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Inside Out

In Buddhism there's this great concept of near-enemies and far-enemies. Two things are far-enemies if they are polar opposites: the far enemy of compassion is cruelty. But near-enemies are more subtle: they seem very similar at first, but when you look deeper, they're still opposites. The near-enemy of compassion, for example, is pity. They kind of seem like the same thing, because both mean you "feel bad" for someone else, but compassion is dignified and brings you closer together. Pity is condescending. It distances you from the other person.

Far-enemies aren't that interesting to me because they're pretty obvious. Polar opposites. Ho-hum. But I love near-enemies, because there's a lot to talk about in the subtlety.

So let's talk about two of the biggest near-enemies of all: self-consciousness and self-awareness.

Superficially, they seem very similar. Both of them are about paying attention to yourself, your thoughts, words, and actions in the present moment.

Make Me Your Guinea Pig

On Tynan

The other day I signed up for a 10 day meditation class/retreat/experience. Way back when I was in LA a friend of mine raved about this particular practice, Vipassana. I meant to go, but ten days was a lot to spare and I didn't get around to it. Since then I think of doing it a couple times a year, but never end up fitting it in. Finally, two days ago, I put my name on a waiting list for a session in California, where I estimate I'll be by the time it comes around.

I don't know much about the particular practice, although the blurbs on the site sound promising. They say things like, "see things as they actually are". Who wouldn't want that?

The real appeal of going, though, is the extremity of it. It's ten days straight of meditating for nine hours. Complete silence. Simple meals, tea, and simple lodging. That's at least ninety hours of meditation I will have under my belt by the time I leave.

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