Meditation Bootcamp (Part Three of a Multi-part Story)

This is the third part of a multi-part story.  To read the first part, click here.

Opening meditation.  

It is made clear that this is meditation bootcamp.  You, Sondra Stinglash, Ms. I-Meditate-Every-Day-Most-Days-Twice, Ms. Liar-Liar-Pants-On-Fire, are so out of your league here.  We will wake at 5:30 am.  We will begin meditating at 6 am for one hour, the first hour of our daily non-stop meditation marathon, stopping only to eat and only doing that twice a day.  No snacks.  No naps.  We will NOT be switching cushions or lying down or coughing or breathing or any other monkey business in the meditation hall.  We will not be writing or reading or looking at anyone or anything.  The only verbs we will be performing during this retreat are: meditating, sleeping, eating, walking, urinating and defecating.  

Got that?  I want to go home.

If you have never been here before (I haven’t)  then you need to meet us in the meeting room after this session for a very important mandatory newcomer orientation.  Of course.  Of course.  I will be there.

But I was so uncomfortable that last hour, the first of my too-many-to-count hours of sitting-just-sitting.  I must find a bolster, cushion, pillow, chair, meditation bench combo that works for me otherwise I might just not make it.  Seriously.  I. might. just. not. make. it.

In record time, I nabbed me a meditation bench from the meditation bench parking area and set it up on my cushion.  Now, to the meeting room.  I glide in my slippers, gazing down as I make my way to the mandatory meeting.   

I arrive, only to find the door closed.  The meditation bench nab (It couldn’t have been more than two minutes!) took too much time and cost me the mandatory orientation meeting.  I can’t knock.  This is a silent meditation retreat.  I can’t open the door.  What if everyone looks at me?  

I go to my room.  I want to go home.

I am missing all the important stuff.  This is the meeting where they tell you the protocol so that you don’t accidentally do something that is irreverent. inadmissible. loud.  Now I will accidentally do all those things.  And I can’t ask, you know, find out what I missed.  Because I AM NOT ALLOWED TO SPEAK.

I do the only thing I can.  I curl up in the fetal position on the bed and cry softly, reminding myself that I signed up for this, that I paid money for this, that it is isn’t going to get any better and that the whole registration thing was a sign that I shouldn’t have come here and that it is only natural for me to feel very very sorry for myself.  

I want to go home.

All cried out, and feeling more than a wee bit silly, I get up, get myself together and grab my little notebook that I wasn’t supposed to bring, but did anyway; I grab a pen and go upstairs to the entryway where the schedule hangs.  Galvanized, I begin to copy down the schedule into my notebook.  Look at me.  I am getting with the program.  I have got the schedule now.  I will be on time for everything.  I will be in the know.  I will be a good little meditator.  I can do this.  

In the middle of writing down the schedule, the lights go out on me and someone says  (SAYS.  Do the rules not apply to you, dude?)  “You are supposed to be in the meditation hall right now.”


Shit.  Shit.  Shit.

Nice touch with turning out the lights.  Very well played.  

I want to go home.

(End part three.  To be continued.)  

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A Story, in Multiple Parts, in which this is the Second Part

Dear Readers,

This is the second part of a multiple part story.  Please be a good little blog reader and read the first part first.  


Sondra Stinglash

So, I go to the nice little silent meditation retreat, put on by the nice Canadians, lovely people who want me to be there and everything is going to be great.  Everything is going to be fine and aren’t I happy that I ignored that nagging feeling of doom I got about the whole thing when my registration got fouled up?  Yes I am.  I am going to have an enlightening experience- all silent and spiritual and life changing for ONE WHOLE WEEK. Yipee!

I show up, park my little liberal car neatly in between the other cars with the Canadian license plates, all lined up orderly by a bunch of enlightened, nice people. 

I go in.

Registration taken care of.  Room assigned.  Karma Yoga assignment gotten.  Karma Yoga?  Yep.  Karma Yoga.  Turns out to be a really pleasant sounding term for “job.”  In my case “crap job.”  
My job, which I will be required to perform throughout the retreat, is simply called “bathrooms.”  Note the plural.  The retreat manager happily gives me the two page laminated instruction sheet in order that I perform the job perfectly (no pressure) and asks me to please memorize it and then give it back to him later that night. (no pressure)  Seriously?  I have to memorize these instructions?  I paid $300 for this?!  I take the instructions from him and smile sweetly.

