am 1 hr
Head shaking rapidly, intensity at sides of the neck where it meets the shoulders. A spot just to the left of the spine at the base of the neck, sharp. Feet flexed to their maximum at times. Arms waving then frozen in a certain position out to the sides, each different, for quite some time. Let them be. A relishing of being in the body, not just thinking of being in the body or cursory attention, as it can be in yoga nidra which I have been doing for the last couple of weeks while on holiday and afterwards. It has its value but it’s not the same as the purity of sitting.
Now that we are deep into summer, autumn looms and that probably means my third 10-day course, in November. Time to get serious. Not because of the course itself but that’s a prompt, a reminder that this is the real work. Have been reading the rather daft Isobela Losada who went on the 10-day, and through the complaining shone some value, another reminder of the depth of this ‘practice’.
pm 50 mins
It’s a bumpier ride after work, thoughts more active and fragmented, unfinished thinking about emails, conversations, happenings of the day. They fairly soon slid into a gentler pattern though. Some sharp pains in the neck. Some ache in lower back. Some jumping of sudden energy making the head shake, but in shorter bursts than this morning. Feel a little sick and slightly disorientated afterwards.
Again, letting dissatisfaction be my guide, without looking for satisfaction. There’s a nagging beacon within one can sense and draw near, or go near to. Not that time and distance have much meaning once you really go into it, get in there. A disgruntledness, a piece of grit, a concern or worry, doubts and fears, layered and intermingled with each other, seemingly wrapped around the beacon which is still sending its signal, should one not get distracted by all the layers. The beacon, full of energy is perhaps generating the seemingly incessant thought and concerns, images and imaginings. Or these layers are just doing their job of thinking they have to protect something. Nearer still and the boundaries of me and it, of watching and thing watched start to get ambiguous and then in blinding, intense moments without time, there is no difference. I am not and the thing is not. And I am the thing and the thing is me. It’s rather magical and a bit bizarre and at the same time the most genuine, natural happening. This all occurring within a strong yet relaxed physicality, steady breath without control, and a gentle mentality.
Where do thoughts come from? What gives them power, charge? Why are they enticing? When sliding into thought, is it a little bit like falling asleep? Is awareness wakefulness? Does wakefulness need any effort? What is the dizzy, ill area? Can it be dissolved, or allowed to dissipate? Need I do anything about anything? What do I have other than awareness? Is awareness even ‘mine’? Is it a default state? Where is peace to be found? Within that which is not peaceful? Love and awareness seem to go together, with care and gentleness. To be suspicious of any other action, doings. The hardness isn’t something I need to bring, it’s not necessary. Not to deny it but to feel it and hold it in loving awareness. Things start to evolve, shift, change, unfold, in light and delight. Where can light be found? In darkness itself.
am 30 mins
Gently gently headed to the gritty area, the area where things are seemingly not ‘OK’ and around which spin a million thoughts and trivialities. Gently gently approaching, through waves of nausea and a spinning sensation. Dizziness countered by the soft strength of the sitting posture, like the very stillness and soliditiy of that gives the ability to face all that moves, all that is slippery and false. Yet to dismiss anything as false is not to allow it to tell it’s own story. Like the high alert calling out for so long, which only wants to be held or touched or listened to or held. Make contact, always gently and easily.
pm 25 mins
After working out seemed a good time to sit, and I went outside into the warm July sun. Somewhere through the thoughts and breathing the notion: will I be satisfied with this meditation session by the end? The answer being no, it was easy to hone in on the gritty area, which is always calling out, and gently nourish it as this morning. Then thought and reaction ceased and it is easy to see any direction and choice within the relative stillness.
