A voice has spoken to me twice in my life, a voice more direct than someone standing right next to me, at once more powerful and real than any thinking or listening. Even more real than a voice, yet it used words. The first time was in the late 90s when I had started to lie down in a place of comfort and security and… I don’t know, just relaxing, in awareness, apparently going deeper and deeper… and then from nowhere it said: YOU TOOK YOUR TIME. In a friendly and slightly joking yet austere kind of way, very welcoming. And that was it. And it was true, it had taken me a very long time to learn to relax, I realised.
Woke having been dreaming I was in conversation with Noel Gallagher for a couple of hours. I asked how he spent his time these days. Oh, googling, was his reply.
Wanted to lie down, as usual, then I asked: what’s the difference? Is it really safer, more comfortable? I’ll sit down again soon, maybe after the weekend. ‘Soon’ could be today, why not? And so I sat down, simple, no argument or debate or pressure. And when I sat I saw that any technique would be a desirous movement towards something or away from something. So I just sat. Of course, then there is ample time for thinking about various things at work or in my life. I didn’t do the classic: ‘and now return to the breath.’ Who was ‘I’ to do that? Why would I do it? No, it’s more natural. Anyway, once returned to the breath, what then? The cycle continues. No, it’s more natural, the attention simply moves nearer, a layer of activity drops away. It seemed to be ‘nearer’ rather than ‘deeper’, a coming closer to home rather than an exploration of the depths. No exploration, no seeking, no trying to work it out or find something, rather a coming home. Come home. Come home. Return. And yet not even a movement in that direction, more like an unfolding, an undoing of doing. And one doesn’t do this unfolding or undoing, it occurs. This all felt very restful, and anything that wasn’t restful or natural was exposed as the effort and subtle struggle it was. Everything is as it is, I don’t have to work it out. Waves of bliss, waves of strife, waves of pain, all come and go and preference towards or against any is unnecessary.
Scattered at the start, moving rapidly around the body, as if in some stress and that something’s wrong. Calmed down as I continued moving, sensing, seeing how I dart away from certain areas, linger in others. Listening, listening, feeling, feeling, the reality of the body and mind. I wonder if there is anything to be anxious about. Do I do it to myself? Like spook myself? The future based on the past. Things happened in the past and so they are going to happen again, so… watch out! Be on guard. Be nervous. It’s coming. The worse thing is coming. All sorts of anxiety based on – what? – sensations. Spooked by my own body and it seems perfectly possible not to be.
The default state of fear is so familiar. Waking up from a deep night’s sleep after fearful dreams. Washing and brushing teeth, there’s something coming up to be afraid of. Sitting in the corner of the bedroom, fear is around the corner. Fear of the past, fear of the future. Sitting still, birds singing outside, body strong and comfortable on the cushion, what’s to be afraid of? I don’t know. But it’s there, seemingly. Without going in any direction I held the fear close, noticing its flavour and substance, and how it felt in the mind and the body. So familiar. There for as long as I can remember. There’s something to be afraid of, there’s something to be afraid of. At least right now, I think, there’s nothing. No one to interact with, nothing I have to do. So fear is a residue or imagination and those can be met in stillness, now, while I’m sitting here. It soon becomes clear that I am intwined with the fear, it’s not something other than me. Just feeling it, allowing it near, suddenly there is no fear different from me. My very attitude seems to be the fear itself. There’s not a thing made of fear, it seems to have no substance of itself but only in relation to me. I can’t say that it ended or dissipated or dissolved entirely but there’s now a handle on it, the way it works and the way I work. And the key to this tricksy lock seems to be in nothing but awareness. Not a doing of awareness but simpler than that.
Awoke around four, like at Dharma Dipa, and after realising I was wide awake and would be for some time, I began to sit at around four thirty. Excruciating. No defences left and noticing that residence makes it worse. Strong pain behind the forehead. Breathing, breathing, and then even this stopped for long moments. Another time I kept breathing out, out, out; was it even possible to breathe out this far? Abdomen sucked right in. The organism has the seat, there’s very little I can do about anything. And that’s something of a relief despite the agony. And if there isn’t resistance, is it really agony at all? Right in the heart of it, it seems to be something else entirely. If nothing else, this sitting every day is deeply satisfying, like scratching an itch I have felt for years but haven’t been able to reach. Vipassanna reaching deep, deep inside.
