I once read somewhere that we call meditation a practice because we never actually achieve what we are trying to achieve when we engage in the activity. We cannot perfect it. We cannot do it right or wrong. Just as we cannot perfect ourselves. Just as what is right or wrong for ourselves is not always as clear as we like to pretend it is. I hope to keep practicing for the rest of my life;
Intense emotion and a feeling of opening up around the idea of ‘waking up’ and the opposing ideas of asleep and awakened.
Waking up to the world hurts. Being awake in the world is painful. There is so much around us every day that we don’t let in because seeing it and letting it in at every moment of every day would tear us to shreds. Being awake means being open to everything. It means not choosing what I let in and what I don’t.
I want to open like a tree, or a river — something primal and ancient whose very nature is openness, something that cannot help but to just be open.
Jagged imbalance to alignment. A floaty, soft, diffused feeling of flow, peace, calm.
The journey of meditation. Each experience feels different.
Lines, ropes, cords connecting me to others. As I breathe in and out they vibrate at different frequencies. My breath goes out along the ropes.
It’s like being dropped into a wilderness and searching for something — or trying to stop searching. Trying to find a place or a feeling, and then trying to stay with it and be still. Sometimes I don’t find it at all, no matter how long I sit. Sometimes it’s an endless desert. Sometimes it’s a cold, unforgiving mountain slope leading to a summit that remains always out of sight. But sometimes I do;
I pictured an open, airy cave in the forest. Bright light streaming into the space speckled with jagged gray and white stones, and being cut with clear, flowing water. The sound of life echoed throughout and across the chamber. I could feel the soul of the Earth there. I stopped to listen and to feel. I stopped to let nature’s spirit flow through me and to allow myself to be reminded that all of the ideas and concepts I have created, read, and discussed that separate me from that spirit are purely philosophical. At the end of the day, at the end of every day, the stardust that makes up my body, my mind, my heart, these things that I agonize over endlessly, is the same stardust that makes up the stoic and tall-standing trees, the determined and flowing river, and the colds stones wearing slowly away under the constant drip and flow of water and wind.
I pictured myself there and I experienced a feeling that I felt once many years ago — a feeling which continues to come occasionally into my mind as I sit in meditation even now. That feeling was cords, lines, or strings attached to my body and running out into the wide world. Those lines of light and thick cords run out to people, places, and things. Some of those things are known to me, others are abstract. I see people’s faces and feel my love for them. Feelings attached to places or times. Concepts like nature, freedom, kindness, and love. As I breathe in and out these connections become more taut and more relaxed. Sometimes they pull tight in a way that feels as if they may snap. Other times the lines are so slack I cannot feel what is on the other side at all. All the while I try to manage the effect these opposing forces are having on my body, to hold them all in balance.
Sometimes I feel as if I am being ripped apart by them. Other times I feel a oneness that is indescribable and incomparable, as if every thought, feeling, or idea I have ever had is shared by every human being living and dead.
What is the difference between meditation and just sitting?
You’re just sitting there.
Yes, I am.
Semantics. Sometimes, when I am being unkind to myself, when I forget what the word “practice” means, I find myself being judgmental that I didn’t meditate the “right” way. Maybe I didn’t get where I wanted to go. Maybe the journey didn’t lead anywhere at all. Maybe I continue to feel imbalance. Maybe I am distracted and unable to focus.
Regardless of these maybes, I do think there is value even in “just sitting,” whatever that means. I think there is value in giving ourselves the time to be present in our own bodies and listen to what our minds and bodies have to tell us, to intentionally forgo distractions, even if just for a moment. To practice waking up, even if we never actually do.
Perhaps practice will allow me to see and accept that all of these things are true at the same time. Sometimes I wonder if my experience in the Peace Corps didn’t shake something loose within me. I find myself struggling with things now in ways I didn’t even think were possible. As I struggle to understand them I try to be kind with myself and to remember that the pain of waking up is very, very real.
Honor it. Accept it. Embrace it.