Sailing February 26, 2009 While taking a ten day meditation course with a friend I noticed that every morning he was the first in line at the dining hall. Participants agreed at the beginning of the course to have no communication with anyone other than the teachers. At the conclusion of the course I asked him how it came about that he was the first in line every morning. His answer was astonishing to me and over the years since the course I’ve remembered the lesson. He said, The first morning I got to the dining hall late and the oatmeal was all gone. I decided then that I’d be the first so I could get my oatmeal. Incredulously I asked, So you made the whole course about oatmeal? Though there was a variety of breakfast food available each morning he said, I have oatmeal every morning. We are creatures of habit. That’s not so bad if we develop the habits consciously. It’s disastrous if we unconsciously allow habits to accumulate like barnacles on a boat. Unfortunately, that’s how we ordinarily get habits. We don’t form them voluntarily. We acquire them involuntarily. The tragedy doesn’t end there. After we have allowed the barnacles of habits to accumulate and coat us we defend and protect them as if our life depended upon it. As time passes we take ourselves and our habits for granted until we are unable to distinguish ourselves from the accumulation that coats us. The years go by and we accumulate more and more, burying our real identity under layers of accumulated habits of thoughts, feelings and actions. A barnacle is a marine crustacean with an external shell, which attaches itself permanently to a variety of surfaces. When I had sail boats the barnacles would collect so heavily on the hull they would impede the forward motion of the boat. A sailboat cannot be steered if it’s not moving fast enough in the water. Periodically the boat would either have to be hauled out of the water or a diver would go over the side to scrape the barnacles from the hull. Afterwards the boat would be noticeably faster and easier to handle. Taking a ten day meditation course is a huge commitment. Many people do not finish the course because it requires more than they had anticipated. They fail to complete the octave they began. Sometimes it’s because they run out of force. Other times their force is diverted into something else, like a bowl of oatmeal. The bowl of oatmeal is powerless, but when linked to internal consideration it can rob our force leaving us unable to maintain our forward motion. Without forward motion we cannot steer our course and end up dead in the water or worse, on the rocks. Barnacles feed by filtering particles from the water using their modified feathery legs. Internal consideration is like that. It feeds quietly robbing us of the force we need to make our way to port. Even if we have the force to sound a strong Do which carries us forward to Re and Mi we cannot afford to have force drained away into internal consideration. The remedy is to remember we are not owed anything but are instead debtors who must find a suitable way to pay for our existence.
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