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Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States
Karen is a yogini, writer, student, teacher and meditator. She founded Garden Street School of Yoga in 2000. Karen lives with her husband Chris. They have two amazing sons, Eli and Leo (both of them young men).

Jul 19, 2010

10,000 Hours and the Corridor of Madness

When I go to visit my parents these days (Mom is in a nursing home and Dad is there all day, every day with her) I walk to Mom's room down a long corridor. There are generally several residents in the corridor.....waiting for nothing. A few are bright and present in spite of age and physical decline. But most of the residents are one of the following:
  • checked out
  • ranting (hitting or screaming at the staff; accusing other residents of taking their things)
  • feeling victimized (crying about being given meds, or whatever)
  • paranoid (e.g. "He owns it all and He is watching us all the time)
  • bossy (in a demented sort of way - e.g. - going around and closing other residents' doors; coming into my mom's room and taking her cookies.)
All of the residents seem to be in wheel chairs. Sometimes at mealtime there is a long, slow race down the corridor to the dining hall. I mean really slow. My dad says that road rage happens occasionally when one resident inadvertently starts shuffling her wheel chair backwards and runs into the resident behind.

My mom and dad are clear in their minds and so they find humor in it all - which is a good buffer to the goings-on in the corridor and to the discouraging nature of their situation..

As I observe all of this, I've been wondering if the scripts that are running in the residents are all variations on "the blind spot" - what my spiritual teacher calls the cramp. (I've also heard it called the "petty tyrant") -- which is the core fallacy around which the entire personality is built. I am guessing that if I live long enough to get to dementia with my "cramp" talking louder than my soul, then my cramp will continue to play out it's role loudly - truly a petty tyrant. And I'll be wheeling down the hall, worrying about my work load, having bouts of irritability as I try to get everything done (even though there will be nothing to get done at that point). This would make an excellent contribution to the corridor of madness.

I wonder if, on the other hand, I might reach the 10,000 hour mark in my sadhana - especially my meditation practice - before I reach dementia. (The “10,000 Hour Rule”: in order to maximize any given talent, spend approximately 10,000 hours practicing it). I'm not afraid of dementia - I'm just hoping that if I "get it" - the Light of Consciousness - of my soul - will be stabilized enough to steal the show from the petty tyrant. I've seen some elders like that over the years. They have an amazing light shining from the inside out. I see a few like that at the nursing even. Just not so many.

Related to this idea of 10,000 hours of practice, Shiva Sutra 1.7 keeps coming into my mind and contemplation. It refers to the 3 states of consciousness - waking, dreaming and profound sleep. It seems to me that for some of the residents at the nursing home, these 3 states collapse in on one another and are no longer always distinct. But even more interesting to me is that Sutra 1.7 speaks of the "fourth state" - turya - which is cultivated through sadhana (steady practice, sustained with devotion over a long period of time - say, 10.000 hours). The sutra teaches that this "fourth state" will gradually permeate and saturate each of the 3 states of consciousness - waking, dreaming and deep sleep, such that it's presence will be felt even in these other states.

10,000 hours of practice - or slow motion road rage in the corridor of madness............It would seems like a heavy sort of choice if practice were not so compelling - so intrinsically full of light. It's its own reward, ongoing. Regardless of the end of the story.

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