Back sitting after a gap while traveling, and then had a strong cold last week. During this time there were vague sessions of meditation whilst lying down. It’s not quite the same. While sitting there is more energy, alertness, and also it’s that bit less cosy, slightly more edgy. And still a feeling of great rest, or cessation, a time for nothing. Nothing to respond to, nothing to answer or to do something about. Something like aware restfulness, akin to peace. And yet the body is not at peace, waves of head shaking, mouth expressions, shoulder scrunching, and then a nausea rising, which I can still feel now. For the brain’s peace to be total, the body has to be at peace too, it seems, and this involves much undoing. I suspect a lot of life’s tensions get dumped into the body rather than going through it fully at the time. Poor shoulders and neck!
Thoughts off on the theme of independence. Body still going through shakes and tightening and scrunching. Whatever I do – just sit, eyes open or closed, follow the breath or not, scan the body or not, within 5 minutes energy starts moving and it manifests physically as head shaking rapidly side to side. Invariably that’s how it starts, for the best part of a year and a half. Mouth contorting into extreme expressions, way beyond the day to day, faces I have never made before. Lower jaw as tight as it seems it can go before rapidly releasing. Felt like it could snap but I suspect there’s a wisdom in this that knows how far it can go, or the body itself knows. Some nausea again.
Woke around 5. Pains in the head, which have been around for a few weeks, quite strong. After some settling in and cursory scanning down the body, it was clear that pain was the strongest sensation, so stayed with it for some time. The sharp pain soon dissipated, followed by nausea, which became the strongest sensation. So I stayed with that some time, never getting to the point where I really would puke. It faded somewhat and the strongest sensation became tightness in the lower jaw, so I stayed with it for some time and it intensified before dissipating. Then I went back to the scanning back through the body. The one doing the scanning was but a humble servant, doing as was asked. It was rather weak and downtrodden, and I could see that my action is often weak and ineffective in the world. I could see a possibility for this to change, for fear to go to its proper place and for action to be purer.
Woke at dawn, which these days is around 4 am. Vipassana retreat would be easier in that respect at this time of year! Even for half an hour, some resistance to sitting. No strain, and I also want to, so it doesn’t take much will to sit myself down around an hour after waking. The reason I didn’t want to sit is fear of pain. So there it was. It’s really only sensation, feeling. I let it be and held it close, going into it without picking it apart. After mere moments I couldn’t feel pain anymore, looking around for it. Then felt lighter but thoughts continuing, along the lines of breaking free, doing something a bit different than usual, and all the planning of such excitement.
am 30 min
Better to sit for less time than not at all and stay in bed half awake, half aware. This way I’m more likely to sit in the evening too. Half an hour was nothing. So surprised when it was over, seemingly in five minutes. Looking at where I’m making an effort. Even to follow the breath there can be a load, a weight put upon the area of observation. The weight of doing something about something. The same with scanning over the body, the struggle to maintain the movement, the slight pushing. Looked at all the direction-making, seeking, grasping and wanting, and in looking, not condemning, as that is again effort, but the seeing somehow ends that action and awareness is cleaner, the looking clearer, but without comparison to the less-clear. Tremors of fear and a vulnerability and a new response of assurance from deep within that it is okay. Not “don’t be afraid” but that it’s all right. A feeling throughout of being very very close to myself, and any movement away short-lived and trivial. Less of the feeling of trying to get somewhere, instead staying nearer.
pm 20 min
Outside in the sun and breeze, the deeds of the day undoing and thoughts resolving.
Intense once again, on the edge of crying, screaming. Extreme tension in neck, jaw, back of shoulders, right hand. But it’s all okay somehow and I never think of getting up, stopping. Once I’m sat I’m sat. It’s the actual getting to sit down where there’s resistance. Especially in the evenings where it’s not really going to happen, the momentum of the day so strong. And yet it’s clear this is more valuable than absorbing more media, than having a ‘nice evening’. Let’s see if it comes. Now for some yoga.
More about the neck, but less painful, however dominating it is of the hour’s sitting. There’s no controlling the mind, off with its adventures and concerns. Some vague scanning of the body but kept returning to the back of the neck, into the shoulders. Head shaking started within minutes of sitting down and continued for the most part. Nothing else to report, while sitting; at night deep dreaming, related to the druggy days of the early 90s, as if those areas of memory are now being exposed. I’ve always felt that raw, scary dreams are actually good, if in the context of healing.
