Monday, May 31, 2010

The Calm and the Chaos: meditating and packing

So I meditated.  Silently.  A lot.  For ten full days to be specific, at the Illinois Vipassana Meditation Center.  There are a lot of impressions and thoughts still swirling about the experience. Most overwhelmingly, I’m glad I did it – this has been a personal goal for a while, so in addition to the benefits of the meditation there is also a sense of accomplishment.  It was hard, definitely.  Just sitting in meditation for 11 hours a day was a huge hurdle, physically and mentally.  (I renamed the 3 daily “Sits of Great Determination”, during which one strives to not move a muscle, to the Sit of Great Delight, the Sit of Great Distraction, and the Sit of Great Despair.  This was only partially tongue in cheek.)

The time alone with the mind was also an emotional roller coaster, both enlightening and eerie…it doesn’t take long for the constant swirl of the unconscious to start rising to the surface.  Yet it was also empowering, at least after I finally started letting go around day 3.  And it was incredibly liberating to turn off the cell phone, leave the email, and embrace being unreachable.

Then there were the funny moments: without the aid of verbal communication, ordinary situations easily become hilariously awkward.  Take for example the time I accidentally wacked a guy in the head while putting on a sweater.  It turns out he sat next to me in the meditation hall, so I had a full 7 days to sit with my guilt after the incident before the silence was broken and I could apologize.

Poll Results and the Apology to End all Apologies

So it’s been a month since my last post, and three weeks since the poll closed for votes on the blogs new look.  At first, I was thinking that having been on a silent meditation retreat for almost 2 weeks of that time gave me a decent excuse for not posting.  But then, looking back at how often posts begin with apologies, I decided on a more permanent approach: eternal absolution.  So, I’m henceforth swearing away all apologies for belated posting. For the rest of time.  Period. Bookmark this post if you want, you’ll have my timeless penance enshrined here.

Now, for both our loyal readers here at Embarkations, onto the poll results. The plurality's impression is I’m a narcissist (a whopping 42%).  I’ll own that. All these great new social media tools we love are, fundamentally, narcissistic. I’ve always been bothered by the cognitive dissonance of the perception that viewing friends’ Facebook photos is somehow “stalking.”  Isn’t that why one posts them?  I won’t succumb to the fad of propagating the myth that this stuff isn’t somehow posted to be looked at.  Dear lord, I hope somebody is looking.  Otherwise I’m wasting a lot of time.

Along with narcissism, the general evaluation seems to be that the new look is an improvement (71% total).  No scientific accuracy there, but thank you to those who did take the time to vote.  I’ll also work on getting some more pictures incorporated once I’m in Moldova.  The full results are posted after the jump.

In the meantime, I’ve started a page about the blog itself to track its evolution; comments and suggestions are always welcome there. Whether in terms of design, navigability, or content, I’m always looking for ways to make Embarkations a more interesting place! (Or εὖ τόπος…)