Tuesday, October 22, 2013


I started taking meditation classes at SF Insight.  Meditation is amazing!  I've been taking weekend classes that go from 10am to 5pm.  The first time I look at my watch, it's already 4-5 hours into the class.

This is not the case with yoga.  With yoga, the first time I look at my watch is about 10 minutes into the class.  Then I look at my watch every 2-3 minutes until the interminable thing finally ends.

The chapel where my first meditation class was held.

The meditation class touches on questions I've struggled with for years, like how to care a lot about something (e.g. work, parents, a relationship) without getting worked up about it, and becoming obsessed with the outcome.  The meditation teacher had an interesting answer about stepping away a little and watching myself behave in an obsessed way, as though I'm observing another person.

Courtyard where we did walking meditations.

Another question that has haunted me for years is how to be around other people, without taking on their material desires.  For example, I used to have no desire to fly in business class in an airplane.  I had opportunities to do so at Google, and I ignored them because it did not seem important.  Last year, I spent a week in Shanghai visiting a dear friend W who loves flying business class.  At the time, she was traveling every month, flying 10-12 hours each way.  Every day during my visit, it would come up in conversation.  Now I've had a desire to fly business class since that time.

This was an innocent example, but there are more pervasive desires that I think are not inherent to me, but just picked up via osmosis from others.

The meditation teacher said that if someone is really affecting me strongly in a way that's hard for me, I can avoid them, like I would avoid a wild elephant.  If it's just a minor influence, then I can first make sure to emotionally feel my own preferences throughout my body.  If I'm only thinking logically about my preferences, that's not very strong, and I would be easily swayed by others.  If I make sure to truly feel my inner wisdom on an emotional level, then I would be less impressionable.

Next I am going to visit Spirit Rock and then the Green Gulch Zen Farm in Marin.


Gustavo Corral said...

Fire your meditation instructor. Absorbing other people's feelings is a tendency that exists because that is how fellowships form and groups become stable. You are fighting a natural trend that is actually beneficial; and on an issue that is not important.
So! Take business class. Your post-trip chill will make up for the extra cost.

Kristina Slade said...

Hmmmm...I agree with neither what your meditation teacher says, nor what Gustavo says. The core of the issue is what you are attaching your happiness to. If you are looking for happiness in things that are not permanent (and anything that manifests in this world, is, ultimately, impermanent) - then your happiness is always at risk. It's absolutely fine to enjoy Business Class - why not? But don't rely on it to make you happy. If you get it - great. Enjoy the riches that the world can manifest. But if it doesn't happen - don't suffer for it. And also don't get lured in by the idea that denying yourself an existing pleasure is some form of holiness as well. There are no extra points for suffering. If you are looking for a bit of stillness in your life - meditation is fine. But if you are looking to transform some aspects of your life and the way you perceive things - you may want to go a step further and check out Buddhism.

Victor said...

Niniane, wonderful post and it makes me wonder if I should take up meditation more seriously. Check out the following article, too! http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/11/why-we-fightand-can-we-stop/309525/

Anonymous said...

Instead of meditation, you should be doing more excercise to lose weight.

Anonymous said...

I really loved this post Niniane. I don't want to pretend to be a teacher so I will not give you advice like in your other posts. But your insight that meditation helps be aware of what comes up inside is spot on. FOr engineering-minded folks, I think Glimpses of Abhidharma is the best book out there. Good luck to you!

Justin K said...

I think I should stop reading your blog Niniane as it has made me want to go to more places in life. Previously I was happy staying at home and going on the Internet!

Maybe I should pick up meditating as well. Wait but that would mean being influenced by you! Very dilemma. So Wow.