Today I feel like I’m going crazy. It’s been a rough day and I can’t get my feet under me. I’m mad at my situation and at life. I have tunnel vision and pressure in my chest and I can’t escape it or make it stop. Worse, I can’t identify the specific origin of the rage. Let’s see what today’s meditation can do.
I am seated in a meditative posture: legs crossed, eyes closed, hands folded in lap, sitting on several cushions. Timer is set for one hour.
The timer has started. I focus on the question: What within me is hurting? What is the origin of this hurt? I remember the Zen koan about a student who implored his master to free him from his suffering. “Who is it that suffers?” asked the master. After hours of sitting the student returned and said “No one,” to which the master responded “Then I have freed you from your suffering.”
I remember a technique I learned from Genpo Roshi, of speaking as the voice of pain to see what it says. I feel this technique will be useful today. I will attempt this once I settle in. I take a minute or two to breathe deeply and let my body relax into its position.
I am now settled and ready to begin active meditation.
First order of business: acknowledge the pain fully; do not hide from it, do not flee from it. Let it be within you fully and emote as it prompts. Be fully present with it and own it.
I become so. Peals of pain like thunder wash over me, followed by waves of relief from simply accepting it. The relief of acceptance quickly becomes greater than the pain. No more running from it, no more wishing it was otherwise, no more disembodying it. I own it and permit it to be. I spend a while simply being with my pain. Within several minutes I feel the clinched fist that is my aura relax as I quit fighting my situation and myself.
I concentrate more deeply on occupying my body. I bring all my awareness to it and within it. The more present I become the more my pain fades, not because I’m forcing it out, but because my conscious presence replaces and mutes it. I gather my presence in my chest. If I center my presence in my head I find that my mind wonders, which takes me away from the here and now. Focusing my presence in my head makes me think more, which perpetuates the illusion that I am my thoughts. Being in my chest gives me distance from my thoughts and allows me to see them for what they are: illusions of my mind. When I am present in my chest I am present for real; when I occupy my mind I imagine a self in which I imagine I am present. This distinction becomes vital the more I examine it.
I am ready to begin a dialogue with myself. I speak aloud as the voice of my pain and emote as it prompts:
“I am Matt’s pain. This meditation is a fruitless pursuit and a waste of time. I am distracted and angry and I don’t care about this meditation because it isn’t going to help. It’s not going to change anything and that’s what I need to feel better. You think you’re going to get rid of me? I am you. You are me. My existence is all that matters.”
[At this point the shirt I was wearing became extremely uncomfortable and I resisted the urge to tear it open through the buttons in a fit of rage. I also resisted the urge to give up today’s meditation.]
“I’m behind in life, I’m facing insurmountable obstacles, and nothing is how I want it to be.”
I let the voice say everything it wants to say, or rather, I say everything that I am compelled to say as my pain. I swear a blue streak at the things and people in my life. I grit my teeth, tear up and beat my chest. I give voice to every complaint. It resides shortly. My rage feels like a deflating balloon. The voice fades and I feel the urge to speak less and less as it is acknowledged and purged from my body. Soon it is replaced with silence.
I have only been seated for twenty minutes and already the volume of my inner chaos has been turned down from an 8 to a 3. Suddenly my earlier state seems small, irrelevant and petty – not in a pessimistic/nihilistic way, but in the liberating way one acquires through a superior perspective. I am reminded of Tao 23:
“For a whirlwind does not last a whole morning,
Nor does a sudden shower last a whole day.
Who is their author? Heaven-and-Earth!
Even Heaven-and-Earth cannot make such violent things last long;
How much truer is it of the rash endeavors of men?”
It’s easier to be within my body now. So much easier. So much static and pressure has been alleviated. I sit in silent inner presence and wait.
I sit for quite a while without changing states. I focus on intensifying my presence and awareness inside my body. I imagine that my skin is a boundary; I turn off all awareness outside of it and point it all inward toward some indefinite center of my being.
I restrict my thinking to two thoughts: right here, right now, right here, right now.
My presence builds within my body; I begin to feel vibrant inside. I see shimmering astral light bursting from the darkness of the inner void. I realize that the space within my body is infinite. No center exists; all is center. I can occupy the void with infinite presence and awareness. My pain prohibited me from seeing this, but now I see through it to a deeper nature. I intuit that I am only glimpsing the surface of something much deeper.
I concentrate single-mindedly on staying fully present in the infinite expanse of my inner self.
And my time is up.