Everything Is Misery

Delivered on 8/25/17 in Stuart, FL
Delivered on 9/22/17 in Stuart, FL
Delivered on 9/23/17 in West Palm Beach, FL


What if I told you you can take a 10-day vacation in a peaceful retreat with no work, no distractions, in the middle of nature, and best of all, ALL expenses paid! Food and lodging completely free!

Madam Contest Master, fellow members, guests, and very good-looking judges. There are two kinds of people in this world: the ones who ask WHERE DO I SIGN UP, and the ones who ask... what's the catch?

Let's just say the next thing I knew, I was already signed up and driving 5 hours to the middle of the woods in Georgia. In orientation, they explained that starting in 1 hour there would be no electronics. No more talking. Not even eye contact. They expected complete silence of the mind and and of the body. In other words, try not to think and try not to pass gas. That's right, because this was a 10-day silent meditation course. Less of a vacation, more of a bootcamp for your mind.

And you can imagine how it felt to hear that as a toastmaster. That means no vocal variety. No body language. And worst of all, No CLAPPING!

This so-called “vacation” was gonna be a lot of WORK. Can you believe they had even more rules? No killing, no stealing—ok, so far so good. No eating meat. No eating after 1pm. No vigorous exercise. Nothing sexual. Great... So much for a vacation!

Everyday, we are to meditate for 10 hours in total silence. There's only one exception to the silence rule: everyday, at 7 pm, we would all get into a room, play a VHS tape from 1991 with the teachings of Mr. Goenka. Mr. Goenka died several years ago, by the way, but he’s still teaching from the grave. That's what I call distance learning.

At 7pm of the first day, the ghost of Mr. Goenka started teaching, and here's the gist of it: When something bad happens, you react to it and try to avoid it, and you're miserable. When something good happens, you cling to it and you want it to last forever, but inevitably it fades away, you crave it, and you're miserable. Either way, you're miserable. All around you there's misery. Everything you do results in misery. EVERYTHING IS MISERY.  Hooray!

The next day, we spend 10 hours straight meditating with only 2 breaks: a short one for breakfast and a long one for lunch and walking. And on this day we're just supposed to focus on our breath: breathing in and breathing out. Breathing in, breathing out.

By the time lunch came around I was tired of breathing. I wanted to finally enjoy some of this free vacation I was promised! So I went on a nature walk. And in the middle of the walking path, just 3 yards away from me, I saw a precious little baby deer. It was adorable. It turned its little head at me, and blinked its eyes. And just as soon as I noticed it, it ran away! Oh no! The deer was gone. Misery. EVERYTHING IS MISERY.

I was upset I couldn't enjoy the deer for a little longer. But I also had an encounter with the official Georgia state bird. Does anyone know what the Georgia state bird is? That's right, the mosquito. Huge mosquitos everywhere on this path. I got bit on my ankles, between my fingers, behind my ear. And I kept itching, and I couldn't stop itching, it was unbearable. Misery. EVERYTHING IS MISERY.

When it was time to return to the meditation room, everyone went back to breathing in. Breathing out. Breathing in. Breathing out. And here I was thinking, what kind of teaching is this? So pessimistic? Misery everywhere? Inescapable misery. EVERYTHING IS MISERY. I pretty mad at this point. Hmph.

Finally, the 7 o'clock bell rang and the facilitator put on a VHS tape. And there he was, Mr Goenka, straight from 1991. He told us a story, and it went like this.

A mother sent her son to the market with an empty bottle and 10 rupees. She says, "go fill this up with cooking oil." The son went, filled it up with oil, and in the way back, he trips, falls, and spills out half the oil. He cries and cries and cries all the way home. "Mamaji, I'm so sad, I spilled half the oil."

A story being a story, this mother had a second son and she ALSO told him to buy cooking oil from the market. He went, filled up his bottle, and a story being a story, this second son also trips and falls. When he gets up, he dances with joy. He gets home, smiling ear to ear, and says, "Mamaji, I fell down and saved half the oil. The bottle didn't break and I still have half the oil." The first son was a pessimist. The second son was an optimist.

A story being a story, the mother had a third son who also went to the market for oil and also fell down. But you see, this son had learned how to meditate. He got home and said, "Mamaji, I fell down, half the oil has gone To waste and half I have saved." He's a realist. But more than that--he said, "I will work very hard in the fields, earn 5 rupees, and get you the rest of the oil." He's a realist and a workist. That's the teaching of this course.

Here, we acknowledge the world is full of misery. But we are also to work, and work diligently, to eradicate this misery.  

Over the next 9 days, I worked. I worked really hard and followed all the instructions, all the rules. It was like bootcamp for the mind. Every day, one or two people packed their backs and went home because they couldn't bear this anymore. But I stuck it out, made it out alive.

Remember this: when someone offers you a free, all-expense paid vacation, don't be fooled! They're actually offering you a lot of hard work to do.