Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Vanilla Life: Three Stories.

Junior year of college, I spend spring break at a "retreat" to a Zen monastery. It's much weirder than I expected--everyone, male and female, sleeps on the floor in a big pile, for about five hours a night. Our days are split between the chores and maintenance of the monastery and hours of meditation. Hours. This is how I discover I am unable to meditate. I kneel, and am quiet, and cannot still my mind. I feel every minute of those hours. I flit through sexual fantasies, recounting the plots of movies in my head, doing math, wondering if everyone besides me is in some state of transcendent bliss while I just wish I had something to read.

I am very uncomfortable and very concerned about being polite. The idea that I could simply leave--either in the sense of catching a ride back to town, or merely stepping outside the meditation hall when I damn well feel like it--does not cross my mind. The monks are harsh as drill sergeants, chastising anyone who moves out of the prescribed position for an instant. My feet fall asleep, so badly once that I can't get up because my foot is completely dead, numb and paralyzed and floppy for a minute before it can bear weight, and they tell me to stop being disruptive. They tell a lactose intolerant student that he will eat cheese or not eat; they tell all of us that the only water we may have with meals is the water we rinse our bowls with, and without complaining we drink warm dishwater. I am consumed with the idea that all my fellow students are deriving great pleasure from this experience and viewing it as a great privilege, and I am the only exception. I must not be taking this in good faith, I must not be trying hard enough.

I never do figure out what to make of this experience. It's not a simple case of "then it all turned out to be an evil cult!" The monks put a lot of effort into us and didn't get an inordinate amount of money or work from us. Most of what they did was accepted Zen practice. Maybe it was me; maybe I was not culturally or psychologically prepared for spiritual self-deprivation, and so it became plain old deprivation. Maybe if I had been able to experience meditation the entire character of the trip would have been changed for me. Maybe Zen practice itself is actually kinda fucked up.

They hit us with a stick. This is called Keisaku, it's a real thing. It's supposed to shock and focus your mind. They hit you only upon request, but they hit quite hard, a gigantic thud across your entire back. I request one every time they come down the line of students with the stick. It's not to clear my mind--I've given up on that--and it's not for some kinky thrill. It's just to get some stimulation.


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Eight years old. I've just read about Harry Houdini. His life sounds so exciting! MAGIC! I get some rope and beg everyone I know to tie me to a chair so I can escape. If I get out, I tell them to do it better. If I can't get out, I don't really mind; in a weird way it's comforting. This is one of my favorite games.

Another one is getting into the cages at the vet's office (where I nominally "volunteer" but mostly just hang out). The other volunteer can only fit in the dog cages, but I'm kind of a tiny kid and can get in the cat cages with effort. I don't come out until I have to.

Any time I watch cartoons, my favorite parts are the ones where the heroes get tortured. The scene in Star Wars where the Emperor electrocutes Luke, or various cartoon shows where the enemies imprison or interrogate their captives using an Ill-Defined Blue Force Field Of Pain, hold a special fascination for me. I masturbate (although I don't know that's what it is at the time; I just touch myself a place that feels good and then there's wet stuff, masturbation is some icky complicated grownup thing) thinking about these scenes. I grind myself on the floor when I reenact them with my action figures.

25 comments:

  1. Interesting anecdotes! I'm betting the other students you were with hated the meditation just as much as you did. I think it's an acquired taste...
    The last anecdote is really interesting to me, just because I was the opposite way. Depictions of toture on tv horrified me, to the point of causing nightmares, keeping me up at night, etc. Even now I could only be compelled to watch the Mel Gibson Passion movie at gunpoint. It's not because I'm especially compassionate, I'm really not-- it's a very visceral reaction. I wonder if that's a kink thing, or just a 'people are different' thing in general.

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  2. Say, Holly, what was your thoughts on Malcolm Reynolds' torture scene in War Stories?

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  3. Re the first story: I was just hearing about my sensei's time in a Zen Buddhist temple in martial-arts class this evening, with the hours of meditation. According to him you request the stick when you feel sleepy in Zazen; the idea being that a serious whack with a stick keeps you awake. Seems plausible. We'll be doing 10-minute, stickless Zazen tomorrow.

