How I decided not to attend Naropa (for now)

I regret to say that I will not be going to Naropa this fall.

It is the school of my dreams, at this point – I’ve looked at other schools and found nothing that was exactly like it.  It seems to be exactly what I want (excepting the computer science): the study of psychology along with the theory and practice of meditation, both sitting and movement-based.  It is in the city of Boulder, CO, which is right on the edge of the Rockies, has amazing bike paths, and has a culture in which I feel at home.

At the end of my schooling, though, I will be $35,000 – $40,000 in debt.  That might not seem like a lot to some, but to me the thought of it is very daunting.  I haven’t yet earned any significant sum of money (or even a decent sum of money) for any job.  I haven’t been successful in paying off the debts I had obtained in my first years in college.  I noticed based on the advice that I was given that some folks feel much less anxiety about debt than others, and I hope I can reach that place as well.

The advice that I received from some folks was to listen to my body when considering the options.  The thought of attending the school itself brings me a feeling which might best be described as blissful, but then I consider the debt, and I have this panicky, claustrophobic feeling.  I find myself thinking that I will be doomed to working in a job that I might not care for and unable to do other things of which I have dreamed – things that might continue my education, such as retreats, long backpacking trips, and travel.  I think of my family and friends, spread out across the country – I have already been wanting to visit them more often and suffering because I’ve been unable to.  Is the possibility of giving THAT up worth the amazing experience of a Naropa education?  There is the panic, and there is also a great weight upon me when I imagine life with that kind of debt.  And I might have to obtain MORE debt to get a master’s degree, which I would need for any significant work in the field of psychology.

My decision-making process leaves something to be desired, but I learned a lot about it in the past few months.  I kept finding myself being paralyzed with anxiety because I was visualizing worst-case scenarios, all around.  One I have outlined above – the burden of debt preventing me from achieving dreams.  The other option was that I’d not go to Naropa and not be inspired by my learning, not experience the transformation that focused study coupled with spiritual practice could bring, and miss out on something wonderful.  I saw myself going through life kind of depressed, settling for something I wasn’t quite passionate about, pretending to be interested in and satisfied with what I was doing.

Maybe you can see why I felt paralyzed.

I found myself frantically searching online for information that might help me with the decision.  Every day I’d come up with arguments one way or the other.  I seesawed between deciding one way, and then the other.

Ick.

I went for walks in the large forested park nearby.  It’s got a very steep hill for beneficial physical exertion, nice smooth paths for barefoot walking pleasure, and tall redwoods which provide serenity and a filter for the sunlight.  Naturally I became calmer on these walks, and sometimes I was able to tap into the truth that it doesn’t really matter, in the absolute sense, what I do.  Either way I can devote myself to spiritual practice.  Either way I can be successful.  Either way I might do work that I’m passionate about, or work that I don’t care too much for, depending on what I find.

So, because of the practicality of avoiding debt, which seemed like a burden which might retard my spiritual growth later even though I’d have an initial burst at Naropa (I assume), I decided not to go.  For now.  If, in a year, I realize that it’s very difficult to study what I want in the way the Naropa offers it and it’s worth the debt, I’ll go.  Or maybe I will have found a scholarship or two that will help me go.  I’ll look for scholarships, I’ll take a couple programming classes to get a sense of what that might be like, and I’ll look at other schools and alternate, less expensive programs.  Maybe I’ll find that I’m happy to continue studying programming and to study and conduct spiritual practice “on the side”.  Maybe I’ll find that I can study something similar enough to what I’d get at Naropa elsewhere, more cheaply.  Maybe I’ll end up at Naropa anyway.

Either way I’ll be fine.

Now the work is to show myself that.

Either way I’ll face challenges.  How do I know that the challenges of another path are more fruitful than these?  Either way I’ll be working towards ever greater presence in and peace with life.

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How does this look?

You think water moves fast? You should see ice. It moves like it has a mind. Like it knows it killed the world once and got a taste for murder. After the avalanche, it took us a week to climb out. Now, I don’t know exactly when we turned on each other, but I know that seven of us survived the slide… and only five made it out. Now we took an oath, that I’m breaking now. We said we’d say it was the snow that killed the other two, but it wasn’t. Nature is lethal but it doesn’t hold a candle to man.

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