Secret lists

– by Linda Modaro

Over the years, I have kept a secret list of what Buddhist meditation teachers do not do. They do not:

  • sing country music and rock themselves during meditation
  • give dharma talks on love
  • watch TV series like ‘The Good Wife’ all day on a Sunday, five episodes in a row like a marathon
  • have intense feelings of shame or low self-esteem; old as multiple lifetimes, physical as DNA

This is not, by far, my complete list, and you won’t find it in Tricycle or Buddhadharma or in the magazine Mindful. Until now, it’s been published only in my mind.  

If not shared and exposed to other perspectives, an internal list can become etched into our psyche as secret. Without external scrutiny, a list becomes more legitimate, believed in, valued. If not examined, these items are more likely to become forbidden, projected outwards, and re-enacted.

Dangerous. Scary. Human.

An open approach to meditation is a vulnerable practice: one where our list pops up unannounced with an edge of authority. The line between what is imaginary and what is real can seem so subjective, so circumstantial.

In ‘The Good Wife’, one of the judges insists that before anyone speaks in her courtroom they preface their words with the phrase, ‘In my opinion’ or they will be held in contempt. This overstatement sticks in my mind, and I’ve found myself mentally mouthing the phrase as a preface to speech many times. Curiously enough, when I reflect upon the habit now, as I write this, I am aware that over time the phrase has been revised to ‘In my experience’.

Meditation practice is so very personal. We can take solace in these words. Acknowledging our experience, with the understanding that it, too, will change, allows us courage to stand where we are now and carry the weight of the intentions and actions embedded into our secret lists.

 

Linda Modaro teaches one-day workshops and retreats around the USA for meditators, offering a thoughtful, open-minded, open-hearted approach to insight meditation, and offers advanced training for committed students in small cohort groups. Continuing her involvement in teacher training, Linda mentors other teachers to offer this approach to their local communities. At home in Santa Monica, California, she connects with meditators around the world, facilitating groups and working with individuals’ meditation journals. From time to time, she connects with us in Wellington for a Wednesday evening teaching session.