Day of silence at Bastyr University

Hi cute turtles. These turtles are the unofficial mascots of Bastyr University. They can be found in the school's courtyard. They clearly enjoyed Saturday's sunny weather along with the rest of Seattle.

I traipsed out to Bastyr in Kenmore Saturday with a yoga block and cushion packed in a bag, ready for my introduction to a full day of meditation. Our Day of Silence was the culminating exercise in our introduction to meditation series I've been taking the past six weeks. I wasn't sure if I would love it, but I was interested to see how I would respond to a full day of silence. Would I be bored? Would I get irritated? Would I hate it? Yes, yes and no.

The thing is, the Day of Silence wasn't all that silent. I only spoke out loud twice over seven hours, so I suppose that is rather quiet. We spent most of the time alternating between a half-hour seated meditation and a half-hour of walking meditation, which I always did outdoors. We had a break for lunch, and I ate alone. But when you spend all your energy focused on being present, there's always something to listen to. The wind gusting through the trees, different kinds of birds chirping noisily, the crunch of gravel beneath my shoes, cars driving in and out of the university and the sound of other people.

How did it go? I definitely had moments when I was impatient. I sometimes tired of paying attention to my breath or to every step as I walked and would look at my watch and sigh. I succumbed to sleepiness a couple of times. By the end of the day, I was more on the side of cranky than blissed out.

And yet.

Teacher Rodney Smith points out that boredom prevents a return to simplicity in life, that it is kind of insane that we are bored so easily when life in its present moment always has something riveting to offer, that meditation allows us to live a continuous life instead of one that is always about living in the future or living in the past. I know he's right. "The basic ingredient of meditation is patience," Rodney says. Being patient is hard.

At the end of the day, a man who had been in a group session with me introduced himself. I had asked about a particular kind of Metta meditation, where you repeat a mantra. It is tough for new people, and I wondered when I would know I was ready. Larry said he has been meditating for 20 years and he still struggles with it. Wow. It was reassuring, if scary. I knew it would take longer than six weeks to master meditation, even though I sort of secretly hoped that's how it worked. Instead, I know what is ahead - returning to seat and my altar over, and over, and over again.


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Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr