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Becoming a Meditator: Life-Course Orientations

Becoming a Meditator: Life-Course Orientations

(p.125) 6 Becoming a Meditator: Life-Course Orientations
Michal Pagis
University of Chicago Press

This chapter presents the life trajectories of vipassana practitioners and the life-course orientations they use to organize their biographical self. With the exportation of meditation to the West, vipassana lost the traditional social institutional frame that organizes progress in meditation. Practitioners themselves now make sense of their practice and formulate answers that provide biographically based meaning and motivation. The chapter identifies three life-course orientations that together capture the way meditators integrate the practice into their biography. The first is meditation as a tool in departing from an unwanted past experience of self toward a more desirable experience of self. The second is meditation as a way to maintain a desirable self that was found to be fragile and difficult to sustain. The third is meditation as a way of life, a trajectory that characterizes serious meditators who were wholly taken by the practice. The chapter illustrates that in the two first trajectories, the question whether meditation “works” is central to the way meditators locate vipassana in their lives and find the impetus to continue to meditate. In the last trajectory, such “internal” commitment is externalized as social circles are recruited to strengthen it.

Keywords:   biographical self, life course, meditation, trajectory, meditators, experience, desirable self, way of life, social circles, biography

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