Sunday, December 2, 2012

KPIs for Meditation Retreat

At the end of a recent meditation retreat, I realised that I could measure my progress in several ways. Well, these could very well be my spiritual key performance indicators (commonly referred to as K.P.I. in the corporate world).
The four K.P.I.s for meditation are:
i. Able to sit in proper meditation posture, without much movement.
ii. Able to manage the pain that results from sitting meditation.
iii. Able to concentrate on the object of meditation.
iv. Able to bring the focus of meditation to the cakra just below the navel. In Chinese, this is called the "tantien".
The 2 K.P.I.s for prostrations are:
i. Able to complete the entire 108 prostrations each session
ii. Able to manage the pain that results from the prostrations done.
I am happy that in all these six K.P.I.s, I have improved in all of them over the last year. As I told the group in the final day's circle talk, I did not go there with high lofty goals. I told them it was first things first (to borrow the first habit from Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective Persons).  I thought that if I cannot even sit properly, how would I be able to concentrate on the meditation object. I would be busy adjusting my legs, my hands and shoulders. I did not attend expecting to break through any koans (but which I eventually did, i.e. after the retreat, for one of the koans). I realise that all great masters could sit for long hours in meditation without moving. If I ever hope to occupy such lofty positions, I must be able to first sit in meditation properly. So that was what I did. Even though there is still much room for improvement, I am happy with my performance.
I did not need to receive that many beatings this time, nor did I need to stand up. I also need not rub medicated oil or muscular cream on my painful legs or body as often as last time.I am not sure if there was less pain this time or that I managed it better, but that is the direction I am heading now. With less pain to distract me, I can certainly focus on my meditation better. It was not a wonder then that a doctor who measured my blood pressure after I returned home (it was a regular check-up), said that my blood pressure went down. No, I am not having high blood pressure but it was a little lower than normal (but not dangerously low).

I also noted the need to write down a "journal" of our meditation, not to boast of our achievements, but so that if we go wrong somewhere accidentally, hopefully somebody could retrace our steps and help us get back on track. Or, get someone who can do so. Believe me, I have seen people going down the wrong path. For example, during the period of retreat, I did see one person crying suddenly after his meditation session. It is normal to have outburst of emotions especially for beginners, but thereafter he was noted to smile to himself from time to time. I do not know the reason he did so, but I suspected he kept going back to experience a certain state of meditation again and again. He was also talking in his sleep. If he did not tell that to his meditation teacher, nobody will know. Then nobody can help him. I see some people emphasize too much on progressing as quickly as possible, but they do not relate to their teacher important experiences during the meditation and ask questions about how to handle them. From what I know, it is best to let go and not think so much about experiences. 
As you progress through meditation, the K.P.I.s will naturally have to change accordingly. But the above are just the basic ones anyone could adopt if starting on a meditation retreat.

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