This is as total as it’s been, awareness throughout the whole body, an exquisite tension throughout, hot spots calling out louder: back of right thigh, shoulders, neck. My face in a kind of silent scream, pulses of energy moving throughout, using the spine as a main channel. Before this, a dropping away of various doings, sometimes reluctantly, but understanding that I hide in all partial actions, like ‘watching’ or ‘moving through the body’ or resisting. Not to force not do these things but in the doing of them the very doing is obvious and can drop. Also the avoider. Even avoiding the sensations I think I like. Too much ecstasy? Go somewhere else! Feel something different! Think something, get lost in a little daydream or thought. Too much pain? Likewise. Down to very subtle feelings: avoid, avoid. The avoiding and avoider can also be understood in this exposure and cessation or retirement has a chance, instead of the usual do do do. Not that cessation is a reaction to doing. Sitting way past the hour chime, impossible to end then, but there comes a time when the energy has settled and it’s back to a more regular sitting still, thinking a bit, and then it can end, itching for another dose of actuality later on but likely to be tomorrow.
I’m at the edge of something. This is as far as I’ve dared go before. Or been able to. Or been allowed to. Limitations are dropping away and so is my ability to control. I see my puny little desires squirting in this direction or that, all the while something growing, building, gaining strength and power, something way beyond me. Yet in a way it is not beyond me, it is the ‘total me’ in sense, or the total organism of which ‘me’, the chooser, seems now to be a very tiny part. Overwhelming energy. A force field around my whole body, the physical enclosed and protected by it, yet not a closed system, but open to everything, the cosmos. The direct way in (and out?) seems to be through the top of the head, the very top part of the crown, from which the practice starts. Not that it’s anything much to do with the practice itself. Perhaps the practice prepares the organism for this something beyond. There’s a connection not imagined but more real than anything I’ve known.
How can that have been an hour? Seemed like about twenty minutes. Woke this morning with strong jealousy, a partner receiving a really cool letter from a really cool guy. This jealous and inferior feeling ate at me during the sitting, an overly sweet, nauseous sensation in the chest to the right of the heart. It eased after some time, seemingly melting away. Back to where it came from or away away, I don’t know. Then hatred towards a person who could make me feel like this. Not the letter-writer but the girl. And not really any one girl but a blend.
Goodness gracious me! This for sure with no hesitation is the thing to be doing. Sitting down, shutting, up and learning what doing is necessary and what can cease. And as it eases, naturally, of its own accord, what joy! Then waves of ecstasy, bliss and overwhelming wellbeing. Strong connection between the top of the head and the base of the spine. A magic conduit. Everything joins up, mind and body and all through the organism, connected as if the divisions never were real. It’s not easy. By any means it’s not easy. There is a kind of hard-fought ease and once it comes I wonder what the struggle and effort was about. Unnecessary. So many unnecessary activities out in the world and internally. Powerful surges up through the spine and head shaking faster than I thought possible, shoulders unwinding and energy moving up through the head and out to who knows where. And the hour is over, it’s duration some kind of crazy time, not a normal hour at all.
One has to get physical. It’s easier to sit and wander around one’s head, thinking, worrying, remembering, imaging and planning, but it’s when you get out of your head and enter into the body thing that shit gets real. Very solid feeling today, very grounded, achy, less flightingly sexy and more earthy. It seemed so deep, the muscle aches, the holding on, like right down to the inner muscles I have little idea of anatomically. There’s excruciation and inside that pain there is a validity, a depth of gratefulness that this fact of my body has been touched, listened to, held in awareness. Hello body! I’m sorry to have ignored you for so long, or only partially used you and probably more than partially abused you. I’m here and we’re in this together. Thank you. I’m stronger physically now and it seems that this allows a deeper, less fearful adventure in attention.
Back to sitting to meditate, rather than the lying down I’ve been doing for months. I’m feeling physically strong after regular work outs, some yoga each morning and last week’s surf trip. Strong energy too, sexual and otherwise. I maintain that it’s not sexual energy or any other kind of categorisation, but just energy itself. Life perhaps. Life force, they call it. It moves in different, secret, strange and regular ways. Body movements: head shaking, mouth loose, feet flexing, particularly the arches, the right arm a bit, shoulders, and penis in various states of erection or not. Such bliss! An overwhelming feeling, not knowing if I’ll come, faint, scream, laugh, and then it’s none of these things but a total washing, nothing else but this feeling, no ‘me and it’ for those seconds, moments, time lost. One awareness slide down through the body, back up, and down again in one hour.
A total action, a total seeing, an action whole, that has no residue. An action that has after effects of only the possibility of more right action. At some point, due to habit loops, I suppose, the non-total actions resume and thought takes over the game of time, with its memories and projections, fantasies and concerns. And yet in the quiet of sitting, the whole actions can return at any point, from a direction not expected, familiar yet new new new. In these moments there’s an absence of feeling that I should be doing something else, that something else is more important. In these moments there is no where else to be, nothing else to be doing, nothing more valuable or more beneficial than here and now, when I am not, but only awareness is. This is not a state or something to get to, and it’s closer by than I ever imagined.
