I brought this koan about counting the stars to our meditation last Wednesday. At that time what was alive for me about the koan was the way it encourages taking a step when facing what feels like an insurmountable obstacle, or an impossible task. However, since then, as the koan has continued to pay me a visit, our conversations have gone in a different direction. Rather than noticing the comfort that can be derived from plugging into the act of counting or any act, if you are really plugged in, they have been more about the constricted, plodding state of mind associated with a repetitive action. There is no one response to a koan they are multifaceted as we are, depending on the situation in which we encounter them we will see different things.
A number of people have spoken to me about the way sheltering in place during the pandemic has become a challenge vis-à-vis boredom. Days melting into each other, falling into the rhythm of being at home more, losing track of what day it is often. I’ve heard reports of Netflix and video game consumption skyrocketing to the point of concern as work was not getting done.
According to those who have paid close attention to the nature of our existence, there are 64 thought moments in the snap of a finger. What we experience as one continuous experience is actually a bunch of individual experiences cobbled together. We don’t notice the intervals in between those moments so much. The Tibetan tradition speaks of the Bardo as the interval between this life and our next life. It is not necessary to have an opinion one way or the other about rebirth to appreciate that there are moments between the moments of our life. Transitional moments are often when we are waiting for something. The waiting itself is an interval. Waiting for something to happen, waiting for the pandemic to be over, waiting for things to go back to normal. Waiting in the radiation oncology unit with my fellow patients was anything but boring and had an effect on my experience waiting in line at the supermarket.
Meditation helps us notice those intervals and noticing is a kind of affection. In that way, it is not that I am no longer bored because of my meditation practice, it is that I can regard my boredom with affection.