Meditation as the ‘vaccination against future horrific suffering’

Shinzen Young

As I made kitchari yesterday evening for our spring Ayurvedic cleanse — the spring version of the fall cleanse that rocked my world and transformed my eating habits  — I replayed an old interview with meditation teacher Shinzen Young. Part of Sounds True’s Insights at the Edge series, I’ve heard this interview before, but my husband has not, and since we both took our first home practice session with Shinzen this weekend, I thought it would be great for him to hear.

The interview was even better than I had remembered, and my favorite part might be when Shinzen asks the interviewer, Tami Simon (who is also awesome), “If you were to ask me personally, ‘Well, why do you do this crazy ass shit?'” She answers in the affirmative, and Shinzen offers this:

Yeah, personally, it’s because I would prefer the discomfort of a vaccination to the discomfort of getting the disease. It might seem extreme to sit without moving for four hours or to sit all night, you know, without sleeping or to do some of these Native American things, you know, these shamanic ordeals and so forth. This may seem extreme, but given what’s likely to happen to any ordinary human being, I just look upon it as a minor discomfort that’s vaccination against future horrific suffering. Let’s just put it this way, after my father died, my mother began meditating. Now, my father had all of the amenities of middle class North American life, but when it came time to die of lung cancer, he went for a week without sleeping—forget about a night—while slowly suffocating. That is physically as extreme as anything anyone ever put themselves through in the name of spiritual practice. That was nonconsensual, okay? And there was nothing to be done about it; the best of medicine could only take the edge off. So the fact is really big stuff can very likely happen to anyone and if it doesn’t happen on the physical level, it’s going to happen on the emotional level. I would rather train myself now, train my body-mind circuits now, and go through a little bit of discomfort if it means I can live my life without being under the sword of Damocles that there’s only a separation of a phone call between everything’s going fine and your world comes to an end. [at about the 47:45 mark]

What an incredible way to view the power of meditation.

A few links:

(Photo credit: Via Better Brain Better Life)

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