Reflections on Four Meditations

dogen

July 9, 2014:

“If you are unable to find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?”

-Master Dogen

 My first session began with mental chatter: music and snippets from the previous month’s conversations. No doubt it would have been worse if I had I felt no inclination to struggle with it, so it quickly dissipated. Doubts, fears and memories of aggravating situations entered my awareness. These are more difficult to dispel.  Years ago when these feelings came up during meditation I felt as though I was doing something wrong. The anxiety over failure made things worse. I had read about these experiences in several works on yoga, yet I wanted to be the exemplary exemption to St. John of the Cross’s la noche oscura del alma, a born jivanmukta. Unfortunately, I am not. I too must go through the dark night of the soul. As I calmed down pictures of trees started to move through my mind’s eye.

 I zoomed in and out, examining each branch and each curve of each leaf. Although my visual memory is not sub par, I cannot ordinarily recall images in photographic detail. I opened my eyes and caught a glimpse of the timer (I should not have, but I was wondering if it was broken as it already seemed like an hour had passed). In reality 17 minutes had elapsed; 10 remained. When I resumed my mind was free from hallucinatory intrusions. It was then I became acutely aware of my circulatory and respiratory systems. In an ordinary state of mind the mere mention of these  functions would make me nauseous. Instead I felt detached from them and in awe of them. This was followed by a deep but pleasant trance in which the external world fell off and my inner world quieted until I felt as though I was bobbing gently in the middle of the ocean.

I went into the session expecting my monkey mind to muck things up, but was pleasantly surprised.

July 10, 2014

Adishank

“Just as the fire is the direct cause for cooking, so without Knowledge no emancipation can be had. Compared with all other forms of discipline Knowledge of the Self is the one direct means for liberation.”

-Adi Shankara

 Since yesterday’s session had brought up many odd and unwanted emotions, I initially opted against doing it again so soon. I reflected on emotions and how they tend to seek objects to justify themselves. People are exceptionally adept at searching for attackers and things to attack. Some are more guilty of this behavior than others, but then again we must wonder how many among us hold back avalanches of anger.  I thought often about “riding the tiger.” I had a dream earlier this year about being thrown from a tiger and then being ripped to shreds.

 It is troubling to know the better portion of humanity’s energies are spent in mere subsistence. The energies of the first world are squandered as much by aimless work as they are by leisure. During meditation I found myself sinking, both in a positive and physical sense, but also in an existential one. The thought of a planet devoid of empathy is harrowing. I do not think this state of affairs is new, although it seems the Information Age has created a Second Samsara for us to wade throughas if the first one was not treacherous enough, as if our civilization was not too impersonal already.

The session commenced with these thoughts buzzing around like stray melancholic flies, yet I accepted the fact that the problems we face in relating to one another are magnified by our insistence on focusing upon the worst. The worst is determined largely by our own personal enemies, which we confirm daily through our own peculiar biases. All of the problems we perceive in humanity at large are made more painful by our own pessimism, by our own refusal to see good in them and in ourselves. We must recognize the error in people’s actions, and respond appropriately to them, but we must not demonize them, we must not forget we are also human. More and more, based on what I hear and see, people identify with the notion of superiority stemming from an imagined individuality.

 Most machines cannot repair themselves. Identifying problems to repair among an endless sea of objectively neutral memes and behaviors is far beyond their reach. We as human beings have this capacity, but more often than not choose not to cultivate it. Advertisers tap into these delusions daily. Yet the sort of individualism society explicitly endorses  is not the sort that must be earned. In other words, it is the absolutely insignificant sort. It concluded with the same oceanic sensation as the last.

Lao

July 27 and 28

“Would you like to save the world from the degradation and destruction it seems destined for?

Then step away from shallow mass movements and quietly go to work on your own self-awareness.

If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself.

If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself.

Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.”

-Lao Tzu

 We, in our entirety, are the greatest gifts we can give to the world. What we do is determined by what we are, not the other way around.  It is therefore our responsibility to remove the debris that causes us to act out of instinct instead of intellect, out of selfishness instead of compassion, out of blind obedience to an injunction rather than our own reason. I began the session on the 27th by repeating a mantra to put myself in trance, then proceeded to enjoy the rolling silence. One may say the past is the past until one is blue in the face, but it does little good until one recognizes the events as gone, as ephemeral as any confabulation. During the preceding sessions, from the 20th to the 27th, I found the past slipping away.

It’s natural to have a bit of free floating anxiety when thinking of the future. Mine has not evaporated yet. Many people I’ve spoken with describe thinking about detailed scenarios they may or may not have to face before going to bed. Normally these situations are exceedingly unpleasant, but possible, like sickness or the loss of a loved one. I don’t commonly do these things, but during my waking hours I can sense a twinge of doubt about the direction of my life, which, I suppose, should serve as an impetus to give all my undertakings my full effort and attention.

Regarding my most recent journey I wish I could describe a fantastic voyage through inner space, but today’s meditation was marred by lust and mosquito bites. The former fell off within a few minutes, but the latter remained. Pain is an intensely personal sensation, it is one few wish to be burden with, ergo, we should not try to burden others with our own. I think people often develop an unhealthy attachment to their pain. Like anger, they search for it, subject themselves to it, and use their pain, past or present, to excuse themselves from their indiscretions and deviations from their true path.

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