Six hours ago I finished my third meditation marathon. In each case several hundred people from around the world (about 700 this year) gathered in their local regions to mediate for 24-hours around the clock. It's a intense, butt-numbing-knee-searing-practice done for charity and the love of practice.
I've written about my experiences in the marathons before so I thought for today's Sacred Sunday I'd resurrect the previous article (linked at the bottom). This year things were a bit different as I wasn't alone. Four of us gathered at the DharmaLab here in Vancouver and went the full 24-hours together. We left the door open and put out an invite to as many friends as we thought would be interested. I lost track of who was coming and going but if memory serves another six or so people came and went throughout the day, making our core group of four seldom smaller than five people meditating at all times (except during the night).
If you've never meditated through the night before it's something you should try. It's not easy, but it's spiritually strengthening, without fail. Spiritual seekers have always used the early hours of the day as a time for deep practice (see the Orthodox Christian monks on Mt. Athos or the Buddhist 'Marathon Monks' of Mount Hiei). The world is quieter, your mind is softer and your body slows down. When you come through the night, there's a mystical, dream-like quality to it. It's partially due to being tired as hell, but there's also just something magical about the hour. It's a very devotional time.
It was also really nice to be joined by friends this year. The group started to build a bit of momentum together and being with others made things much easier than going the whole thing alone. We were in silence, of course (no talking), but we still ate and practiced together in a group, even when all we wanted to do was fall off the cushin and pass out (which some people eventually did!). There's something very intimate about meditating together, especially through the night. Not sure why exactly. But have you ever noticed how good friends can comfortably share silence together without having to break it with small talk (fellow editor, Br. Juma Wood, likes to say, "You can measure a friendship in how well you share silence together"). It's a bit like that. Sitting quietly with someone, devoting yourselves to spiritual practice together, just makes you feel very close. It's entierly different than going it alone,
"Meditating alone for such a long time was a very different experience. Bearing down into this kind of practice is purifying to say the least. I felt stripped down, naked. The intensity and length of the event required a kind of effort not easy to convey in words. It was like bearing into the headwinds of a hurricane, not to resist, but to pass through, not backing off, but leaning forward for more, pushing in while the wind rips by. There was no mystical experience. But what grew in its absence is perhaps more significant. I have discovered a commitment, perseverance, focus and determination that I never knew I could apply. These things don't fade like an experience. They're yours to keep for entering the storm and for taking your own private lessons as you pass through."