In the shaking of the head there’s also a tightness within the brain itself that gets touched by the shaking, like an inner headache relieved by the rapid movement. It gets stronger, is touched, and then it’s not felt anymore. Today awareness more freely throughout the body, down and up many times. Perhaps a lot more superficially. It seems to create something like a forcefield, or a surrounding of energy within which the body sits. Maybe it’s always there but the circle of attention down and up, down and up, makes one aware of it. Within it, healing seems to be possible. The body is free to shake, tighten, relax, vibrate, flex, flop, without movement being controlled. Meanwhile thoughts are going back over things, thinking unthought chains, dreaming, devising, remembering, but loosely, easily picking up and easily ending. Choosing has all but ceased. One hour passed in this very different time zone.
Rushes of energy into the head. Or else just rushes, of what I don’t know. Making me moan or cry out softly. The the head started to shake for a minute or two, sides of the neck tight but unwinding. Crunches in the spine also seeming to alleviate with the rapid movement. Again not voluntary movement, and it would take a huge act of will to stop it. Yet I know in an emergency or something being needed, it would stop immediately. It’s happening because it can and is safe to do so. At certain times that was all there was, the shaking, and an intensity overtaking the whole head and mind, even the internal vision, until there was nothing but cleansing intensity, seemingly burning away that which is false, directive or effortful. Again the strong feeling that there is nothing else to be doing, at least at this very moment, that this is it, that life is right here, and there’s no where else and nothing else to do. A totality which is blessed relief from struggle and want.
Tense through the shoulders and neck, and in a band around the back, through the shoulder blades or just below. First time sitting in a while. Not able to move very far down the body: in 50 minutes, got as far as the lower back. Stuck. Tight. Fighting a bit. Some despair and tears close by. Resisting, but able to stay in the area of strongest sensation, and this led to the good old shaking head, then flopping forward, then over to one side. Also right hand into a tight fist. I think this shows that it’s best to keep on top of this, to continue to sit, rather than these spells of lying down to meditate instead, which is rather too comfortable and sleepy. Coming back to sitting shows what can be missed by lying down and following the breath. Which is fine in its own way but doesn’t connect and go so deep physically. Been waking up naturally at 5-something, with the light and the birds. After meditation, writing this, and then some yoga, it’s nice to do some long relaxation. ‘I relax the feet, I relax the feet, the feet are relaxed.’ Actually, this is how I began today’s sitting but realised it wasn’t the thing to be doing while sitting. Then I stopped any doing, then I began the arduous (today) movement from head to feet. All inclusive.
Seemingly, it doesn’t matter if I follow the breath, scan through the body, follow thought or whatever, it’s the actual stopping and sitting still that counts, that allows the organism to do what it needs to do, the energy to go where it needs to go. I no longer seem to care if I’m lost in thought or to bring thought back to the breath. The awareness is more natural now, less controlled. Control is seen as another scam, a best guess as to what’s needed. The organism knows what’s needed. And in the intensity of the head shaking back and forth for ten minutes it’s clear that thought is staying detached from what’s going down and is still playing a game. It’s not wrong; that’s what’s happening too. But in the intensity the movement of thought is clear and it can drop away naturally, without choice and so attention can be complete. A total attention and non-detachment from what is going on. In those moments the situation changes 360 degrees, about turns, the very dimensions one was operating in no longer exist and what’s happening is no longer the same.
am 50 mins
Wanting to be independent, to not follow any technique, yet left to my own devices the thoughts, plans, soothing half-sleep dominate, and after all that’s how it’s been for all these years, meditating or not. So to practice, knowing the danger of thinking it is a way out somehow, a solution. It may be, I don’t know. But I also know very well my own tricks and the ‘I’ll just sit here and watch’ attitude, which is actually doing something much more in terms of ‘me’ operating than the simple technique of moving awareness over the body. The ‘just watching’ is never quite that – there’s always a direction, a pushing. Of course, I can learn about this in ‘doing’ the watching. I can also learn about it while ‘doing’ the technique. And so the upshot is I am going to invest in it a while. Do it by the book for a change. I don’t know any better, I’ve realised. Be a little humble. And also see if it’s possible to sit twice a day. After all, how many books and TV series do I need to watch?
