Sometimes Silent Illumination isn’t all that Quiet

Dharma Drum Retreat Center, Pine Bush, NY…

“Pain is inevitable.  Suffering is optional.”


“As you get older you need less sleep.”

“Yeah?  Anything else you wanna tell me before I either hammer your dumbass mouth or just walk the hell away?  Ya know, I don’t have to be here.”

“Remember all is impermanent.”

“Including me, right?  Right?!”

“When you think about it—“

“Will you just shut up and let me meditate?”

“You are meditating.  You’re focused on your body.”

“My damned body is focused on me. ”

“You are meditating.  This is meditation.  If you weren’t sitting here in this beautiful building, kneeling on your nifty little padded, rocking Japanese-style seiza bench, you wouldn’t be in pain.”

“Just shut up and let me focus on my breath or the ringing in my ears or the birds outside the window!  Breathe in…breathe out…breathe in…breathe out…breathe in…breathe out… breathe in…breathe out…”

“I’m still here.”

“I can’t hear you!”

“Yes you can!”

“No I can’t!

“Pain is inevitable.  Suffering is optional.”

“You said that before.”

“I’ll say it again.”

“Please, I only got about 4 hours of sleep last night.”

“Remember, “as you get older you need less sleep.”

“Then why am I so tired?”

“You’re doing everything you’re supposed to.  You’re not falling asleep.  Hell, you’re not even any clumsier than usual.”



“Just stop!”

“I will.  All is impermanence, remember?”

“Will my knees and my back and my thighs and my butt stop hurting?”

“Of course.”


“When it’s time.”

“You mean when I’m dead?”

“Now you said that.”

“You’ve got an answer for everything, don’t you?”


“A perfectly useless, meaningless answer for everything.  It was bad enough when it was just the body aching up it’s little storm.  Now I’ve gotta listen to your preaching.”

“I’m really getting to you, huh?”

“Yes you are!”

“How do your knees and back feel when you’re yelling at me?”

“…Wow…I don’t feel them…hardly at all.”

“What do you feel?”

“You’re playing me!”

“Am I?  What are you feeling?”

“You know damn’ well what I’m feeling.  I’m feeling like a fool.  After last Spring’s retreat I said I’d never do this to myself again.  Maybe I’m not too old, but my body sure as hell is.  I can’t keep these hours.  I can’t sit for—what—40 minutes at a time–in this kind of pain.  How the hell can I work on anything when my brain is filled by agony?  Or when I have to listen to your preachy bullshit, your know-it-all preachy—“

“Shut up!  That’s right, you shut up…”

A pause

“…Who am I to you anyway that I can rent so much space in your head?”

“You’re my mind.  I know that.”


“So what?”

“So who’s responsible for every thought that comes out of me?”

“You trying to say I’m responsible for your bullshit?”

Tap…tap…a bell rings

“Take a short break, and then return to your cushion to go through it all again.”


Published in: on June 7, 2013 at 12:54 pm  Comments (8)  

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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. It had to happen–you really are lost! Failing! and Falling! You’ve had a wonder ride but flew too close to the sun–there is no oxygen there–you should have known. We will meet in the next life–meanwhile continue writing


  2. Sign me up! I don’t have enough noise in my head…


  3. As you see, when you’re doing it right it takes longer. Hey, is the picture from WZR 2011 or 2012?


    • Andy, the picture is dated 3/22/08.


  4. Sounds like my inner dialogue quite often. You’re on the right track. The key is not the content, but in the compression of time you experienced. Whenever you enter the flow to the point that time seems to be irrelevant, that is the stillpoint, no matter what is going on consciously at any moment. Keep it up!


  5. This from sister Barbara:
    On June 8, 2013 at 4:44 pm Barbara said: |Edit This

    No question is ridiculous…perhaps until now. And that question is, “Why must you sit for so long on such an uncomfortable seat to meditate?” Are you not distracted from your meditation by your physical discomfort? Is the physical discomfort an integral part of the process?


    • I participate in retreats because they are beneficial for me. They are neither fun nor relaxation nor vacation. I know them to be work. I agree beforehand to all the terms and conditions of the retreat, believing them to be well thought out and designed for my benefit.

      My goal in this work is to gain self knowledge to facilitate my life, more specifically, to learn how I get in my own way to block my goals. In this instance pain served as a magnificent teacher. Through it I learned that I added much mental discomfort (suffering) to the physical discomfort (the pain.) I learned that all the emotional conflicts (concerns about aging, ego and the like) were sufferings that I created through my thoughts and, thus, was free to dismiss. I made them. I could drop them.

      When I was younger there was minimal physical pain. My back and legs were stronger and more flexible. Additionally I slept better and, consequently, was better rested for each day’s sitting. Thus my bodily pain offers a clear dose of reality. Reality is exactly what I seek maximal contact with in meditation, so in my case the pain was necessary. It is what I have to accept and work with today. What my mind may remember, miss or wish for are simply not reality.


  6. Hello Richard, just had the chance to visit your blog. We met at the poetry workshop (Bronx library center, Nov 29th); I was (and still am) the older black man sitting to your right. Wanted to tell you that I liked this blog entry, hell, I like most of them for the way you write — but this one caught my attention. By the way (yeah, I don’t speak “text” much), where’s the English language haiku? Thought I’d find some examples here.



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