App vs. Enlightenment

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sorry for the crap image; our phones have terrible cameras & WordPress is TESTING ME

Early on, I mentioned my meditation app in passing. Since then, I’ve been forced to confront some spiritually materialistic tempations of the app, temptations in the lure of which I was a squirrel on an unsustainable California almond farm.

The good news is that the app has corrected itself! I no longer have to be strong (or start being strong)- the poisoned nut has been removed.

Here’s the deal. (I tell you this in the spirit of self-awareness: if you can’t learn from my mistakes, maybe I can.) Along with recording each day you’ve meditated, and tracking how many days you’ve gone in a row, the app tracked the average time per meditation. And this fucked me up – more and more as I was exposed to more types of meditation and more theories.

See, I believe in Vipassana. Maybe it’s brainwashing, after nearly 150 hours of on-site meditation, but I have had a goal to meditate for one hour, twice a day, as you are supposed to, or at least one hour, once a day, as a normal human like myself might reasonably aspire to, to increase my endurance. I believe that it is important to be able to withstand discomfort and pain and distraction. Not for the sake of it, not for some kind of macho achievement, but because I do buy into the idea that learning to be non-reactive in meditation is the best training for being non-reactive in life. If I’m right, if they’re right, then long sits are the perfect rehearsal for being okay in life. (That is my secondary goal: okayness, no matter what happens to or around me, is just a breath below enlightenment in my book.)

Ergo, tracking my average time became a bit of an obsession. And here’s where that becomes a problem: I also believe that stopping and being deliberately mindful for a short time, many times a day (as Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche recommends) has got to be an excellent practice. How better to indoctrinate yourself into consciousness than to randomly thrust it upon yourself over and over again, until it starts doing itself. Maybe I could take 8 minute meditations 4 or 5 times a day, like I used to take cigarette breaks (you can tack a zero onto the end of each of those numbers, for at least a few of my college years). But I haven’t done that, because, you guessed it, that would bring my average time down. Couldn’t I just not record that time? Don’t be ridiculous – what’s the point of meditating if I’m not recording it? That’s like living without Instagramming it!

This is another reminder that spiritual materialism is a bit of an issue for me. (I suppose I could call this post “spiritual materialism, pt. 2,” but it’s more of a continuation of part 1 than its own, unique form of wrongness.)

I know that if I were enlightened, I probably wouldn’t be recording time at all. I certainly wouldn’t be worrying about it. But until then, Insight timer has totally thrown me a bone. (A piece of bread? What else do squirrels like? I’m really not good at extending metaphors.) They removed the average time display! And the total hours! You can hunt them down, but they’re not on the profile page anymore – which is left as the simple display above. Of course I was disappointed when I first noticed this on the most recent update, but it didn’t take long until I realized I was now free! Or freer, anyway. I’m ready to mix it up with the meditation this year. Wild, crazy shit like mindful dishwashing and 1 minute meditations. Stuff I’d be afraid to do if I were still focused on that pre-sit average.

I know, it’s pathetic. But it seems like progress.

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