    Did you count breaths? That was the mind-clearing trick we learned; count each breath, reset the count when you thought about something, try to get it as high as possible. I always found I did better if I counted to ten a couple of times first so I didn't think about not thinking about things every time I got past one.

    Re the second story: wow, I'm sorry.

    Re the third story: that's really interesting.

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  4. holy moly. totally relate to the 3rd; am *so* sorry you went through the 2nd; as for the 1st, my zen retreat was so like and yet entirely unlike that! we slept in bunkbeds in sex-segregated dorms. they didn't hit very hard with the stick, just enough to wake you up (i was a tad disappointed). and delicious, vegan-friendly food! (All the water you can drink too, which until now had not struck me as All That.) and yes, during zazen i fidgeted and fantasized for HOURS.

    flightless

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  5. I relate to your second story. My father was of the 98/2 variety as well. I think it is especially hard to deal with abuse like this because on one hand the majority of the time they were decent parents and it is hard to explain how horrible the 2% is without sounding like a whining child.

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  6. I relate to the second story - when your parent's primary desire in life really is your success by their definition, rather than their own happiness and your own happiness, things can get very ugly that 2%.
    Also relate a fair bit to the third - I've always had what might indelicately be described as a thing for weight gain in fantasy (guh, I hate great swathes of the internet's attitude to it, though), and watching Winnie the Pooh get stuck in Rabbit's doorway was definitely a far more enjoyable experience for me than most kids.

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  7. Slightly related to the third story, I wonder how many readers remember doing something as a kid which they now realize was masturbating.

    For me, it was a pure sensation, with no fantasies associated with it: there was a pole on my elementary school playground; the kind you climb up and ring a bell (it has since been removed, probably due to safety considerations, as a fall from the top was relatively easy and could be very damaging). I found that if I gripped the top of the structure (above the bell) with both hands and tightened all my muscles, I'd feel a building tingle in my groin, which led to an eventual release. It felt good, and I'm pretty sure I did not ejaculate.

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  8. She helped me tremendously in getting into college and paying for it, and often she did offer genuine help with my schoolwork. She took me on vacations, often lavish ones.

    "No, baby, I'm sorry, I didn't mean it, I'm sorry about that bruise on your face, here, look, I bought you a nice pair of earrings."

    And she did feed me and keep the house and raise me from a baby and all that.

    To paraphrase Chris Rock: "What, you want a medal or something? That's what you're supposed to do for the kids you have!"

    ----

    Ixr: Hey, that sounds familiar. Only for me it was climbing the posts that hold up the back side of the baseball catcher's fence.

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  9. Aaron - "Hey, those are just scoop stretchers, and now I'll never unsee that."

    Mousie - I tried counting breaths, but I found that thinking "don't think" is too damn paradoxical for me. We were supposed to go to ten and I literally never made it to two.

    Ixr - Yeah, it's funny; I remember masturbating since forever (disturbing image: I have memories of doing it while drinking from a baby bottle), but I didn't connect "this thing I do" with the concept of "masturbation" until I was probably 12.

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  10. What I've found works for me to meditate (or more precisely, as a self-hypnosis induction, but the two processes are frequently very similar) is something like this (take it as imagery or metaphor; either works):
    Imagine yourself standing in a river. Around you are flowing all your thoughts. Occasionally you will start following one, and that will lead to another and another, etc. but usually, you'll notice yourself on a train of thought. When you do notice yourself, rather than jerking yourself back to the image of the river, try to make it gradual, kinda like "Okay, now I should go back to the river." rather than "River! Now!".
    As far as I'm concerned, focusing on nothing is silly. Instead, focus on either one thought or just the ambient sounds (make sure you can't hear intelligible speech; my brain, for one, treats it as something different than other noise and zeroes in and tries to eavesdrop, even if I don't care). When you notice yourself straying, the key is to return to your original thought/focus without lingering on the fact that you strayed.
    That said, I find meditating for long periods of time boring and don't do it.

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  11. Hole-y is a Butt-SlutAugust 18, 2010 at 2:41 PM

    Hole-y,

    Roissy has a good article on how female virginity is valued in men, and how sluts lose their value by being overused.

    You, of course, have no value due to taken in any cock that you could seize. It is time for you to learn about why men prefer women with the fewest possible prior sex partners.

