Something I Think I Could Fail At: 10 Day Silent Meditation Program

When I was in Vegas the other month, one of the guys missed a day’s activities because he had to go on a long bike ride. He was training for an Ironman.

“Why are you doing an Ironman?” I asked him.

“I wanted to try something I thought I might fail at,” he replied, “I’ve never done a triathalon or any endurance sport before. So I thought I’d start with an Ironman and really challenge myself.”

I was immediately inspired. Trying something I had a decent chance of failing at resonated with me as a worthy undertaking. It’s not that I don’t fail or rarely fail in general — quite the contrary — but I haven’t tried to do something that I knew at the outset didn’t play to my strengths and may well not work out.

Over the next few weeks, I researched Ironman training. But then a better idea came to me: meditation.

I’ve been trying to meditate regularly for years. The research is clear and my personal experience backs it up: meditation calms me and clears my mind. My interest in meditation increases during nights when I have a hard time quieting my mind or during the day when I have a hard time focusing on the task at hand, as I’m instead overanalyzing the past or letting my mind race into the future.

But I’ve had a hard time making meditation a daily (or even weekly) habit. So I’m trying “shock therapy” of sorts: a 10 day silent meditation program at the Northern California Vipassana Meditation Center.

Robert Wright, one of my favorite authors, once blogged about his experience at a silent meditation retreat, saying it was one of “the most amazing experiences of his life.” He’s a hard headed guy, and yet he was moved in a lasting way. It pretty perfectly captures the kind of life change / evolution I’m thinking about if I can do the 10 day program and then institute a regular meditation practice.

Some call the 10 day program a “retreat” — which I suppose is what it’s technically called — but that seems like a misleading word. I’ve gone on retreats, and they are considerably more relaxing than what this seems to be: No reading, no writing, no talking/communication of any kind except when necessary with teachers. Two vegetarian meals a day. 4 AM wake up. Hours and hours of meditation each day, sitting on the floor, mostly cross legged. I expect it to be an intense physical and mental challenge.

I’m headed off tomorrow afternoon and will be off the grid without email or voicemail (or blogging/tweeting) until July 29. See you when I get back.

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