Oct 252012

A hundred thousand repetitions of anything is daunting, when we look at the whole thing like a goal. There are a series of ‘things’ like this that I’ll be doing in the next few years, the preliminary practices, and I can really freak myself out by imagining the entirety of them, nearly a half million somethings. The first one is prostrations, while chanting a prayer and holding a visualization. As a scientist and engineer, it would be good to know what 100,000 feels like. But how the hell can my body bend down and flatten so many times?

It is even worse as I’m preparing to begin. Memorizing the prayer in Tibetan is hard. The syllables dance around in the back of my brain, out of order, like a stuck song. It’s like committing to hike over the Himalayas, standing at the base of the first 24,000-foot peak, wondering how I can make it over this, then endure the forty other peaks, the series of challenges to reach the goal.

(Hey, perhaps I will lose the 20 extra pounds I carry around my midriff! There’s a motivation!)

But the truth is, I’m not taking on a project as much as a change in lifestyle. From this point of view, I simply need to create a space where I can do my practice, and find some way to engage in it each day. It’s now more than three weeks since the opening weekend for the Sukhasiddhi Bodhi program, and I’m progressing steadily. Some of my fellow students have made major progress, some have done many thousands of prostrations already, some have done these preliminary practices before. But this is not a competition, this is a basic change in the way I look at the world, what is important to me. I simply need to set aside time each morning, and creating a beautiful place for practice is just one way of caring for myself, finding my own preferences, building what I desire.

So I’ve been moving forward, I have the prayer almost memorized, and I’m turning a bedroom into a practice room. The bedroom conversion is more of a project, as I’ve had to clear out many more bags of Nancy’s clothes, move in some furniture from her father’s house, install closet doors. This weekend, I should have my practice room, and it will be the first room I’ve designed and filled according to my own preferences in many years. It feels like a major step.

The photo is the empty bedroom, with my Buddha thangka, the new shoji closet doors, a Tibetan rug. By the end of this weekend, it will be my practice room, with an alter, statues, candles, incense, more thangkas, pillows and my zafu for sitting in meditation. And then the real work starts.