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  12. Oh good, Roissy's entirely platonic manservant is back to shill for his entirely scientific screeds.

    Holly, you're far too generous in assessing your mom. My dad was (and still is, less often) an abusive asshole, and I don't think he ever did anything as traumatizing as what you describe.

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  13. Re Roissy's entirely platonic manservant (good phrase Bruno): What the hell? Even the abstinent Christian thinks that's a crock. The grammar leads me to conclude that Roissy is outsourcing trolls.

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  14. It's pretty harsh for PUAs to be complaining about women who've had sex, considering how your entire hobby is supposed to be running around fucking and leaving the "highest quality" women you can. That's, like, vandalism.

    Also, in my experience it takes more than a year to rehab someone from virginity into anything resembling sexual competence (and it may turn out you got a dud and they never really learn how to move in bed), so I hope you have a hell of a lot more patience than absolutely everything else suggests.

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  15. Hole-y is a Butt-SlutAugust 18, 2010 at 5:19 PM

    Hole-y,

    Ha ha, you can't call it "rehab" if they were never not a virgin to begin with. Your argument fails. Maybe if you didn't spend so much time getting laid and having orgasms and instead thought about getting laid and having orgasms, you'd have noticed that.

    Huh? Huh?

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  16. I know you're fake because you read what I wrote and responded directly to it. Imposter!

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  17. Yeah, sadly, I'm going to have to go with the Impostor call on this latest one.

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  18. Hole-y is a Butt-SlutAugust 18, 2010 at 5:33 PM

    This article by Roissy, complete with a bad poem proves that I truly am Butt-Slut Troll.

    Also, read it. It proves that if you hadn't spent so much time faffing about with cocks in your orifices, you'd have realized you should save sex for unmarried cohabitation with a man who cheats on you, considers you a child, and won't let you have anything you want.

    P.S.: Just lost my virginity. Oh, God, Roissy, take me harder!

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  19. About the second story...

    My parents are wonderful, supportive people who helped pay for me to go to University, supported (sort of!) my decision to become an artists and so on.

    But they're also incredibly critical people and it was really hard for me to ever do anything right and even if it was the right thing, I did it the wrong way. That stuff stays with you and makes you who you are.

    Part of growing up, I think, is admitting that our parents were human and part of, for me, was admitting that while they've done a lot for me, in certain ways they've also really, deeply HURT me.

    I felt a lot of guilt about admitting that to myself, it's hard to realise my parents were sometimes wrong when they always told me that -I- was the one who was wrong. I endeavor not to blame them, but it helped me to be a little less hard on myself to understand that about my folks. I still love them, more now than ever perhaps, but yeah.

    I've just rambled, sorry! Obviously what I had with my folks was different to what you had with your Mum but what you said about the 98% good and loving thing struck a chord with me.

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  20. Holy crap! The third one is me to a T. I used to do this exact same thing to the exact same kinds of situations in movies (usually Disney).

    The first one sounds a lot like how I would be at one of those Zen things.

    I feel for you on the 2nd one. I could say any number of things for human flaws. I'm just glad you shared it - thank you.

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  21. Empty-mind meditation is one of the hardest forms, but of course it's the only one most Americans have ever heard of. I'm easily exhausted by this sort of thing.

    There's a song that has in it the line "I believe your parents did the best job they knew how to do." Often times, it makes me at least want to sob.

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  22. Dw3t-Hthr:
    Savage Garden, Affirmation? =)

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  23. Yeah. I don't think they meant for that song to be so ... tragic, right there.

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  24. Faffing About With Cocks! This is the most adorable thing I've ever heard. It should be the title of a late night adult show narrated by an older promiscuous British lady. I'd watch the hell out of that. Like I read the hell out of this blog. This post is a bloody good read. Please continue faffing about with cocks, and writing like a champ!

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  25. Thank you so much for the third story! I thought I was just a crazy messed up kid. I masturbated to old nursery rhymes that involved kids getting punished. I masturbated to all the parts in Calvin and Hobbes where Spaceman Spiff gets tied up by aliens. My parents joke about how I tied up all my stuffed animals and put overturned crates on top of them. I even had scenes with my beanie babies where I'd tie them up and whip them with a shoelace.

    Thank you thank you thank you for your stories. I don't feel like a fucked up little kid anymore.

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