The drugs were fine today. I mean, I felt like shit, but it was okay. I am not going to let it keep me down. I had headache and chills and fever when I got home. Not as much of a spike as the first day restarting, but I felt worse longer.
Last night I had a meditation conundrum. I realized I might be doing it wrong. I was using music to block out the sound.
so I asked three meditation-minded friends a question:
can you listen to music? what do you do when your environment is really loud?
i know you are supposed to do it silently. and i had just listened to one guided meditation by gil fronsdal where he says explicitly that it is not allowed, and that it is a crutch. his reasons make sense. but he lives somewhere in marin county. you could hear cars driving by every three or four minutes, but that was the only sound. plus he’s an expert, and i’m a beginner, and I need this for my health. it may be a crutch, but people with broken legs use a crutch until their leg is strong enough, no?
when I do it at the infusion center at the hospital i use early ambient brian eno to block out the noise. which is about as close as you can come to listening to white noise. the center is loud, with phones ringing and machines beeping, and all kinds of old folks gabbing away and trading war stories about their chemo?
or also thinking about when i go back to nyc, and the apartment is so loud. just the apartment. people upstairs, people in hallway, friggin loud refridgerator. i dont expect that will be anywhere near as bad as the hospital, and yet being able to do it at the hospital is crucial for my calm.
I asked three people. My massage/healer/counselor person, HT who is a verifiable Tibettan Buddist (proving her street cred by flying across the country to hear one of the holy men speak), and SL who whispered something about learning to meditate across the studio table very early after my diagnosis (with his trademark crafty one-sided raised eyebrow.)
My massage person said that yes, it was a crutch, but because I was not using the music for entertainment, but for more of a white noise effect, it was okay for now. The most important thing was that I was getting what I needed from the meditation. That the music is familiar to me, and therefore comforting; part of the problem with the the infusion center is that it is scary, so the comforting effect may help me be more mindful. (we spent more time talking today, than we did massaging. that is def what i needed today.)
SL is hardcore (as usual), while acknoweldging that rules are always meant to be broken (also as usual). He wrote:
I use earplugs sometimes. There’s also something called sound meditation where you try to hear every sound but not focus on any of them. Or something like that. I have only *heard* about it. har har.
This might be helpful? I haven’t heard it myself…
Mindfulness of sound and thought, firstly instructs on how to use sound as an object of meditation then asks the listener to shift attention to thoughts. The second part of this track is more instruction on how to manage difficult thoughts when they arise rather than a guided meditation.
But the thing to remember is that the noise out there is just like the noise of your thoughts. They’re just gonna be there. Always. And what you’re learning is how to get past the noise (noisy thoughts or audio noise) and let it go. A busy room is tricky, but it’s a great place to practice!
Also, do what you gotta do. The rules aren’t rules.
HT is a softy, though wise. She wrote:
and no, you are not supposed to do it silently. at least, it’s not the only way. that’s only a part of it. and there are totally all kinds of different ways to meditate.
yes, the music is a crutch, but i think it is important to identify what it is aiding. it’s aiding you to stay calm, which at this time i imagine is very important in getting through your treatments.
in the future, when you have a little bit more ‘space’ (the japanese word is ‘yoyuu’…can’t quite describe it but maybe S would have a better word), when you’re back in nyc etc. i imagine that would be a situation in which you could develop your ‘meditation’ further- which from what i have learned so far is about trying to be in the present, looking at oneself, and it is a way in which we can develop our mind as a muscle- our mind to stay calm amidst all the chatter of thoughts, desires, insecurities, the sound of cars, apartments etc.
So I went halfway. I listened to the guided meditation tape, but I turned up the volume so that the hiss of the recording noise and the MP3 compression noise was loud enough to just dull the sounds around me. I could hear talking, but I couldn’t understand the words. That was enough. I just need to get through these next two weeks.
I did get a chance this evening to meditate “in silence.” Right before dark I walked up the Marquam trail to Fairmount, a steep uphill 15 minute hike. When I got to the top I sat on a rock and waited for my dad to come pick me up and take me back down.
It was dark by then, and not many cars were driving by. It is true, what SL said. Its all noise. Even the swishing of the branches of the trees, the rustling of the leaves, and the scurring of the squirrels are noise that you have to block out to concentrate. I could see the lights of each car through my eyelds, and I spent most of my time resisting the urge to look and see if the car that was approaching was going to stop for me. As it turns out I was distracted by most of the cars that passed, but not my father’s car when he arrived. Maybe he turned out his lights? Maybe he was just going slow enough that the engine was mostly silent. His arrival and my opening my eyes was very peaceful.
Then I got rather feverish on the ride back down(!)
UPDATE: SL points out that I got my facts wrong, and that it is easy to be a hater:
Also, Gil Fronsdal is in Redwood City – which is why you hear the cars going by in his talks. Kornfield is in this totally remote part of Marin County or Fairfax or something. Where it is almost totally silent except for the trees and everything else.
What’s funny is when I’ve been to Spirit Rock (the remote location) people will come in late and they make noise and you just *hate* them. Even though you’re not supposed to. “what the fuck just sit down already” Then you gotta work with the noise AND the fact that you’ve turned this person you’ve never even seen into the worst person in the world.
I’ve heard about long retreats where people fall asleep and start snoring. Or my friend Annie was on a silent retreat (no speaking for days) where someone’s watch alarm went off every hour or something and they never thought to turn it off. When you’re not speaking to anyone it’s really easy to turn that person into the worst person in the world in your mind.