Archive for August, 2010

Post #108: post-Vipassana

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

My knuckles grip so tightly, my fingers start to bleed
If what I have is what you need
I’m never gonna give it to you
I’m never gonna give it to you
I’m never gonna give it to you

“Lewis Takes Off His Shirt”, Owen Palett

Dear Alice,

I’m glad I went. I’m glad I’m back. It’s funny how I was miserable for a lot of it, and yet I encourage others to go. Let me see if I can gather my thoughts.

My friend introduced me to the Ontario Vipassana Centre. She made plans to try out their ten day silent meditation course, and came back feeling wonderful. I should go, I should go, I should go. So, I left. On August 11th, I was on a northbound bus to the Centre.

The Centre is nestled in a bit of woodland, with birds in the morning and crickets at night. I arrived there around 2pm, and I was anxious to get my Noble Silence on. There were 100 of us, 25-75 split between men and women. The split was made more apparent because the camp is segregated for the entirety of the course. The men are not allowed to interact with the women at all, for reasons they explain later. The course doesn’t start until 7pm, and these veterans keep talking. One guy’s taken the course six times previously. Another 6-timer is returning to the course because he’s achieved all he cares to achieve in business, and yet he still feels an emptiness inside. I take comfort in the other newbie in his mid-twenties, who’s simply keen on meditating before he returns to grad school. I couldn’t have known then that he would be the only person to abandon the course midway….

This course is a ten-day course in developing three things: sīla, samādhi and paññā. i.e. Morality, mastery of the mind, and wisdom. The promise is that this is a practical technique which adheres to no sect or religion whatsoever, and the only proof you should reflect upon is on your own experiences with using the technique. To give a fair assessment, they ask that you follow their instructions very carefully, uphold their rules scrupulously, and to please stick to the schedule. These have all been made not for the instructors benefits, but for your benefits.

I’m going to make a quick quip here: I’m very sensitive to teachings about morality and wisdom. As the days progressed, my head became more and more doubtful, and I eventually cracked. I spent the remaining days in the course meditating however I pleased. Did I get any benefits from the course? Certainly, I did, but I’ll get into them later.

(more…)

Post #107: Pre-Vipassana

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

“Silence is the universal refuge, the sequel to all dull discourses and all foolish acts, a balm to our every chagrin, as welcome after satiety as after disappointment” - Henry David Thoreau


Dear Alice,

I’m heading out to Barrie to be speechless for ten days. It’s a silent 10-day meditative retreat, where you meditate like it’s your job. No phones, no books, no notepads, no talking, not even sign language.

It’s at the Ontario Vipassana Centre, and other than paying for the bus to get there and back, it’s free. A lot of people are fascinated with the idea, of course. I mean, who wouldn’t be interested? Show me someone who wouldn’t want to sort out the inner noise of their mind, and I’ll show you someone who’s deaf.

I’ll give more deets when I get back. For now, I must continue to pack.

David =B~)

Post #106: SongStudio

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Sometimes creativity is a compulsion, not an ambition. — Ed Norton


Dear Alice,

I had a wonderful vacation, last week, and I didn’t even leave Toronto. Instead, I attended a song writer’s “retreat”, and it really is just that. A week with like-minded individuals, who all aspire to write more and better songs.

Perhaps my favourite sessions of the week were the morning critiquing classes. I learned how to critique songs objectively, and in particular, I noticed how much I value cleverness at the cost of writing a solid song. Eleven people would put forth eleven songs still under construction, and we’d talk about the merits of each song. I loved talking about the craft: the bridge needs to take us somewhere else, you can repeat the chorus a second time, your phrasing could be tightened up, the story is trying to do too much, where’s the structure?! I love it. Two thumbs up.

Did I get what I was looking for from this event? A ton. While the focus was on song-writing, there was a lot of chance to network, as well as a “Business day” where they brought in an “entertainment accountant” to talk to us, as well as a producer and publisher. There was much talk of the difficulties that are plaguing the industry, and when I announced to the group that I had left my job to figure things out, there was a collective gasp from the group, and a common theme from the hosts that two months is not enough to break in. That’s good stuff to hear! I’m preparing my game plan for this year, not just these next few months.

Quick mention: The publisher seemed quite bored during the interview, but then a few of us got to play for her one song, and one song only, to see if she would bite. I went first… and in the ten seconds I had, from the question to having a guitar in my hands, I decided to play for her “The Seven Books of Harry Potter”. Unfortunately, she wasn’t a Harry Potter fan, and wasn’t impressed. Hmm. Well, anyways, she didn’t bite on anyone’s song, and gave us all similar critiquing points that we were hearing during the morning sessions. It only confirmed my resolve to tighten up a few of my tunes before recording session round two.

Alright. I’ve got some e-mails to write. Have a good night, m’dear. And thank you so much for the card. I love the picture, and the fold in the centre doesn’t hurt it one bit.

David =B~)