The thing with meditation is it’s always different. The things that happen, the things that change …
Unlike the popular view of meditation as a kind of static, almost oblivious ‘bliss’, in which we ‘relax and zone out’ (a misconception fed by the popular media), with the methods I practice and teach, meditation is always a dynamic and fascinating exploration of mind and body, in which the knots and tangles created by life are investigated, unraveled, soothed – known.
As such, I never know what I’m going to find when I meditate, and it’s always interesting … to me anyway.
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So here it is … my meditation this morning.
I’ll describe it in the stages I went through.
On sitting down and closing my eyes, first thing I noticed was my attention was particularly skittish. The effect of this was I felt unfocused and fuzzy. So I watched the skittishness, and in watching it, my attention found itself and settled down.
Having established mindfulness of my attention, I scanned the body, building a sensual ‘picture’ of it – that is, a feeling of it as a whole in the mind, built from all the sensations – this picture is built from everything – aches, muscular sensations, organs, hearing, feelings, emotional formations, pressure sensations, weight, and so on, as well as my sense of the room I’m in and possibly more – a sensual soup of being swirling, changing texture and shape, some parts soft ands subtle, other parts coarse.
Of course, the thinking aspect babbled and raved as it usually does, but I’ve long learnt to ignore it. It’s a bit like having an idiot savant mumbling in the corner of my mind who, though sometimes useful, never stops making noise. So I leave him to it.
Once I have assembled a feeling of the whole body I bring the attention into the breath, then rapidly perch it on a small part of the breath – the movement of the belly – a place for the attention to rest and be still.
At that point the entire body and the room I’m sitting in is a dynamic ‘shape’ of sensations around this focal point of the belly, and my mental energy is evenly divided between attention on the belly and awareness of my body and the environment.
I always try to keep this 50/50 ratio of attention and awareness throughout meditation for a number of reasons:
Because it keeps the attention from being hypnotised by the breath.
Because it keeps the attention light and agile and ready for anything
Because it provides a ‘theatre’ of awareness, in which the attention remains always in contact with here-and-now reality – I think this register of ‘nowness’ is an essential aspect of meditation
So now, with my attention lightly following the rising and falling belly, within the sensual theatre of a constantly changing awareness, meditation began.
At that point, I noticed pain in one side of my neck kept pulling at my attention so, rather than ignore it, I let go of the belly and went to that new object.
My intention was to examine this pain and see if I could cause it to resolve itself.
So, as I held my attention to it, the pain began ‘speaking’ – by that I mean, it began to change qualities – sometimes becoming sharper and more pointed, and other times spreading up to my skull, and down to my shoulders.
Of course the thinking aspect of mind was babbling about this pain, going, “…maybe it’s the way I cross my legs when I sit … or maybe it’s yesterday when I was slouched on the couch writing .. or maybe .. maybe …maybe..” and so on.
The ultimate reality of something is simply the sensation of it. Everything else is speculation,and meditation is always to do with ultimate reality – not the relative reality of thinking.
So I kept my attention on the sensation of this pain. And it kept changing – from aching to burning and then to piercing.
Then it connected with other sensations in one side of my jaw, going up to my temple.
Aha, the plot thickens I thought, as my attention kept contemplating them.
At that point images began to come up in connection with the sensations – not visual images, but … it’s hard to explain. Mental images that the mind generates as it goes about resolving the phenomenon I’ve trained its attention on.
The images were many and varied … a cat clinging with its claws to the back of my neck … hot oil pouring down one side of my face … hundreds of ants biting … and so on. Like smoke from a fire, shattered thoughts and images pour out and disappear.
The rest of my body, and the room was still as it is … a mist of sensations that swirled and changes constantly, relaxed, settled, aware.
The pain I’d been contemplating became more intense. A good sign, meaning it was getting ready to let go.
And sure enough, a short while later the pain in my neck disappeared and the whole chain fell apart – the tension in my temples released as did the tightness in the shoulders …and there was just a subtle, tingling sensation where it had been.
Took my attention back to the main object of the movement of the belly and resumed what I was doing before.
It’s so amazing how responsive the mind and body are when we pay balanced attention to them.
I love meditation … it’s so damned fascinating.
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