Sprinkle bowl thoroughly with powder cleanser, include all interior aspects of bowl.  Brush bowl thoroughly with toilet brush.  Flush.  Sprinkle bowl again and let sit.  Spray all exterior surfaces of the toilet thoroughly with the general cleaning spray blah blah blah...

The instructions are detailed.  And not very fun to read.  I am supposed to have this memorized and give this back to the manager TONIGHT?  Seriously?  I can’t memorize this shit. 

I bring the instructions to my room, leave them there, unpack and go to dinner. 


Dinner is lovely.  The food is good!  The conversation (we are still allowed to speak) is pleasant.  

Beautiful bell sound!  Announcement Time!  

A few announcements before we go into silence.  It seems that there is are two cars that must be moved immediately.   Cars parked inappropriately.  Cars parked incorrectly.  Bad spots.  Bad cars.  Bad people who parked in the bad spots.  (Not exact words, but it was totally implied.)    First car:  plate number: #NOT-YOUR-CAR.  Sigh of relief.  Second car:  plate number:  #YOUR-CAR.  All eyes on me.  


Move your cars as quickly as possible and then try, just you try to make it back to the meditation hall in time for our very important and reverent opening meditation and we aren’t giving you two suckers any extra time.  (Not exact words, but you get the idea.)  

I walk as fast as my little slippered feet can carry me to my room, grab my keys and speed walk to the front door where I put on my outside shoes.  There is another woman feverishly putting on her outside shoes, keys in hand.  We walk out together.  The light is dim.  I offer my arm to help guide her down the stairs.  She ignores the gesture and says, “I only parked there because you did.”


I move my car and wait for her to move her car so that we can walk back together.  You know why?  Because I am totally a nice person, that’s why.

But she, the other bad parker, does not move her car.  This is because, as it turns out, her car is stuck in the mud.  Stuck deep.  She is not sure what to do.  I can’t help, other than lending moral support, which is really no help to her at all, so we decide to walk back inside where she will tell her sad story to someone with the requisite amount of muscle mass with which to help her.

In the meditation hall, I slide onto a cushion as quietly as I can so as to not disturb the opening meditation, which is already, of course, in progress.

To be continued.

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An Open Letter to the Year 2011, from Sondra Stinglash

Dear 2011,

I am concerned about you.  How are you faring with all of this?  All of the over-eager, nary-a-glance-backward goodbyes.  The casting away of a perfectly good year, with all the requisite seasons and months.  Four of the former and twelve of the latter- you delivered what was promised.  You made that trip around the sun in just the right number of days.  365 of them.  Or was there an extra one for the leap thing?  I don’t remember, but you did well.  You delivered all the days you were supposed to.  You were solid and dependable that way.  But now you are quite literally yesterday’s news.  So 2011.  

Don’t let the door hit you in the rear as you leave.

We shed the old like a pair of worn sneakers, and welcome in the swaddling year with open, eager arms.  

You are our favorite year now, 2012.  Our darling.

I feel badly for you.  It must be tiring to hear about our plans for the new year; we are going to lose weight, start exercising, eat right.  2012 is the year we get that job, meet the love of our lives, travel the world, read War and Peace, go back to school, solve that theorem, write that memoir, change that lightbulb...  You remember when we felt that way about you?  We had such high hopes.  

I hear you sneering, “That’s all anyone wants to talk about.  New Year.  New YearNew Year.”  That snarky voice really doesn’t suit you, 2011.  But I understand.  It must be hard to be

So. Completely. Over.  

I just wanted to check in- see how you are doing, you know, offer my thanks.  You did all right, 2011; you gave us all the days you were supposed to, but this is the way of it.  You are the husband who snores and leaves his dirty underwear on the floor.  2012 is the on-line profile that promises candlelight dinners, walks on the beach and all that kayaking.  It’s hard to compete with that.

But I really did appreciate the effort you made.


Sondra Stinglash

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