During yesterday’s meditation, I noticed that certain parts of my body resisted inner stillness. Specifically, my stomach and abdomen would not relax to the same degree as my head and heart. I spent several long minutes feeling stillness there and letting it dissipate whatever tension remained. After several minutes I could feel my pulse in my lower stomach – a sensation which I have not felt for some time.
Today, a giant ball of tension is absent from my abdomen. It feels almost scary, like the lack of tension sends me free falling through space. Since releasing the tension there, I feel like I want it back. I feel myself tensing there throughout the day to compensate for the strange feeling of relaxation.
This situation has given me much food for thought. I see that spiritual progress consists of letting go, which sounds easy. Who wouldn’t want to let go of all the petty attachments of the world? People spend all kinds of time and energy trying to relax from stress and undo self-inflicted tension. But this isn’t relaxation; it’s release.
I released a chunk of needless tension and now I feel like I have lost something I identified with. Who am I without this tension? The answer is clear: I’m a better, truer me in every way. But I put that tension there through years of purposeful and deliberate concentration – a truth that is only made clear to me now that I’ve let it go.
It is almost as if that tension was a shield, and without it I feel vulnerable. The shield is heavy and cumbersome; it feels so good to put it down. But I feel vulnerable without it, which is almost enough to make me pick it up again. If I let it go, I am not me in the way I have created myself to be. But my greater self responds: but now you are the way you really are. Good call, greater self.
Now that it’s gone I realize that tension feels like control. If I tense my stomach, I am in control of something. If I let go of that, how do I know I’m in charge? When I let go of the tension, I realize that it wasn’t helping all along. I was just tense and out of control. This web of misconceptions startles me as it unfolds. I feel more of the illusion crumbling.
I’m ready to begin. I’m meditating at work today, and it’s quiet. I assume a meditative posture and set my timer for one hour. Today I am inspired by a quotation attributed to Shunryu Suzuki, “If you think you will get something from practicing zazen, already you are involved in impure practice.”
I press start on my timer.
I contemplate Suzuki’s quotation. I have always practiced meditation with the hope that I would get something from it. I spend time just sitting, like on day two and three, but I still hope to benefit even as I sit. Perhaps it’s time to purposefully relinquish expectation. I sit and affirm: I am not here to get anything.
It takes several minutes to fully adopt this mindset. But it comes on quickly and the effect is surprising. By giving up my expectation of gain, I suddenly realize how much expectation there was. Tons.
I am aware of my vibration, just like on day nine, and I concentrate immediately on relinquishing all expectation of gain. My vibration feels like heat waves wafting from my body, which dissipate quickly as I refuse to cling to them. Within moments all the buzzing is gone. I feel no cloud of commotion surrounding me. There is no barrier between myself and the room any more. My body and the things in the room feel and look more physical than before – more real and tangible. It is as if the energy of my expectation hid the world from me, and now without it I am seeing it accurately for the first time. There is no energy cloud between me and the world, no vibration, just a seamless presence.
Normally as I meditate I feel intense energy that almost bursts through my skin. I usually feel waves of vibration emanating from my arms, chest and neck. Today the room is as placid and calm as if energy didn’t exist. The calmness is sublime. Everything seems whole, real, tangible. It is as if silence and stillness fill them up and support their being. Appearances are only an illusion – small surface waves on the infinite ocean that underlies them. Stillness gives them reality because it is reality; it is permanence. Without the experience of this reality all things seem disconnected; with it all things are grounded and united. In the absence of my own energy field of desire and expectation I unite with the silence that underlies all things.
Wow, all this time I have been trying to enhance my energy field, not release it. And yet by releasing it, it encompasses all things. I am reminded of the Tao, “Is it not because he is selfless that his true self is realized?” Or Matthew 10:39 “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” These are not just pretty words; they are practical advice.
My time is up. As I head back to the office I notice more relaxation in my stomach. I feel like I lost a belt size. I am not compelled to search for gain in today’s meditation; I gave up on it and it found me.
It feels like my energy field is gone. What I imagined was my energy field was tension, expectation and seperation, and now that it’s all gone I’m seeing things as they are. The connection with my environment is almost too intimate. I look at people and know them instantly; the room reveals its secrets to me. My intuition is through the roof today. No expectations is the only way to fly.