That thing being avoided, it’s not what I think it is. From a distance it warns me of all kinds of things as to its nature. It’s fronting. Go near with a tender heart and caring attitude and it will start to change. It might get worse in it’s extreme behaviour and intensity, but stay with it, in affectionate yet skeptical awareness, and that intensity can’t last long. The games and the fornting are soon revealed for what they are: layers of protection. Thought wrapped around emotion, round and round. Curiosity allows the connection to continue, the soft listening. The breath may go wild, panting, shallow, fast and ragged. Stay there, without force or expectation. The body may react in shaking, exquisite tensions, all sorts of things, but that’s part of the game: it’s all good. Ultimately, I discover I am it, or I am doing it. For me at least, this inquiry needs quietude, some time doing nothing, sitting still, time to breathe, to listen, to connect, to allow things to change as my reactions change, to see the subtler doings, where my approach is refined and the right awareness is forged in the fire of attention.
Vipassana Meditation May 2
Waking up early now, naturally at 5-something or 6-something, with the birds and the sun. To the stool or cushion I go. Trepedacious but welcoming the chance to… what… make friends with myself. It sounds corny as hell, but how can one be comfortable with life, and allow change, if one is antagonistic within?
Usually the first twenty minutes are breathing and allowing thought to catch up with things it wants to think about. There’s not much I can do about that. I’m not big on the whole ‘bring the awareness back to the breath’ stuff. Thoughts processing, clearing up a few things, running back and forward. Then the emotional side shows up, and this needs a slightly different kind of attention, the mind naturally quieting. A kind attention. An embrace. And then later, the deep sensations of the body begin to express. Today deep into the eye areas, and the gums and teeth. A different attention again, one of the body, with a steady, unjudging gaze of the mind, overseeing operations but without taking control.
This is becoming good fun, and very very good for me. So much so that I even want to continue come evening time for another hour.
Breathing, breathing, thinking, thinking, thinking, thi… thought sees its own doing and is suddenly unwound and a purer presence is apparent, action in the moment unfolding rather than continuing on familiar lines. Sensation, sensation, sensation, sens… where has it gone, that pain which was so dominant moments ago? Waves of bliss, ecstasy, wellbeing, from the base of the spine to the top of the head, a sense of tingling lightness across the sides of the head, an expansion, openness. Anxiety, anxiety, anxiety, anx… it shifts and mutates as it is listened to, touched, let go of, without a purposeful letting go.
Deep rest early in the morning, beyond that which eight hours of sleep can touch.
Vipassana Meditation April 21
Allowing. Accepting. Feeling. Connection. Is-ness. No other place to be. Contact. A blurring of the supposed lines between me and my body, my body and I. The origins being discovered of deep aches, held tensions, hangups. Is it all in the mind? Or at least in the mind’s reactions? Quietly sitting for one hour, having naturally woken with the sun.
Vipassana Meditation April 20
Much milder than two days before. And in the midst of the head rapidly shaking side to side, a sudden bliss, a feeling that all is okay, at least right here. Bliss comes from nowhere known. It doesn’t seem to be caused. Evidence would suggest elsewhere that in fact all is not okay. Yet maybe it is. After all, how could things be any other way than they are?
In this local body, there’s the crunchy tensions in the neck, tightness in the tight foot arches, the tender right wrist and sharp right arm up near the shoulder. There’s slight fear in the mind, lifting as the sitting went on and vanishing in the moments of warm wellbeing during and after the head shaking. The hour passed very quickly.
Vipassana Meditation April 18
It’s getting crazier. After the thoughts have settled and the agitation that I carried forward has ceased, the organism takes over. I maintain a sense of equanimity throughout, quietly watching as the strange ritual commences. A ritual familiar yet variable, never formulaic. Right hand shaking so very fast. I take a peak and it’s really going for it, wobbling, shaking, rotating, flopping – by my side or overhead, over to the left. A deep knot at the right side of my neck, tingling sharply, then suddenly my head is shaking left and right, again very rapidly, up into the lower skull, then inside the skull around the back and right of the brain, shaking, shaking. There’s tension in there? Nothing I can do. I find myself sometimes thinking of unresolved technical problems somehow, while this intensity is going on. When I’m back in attention, the tension sensation intensifies, as do the movements. Then my whole torso is rolling around, rotating from the waist, like an ancient dance, from sitting. Then I’m arched forward on my hands and the head and neck stretched forward. Soon the right arm shakes again and gives way, so the torso takes my weight and brings me back upright and my arm is free to rave. Afterwards, this all feels exhausting and yet enlivening, like some old, old, very old tiredness has lifted, things I’ve been carrying have been liberated. It’s not so conscious, I guess because this is happening in the unconscious arena where the choice to hold, or not to, is taking place.