Robin Yassin-Kassab

Archive for the ‘Meditation’ Category

Thank You for the Cancer

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20170510_184516Writerly wisdom states that the best possible outcome of a writing course is to find a person who will become a critical reader of your work in its early stages, someone on your wavelength. I found that person in Adrian Barnes, while we were doing an online MA in Creative Writing. He lived in British Columbia, I was living in the Sultanate of Oman, but we became closer than the screen.

Adrian had already written several self-published novels and a volume of poetry. His “Satan a la Mode” – a Carrollian book of word-play, farce and philosophy – was completed and would later (in 2012) be published with illustrations by Yuliya Kashapova. While our course lasted he was working on a wonderful (sadly still-unpublished) novel called “Neverhasbeen.” He also parented his sons, taught college students, started several local newspapers, wrote songs, and sang and played the guitar.

In 2012 he published “Nod”, which is literary science fiction, an intellectual treatment of a sleepless apocalypse. Readers recognised its strength, and the book took off. There’s even talk of a TV version. Adrian’s writing career seemed truly underway.

Then one day he was driving to visit a friend in the US, listening to James Brown on the stereo, and realised he could only hear the great man’s voice, not the backing music. He went for tests, and was told he had a brain tumour, or more precisely, a Glioblastoma Multiforme, with a kill rate of over 99%.

He underwent an operation to cut the thing out. He woke up in pain and confusion to be told the operation had been unsuccessful. Thereafter he was unable to read and found writing almost impossible. Time bewildered him.

I’m having trouble with words and numbers – and getting more and more heavy. But, weird though this may sound, I am beginning to wonder if it’s actually a good thing.

I can’t believe in words and numbers. Instead I am in the midst of reality, and what I see is love. Now that sounds kind of hippie-like, but it’s true (the hippies got a lot right, though we love to mock them). I see love and joy, and things I want to do – or not do – and they don’t have a lot to do with words and numbers.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

December 20, 2017 at 6:19 pm

Posted in Meditation

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A Step Forward

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Last summer I spent seven days on a ten-day meditation retreat in England. With the background of the attack on Lebanon, it formed the matter of my first posting on this blog, called ‘Taking a Step Back from Taking a Step Back.’ (see http://qunfuz.blogspot.com/2006_09_01_archive.html) Although I found the meditation itself fascinating and beneficial, the atmosphere at the retreat was poor, and the ‘teaching’ of the guru, Indian industrialist Goenka, was dogmatic, undemocratic and unintelligent. Even slightly cultlike: silence was demanded, but still we heard Goenka chanting on cassette as we tried to meditate; linguistic thought was bad, we weren’t allowed to make notes, read, or ask questions considered impractical, yet listening to Goenka talk for an hour and a half on video every evening was compulsory. Goenkaism makes a big deal of not being a religion, of Buddhism not being a religion, but in actuality it has the full set of taboos and set explanations demanding belief, from reincarnation to the leader figure, to qualify it as a religion in the worst possible sense. I wasn’t looking for a new religion, but for an opportunity to learn more about meditation in a supportive environment. So I left on the seventh day, and I’m very happy I did. I’m also glad I spent the seven days there, but Goenkaism left a bad taste in my mouth.

This summer my wife and I spent a week on a meditation retreat at Gaia House in Devon. It has left me questioning all tastes. I mean it was good.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

August 15, 2007 at 10:53 am

Posted in Meditation

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Taking a Step Back from Taking a Step Back

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male course boundaryIt was two weeks into the Israeli blitz against Lebanon. Was it about to escalate to include Syria, where most of my family, and my wife’s people, live? My wife’s best friend, Randa, had already lost 22 members of her extended family under the rubble of their southern Lebanese village. The kind of epic tragedy, like Iraq and Palestine, that I follow on the internet for several hours a day, and get emotional about. But on this occasion, I couldn’t do so. I was booked in for 10 days of meditation at a retreat in Herefordshire. Fate decreed withdrawal from the war. No internet. No TV. No newspapers. No contact with the outside at all.

And no contact with the other meditators. We had to agree to maintain ‘noble silence’ for the duration: no talking, no physical contact, no eye contact.

Ten days of silence at the end of a hectic summer. I’d travelled in Iran from the migrainous Tehran traffic to the desert peace of Yazd, experienced a spiritual moment in Shiraz’s Nizam ul-Mulk mosque, and another by a spring in a mountain village, spliff in hand, taking a step back from my chattering voice, and observing it. I’d seen Kandinsky’s revelations in London and the Kirov ballet in Petersburg. I’d been racially profiled by a Finnish border guard, and felt how much more uncomfortable it’s become to be an Arab and Muslim in Britain. After all these environments, all these preoccupations, it was time to detach myself.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

September 5, 2006 at 12:08 pm

Posted in Lebanon, Meditation

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