2012 Fall Conference Speaker, Rev. Debra Jarvis: Speaks (part two)

On Saturday, September 29th 2012, Living Beyond Breast Cancer will host the Annual Fall Conference at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel. Women from all over the country will join us for presentations on a plethora of topics, ranging  on tops from “Long Term Survivorship” and “Newly Diagnosed,” to “Care for the Caregiver” and “Navigating Health Insurance Claims.”  Today, the LBBC Blog is happy to introduce Reverend Debra Jarvis, our closing plenary speaker at this year’s event, as she entertains us with a story about a chair.

A couple years ago Wes and I went on a three-day silent Buddhist meditation retreat. The schedule was this: up at 6:15 a.m., 45 minutes of sitting meditation, 30 minutes of walking meditation, 45 sitting, 30 walking, meal. It went on like this until 9 o’clock at night.

Wes sat in a chair (as did many people), but I chose to sit cross-legged on a meditation pillow and then switch off and sit on my meditation bench. I sit half-lotus all the time in yoga, no big deal. However I have never sat like that for 45 minutes. It was brutal.

By the end of the second night, I thought I was going to die. So I thought for the last sit of the night, I would be in a chair.

There were these green plastic lawn chairs that cost about twenty-five cents to manufacture. I was a little late getting in and everyone was in place so I quickly grabbed a chair and sat down in the back.

Instant nirvana. It was like sitting in the lap of a lover; like sitting in a hot fragrant bath; like sitting on a heavenly throne. Why had I been torturing myself for two days? Why this was the most comfortable chair in which I had ever sat! I felt embraced by the chair, loved by the chair.

We were supposed to be doing vipassana meditation which is being in the present moment and simply watching your thoughts arise. Here were my thoughts:

I love this chair.
I want one of these chairs.
Could I could put it in the living room?
I would meditate every day if I had one of these chairs.
I wonder if they have them at Fred Meyer?

You can see this was not keeping me in the present moment. So I decided to do metta meditation which is “loving kindness.” You think of someone and then send them unconditional love.

May you be peaceful and happy.
May you be safe and protected.
May you be strong and healthy.
May you live with ease and joy.

So I started with that, praying for myself first, which is what you are supposed to do. I couldn’t help thinking how peaceful and happy I’d be if I had one of these chairs.

Stop thinking about the chair! And then I thought, “Ah, Grasshopper! What you resist, persists!” So I did metta for the chair.

May you be peaceful and happy. You would be in my house.
May you be safe and protected. I would never leave you out in the rain.
May you be healthy and strong. May you never break a leg. Or your back. Or your seat!
May you live with ease and joy. I would give you your own little corner.

I couldn’t stop. At the end of the sit I realized that it was my physical pain that kept me in the present moment. For the rest of the retreat I was either on my pillow or on my bench. Brutal, but focused.

Enlightenment eluded me that weekend. And I’ve never found those chairs. But I’m keeping my eye out for both.

Debra Jarvis, “the irreverent reverend with something to say,” is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. She is the author of several books, most recently It’s Not About the Hair: And Other Certainties of Life & Cancer (Sasquatch Books, 2007) which was finalist for the 2009 Washington State Book Awards.  For more information on her work or her writing, visit her website. Visit the LBBC Events page for further registration information on the 2012 Annual Fall Conference.

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