

On the Brink of No Escape

Let me get back to reflecting on my first encounter with Pema Chodron, and the launch of my meditation practice.

On the brink of my first reading of  "The Wisdom of No Escape," I found myself combing over its preface, savoring each word. I read and re-read until I got to the marrow of Chodron's experience, and  understood how the book had come to be.

I learned that her book was the summation of talks given over a month of sitting (called a dathun),  using the meditation technique of Chogyam Trungpa. Sitting practice is balanced by walking meditation and eating meditation (oryoki). 

Her talks were given at the start of each morning..... in the beautiful atmosphere of Gampo Abbey, in Nova Scotia, located above lofty cliffs on the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The weather is wild here.  In this environment, she says, the "senses are permeated" by playful weather, animals and landscape.  

During this dathun,  there is "no exit."   No exit from the constraints of the Abbey, located at the end of dead end road on an island. No exit from necessary behavioral restraints and agreed on "no's."  Agreeing  "not to lie or steal, not to engage in sexual activity, and not to use alcohol or drugs," creates a place where it is impossible to hide from one's self.

The life is simple, spare, with  restraints in place for the participants during their month of practice together.   But Chodron wants both dathun participants and readers to understand  that this study is one of whole-hearted restraint, where person learns to be easier to be with themselves, free of embarrassment or harshness.

This invitation, to be easier on myself,  is what beckoned me. It urges me forward to share the journey with you, in my own words. 

For I realize, before my meditation practice, I lived a harsher Program than I do today.

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