Well, Diary, we made it to the swami’s place in the city. Guess what? This place is unbelievably filthy and we go everywhere barefoot but that’s because, they say, it’s even dirtier outside. So we left our shoes at the door. We left our clothes, our bags, pretty much everything. We’re all swathed up like Hare Krishnas basically, except everything’s beige instead of orange. They let me keep my notebook. They seem to think I’m some kind of poet. That’s fine with me. I don’t think anyone here really knows who we are except maybe the guru himself, who met Jenn before. That’s fine with me, too.
The guru has an incredibly long and multisyllabic name and he wants us all to call him “Veddy.” Okay fine.
It’s ironic that we “escaped” from BF to come here and the first thing they did today was wake us up at dawn and make us do therapeutic chores. It was an unpleasant deja vu! But then BLISS OH BLISS instead of forcing us to talk with each other, an hour of blessed SILENT meditation takes place. An hour where breathing is our only job.
Breathing is a wonderful thing. I suppose if I buy what the counselors at BF are selling, I’m lucky to be alive. I don’t know. I have moments when I think I could have pulled back from the brink on my own. Maybe with my regular shrink’s help. Then again she was one of the people who recommended an inpatient no-contact-with-the-outside-world program. I don’t know. Maybe she was tired of me. Not that she’d seen me in over a month
Shut up stupid negative thoughts that’s probably bullshit.
So yeah, I have moments when I think I could have handled it, then I have moments when I think thank god I went there and they saved me. It’s hard to know how much is that I bought into the rehab mentality and how much is actually true. I guess the idea is this: if buying into the rehab mentality might have possibly saved your life, then it’s worth it to believe it, even if maybe it didn’t in your particular case. Certainly it saved some of the people there, but then again you can ask yourself if they were worth saving. I don’t mean that in a callous way. I’m sure their families and husbands and wives would rather have them breathing than in a hole in the ground. This is where the suicide thing gets me. When you convince yourself that the people around you would actually be better off with you in the ground, it invalidates all arguments about the value of therapy.
The number one value of therapy is that it convinces you that breathing is better than putting yourself in a hole in the ground. Having been convinced of that, an hour where my only purpose is to breathe, breathe, breathe, is complete bliss. Nirvana, enlightenment, is probably something else entirely, but I’ll worry about getting there later. Right now, breathe. Good.
I’m supposed to be emptying my mind of all thoughts while we meditate. Right.
Ego is dangerous. Here’s the trap I get myself into. What if ego is just a self-sustaining parasite? If the only purpose of ego is to sustain the ego, then existence is selfishness, and the release of that existence (i.e. death) is to cease being selfish. Nice piece of philosophy but in the real world there are consequences: people love you, care about you, need you. When you kill yourself you take yourself away from them. If the pain is great enough, though, you trick yourself into thinking they would be better off without you, and the ego wraps around and eats its own tail, because at it root suicide is the ultimate selfish act. It can only be undertaken with the inward-facing view that the self is all that matters and this is why we try to annihilate it. To end our pain. But if we do it to end our own pain, THAT is selfish. In other words, only god has the right to end your life, you sorry motherfucker, so just keep on going, keep on suffering, because you don’t have that power to judge.
Of course, what if you don’t believe in god?
I had a lot of time to think about these things during the meditation sessions today. Because I’m crap at meditating. Then again, so is everyone. We’re all hyperaware Westerners. Two guys are here from France, a few from New York, one from England, et cetera but mostly from the same Beverly Hills ashram where Jenn met Swami Veddy. We’re a group of twenty, four women and sixteen men. There seem to be about a dozen monks who assist the guru but rarely say anything to us and when they do it’s the bare minimum. Maybe that’s all the English they know. Wash here. Eat here. This way. Or maybe it’s an act. Verbal asceticism. One of them led the afternoon yoga session today but he mostly did it by example, not with words.
The only time there was really talking was over dinner, the communal evening meal. Everyone keeps their voices down, but a few people are trying to establish camaraderie/dominance in the group.
I’m practicing being invisible. It’s working. No one’s taken any notice so far of the mousy poet in the back. So glad I cut my hair before I went to BF.
I’m writing this at night from the mat on the floor where I’m supposed to sleep, in a room with three other men. This isn’t a monastery where we are. It’s more like a big house right off a busy street. There’s a courtyard inside that is cool and quiet. But right on the other side of this wall the city is teeming. The window doesn’t shutter all the way and light comes in, and that’s what I’m writing by.
The first day is over. No one wants anything from me here. It’s glorious.