A meditation on meditation

Am I meditating? Who knows?

Am I meditating? Who knows?

I don’t “get” meditation. And you either just thought, “me, neither,” or you believe you know how to meditate. Many times I have participated in meditations. I’ve walked into a class called “Meditation” and sat or lay down or walked in circles and closed my eyes or didn’t and tried to do what the teacher told me to do. I’ve set intentions. I’ve chanted. I’ve even focused on the flickering pixelated flame of a Wii system meditation candle. So, I guess I was meditating. If you go to a class called “yoga” and you try to do what the teacher tells you to do, even if you’re flailing around and feeling ridiculous, then you’re doing yoga, right? As long as you’re paying attention and making a sincere effort and breathing and all of that. But, until the light goes on, you feel like you’re just faking it. Or you suspect everybody else is…

Yesterday I decided that I’m going to stop trying to meditate as I’m told to, and to stop worrying about whether I’m getting it or doing it right. I’ve had this feeling building for a long time about what I think meditation might be, for me. For a while I thought it was akin to “getting in the zone,” a feeling we’ve all experienced when our attention is completely focused on a task at hand. When we are entirely immersed in a method, we have the feeling of losing ourselves. Time passes without notice. Whether you’re playing tennis or turning wood or racing cars or practicing yoga: whatever it is that requires sustained, thoughtful skill, might be meditation.  It makes us feel good, and it pushes all of the bullshit out of the mind, so why not?

But if that’s it, why then seated meditation? Why stillness? Maybe because we’re not trying to fill the mind to the exclusion of chatter and things, but trying to empty the mind to the exclusion of all chatter and things. Maybe.

I had a little epiphany once, while I was walking alone around my neighborhood on a fall day. I was single at the time, and feeling unmoored. But the day was gorgeous and perfect, and as I walked I sometimes closed my eyes and listened to the small sounds all around me: the birds, the wind in the trees, a distant car, and so forth. And in those moments I had the distinctly unusual feeling that I could be anywhere, in any time. And further, that I could be anyone. I could forget, momentarily, who I, Jenny Miller, was. And this feeling was overwhelmingly comforting. I’ve experienced the sensation of detachment in instances that were terrifying and lonely. In dreams, I’ve been loosed from the Earth itself, floating higher and higher until I’ve popped out of the atmosphere into cold dark space and faced the prospect of dying alone and far from home. Awake, I’ve had this feeling from smoking weed, which is why I don’t do that. But the good feeling I’m trying to describe is incredibly liberating. It makes me feel large, and held by the universe. I guess you could call the motivation to capture this feeling escapist. But I’m not trying to avoid or leave my normal life, which I love.

So far I’ve only managed to make this feeling last for a few moments at a time. And maybe the sort of ego-detachment I’m describing is also not “the point” of meditation. But it certainly feels transcendent. At once I feel I’ve transcended time, space, and self. Even in dreams I don’t entirely lose “me.” Other characters may split and conflate and change as I go, but the essential I remains. This feeling I can only seem to catch in something that MAY be something like meditation.

Thoughts? Bring ’em, below.