pm 45 mins
I did it! In the midst of downloaded TV and the urge to read afterwards, I paused, and it was clear the thing to do was sit down and do nothing. Practice: taking it easy. Whatever happens. Practice: allowing the quick awareness to be quick and the slower awareness to follow on behind. Practice: Getting closer to myself. Noticing movement away and in a certain direction. It’s like entering into myself somehow. Practice: letting sensation take over completely until there is no me. It’s times like this that I crave. The most real of real.
From a fizzy, muddled, fleeting awareness to razor sharp direct connection to the body. Beginning all foggy from sleep and a perhaps too warm lap bath, then waking up as I move through the body, attempting to feel all but skipping here and there, always an inch away from where I’m feeling, like I can’t stay still for a moment and my aim is off. Sudden spurts of head shaking, and then sudden tightening of shoulders, head bowed forward. No arm shaking these days. Exquisite ripples of intense pleasure, I of course wanting more of that but I don’t linger in the nice places, I attempt to keep everything on a level. No area appears to be hidden by the end and I’m able to focus in on any area without effort. A feeling of a bubble, a force field surrounding me, protecting and nourishing.
Exquisite. The greatest pleasures are ironically when the one seeking and demanding pleasure gets out of the way. True pleasure cannot be controlled or manipulated, encouraged or saught… it comes out of nowhere, in waves of peace and joy and delight. Early on I held fear gently, noticing any doing of anything about it. Gently, gently, yet holding nonetheless. Later when I realised I was kind of daydreaming I understood that I’d already had a whole night of that and more wasn’t needed or helpful, even if it’s fuzzily pleasant. So I began the listening to sensation throughout the body, from the very crown of the head downwards, and back up, and back down, and then an all-encompassing slow journey back to the crown. Tingles. Blind spots I want to skip over and when I reverse slightly, memories of people of my childhood and youth, popping into my mind. At one point it seemed that the very thinking was from within my skin, as I moved over it, so thought flitted and changed. Fleeting, insubstantial. Substantial beyond comparison is the strength of the body and the growing ecstasy around my belly and base. Thought has nothing on this and I saw that my world was so tiny, the world of control, direction, thought and worry. Not condemnatory very small but factually very small. There’s something much much more, beyond, and it’s clear I don’t have very much of a clue what is really going on here. Yet it feels good, true, and something worth exploring, even if ‘I’ cannot. Get out of the way and let.
I’m able to feel the whole of my back. Previously there were swathes of it that seemed to be a blank, nothing there that could be felt. I’m not sure how this changed. Noticing today how I was able to be in the approximate area of a body part but while there I was flitting about, unable to keep steady, little jumps here and there in a ‘good enough’ approximation of awareness. ‘Good enough’ doesn’t cut the mustard, it’s not… good enough. After noticing this, I was able to steadily move over the body, down then up, and once back up, lingering on the areas which were shouting the loudest: top of right shoulder, lower lumbar, left calf.
A full on shaker-maker, head rapidly moving side to side when I touched upon some sensitive spot in the spine. Moving up through the back, the shoulder area tightening and tightening, all scrunched up. Keep moving up and the neck clicks into place and by the time I’m back to the top of the head I am sitting totally erect, effortlessly, the body in perfect alignment and balance, without a hint of will to do this. Earlier in the shaking and twisting, a nausea suddenly. Thoughts go to grabbing a box of tissues if needed. Body tingling all over, impossible to tell where my skin ends in space as awareness glides from part to part. A perfect tension introduced wherever I go, and release once passed. Again the strong feeling that, although terrible and agonising at times, this is good work, perhaps the only work.